How Can You Become a Travel Photographer?

Most photographers dream about travelling the world, capturing emotional and inspiring moments, while appreciating what the global landscape has to offer. 

Imagine the exotic destinations, all the memorable sights to explore, and not to mention, the kind of tales you will live to tell as a travel photographer. It’s no wonder why most photographers want to travel the world—the amount of excitement and inspiration is certainly overwhelming.  

If you are considering becoming one, then you’ll find this post to be especially helpful. I have discussed everything you need to know to become a travel photographer, starting with the definition of the term, to what travel photographers do, and the steps for becoming successful in the field.

Who is a Travel Photographer?

In brief, a travel photographer is an expert working in several photographic industries, capturing memorable images of different locations, cultures, and customs. These professionals may work locally or internationally, delivering exclusive photography services to clients. 

Those in the tourism sector, for example, may provide specific location photographs, or document travel destinations for marketing brochures, etc. With so many interesting images to capture, a travel photographer uses several styles to take pictures, including:

  • Portrait
  • Landscape
  • Wildlife
  • Architecture
  • Special events
  • Food, and
  • Action

Skills and Qualities of Travel Photographers

Professional travel photography comes with a range of specialties and having a diverse skill set and qualities can help you become very successful. Moreover, on top of being proficient in several photographic techniques, a professional travel photographer possesses these skills:

  • Photo editing
  • Marketing
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal
  • Organisational
  • Attention to detail

And These Qualities:

  • Independence
  • Self-motivation
  • Curiosity
  • Patience
  • Flexibility
  • Passion for travelling

What Do Travel Photographers Do?

In brief, they can work as a team in an organisation or publication, or, as solopreneurs (freelancers), taking memorable pictures of different destinations, or special occasions to appeal to consumers. 

A hotel, for example, may hire the firm you’re working for, to capture images highlighting their activities, or rooms. On another hand, some print or digital magazine publications may hire you, as a freelance travel photographer, to capture quality images that relate to an upcoming edition. 

As a solopreneur, however, you are responsible for your own expenses. This means that you’ll pay for your travel adventures to shoot unique photos of interesting destinations for your business. I’m now happy to share the tips of how to become a paid travel photographer (in seven effective steps).

7 Proven Steps to Become a Paid Travel Photographer

We all know that a career in travel photography provides vast opportunities, including developing top creative skills, and not to mention, visiting other countries and eating different types of food! It allows us to pursue several areas of expertise within the photography niche and choose what we want.

Equally, knowing how to pursue within the photography field can help a lot in terms of establishing a strong portfolio and expanding your customer base. The following are some steps you can take to become a paid travel photographer

Step 1: Establish Your Goals

The first step to become a successful travel photographer is to set reasonable goals that help you establish a sustainable business model. 

Begin by asking yourself some questions regarding why you’re choosing a career as a travel photographer. What you need, or don’t need to do to reach your objectives. Which type of equipment you’ll need, and so on, but keep in mind that you can always change your objectives later.

Moreover, planning early provides your career with a clearer direction. With that said, I’ve included some quick questions you can ask yourself when planning your goals:

  1. Do you want to make enough money to travel for only a few years, or are you looking to have a long-term career?
  2. How much money do you want to make in the long run as a travel photographer?
  3. Must you travel across the globe or just stick around?
  4. What matters the most to you (between travelling and photography)?
  5. What kind of pictures do you enjoy capturing, or do you want to capture the most?
  6. Do you enjoy, or want to take photos of amazing cityscapes or nature?
  7. Are you looking for employment in some publication, or do you want to start your own business?

Step 2: Acquire Some Skills

Being at the top of your game means you’ll stand out to potential customers. Consider several ways to acquire relevant skills and train accordingly for your chosen career. Here are some proven ways you can improve your travel photography skills:

  • Taking a course

Taking a photography course is an amazing way to advance your skills. There are several inter-personal and online photography courses, offering free and paid lessons, you can check. Be sure to pick a specialised course that focuses on your goals.

  • Completing an internship

If you want to gain first-hand experience and a better knowledge of what your career entails, then it might help to enrol in an internship. Because, you’re likely going to work directly with a travel photographer, which is especially valuable for your career.

  • Practising frequently

This will help advance your skills, composition and attention to detail. Practice more often and try to master the complexity of photography like a better way of capturing light and different angles, photo editing skills, and relevant software.

Step 3: Create Manageable Goals

When starting a career as a travel photographer, you should set manageable goals and gradually grow as your skills also advance. But, keep in mind that you don’t have to travel across the planet to become a prospective travel photographer. 

Your hometown alone is a potential destination, with so many opportunities and great memories and customs to capture. Nevertheless, it’s also very important to consider your budget. 

Think in terms of the type and quality of equipment you need for your travel photography business, and the amount of money you want to spend on your travel adventures.

For a start, you can consider taking pictures with what you already have and upgrade to high-quality HD cameras and lenses, as you gain more experience and discover your niche.

