How to establish yourself as a travel photographer
We all travel and we all take pictures, so what is it, which defines or separates a ‘Travel photographer’ from a hobby photographer. Let’s decode the process of travel photography and learn the art and science behind it.
Disclaimer: Earning money in photography is not easy, especially in Travel photography. If you want to keep your regular job and shoot in your free time as a passionate photographer, that’s one of the good options. Else just jump into the game, and continue reading..
Let’s understand what is Travel photography? Travel photography is about taking pictures which invokes a certain emotions (positive mostly) for the viewer. It shows the destination in its best light through its landscape, architecture, people, culture and food. The idea is to create the positive pictures and beautify things on camera and post-processing to make a place look sell-able. Well, that sounds so crude, but that’s what market demands.
However, you as a photographer should always be aware of what is ethical and what is non-ethical. Your work should be honest and define your experiences in the boundary of ethics, you shouldn’t be misleading your viewers or reader by presenting something which is completely unreal. We should just shoot, what we love to shoot; keeping the thoughts aside how am I going to use this picture to make money.
So who is buying and who is selling? The whole business of travel is booming and everyone is traveling much more than ever before. The tourism and travel industry is looking for new strategies to sell their products. And one of the most efficient ways is to produce beautiful pictures and articles. And if have the good skill set for creating good travel photos as well providing the description which can take the viewers on a virtual journey, there are many potential opportunities in tourism and travel industry. Read and read a lot of magazine. Listen to You Tube talks by the esteemed photographer and you would know the kind of obesession is required for photography to reach somewhere.
What do you need to become a travel photographer? First ask yourself, do you really have the passion of traveling. Because traveling is a life style, it includes long journeys as well as sleepless nights. It means staying in a 5 stars at one night and cramping in the corner of hostel next night. Well, we all have a travel style either a backpacker or a luxury traveler, but be prepared to travel in any situation and most importantly alone as well as with group as the opportunity comes. Moreover, it is about mentally preparing yourself to be awake at 4 to reach at a certain point for morning shoot and weather will always not be great. However, you need to make the most of it.
The skills set: Apart from the right mindset you also need multiple skills to capture the feel of a place, so you should have the understanding of landscape, architecture and people photography. You should work towards capturing the essence or mood for a place and should be a keen observer to capture the small details. And then comes the organizing and post processing of images to make it presentable. As far as photography is concerned it is all about standing at the right place and clicking at the right moment. But it takes years of practise to learn the same.
Planning Travel photography is not just picking up the bag and off you go. You need to plan certain things before you are off for a shoot. It is important to research about the place, climate, people, history and current affairs before the trip. Such things help you to give a preface before shoot, or can work as the conversation starter with local. For places like museum church and temple, we should have the details of timings, dress code and more. Packing is another aspect of travel photographer, not to miss the extra batteries, chargers, memory card and other essentials. Also ensure to keep a notebook, noting down important details of place, names and things. Sometimes having a local fixer is also helpful, who knows local people, the language well to give you access for photographing the life.
Create content for yourself: Before writing and publishing content for others, you should be focusing on creating content for yourself. The content could be in a form of Photography website, blog, images, and photo stories and as well as social media. In previous article I mentioned about why do we need a photography blog? So it is very important to build a brand for yourself as when you write for other travel magazines, or travel related companies.
How to make yourself visible as Travel Photographer? Well, your work speaks for yourself but you need platform to showcase your work and here Social media comes in picture. I have written an article about ‘How do I embrace social media as a photographer?’ That explain the whole process, but I wanted to put disclaimer again, it is a lot of work to maintain your shoots, organizing pictures, and keeping the social media accounts alive and dynamic. Believe me, it is more demanding than a normal job.
How to sell pictures as a travel photographer? Once you are committed to perfection and best quality, there are travel magazines that are regularly looking for online and print content. You may follow some of the travel magazines, inflight magazines or even photography magazine to get the work published. Apart from that, there Travel start-ups and travel companies constantly looking for pictures and content for their website and blog. The chances are high if you keep delivering the high quality of work. So don’t expect a full time, easy job and a regular amount of money. You always have to be on your toes to think of creative ideas to shoot as well an making money.
Quality Vs Quantity As a photographer you would need to take lots of pictures, but only a few pictures will stand out. In my humble opinion if in your whole photo-shoot for a place or event if you take on one highly exceptional photograph, your trip is worth. So you need to constantly search for that one exceptional picture while you are clicking all that mundane stuff which is required for the assignment, blog or whatever purposes.
Having the right access makes a different While photographing people, having the right access makes all the difference. A very good saying comes from the renowned photographer Robert Capa says ” If your pictures are not good enough. You are not close enough.” It is important to be close to people, know them and find that one intimate moment which describes them best as a person. Take help of local people, ask them about the places to shoot or translate for you.
Get over the question which camera I should buy? Well, for certain assignments there is a specification of shooting with a full frame camera. But, let me tell you the truth smaller the camera better the pictures would be. So, start using the camera which you have whether its phone camera, or a medium format. You shouldn’t be daunting your subject with shoving a big camera on their faces.
What are other ways of earning money? Stock images, working as Travel writer, creating on line courses, conducting photography tours and workshops, acting as social media influencer or a brand ambassador for a travel/photography based company. Keep entering for National and International level photography competitions for evaluating your work time to time. And some of the prizes are significant enough to help you fund your next travel. Else, just jump into commercial shoots for earning the desired money- weddings are the easiest way if that interests you.
The formula of success- There is no formula, it is about showing the unseen sight, a new angle, an evocative picture to the world, which they haven’t seen before. Shoot as much as you can, go out of your comfort zone, visualize what you want to create and work hard till you get it. Patience and consistency is the key.
Perks of travel photography– You get to travel and meet some beautiful souls. Do I need to say more?