See ATTA's COVID-19 Guide for the Adventure Travel Industry

What Travel Companies Need to Know About Working With Photographers

5 Minute Read

By Dan Westergren

I recently had a conversation with a long-time high-end resort manager about traveling and photography. He asked what was, to him, a simple question: “Are you willing to shoot photos for trade?” What he meant, of course, was would I visit a property, shoot all kinds of photos, and accept a “free” vacation for myself and my family.

From the tour operator/property owner’s point of view, it’s a simple equation. A trip with them is worth $XYZ, which should be equal to the value of the photographs, so everyone wins. I had to explain that, for myself and other photographers, we have many opportunities to travel but a lot fewer opportunities to put money in our pockets.

© ATTA / Juno Kim

Businesses and photographers can work together to create a win-win situation. © ATTA / Juno Kim

Of course, the relationship is never that simple. Just as photographers are often asked to work for free, tour operators are constantly being pitched to give writers and photographers a free ride. Where can the common ground be found?

1) Understand that great photos to promote your trip or destination are valuable.

If you need photos or video for a marketing campaign or brochure, don’t expect to get them from a photographer who is willing to trade photos for a trip. Your budget should include money to hire an experienced photographer. You should also understand that, for photographers trying to make a living, this type of work is considered “commercial,” and the day rate will be 2-3 times the editorial rate (or approximately $1000-$1500 USD/day).

The good news is that, with the proper contract, you can secure full rights to a selection of those images. Funding a photo shoot coinciding with one of your trips is a great way to create a small image archive of pictures that can be used across all media.

2) A photographer’s ideal daily schedule may not fit with your normal trip schedule.

Photographers are not trying to be prima donnas, though it may seem that way. The best time to take pictures is often when most guests would like to be eating breakfast or dinner. Taking pictures when the light is good makes everything better.

Accommodations should be made to work the photo shoots into your itinerary. This is hard to accomplish on a trip, but can work if there is an extra guide dedicated to the photographer(s) on the journey.

3) Don’t completely rule out some type of trade arrangement.

If your tour company doesn’t have the budget requested of a high-end commercial photographer, expand your search to include qualified photographers who are building portfolios or who aren’t in a position to command top-tier fees. It is possible to find photographers who charge $150-$500 USD/day, especially if you have a set shot list and limited or digital-only usage rights.

Obviously, many tour operators can’t afford a full-blown photo assignment. It’s possible there is a photographer who may really want go on one of your trips and is willing to discount his rate. In this case, both sides need to be really clear about what they are expecting. The photographer must bend a little to your needs and you to theirs. In this scenario, operators can gain access to use pictures, but not as many and probably for specific purposes. Maybe you’ll agree to use the pictures on your Instagram or other social media accounts only. Or you’ll have the opportunity to choose a few shots for your website or a promotional brochure.

The best case in this situation is to ask for fewer rights to the photos, but if the photographer gets something that could prove very useful, offer to purchase those pictures at a fair rate. It will be difficult to get the photographer to agree to put his photos in your media library that you offer up for free to anyone.

4) FAM or press trips can work in your favor if expectations are realistic.

In the best case FAM scenario, you’ve selected journalists for your trip who will be shooting for an established media outlet where you can recoup your investment in earned media. Stay in touch with the people who’ve taken your trip and see if you can purchase some photos after their embargo on the photos is completed.

Sarah Woodall in relationship management for Visit Greenland has some good thoughts about managing FAM trips:

“As a live-and-learn experience, it’s a nice set-up to combine a press trip with a FAM trip so that content is created around real and true products and/or itineraries that a prospective tourist could book more or less plug-and-play style. This is opposed to the totally fantastic yet wallet-busting press trips we dream up so as to show everything possible. The lesson learned is you must still respect the photographer as working for himself/his publication first and foremost, and not exactly for you, so asking the photographer to take photos with the FAM trip participants in the frame, or asking the photographer to take B2B-style photos for our internal use, is probably overstepping the boundaries of the agreement.”

That said, like everything, it’s all about the relationship with the photographer. Anything is possible, but must be discussed upfront, and expectations need to be addressed.

5) Expensive Influencers are not the only way to gain eyeballs through social media.

Any professional photographer who has been paying attention to current social media trends knows a large audience can translate into serious money. The very best are commanding $10,000 USD or more per post! And that’s not to mention the cost of taking someone on a trip. However, there are several alternatives to using celebrity influencers.

Try to find someone with a smaller audience, but who’s photographic style you like. Influencers with modest-sized, but relevant, audiences may cost $250-$1000 USD/day. You can negotiate the price and even build some additional options into the fee.

Many operators/destinations with someone dedicated to feeding social media are very successful in using their client photos to keep the feed current. Consistent communication with travelers about using hashtags allows you to find those photos, and then reach out and ask for permission to re-use them. Most travelers are not in the photography business, but still get great shots. They’ll usually let you re-use them for free. Some marketers are very sophisticated in this area by using photo contests and other marketing techniques to gain fresh material.

If your following on social media is modest, you might be able to affordably increase your reach with a paid Facebook or Instagram campaign. These campaigns can be very targeted. One of the best bangs for your buck here would be to hire a photo/video team to produce an image archive and selection of short, social-ready videos. Even by paying the team a fair price and then buying the ads, you’ll probably spend less than sending out a hotshot influencer.

Have you hired a photographer to work with your destination or organization? What has your experience been? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

3 Comments to What Travel Companies Need to Know About Working With Photographers

  1. I am a professional photographer and agree with many of the points Dan makes in this article. When working with a photographer, everything is negotiable. For example, I have worked with large, corporate clients on shoots with big budgets, but also enjoy working with tourism boards and tour operators with much smaller budgets to supply them with photographic content for use in everything from brochures, online promotions, social media feeds, campaigns, and more.

    I am currently working with an ATTA member in the adventure cruise business by helping them to document their newest line of Wellness Cruises. They need photos to convey the feel of the new trip, and to capture wellness images and stories for future promotion. Because we have maintained a strong relationship over the years — they know my style of photography, and I am familiar with their business and culture — it was an easy win/win to put together a contract.

    Reach out to a photographer today to see how we can help you take care of your visual needs for the coming year!

  2. I can’t agree more with what Dan writes. Visual communication is key to today’s marketing and communication materials, and building a library of photographs can be a very useful tool. Hiring a professional photographer is also buying peace of mind and knowing that the job will be done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *