As a trained and gifted photographer who loves to travel, maybe you’ve been told over and over again that you should do this for a living. And you’ve probably sighed as you’ve thought how wonderful it would be to make money doing what love. But what if it were actually possible to fund your travels with the income you generate from your images? How would you go about even starting that kind of dream job?
Starting a Business
If you plan to work as a self-employed freelancer and don’t intend to employ anyone else, being a sole proprietor is probably the simplest business model. You can operate under your given name, but if you prefer to give your business a separate name, you need to register as an unincorporated business. This applies even if you just add a word or two to your given name, such as ‘Matt Smith Photography.’ You also need to check whether your business name is actually available and what permits or licences you might need to operate legally. Visit your nearest small business centre for advice.
Startup costs vary for travel photographers, but there are a lot things you don’t need to invest in. In particular, you don’t need to take on the high expenses of a studio, since you can run your business from home or from any internet cafe in the world. As you weigh your startup costs, make sure to include the following on the expense side of the equation:
- A high-quality camera and lenses
- A travel tripod
- An equipment bag
- A good, lightweight laptop loaded with all the editing software you need
- A website, including design work, your domain name, and hosting
- Insurance to protect all your professional equipment
Deciding Your Niche
In a world full of talented professional and amateur photographers, you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd. Develop a style, perspective, or subject matter that identifies you, such as drone photography, underwater photography, street scenes, or quirky sculptures. Also, create a recognizable logo that you can use to identify and watermark your work. By creating a recognizable niche for yourself, you become the go-to photographer whenever a magazine or website is looking for what you do best.
Developing a Website and Social Media Presence
Setting up your photography business website lets you showcase your photos, travel blog and published articles along with links to your Facebook and Instagram pages. Uploading your best images onto 500px or Flickr adds to your exposure, so your audience can start to find you.
Marketing Your Business and Finding Clients
Hotels, tour operators, and tourism boards are obvious clients for travel photography, as they frequently need to update their galleries, especially with the growing use of Instagram as a marketing tool. If you have limited experience with interior photography, practice at home, then offer to do a free or discounted photo shoot for a local hotel to build up your portfolio. If your experience covers portraiture, weddings, events, or action photography, try negotiating a deal to be the hotel or resort photographer in your chosen travel destination.
Seek out publications that regularly use your style of photography and contact the editors via email with a professional pitch that includes links to your work. Be aware that they might require photos of winter scenes in the middle of summer to fit in with their schedules. Additionally, having your photos accepted for stock photography sites such as Getty Images can provide a steady income.
Pursuing your dreams and setting yourself up as a travel photographer might seem like a lot of work in the early days, but as your reputation grows, you can spend more time travelling and less time pitching for work. With determination and the right skills, there’s every reason to believe you can achieve success.