Travel Photographers, Helping Each Other Out!

My daily Facebook feed is full of talented photographers who regularly post images of interesting & exotic places. Those images deservedly receive dozens of likes and comments. But do they ever go towards paying for the cost of those and future trips? I highly doubt it.

Intentions to visit Iran

I have a bucket-list of sorts and I was recently seriously looking into visiting Iran with a friend. Unfortunately, the current political situation in terms of obtaining a visa and the consequences of having such a visa on my passport really put me off. I’d still love to go though and not just to capture profitable stock images, but to experience an unique culture.

To mitigate my disappointment, I had an idea to make an agreement with my friend that he would send me his Iranian-visit images for me to take a good look at them in view of submitting to stock agencies. More specifically, I would post-process the short-list, keyword them and submit them. We’d share 50% commission in perpetuity. He agreed.

Blown away by Iran’s beauty

My friend is an amateur photographer with a lowly Nikon D5100 / 18-55mm kit lens, but that didn’t prevent him from capturing some truly stunning shots. Just proves to show you that you don’t need a professional camera to capture stunning images, just a good pair of eyes.

I’m happy to share with you some of his images (before and the post-processing I did):

Nasir Al-Mulk Mosque in Shiraz, Iran, also known as Pink Mosque
Group of four hikers in the Dasht-e-Lut, a large salt desert located in the provinces of Kerman, Sistan and Baluchestan, Iran
In my version he resorted to cannibalism and ate the other three hikers
Mysterious corridor in the Naqsh-E Jahan Mosque

Last but certainly not least, my favourite:

Excellent storytelling and use of framing

Iran is certainly off the beaten path

A quick search on Shutterstock suggests that despite the country’s rich cultural heritage, it’s not well-covered (unlike Venice, Paris, Rome, etc) on stock agencies’ image banks. The most obvious reasons being because of the political situation of the past 38 years, since the Islamic Revolution. Despite some promises of the country opening up, both in tourism and business, during the Obama era, all hopes have been dashed with the current Trump administration.

Anyway, my point (which I admit sometimes I do take a while to get to, I know) is that to make it in this fucking tough game, as a travel photographer, you need to capture places that 1) are not well-covered and 2) that potential buyers may be interested in running in promotional material or as news pieces. Then 3) You’ll need to describe the places accurately in the captions and keywords.

I’m confident Iran fits the bill in #1 and #2. Its interest in being a touristic destination should grow, as it appears to offer a lot to visitors, including extremely hospitable locals (according to my friend). Hopefully the political situation will improve, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up…

Creating a Win/Win Arrangement

My friend gave me about 400 images, which I’ve shortlisted about 130. Many of the remaining 270 images were handheld blurry night-shots, indoor blurry shots and similars.

As for the arrangement, I feel like both my friend and I benefit. Without sounding like I’m the best thing since sliced bread, if not for me, those images would simply go on Facebook/Instagram unprocessed for likes and comments. That’s nice for the ego but useless if he needs cash to put towards upgrading his gear urgently (that kit lens is shit) and further travels.

We both win. It’s tough work though…not so much the post-processing but the keywording since I know little about the places, but I do enjoy the challenge for learning lots with my research. There’s also some admin work on my part to carefully track earnings.

Recruiting a few more friends

I’ve discussed this arrangement with a few other friends who travel to exotic places (such as Cambodia, Mongolia and Sub-Saharan Africa, etc) and they’re interested. I figure this way my travel stock portfolio can become really varied with different interesting locations without me leaving my home-office.

Some Amateur Photographers are too busy

I’d encourage anybody to put in the time to submit themselves directly to agencies and I’d certainly be happy to show them the ropes. However, the reality is that some amateur photographers are too busy with full-time jobs and personal commitments. Or just not interested in the admin involved, which is fair enough. In the meantime, it seems like a good deal for both.

I have lots going on already with my own images + footage so cannot take on too much work, but it’s a nice start to have a some friends sending me their travel images. I suppose I’m sort of starting my own unofficial agency. Watch this space!

Something for you to consider

Perhaps you have a few friends with DSLRs that enjoy shooting but have little clue about post-processing and even less clue about making money from travel stock photos. Why not speak with them and ask if they’d be interested to partner up with you? Something to think about…

mother and child
Until next time!

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images. I’m determined not to waste my life away as a corporate drone and have devoted five years to making it as a travel photographer and freelance writer. I hope to inspire others before it’s too late.

I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography




    • Hi Marco,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it’s tricky, legally speaking. That’s why I’m only restricting to a few close friends…too problematic when it comes to the general public.

      I’ve warned my friends that have sent me in images to manage their expectations. We all know that it may take many many many months until sales happen (if ever). Let’s see. I’ll report back in 6 months or so and see how these Iran batch has done. Fingers crossed!

      p.s: Cool blog by the way –

      All the best,



      • (thanks for the compliment!)

        As for the “legally tricky”, I did not only refer to the fact that you might want / need to pay your collaborators / friends, but also to the copyright (who holds it? Would the agency require that you took the photo yourself? etc etc). So basically the friend will need to transfer you the copyright as well and/or you will need to “lie” to the agency.

        …I see that you wander through Italy, should you visit Pisa and surroundings, give a shout 😉


        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Marco,

          Likewise if you’re ever in Milan!

          That’s an interesting point. I’ve just looked at Shutterstock’s Contributor Agreement, which states the following:

          “You represent and warrant that:
          d. the Content and all parts thereof are owned and/or controlled by you, unencumbered and original works and are capable of copyright protection in all countries where copyright or similar protection is available;”


          I looked into Alamy’s contributor contract which has similar wording:

          “You are responsible for the content you upload, and you must be the copyright holder or have their permission or be contractually entitled to distribute the Image for its proposed use or the Image is copyright free”


          From my interpretation, I both “control” the copyright and “have their permission” so no need for my friends to transfer them over (which may require a deed of transfer). However, to be on the safe side I’ll consider drawing up an agreement so everybody is one the same page! 🙂

          Cordiali saluti!



  1. Good to know that someone else had the same thought with me! I already have this “agreement” with my brother and a couple of close friends that travel to crazy places. They grant me the copyright and I “pay” them digitally but not with bitcoins but in YouTube. How? I edit their vacations and upload their travels online. They have something to remember and show their friends and I have the copyrighted material!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, mostly video. I give them one of my gorillapods with instructions what to shoot, avoiding panning! Less photos that go to the smaller stock sites, which oddly, if sold, return 2, 5 or 10 $ instead of 0,25 or 0,33! For instance, a friend is going next week to Tbilisi, where I have never been although there are much to see. I have to do my Google homework first. She jokes I know better the place than her! I take her mobile and add coloured Google Maps stars so she knows what to shoot where. With ofline maps she just has to turn GPS on and remember to follow my camera settings and keep the lens clean!


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