Step 4: Choose a Niche

First, you need to understand that travel photography is wide. And even though it’s possible to sample several areas of expertise, providing a range of services to clients, a very specific niche can help you focus on your business goals and establish authority in your field. 

Therefore, consider reviewing your favourite photos or ones you enjoyed capturing the most to narrow down your area of expertise. Having a list of favourite pictures can help you focus on your niche. It also provides direction on the expertise and the required knowledge to pursue that area of interest.

Step 5: Build Your Portfolio

The next important step to becoming a paid travel photographer is to create a portfolio, which is a great way to promote your work and seduce paying clients. But don’t think too much about it. A portfolio can be in the form of a PDF booklet, a web page on a free online gallery, or even your website. 

No matter how you build your travel photography portfolio, just remember to select your favourite photos, especially those that best showcase your capabilities and creativity. And be sure to keep your portfolio updated with your best shots and promote your work accordingly on social media.

Step 6: Establish an Effective Online Presence

An effective online presence is critical to any business, let alone travel photography. You can take advantage of social media and other creative mediums to help you seduce millions of people with your out-of-this-world photography skills. 

Be sure to post your best work and provide your contact details, accurately. Use these 3 proven methods to create an outstanding online presence:

  • Social media:

This is the best way to market your visual content and services to the community. Using several social media platforms to promote your photography business holds the key to a potential sale. And try posting useful and exciting content as frequently as possible to get amazing results.

  • A personal website:

Proper branding is crucial for the success of your business. And personal websites are the best for displaying, and selling your fine work. There are several free, easy-to-use tools, such as WordPress, to help you create an outstanding website like this example.

  • A travel blog:

Similar to personal websites, travel blogs are also a great way to showcase your photography talent. Be sure to create a travel blog (you can use WordPress) and post high-quality content to attract more organic traffic. Use your blog to share the best moments of your travel adventures, while boosting your blog’s SEO rankings with quality, optimised content.

Step 7: Find Clients

Now that you’ve honed your photography skills, built an effective portfolio, and maybe even have a high-quality HD camera for your photography business, it’s time to start looking for paying clients. Although some may consider Upwork or Fiverr to get some leads, others would prefer the following 6 proven ways to attract high-paying clients:

  • Entering photography contests:

As a professional travel photographer, you may want to enter a magazine or an online photography contest, as it provides exposure and practice for future photography work. Many online publications host contests, so try entering as many as you can to develop new, or enhance your skills.

  • Submitting stock images:

Stock photography is another awesome way to build your travel portfolio and generate a modest, consistent income. But what exactly is stock photography?

Stock photography or stock images are 90% of the pictures you come across on websites and in print. This is because it’s far much cheaper and easier for some people to buy stock images instead of hiring a travel photographer.  

Therefore, consider researching available stock image libraries, such as Shutterstock and unsplash, to submit your best photos, so you can get a commission whenever someone buys your photos. It helps to do research beforehand to find out what types of photos sell the most and what clients are after.

  • Searching for paid blog posts:

Just as many successful blogs hire professional writers to develop engaging content, some also hire travel photographers to deliver high-quality images to accompany the written content. 

Let’s assume that you also have first-hand experience with writing great content. You can combine that with your photography skills and deliver great written content with accompanying unique photos. There are several online job-listing platforms where you can get paid blog posts and visual content development opportunities.

  • Pitching photographs to lifestyle and travel magazines:

When it comes to publishing your work, both print and digital lifestyle and travel magazines are a great way to consider. 

Use social media to promote your work, and approach as many editors out there as you possibly can. Once your work is published by a potential medium, proceed to promote the accompanying article on your personal website and social platforms.

  • Contacting local hotels and tourism sectors:

Establishing a good relationship with local brands is an amazing way to build a solid clientele base. Besides, hotels and tourism sectors often require quality advertising content to post on their media channels. Your content is crucial to communicating a message of certain occasions or holidays.

Therefore, consider getting in touch with such potential businesses in your region and determine the type of photography services they need. However, if you prefer travelling globally instead, then you should try getting in touch with tourism boards abroad for work during your visiting period.

  • Approaching marketing and advertising organisations:

Providing unique photos to advertising brands is another great way of attracting paying clients. Having a portfolio with unique and appealing photos will help you when it comes to pursuing work with marketing and sales professionals anywhere in the world. 

Besides, advertising campaigns typically display eye-catching travel pictures to promote products and destinations. And as such, showcasing your best travel photos when meeting up with such prospective clients is vital for the success of your travel photography business.

Final Thoughts

Whether your goal is to earn a decent living from your fine prints or travel blog, or, working for National Geographic, becoming an expert in the travel photography niche requires more effort. But this shouldn’t trouble you, as many travel photographers, including the famous photographers, Steve McCurry and Sebastião Salgado, started off with the basics. 

Just like every travel photography legend out there, you can also kick-start your career by enrolling in a beginner’s photography course and build your skills from there. I hope these few tips were good enough to help you figure out how to become a paid travel photographer and lead a successful travel photography career.