How to Make a Living With Travel Photography
- 3 Things Every Travel Photographer Needs in Their Camera Bag
- Want an Ideal Travel Photography Lens? Follow These Guidelines
For many, the idea of being a travel photographer seems far-fetched.
After all, how could one possibly make money traveling the world, taking photos as they meander from one place to another?
Well, it is possible, provided that you bear a few things in mind.
If you're ready to make the leap and become a travel photographer, following this guideline will get you started on the right foot.
Throw Away Your Idealized Notions of Travel Photography
First, if you think of photography as being the secondary component of "travel photography," you're wrong.
Travel photographers don't randomly wander around the world and take pictures whenever they feel like it.
Instead, travel photographers go to a specific place to do a specific job at a certain location with a certain subject.
In other words, travel photographers don't check into the Four Seasons, grab a spot by the pool, and take a handful of photos of sunsets to pay the bills.
Travel photography is very hard work, with long days and deadlines, just like any job.
Of course, the bonus is that instead of working in an office, you get to work in far-flung locales.
Travel photography isn't just about photographing landscapes, either.
It's a discipline that involves everything from portraiture to wildlife photography, event photography to street photography, and even product photography.
On one trip, you might be tasked with photographing a hotel or resort, and on the next you might be paid to document a local festival or celebration.
That's part of the draw of travel photography, though - there's a wide range of subjects and locations with which you might get to work.
Qualities of a Travel Photographer
Now that you understand that travel photography is a job and not a long vacation, the next step is to understand the qualities that help someone be a successful travel photographer.
Obviously, you need skills behind the lens and have demonstrable experience as a photographer...
But there are critical personal qualities that travel photographers must possess as well. See what Brendan van Son has done to build his travel photography business in the video below:
For starters, travel photographers must be flexible, both in terms of when and where they travel as well as the type of photographs they take.
As noted earlier, on one trip you might be asked to photograph a fancy hotel, and on the next you might be off-the-beaten-path in a small town or village documenting a local festival.
That means you must be confident in your skills as a photographer no matter the subject.
Additionally, some travel photography assignments come up at a moment's notice, so you have to have the capacity and the capability to pack your bags and head out quickly.
In addition to being flexible, travel photographers must be resilient.
Though the photos you take might look effortless, there's a ton of hard work that you put into getting those shots.
It starts with long days of travel, fighting your way through congested airports and train stations.
Then, once you get to your destination, you have to make your way to your hotel (or perhaps even travel further to your shoot location), often working with locals that may or may not speak the same language as you.
There's weather to consider as well, from the bitter cold to the oppressive heat.
So, in other words, travel photographers don't fly first class and have all their gear brought to them by porters. You will be putting in the time well before you ever pick up your camera!
Of course, travel photographers must be adventurous, too. It takes a certain kind of person to be comfortable constantly on the move in foreign lands.
There are language barriers to overcome as well as social and cultural differences.
You cannot work effectively in strange environments if you don't have the capacity to view your assignment as an opportunity for adventure and learning.
How to Make Money as a Travel Photographer
With all that said, let's get down to brass tacks and discuss ways you can make money as a travel photographer.
You might be surprised to know that this area of work is ripe for making money, so long as you put in the necessary effort.
Sell Stock Images
Wherever you go - even if it isn't exotic - someone, somewhere will want a picture of it.
That's true whether you're on Australia's Gold Coast or driving through the Badlands of North Dakota.
Sites like iStockPhoto can give you a source of residual income, and while that income likely won't pay all your bills, every little bit helps.
Even though we live in the digital age, people do still buy prints.
Whether you sell digital files from your website or attend art shows a couple times a year to sell prints you've made, the time and effort you put into showcasing your work can lead to enough sales to generate a good amount of income.
Though bartering doesn't technically make you money, it opens the doors for you to make money down the road.
For example, if you're dying to travel to Morocco, get in touch with various hotels and resorts to discuss the possibility of trading a couple weeks' worth of lodging in exchange for your photography services.
When your photos appear on the hotel's website and other marketing materials, you get instant exposure for your work.
What's more, when you aren't fulfilling your photography duties for the hotel, you can wander the area and take photos that you can sell to stock photo sites or sell as prints. It's a win-win!
Blog and Vlog
As eager as people are to see gorgeous places around the world, producing content like blogs and vlogs can be as lucrative an undertaking for a travel photographer as any other.
Famed travel photographers can fund their trips based solely on the videos the put on YouTube, and while it took them awhile to build the following needed to maximize their revenue, they had to start somewhere.
If you start with a blog on your website and work to form partnerships with travel publications, you can begin to develop your footprint in the travel industry.
As more people read about your adventures and see your photos, the more captive your audience will be for something like a monetized YouTube channel.
Bear in mind that this is a fairly simplified analysis of how to make money as a travel photographer and that each of these methods will require a ton of hard work over a long period of time.
But if you have the gusto and a sense for adventure, you can certainly make money as a travel photographer!
For more travel photography inspiration, check out the video above by Jeven Dovey.