How You Could Pay For Your Next Trip to South America

I’m not a professional photographer, but for over five years now I’ve used stock photography to supplement my income and help cover travel expenses. One of my favorite trips in recent years was to La Paz, Bolivia.

One morning during the trip, I found myself scratching my head outside my hotel. I was staring at a large pile of sleeping bags, tents, mountaineering boots, ice axes, and food stacked on the sidewalk.

Somehow, we had to get this huge pile of gear, five climbers, and our hired driver into a 1980’s era Toyota Corolla taxi, and then on to a remote region of the Andes six hours to the southwest. To my surprise, a bit of ingenuity, rope, and creative seating arrangements did the trick and before we knew it we were bumping down a dirt road toward the entrance of Sajama National Park near the Chilean border.

Our principle goal was to climb Nevado Sajama, Bolivia’s highest peak, but we also wanted to explore the surrounding region and soak up the stark, but stunning scenery. Despite the cold temperatures and high altitude, my companions and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring this seldom-visited region of South America.

Throughout our trip, I took pictures I planned to submit to online stock photo agencies. This trip was no different; a few good shots I captured in my week in Sajama covered all my expenses for that portion of the trip, as well as many other costs incurred during my six-weeks in South America.

Stock photography can be lucrative, but it’s also not a secret anymore. One way to still find success is to photograph situations that capture the essence of a place, but don’t use the same tired viewpoints of cliché scenes that every other tourist also photographs. Think beyond the Eiffel Tower in France and past Machu Picchu in Peru. The goal is to make the region recognizable (a key in travel stock photography), but set your picture apart amongst the masses of others like it (just like the image above).

I captured this shot on my trip to Bolivia. The scene is instantly recognizable as being from the Andes and generic enough to be used in many different ways by a designer. The image has since appeared in a Footprint Guidebook, travel magazines and websites, and many more places.

Following this strategy is a great way for new photographers to combine their love of travel with an entrance into stock photography. The demand for online stock photos has increased significantly during the past five years and I’ve seen a growing need for unique travel photos from across the globe.

I’d recommend starting with places you are familiar with, as you’ve already got a leg up on the competition there. Very talented photographers have already photographed the iconic scenes across the world from many different angles, but the back roads are still wide open to the rest of us!

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