Last Fall I touched down in a brand new city, in a country I had never visited before. I was so excited; it had been almost two years since I had been able to take an international trip, thanks to finances, and I was so very ready for an adventure. My spouse was by my side, as jet lagged as I was, and we were waiting for our luggage to arrive.
As we were standing around, half asleep, my eyes were constantly in motion. People were milling about, equally zombified at three in the morning. Some were on their way into the airport, some on their way out. All with their own destinations to be, and their own stories to tell.
I couldn’t help myself. Even though I didn’t speak the language, had never met anyone there and was dead on my feet (I can never sleep well on planes), I had to do it. I had to take some pictures.
“What are you doing?” my partner groaned as I began to root around in my carry-on bag. I always keep a simple camera with an extra lens and batteries in their, with me at all times, just in case.
I didn’t reply…they knew perfectly well what was about to happen. They waited in exasperation for our luggage while I went happily hopping around the airport, energized by my passion, requesting photos of strangers. We ended up staying about ten minutes after getting our things so I could finish up. Three of my photos were sold from that trip over the coming months, which made up for my spouse’s irritation with me for the delay.
Photography is a hobby for many travelers, but every one dreams of being able to make it into a career. Sadly, I have not yet managed to get to a point where I can do it full time. Few do, as the market is filled with talented competition. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be a part of your income, or a goal you should be working toward.
Whether it is an occasional means of making money, or something you end up doing as your sole income, here are some tips for breaking into the business of travel photography.
Tips to Start Travel Photography Business
- Always Be Ready
Take it from my story above, you should always be ready to take a photo. Which means carrying your gear with you everywhere. If you just cringed at the thought, you should take a quick gander at the tip below. Having a camera with you capable of taking high quality photographs will make sure that you are always able to take advantage of opportunities that come your way. This is an incredibly important part of getting amazing travel shots, and will up your chances of selling a photo to some kind of publication. It will also beat a lot of the “didn’t get it blues”, where you see a chance for an amazing photo, but don’t have anything on you to take advantage of it.
- Travel Light
I knew a guy once who would actually carry all of his gear with him. All of his gear. Just think about everything you have in your main gear, which you might conceivably use for, say, a hired event. Yeah, he actually kept all of that with him, in two massive duffle bags, at all times. He had to have people help him carry it all. It was also the reason that he didn’t get a lot of shots, because he ended up leaving his stuff back at the hotel more than he took it out. You need to be able to move freely, but still have what you need. Experience will tell you what items you always use, and those could be kept with you at all times, in a single bag. If there is anything you think you might need, or would like to have but it isn’t crucial, leave it behind. Part of being a successful photographer is learning to make due with the equipment you are able to carry. Skill is more important than that extra tripod you might need if a certain situation arises.
- Get Your Hands (and Gear) Dirty
We all know well the fear and paranoia about damaging equipment. It is the reason that so many will avoid certain shots our of fear of dirt or dust, and the effect it will have on their precious Nikon. Look, I get it, but nothing risked, nothing gained. Some of the most incredible photos will come with a certain threat of grime. So instead of avoiding these situations, prepare for them. Have cans of Dust-Off, plenty of wiping clothes, and even something to help prevent water damage. I actually use shower caps and duct tape to protect my camera from things like rain, dirt and dust. It works for me.
- Expand Your Publication Sources
Guess what? You probably won’t get a lot of work from travel magazines. At least, not in the beginning. They are so high in demand that unless you are lucky enough to land a stable position with a startup, you are better off looking for work elsewhere. But it is always a good idea to expand your job opportunities anyway. Websites, stock photo sites, postcards, blogs…these are just some of the places you can submit your work for publication. Having a well-rounded strategy for submission is a great way to improve visibility and get a regular income. You may also wish to focus on writing travel blog posts that include pictures, either for your own blog or someone else’s, which can offer further income opportunities.
- Be Both Candid and Staged
I have come across too many photographers that stick with one or the other. The truth is, when traveling you will have chances for both candid shots and staged ones, and both can be incredible opportunities for beautiful photos. Don’t just dedicate yourself to one or the other, try and take chances for both.
The truth is, travel photography as a career takes a lot of energy, business savvy, dedication and patience. You might find yourself feeling overwhelmed, and at times wondering if it is worth it. But if you have a passion and a talent for the occupation, you should be able to find success. Just adapt over time as you gain more experience, and don’t be discouraged. It just takes some time to get there.
About the Author
Jessy is the creative travel blogger for Dobovo, the Ukrainian based business specializing in Lviv apartments. Jessy travels around the world and enjoys making money while on the road.