- What do you want to do with travel photography?
- Is this your final career stop, or do you just want to use travel photography to travel for a short amount of time?
- How much are you comfortable earning every year?
- What sorts of personal and family goals will you be putting off by becoming a travel photographer?
- How much can you afford to start this business?
photo by martin-dm via iStock
If you want nothing more than to be a travel photographer, you definitely aren’t alone. Travel photography is so rewarding because you’re constantly seeing new things, facing new challenges and figuring out why your photography is so important for people to see.
But, becoming a travel photographer is also difficult. Chances are that you won’t make very much money doing it. A good travel photographer salary is around $60,000 if you’re being sent on assignments by different clients, but if you’re working for yourself then this annual salary will probably drop to under $30,000.
However, $30,000 U.S. dollars is a really large sum of money if you’re spending most of your time in Thailand or Chile. It’s all about how and where you live.
If this sounds appealing to you, then I’ve compiled some travel photography tips for you. These tips will help you to make more money, find more clients, and understand your goals as a travel photographer.
Figure Out What You Want
photo by katleho Seisa via iStock
The most successful travel photographers are people who are avid planners. This is not a profession you can just jump into. It takes effort.
Some questions you need to ask yourself about your travel photography career are:
Just because you will be working for yourself doesn’t mean that you don’t need to create a career plan.
This is an especially important move because, chances are, you may be putting off some large personal goals, like owning a home or having a child, in order to pursue this dream right now.
You’ll also need to closely examine how much money you can truly afford to spend to start this business. There are a ton of start up costs to travel photography. You’ll need plenty of new gear, like leather camera bags for traveling such as Holdfast’s Roamographer bag (shown above).
You’ll need plenty of other things too, like several lenses, a second camera body, and a good tripod. And investing in good gear that’s durable and can stand up to the rigors of travel isn’t exactly cheap!
Plus, you may need to hire freelancers to help you create your brand.
Once you understand what this career can and cannot do for you, all of the next steps will be much easier.
Create Your Brand
photo by AndreyPopov via iStock
There are three all important aspects of creating a brand in our modern world. First, you need to build a name for yourself.
You can use your own name, or you can create a brand name, but you need to decide now which of these things you want to do. Changing your brand name a year into your travel photography career means you will be losing valuable recognition.
You’ll also need to check to make sure that whatever name you choose for your company is available. Make sure there are no other LLCs with that name. Then, make sure a website title would be available for that name.
You should also check with friends and family to see what names they like best for your brand.
photo by FluxFactory via iStock
Next, you’ll need to create a logo. If you aren’t a marketing wizard, then there are plenty of websites, like Upwork or Fiverr, that will let you hire a freelancer to create a logo for you. It’s an added cost up front but will be worth it in the long run because logos help to catch someone’s eye much more than your name ever will.
Also, you’ll need to figure out what niche market you want to be a part of. Travel photography is incredibly broad and includes things like food photography, landscape photography, and adventure photography.
What do you love to photograph? Pursue it!
photo by Rawpixel via iStock
Lastly, you’ll need to decide what style you want to portray. As a travel photographer, the way you look says a lot about the way people think your photos will look, whether you like this or not.
When I first started participating in travel photography, I used ratty old camera bags for traveling and paired them with mismatching travel gear I found at Goodwill. Suffice it to say, I didn’t look put together and potential clients could tell.
Now that I’m a little more established and understand how important my personal aesthetic is for my brand, I only buy Holdfast products, like my Holdfast Roamographer bag that I’ve had for going on 5 years.
This bag is made of genuine bison leather, so it’s incredibly durable. But it also looks incredible! Besides, many of their products are available in leather, so they go very well together, like the Roamographer bag and the Holdfast MoneyMaker dual camera harness shown above. That means all of their products look good together, and thus, make me look good!
Build Your Online Presence
photo by AlexBrylov via iStock
There are two aspects of building an online presence as a travel photographer: your website and your social media accounts.
Let’s discuss your website first.
Your website should act as an extension of your brand that we talked about above. This isn’t to say that you can’t portray your personality on your website, because you should definitely do that. But, try and make sure everything you put on your website is directly relevant to whatever your potential clients may be looking for.
You’ll also want to follow SEO rules. Neil Patel goes through some of the basic SEO rules you should be following for your website above.
Next, you’ll need to build your social media presence. As a travel photographer, your Instagram and Facebook accounts are absolutely essential.
You should post as often as possible on each of them, but at least once every day.
Sell Your Work to Stock Libraries
Thanks to Julian Elliot Photography for the great video about learning how to keyword for stock photo libraries.
While stock image libraries are never going to be your only revenue source, they will be your most consistent if you use them correctly.
It’s important to note that all of these stock libraries have really high standards, so make sure you’re only submitting high-quality work to prevent being rejected.
It will be helpful for you to submit odd photos. For instance, there are thousands of photos of the Eiffel tower on iStock, but less than a dozen photos of patisserie shops.
Sell Your Work to Travel Magazines
photo by grinvalds via iStock
This is one of my most lucrative avenues in travel photography, but also one of the most difficult to break into.
Firstly, you’ll probably need to write articles to accompany your travel photography if you’re planning to pitch magazines. If you’ve never written before, this can be a daunting task.
You’ll also need to become incredibly used to rejection. Like just about every other journalism industry right now, travel magazines aren’t making as much money as they used to so the very few full-time staff on these magazines are incredibly overworked. You may get a basic rejection letter or you may never hear back from many magazines that you pitch.
But, as soon as you get one yes, they start rolling in. Editors like working with photographers they’ve used before. Editors also talk to other editors. Once you have a good name in the travel magazine business, you’ll notice offers start to pour in.