Many photographers dream of being paid to travel and take photos. But where are we supposed to start? There aren’t any job postings for “travel photographers," and there's no definitive guide on how to find jobs like these. Of course, everyone knows the National Geographic photographers, but these jobs are few and far in between. The good news is, there are actually many ways to make money as a travel photographer. The trick to being paid as a travel photographer is to utilize multiple sources of income.
I have compiled a list of 8 jobs that will pay you to be a travel photographer in 2017, and added a short guide on how to make it happen! I utilize several of these jobs as income sources as I travel the world, and others are utilized by various photographers I know or have met throughout my travels. If you are interested in making money as a travel photographer in 2017, this is definitely for you.
1. Magazine/Newspapers/ Photo Journalism
Finding work for a news or media outlet can be a fantastic way to fund your travels while working as a photographer. News and media sources are always looking for photos from across the world to use with their stories. Often times photographers will receive contracts with news/media companies, and will be assigned to cover a specific country or region. Last week I met a photo journalist from Spain, living and working in Bangkok for Getty images. He is paid to live in Bangkok, and Getty images sends him around South-East Asia to take photos of noteworthy political, social, and cultural events. You can also pitch your own story to a few different news sources in hopes they will sponsor you. If you decide to do this, you must find a noteworthy story and create a solid pitch. This is not as easy or secure as being under contract, but it can be a extremely fulfilling and interesting experience.
2. Stock Photographer
Stock photography can be difficult to monetize if you are new to the field. However, after your portfolio grows and you develop a following, the money starts to flow. All you have to do is post your photos on several stock photography websites, utilize effective keywords in your posts, and wait for them to sell. You can submit any of your photos from your daily adventures to your stock photo portfolios, and also shoot specific things that you think might sell.
The trick with stock photography (well, all of these jobs for that matter!) is to use it as just one of your income sources. Stock photography is great, but you shouldn't rely on it completely (at least not in the beginning). Stock photography works well as a side-job, as you can submit any of your photos and let them sell while you focus your time on other parts of your photography business.
3. Personal Branding and Social Media
Someone once told me that the most successful travel photographers aren’t necessarily the best photographers, but the best marketers. Hotel chains, tourism boards, restaurants, and big brands are always looking for the latest and greatest travel photographers to partner with. If you can develop your personal brand and establish a large enough following, you can make money through direct client work, as well as marketing or advertising on your social media outlets. Even with my modest Instagram following of 14k, I have made several thousand dollars shooting for brands that like my style, and have earned even more money through free products that are sent to me (shoes, watches, clothes, camera equipment).
Many popular Instagrammers make their living completely from social media. If you can market yourself correctly and gather a strong following, the money will follow.
4. Direct Client Work
Direct client sales are always an effective form of making money as a photographer. Just because you are on the road doesn’t mean you can’t score gigs in the country you’re in. Do your research and look for clients you think might need your services. Contact them and offer your services, making sure they understand the level of value you can bring them. A few places to look are hotels, local brands, restaurants, and local expat populations that might need general photography work (portraits, weddings, family, etc.). I have used this to sustain myself in several countries around the world, and it can be a great way to keep your travels funded as a photographer.
Some companies will also pay you a monthly wage for only a few photos a month. You give them a selection of photos to choose from every month, they choose a few, and you get paid. My good friend shoots for several travel and airline companies, each of which pay him a few hundred dollars per month. He uploads the photos, and each brand picks about 5 photos for their use. It’s as simple as that.
Blogging is a tested and popular source of income for people of all trades. If you can design a solid travel or photography blog, you can monetize it quite easily. Focus first on providing free value to your readers, and use your blog as a creative outlet to display the glory of your travels. If you want to focus your blog on a topic other than traveling or photography, you totally can. I know a photographer who makes a few thousand a month on her food blog. She travels the world and takes photos of her food, that’s it! Every blog needs good photos, and no matter what you focus on, your photography skills will come in handy 😊
Similar to blogging and social media, YouTube can be a solid way to make money. You can monetize your channel and make money not only through the number of views your videos receive, but through your audience as well. YouTube is a great way to drive traffic back to your website or other social media sources, and it can help you grow quickly. If you want to be a YouTuber, pick up a decent vlogging camera and study what popular vloggers and YouTubers are doing. Make sure you produce material that people are interested in watching. If you can do this, you can make decent money from YouTube!
Like all fields, photography teachers are always in demand. It is true that everyone and their grandmas have cameras nowadays, but how many of them actually know how to use them properly? Here’s your answer: very few. Try launching a travel photography course on skillshare.com or udemy.com. Not confident in teaching photography? Teach something else you’re good at. You could also teach English in a another country and use your free time to build up your portfolio and establish yourself as a good travel photographer. The possibilities with teaching are quite endless, so look into it!
Check out my recent course on Skillshare and get a free month!
8. Travel writing
There are plenty of ways to make money as a travel writer, both related to photography, and unrelated. The internet boom in the last decade has become a powerful medium for online jobs, and people are always looking to hire talented writers. Clients in need of writers come in all different shapes and sizes, and you can easily find work on websites like www.upwork.com or fiverr.com. The fact that you will be in another country helps you, as you can write in detail about things in the area you’re in.
HOW TO MAKE IT HAPPEN
Of course, the techniques I explain above aren't easily achieved. If you want to make it as a travel photographer, there are a few things you need to make it happen.
Solid Marketing Plan
A good marketing plan definitely deserves to be on the top of this list. If you can efficiently market yourself, the paid jobs will come. A good portfolio is plays a part in this, as your portfolio is your resume to potential employers. Even just 10-12 stunning photos that show your artistic ability can be enough to land jobs that pay a few thousand dollars.
Social Media Skills
Social media is one of the biggest key players in any business today. Having proper knowledge of social media will allow you to market yourself, and your business, more effectively. It will also help you connect and share with others, something that can be crucial to your success. Pro tip: don't only focus on one form of social media, use a variety such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Flickr.
Have "Enough" Gear
While gear certainly isn't everything, it definitely plays a role. You don't need the latest and greatest gear on the market, but having a decent camera and a few lenses that cover a wide range of focal lengths will allow you to be more versatile in what you shoot. This versatility will serve you well, as shooting a variety of different things will make you more appealing to a larger number of companies.
An Adventurous Spirit
Working as a travel photographer sounds glorious, but constantly being on the road can be tiring and lonesome. If you don't have an adventurous and on-the-go spirit, travel photography might not be for you. Think it through before you book your ticket and leave everything behind.
Landing gigs isn't always easy, and you will deal with rejection during the process. Being able to recover from rejection and stay motivated is crucial if you want to make it as a travel photographer. Travel photography can be hard work, and consistent productivity is a must. Keep your motivation high and success will follow.
There are many ways to get paid as a travel photographer, some easier than others. At the end of the day, it takes a combination of personal and professional skills that will allow you to set yourself apart and establish yourself as a travel photographer. Do you have what it takes? Leave a comment below on your thoughts about travel photography!
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