Taking the first step: Approach the client with already made photos. Visited a nice hotel during your last vacation? The hotel’s management will probably be very happy to publish your images if they are good. Most likely they won’t pay you as they did not order the images from you, but they will give you a credit under the photo. But this would be a good start as you’re now published and have a working relationship with a known brand for your CV.
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As with all types of photography, smart business sense is key. There are many ways to make a living with travel photography, and much of it extends well beyond your photo gear into social media marketing, content development, negotiation and sales. But the first step is to get out into the world and shoot. Start with anyplace you've been dreaming of traveling, and go! Plan ahead, do some research, and don't shoot like a tourist. Can't afford to travel? Search for opportunities in your nearest city to begin building your portfolio.
There's much more to becoming a travel photographer than exploring exotic destinations and clicking your shutter. Getting up at stupid-o-clock to catch the perfect sunrise, carrying a camera that’s heavier than four backpacks, skipping meals in the quest for perfect light, and missing out on the travel experience because you’re too busy taking photos, are just a few of the downsides.
Tip from a pro: To work with the big brands, you need to market yourself in a way that will appeal to these types of clients. The kind of architectural or food photography a hotel chain needs is very different from what a tour company that specializes in extreme travel. Don’t try to work in all genres and styles. That’s a good path to becoming an inadequate photographer. Focus only on the genre and style you love and put all of your heart and effort into it.
You can offer photography services to any business in the travel/tourism industry at your destination of choice. Opportunities are plentiful, whether you're selling your services or offering a trade. Going skiing in Colorado? Get in touch with local lodges about trading photography for a free stay. Vacationing in Vienna? Talk to the local tourism board about shooting a few photos for a fee. I recently made a deal like this in Cape Town shooting a month-long campaign with their tourism board, which resulted in a promotional blog post and lead to even more work. Remember that a strong portfolio goes a long way, and as it grows, so will your opportunities.
Rosalynn Tay is a travel and fashion (as well as editorial) photographer based in Singapore, and is a peripatetic traveler whose fondness of travel led her to photograph in countless countries. She travels to Sri Lanka, Japan, Mongolia, Bangladesh, China, Malaysia, Siberia, Morocco and even ventured to North Korea. She is a graduate of Spéos, the internationally recognized photography school in Paris. She's also a committed Leica user, and has exhibited her work (Ethiopia -solo- and LeicaXhibition -group).
To be honest, I do not think I will ever make it as a travel photographer. I love travelling and I love capturing my adventures in pictures. And I know that I have some decent ones, but selling them seems like a daunting task. I think I might be better off as a travel journalist, to be honest, if only because that’s an area where I am more confident (and in a way, this article applies to becoming a travel journalist as well). I have, however, tried selling pictures through microstock sites. Getty Images, Shutterstock and Adobe Stock are the ones I have uploaded the highest number of images to. From my experience, these websites require you to spend a long time creating hashtags and correctly labeling your photos for very little reward. It is great because once the work is done, you can earn money forever. But chances are high that you will only get a few cents, if any at all. I think if you are serious about being a photographer, this one is not an option to consider.
Knowing how to use your camera is essential to success as a travel photographer because more often than not, it’s those spur of the moment shots that generate the goods. If you can quickly adapt to the surroundings and know what settings to change in a split-second in order to capture a moment, you’re in with a pretty good shot of becoming a professional photographer.
That would point to the Lakers as another possible destination for a trade. — Brett Martel, The Seattle Times, "Agent: Anthony Davis tells New Orleans that he wants a trade," 29 Jan. 2019 Will and Kate reportedly chose the island of Mustique as the destination for their trip, which coincides with George's fifth birthday. — Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Prince George Is Reportedly Celebrating His Birthday on a Private Island, NBD," 22 July 2018 The sitter can accompany a child to the airport, on the plane and to a destination. — Kay Manning, chicagotribune.com, "Considering having a child fly solo? Here's what to know," 29 June 2018 According to their leaked Save The Date invitation, the couple have chosen France for a picturesque, destination wedding in 2019. — Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas Were Absolutely the Cutest at the Grammys After Party," 11 Feb. 2019 But clicking though the digital album of a destination wedding has its own distinct appeal. — Christian Allaire, Vogue, "The Most Extravagant and Enviable Destination Weddings in Vogue," 11 Jan. 2019 The jet continued to its destination and landed safely. — Dominic Gates, The Seattle Times, "Lion Air pilots struggled against Boeing’s 737 MAX flight-control system, black-box data shows," 27 Nov. 2018 Following their gorgeous destination wedding in Italy last spring, the couple jetted off to Ecuador to do community-building work for the charity organization WE—and famously invited Drew's twin brother Jonathan along! — Taysha Murtaugh, Country Living, "Property Brothers' Drew Scott on Balancing Work and Married Life With Wife Linda," 19 Nov. 2018 What has quickly become a year-round destination, Beaver Creek offers the unique experience of a lifetime for anyone looking for adventure, fun, and inspiration. — Discover Magazine, "One-on-One with Executive Chef Kevin Erving," 6 July 2018
A pretty picture is not enough. It needs to be high quality and it needs to be original. For magazines, you need to consider issues such as leaving space on the image for word placement, positioning your subject off-centre so it doesn’t fall down the page join, and possibly placing the subject on the right-hand side of a landscape shot for maximum impact.