Travel Photography vs. Travel Snapshots

Recently, an author reached out to us regarding the type of travel photography we are looking for at Envato. This covers quite a wide spectrum of subjects and because of the abundance of images we receive that fall under this category, we will be particularly selective.

The first thing that most people do when traveling is photograph their surroundings, architecture, landscapes, public markets and people. However, if it is used for editorial content, there are certain requirements to consider (view below).

The most frequent reasons that we need to decline these images are usually related to lighting conditions, composition or both with cluttered and/or uninteresting compositions. Even very common subjects can be stunning if shot at the right time of day (usually when the sun is low, or even at night) and if it’s properly composed. If your shooting architecture, pay attention to the lines, perspective, and ask, how could this image be used well?

Also, if the building is the main subject and it has a distinctive design, you’ll want to include a property release. See this article here.

*Please note: Even a picture of a church if executed properly can be acceptable, if it feels more like a random shot of a random church, chances are it will be declined.

Things to avoid:

  • Harsh lighting. Harsh shadows are rarely flattering to anything or anyone. It’s impossible to change the height of the sun but it is possible to choose the best time to shoot. For example, when the sun is lower (the golden hour) or when it’s slightly cloudy. Clouds act as diffusers and produce softer shadows. In some cases, deflectors and or artificial lighting can also be used to fill in the shadows.
  • Overprocessing. This includes heavy vignetting, replacing sky, heavy HDR (where you start seeing halos around the detail), digitally adding sun effects/lens flares, altering colors to the point where the image no longer looks real etc. 
  • Cluttered, random compositions. Keep an eye on the lines, especially perspective, barrel distortion etc.
  • If it includes models, the scene should look and feel natural and genuine (as opposed to forced and staged).
  • Editorial content. This includes artwork, logos, trademarks, unreleased people (and blurring of faces is not an acceptable alternative). As the content is approved before being reviewed and the serious legal risks that are involved, uploading editorial content will lead to having your upload rights suspended.
  • Random subjects that have little commercial utility. There’s nothing wrong with taking tens of thousands of photos and documenting every step of your trip, as long as you can self-curate and submit only the absolute best (which is usually a very tiny fraction).

Things to look for:

  • Interesting subjects for which there can be demand.
  • Proper composition and lighting (as with any subject).
  • Famous landmarks (just make sure you are allowed to use them for commercial licensing).
  • People engaged in daily activities (this will vary significantly from country to country, make sure to carry along model releases in cases where the people are recognizable in the context, even if face is not visible).
  • Food from around the world (presentation, composition and lighting will also be important here – it must look appetizing).
  • Activities specific to countries or cities.
  • Always ask yourself: ‘How could someone use my photo?’

Here are a few examples of the type of travel photography we are looking for:

Tribeca Alley in New York

Lovely night shot of an Alley. You’ll notice the perspective was corrected and all the vertical lines from the buildings are straight, resulting in a pleasing and strong composition. The lighting and colors also add to the image.

Old European Narrow Street

Another similar subject shot on a foggy evening. Great mood, tones, composition and light. The same subject shot at noon on a sunny day would most likely be rejected because large parts of the buildings would be covered in harsh shadows and it would end up looking like a random snapshot.

Office Building

Building shot from below with dynamic composition and nice lighting.

Aerial View of Colorful Boats

Lovely aerial shot with beautiful colors and composition. There is also space for copy/words at the bottom of the image.

Vernazza Village Aerial View

There is a lovely color contrast between the warm and cooler tones, good lighting/exposure and solid composition. Colors were adjusted, but it’s not overly done.

Golden Gate Bridge

A famous landmark with great composition, lighting and colors.


Mt. Fuji With Chureito Pagoda

A great short of Mt. Fuji with a temple in the foreground. There are lovely colors and great composition, resulting in a very useful image.

Taiga Home Under Northern Lights

This shot is simply stunning. There is great composition, colors and lighting.


Traditional Christmas Market

It also doesn’t always have to be very complex or rare. Here we have a shot of a traditional Christmas Market with nice colors and short depth of field – keeping enough of the surrounding environment, while directing our attention to the foreground. It is a very effective, natural looking, Christmas shopping themed image.

If you have any questions, want to continue the conversation or share your favorite tips, jump over to the forums and connect with your fellow author community.

Featured Author: Meet den-belitsky
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Featured Author: Meet den-belitsky