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 either. 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, 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 2019, this is definitely for you.
NOTE: All of the topics covered in this blog post are just introductions. My full course on Becoming a Professional Travel Photographer covers these topics in-depth, and has all the information you need to start traveling the world and taking photos for a living.
Magazines, Newspapers and Photojournalism
Work with the press!
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.
The definition of passive income.
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. Other types of photos also do quite well, including portraiture (make sure you have a model release!), food, and lifestyle.
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. If you want to be successful with stock photography, it is crucial to upload as many photos as you can on a regular basis, especially if your focus is microstock (allowing your photo to be downloaded by many customers for a very cheap price). Macrostock works differently, and allows you to sell for your photo to less people for a larger price tag. This might sound more appealing, but it is much more difficult to get into. For beginners, I recommend going the Microstock route.
A large audience pays well.
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 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 on social media, you can make more money through direct client work, as well as marketing or advertising on your social media outlets. It’s not just Instagram either, a large following on almost any platform will do you well. This includes YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, etc.
In short, the larger the following you have, the more you’ll get paid!
The most reliable.
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.
Who doesn’t want to be a travel blogger?
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.
Make videos and get paid!
I mentioned this above, but want to take a second to dive into it a bit more. YouTube has the potential to greatly increase your income. 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 on all of your social media channels. 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!
Teach photography, or something else!
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!
Put your writing skills to use.
There are plenty of ways to make money as a travel writer, both related to photography, and unrelated. The internet boom in the last 20 years 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.
In short, there are many ways you can earn money as a travel photographer. If you are serious about traveling the world and taking photos for a living, check out my course on Becoming a Professional Travel Photographer. I dive deep into all of these topics, giving you the knowledge you need to turn your dream of becoming a travel photographer, into a reality :)
How do I make it happen?
Okay, so we’ve gone over some of the ways you can earn money as a travel photographer. But there’s a few things you should know before you dive into it. If you want to make it as a travel photographer, ensure you have these things in order 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. It’s not as out of reach as you might think. As long as you have a plan and a goal, you’ll get there eventually.
Remember to check out my course on How to Become a Professional Travel Photographer if you want to learn more about this topic. In this course I dive into all of the money-making methods and give you the tips you need to run a successful travel photography business.