How to make it as a travel photographer

– Post written and contributed by Shannon, freelance writer and passionate traveller – 

It’s hard to believe that no one has sat at their desk on a cold Monday morning and dreamed of travelling the world taking photos for a living. Despite this career seeming like a bit of a pipe dream, many people do manage to make a living from jet-setting to exotic locations to provide the world with stunning photos of some of the most incredible destinations on the planet.

Being a travel photographer may seem like a perfect job, but there are a lot of pitfalls and administrative hoops that need to be jumped through for people who are serious about turning a hobby into a profession.

Although so many of us have a camera in their pocket and share our photos instantly on social media, there is still a huge void between the snaps we take on our phones and the carefully planned, thoughtfully composed and expertly executed photographs that make websites, magazine articles and travel brochures stand out from the crowd.

Companies are constantly looking at being at the forefront of consumer’s minds, with impressive marketing material, media campaigns and of course mind-blowing photographs helping businesses to sell the dream to their customers.

how to make it as a travel photographer

Photographers have several approaches when it comes to making money from their images. They can work directly for an organisation, with an annual salary and all travel costs often paid by their employer. Alternatively, they can work on a freelance basis, licensing their images to companies or websites or working to a brief, or even selling prints of their photos.

Getting exposure on sites like 500px, Shutterstock and Stocksy is a great way to improve your chances of being spotted, while offering your services directly to travel agents, local tourism boards and travel magazines offers a potential way to build your client base quickly. Creating a blog or vlog using sites like Reddit, Blogger and YouTube are simple ways to connect with prospective customers, and you should also maintain a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Having a solid portfolio is the starting point for all travel photographers, but you don’t necessarily have to spend lots of money travelling to glamorous locations. Try shooting in your hometown, or travel to a nearby city, beauty spot or tourist attraction. Spend plenty of time looking at what others are achieving and listen to the pros. Take on as much business advice, composition tutoring and shooting tips, with plenty of free information be found online.

how to make it as a travel photographer

Buy the right photography equipment and insurance

While many guides advise that great pictures are possible no matter what you take them on, as well as massive increases in the technology on phones, and lower end ‘point and click‘ cameras, there is still a big difference between amateur and professional cameras. The right equipment is an absolute must for any travel photographer.

Most professionals will use digital SLR cameras and a huge variety of lenses, filters, tripods, flashes and support equipment such as laptops and robust storage. Most of this gear doesn’t come cheap and photographers will invest in equipment that produces not only high-quality images but can also survive the inevitable bumps and scrapes that come with travelling.

As photographers become reliant on their kit to make a living, ensuring that is both protected and covered if something goes wrong is vitally important, with specialist insurance available to ensure replacing expensive photographic equipment doesn’t leave you out of pocket. This goes beyond the standard travel insurance, especially given the increased specialism of the more expensive equipment.

With the increase in the quality, and the price of your equipment, there’s also an increase in the level of protection you can get. While holiday snappers might just pop their mobile phone in their pocket, risking an inevitable cracked screen, and the ‘point and click’ variety being carried along in a flexible carry case, many professional camera cases are much sturdier, allowing a few more knocks on the flights.

Becoming a successful travel photographer certainly isn’t an easy task and there is plenty of strong competition out there. Getting to the top requires plenty of patience, resilience and original and eye-catching work, as well as the right equipment.

Author: Shannon Richardson is a Media & Communication studies graduate from Leicester. Shannon works as a freelancer writer whilst pursuing her passion of travelling, and has visited several famous landmarks since her graduation. Shannon’s particularly enjoys writing content related to Television, gaming and of course travelling. Her greatest achievement thus far is writing and publishing a book for her 5 year old niece.

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Travel blogger and tourism graduate from Bulgaria, working in the field of Digital Marketing and PR for travel brands.

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