How to Make Money on Every Trip Abroad

Several years ago, my wife and I took a quick trip to Calgary, Alberta to visit some close friends who had recently given birth to twins. As an avid photographer, and someone who was breaking in the world of stock photography at the time, I couldn’t go without my camera.

Our three days there went by quickly, mostly sitting around, eating, holding babies, and catching up on life. One afternoon, we all crammed in the van and headed into Canmore to get out of the house and see the beautiful scenery on the edge of Banff National Park. Jon (the twins’ father) and I got our wives’ blessings to go on a quick hike up Heart Mountain, a small nearby peak, as the ladies strolled around town.

My camera stayed in my pack for most our hike up, due to our haste and the cool winter air. When we got to the top, a stunning vista and beautiful afternoon light awaited us. I knew this scene was too good to pass up, and I convinced Jon to pose for a few pictures on top.

He was a good sport, and we spent 15 minutes or so exploring different angles and shooting a series of pictures of him on the summit. See above for one of the photos I took.

I had a feeling these would be good stock, but I had no idea how good.

As I write this, a little more than three-and-a-half years later, this series of a few photos has more than paid for the airfare and other expenses my wife and I incurred on that whole trip. Not too bad for 15 minutes of work. Jon was thrilled because he eventually saw himself in advertisements in numerous magazines, including Backpacker and Canadian Geographic.

Now, I will be the first to admit that it isn’t always this easy. But when I travel nowadays, I am constantly looking for situations that are ripe with stock photography potential.

There’s an old adage: “Work smarter, not harder.” This is especially apt for those us that use stock photography as a second income. I want to make the most of the time I have off, which means I don’t wish to spend all my free time taking stock pictures.

Learning to recognize and capitalize on situations that produce highly-marketable images, like my hike with Jon, lets me relax more and enjoy the times in-between.

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