How To Become a Travel Photographer in 7 Steps (Plus Skills)
Indeed Editorial Team
Updated June 30, 2023
A career in travel photography can offer professionals a range of opportunities, such as visiting different countries and developing creative skills. It also allows professionals to pursue different areas of expertise within photography and narrow their niche or genre to those in which they’re interested, such as wedding destinations or food. Understanding how to pursue positions within this industry can help you build a portfolio and expand your client base.
In this article, we discuss what a travel photographer is and what they do, provide steps you can take to become one and review qualities and skills that help professionals become successful in this industry.
- Travel photographers employ their skills to capture images of diverse locations and people from all over the world, offering a unique perspective that showcases their creativity and artistic expression.
- To create engaging and creative pieces of art, travel photographers employ a variety of industry-specific photography styles and often find a niche that suits their talents and interests.
- Online tools, such as paid search, social media platforms and blogs, can help travel photographers promote their work while they continue developing their portfolios and skills.
What is a travel photographer?
A travel photographer is a professional who works in various industries, photographically capturing different geographic locations, cultures and customs. They may work locally or globally, providing photographic services for organizations or individuals. For example, those working in the tourism industry may provide specific location photos and document travel destinations for marketing brochures. With such a vast range of subjects, travel photographers typically employ various photography styles, such as:
Related: 32 Careers in Photography
What does a travel photographer do?
Travel photographers typically either work as freelancers or internally for a company and may take photos of certain events, experiences or destinations to appeal to consumers. For example, a hotel may hire the firm you work for to take pictures highlighting their activities or rooms, or magazines may hire you to photograph locations around the world that relate to an upcoming edition. As a freelancer, you typically pay for your own expenses and take unique photos while you travel that you can sell to your customer base.
How to become a travel photographer
Here are seven steps you can follow to help you become a travel photographer:
1. Establish goals
A helpful first step toward becoming a travel photographer is to set goals that help you create a business model you can sustain. Try asking yourself questions about why you’ve chosen this career and what steps you plan to take to achieve your goals. You can always change your objectives later, but planning and researching early can help provide your career with a clear direction. Here are some questions to ask yourself when setting your goals:
- Do I only want to earn enough to travel for a couple of years, or am I looking for a long-term career?
- How much money am I hoping to make?
- Do I want to move around or have a fixed location?
- Which do I value more: travel or photography?
- What types of images am I most interested in capturing?
- Am I hoping to progress to other career paths?
- Do I prefer to photograph nature scenes or cityscapes?
- Do I want to work for a publication or start a business?
Related: 15 Tips for Goal Setting
2. Develop skills
Honing your photography skills can help you become more noticeable to potential clients. Consider different ways you can develop relevant skills and train for this career. Here are some ways to help develop your photography skills:
- Enroll in a photography course: An online or in-person photography course is a great way to advance your photography and editing skills. There are often both free and paid courses available, and you can choose a comprehensive course or one that specializes in travel photography.
- Complete an internship: Consider enrolling in an internship where you work with a professional travel photographer, as this can help you gain valuable experience in the field and a thorough understanding of what the career entails.
- Practice frequently: Practice is one of the best ways to improve your techniques, composition, and attention to detail. Try to learn the intricacies of photography, such as the best way to capture light and angles, particular editing techniques and post-processing software.
3. Create manageable goals
When beginning your travel photography career, try to create manageable goals and develop slowly as your skills improve. Prospective travel photographers often don’t have to travel to global destinations to become a travel photographer. Anywhere, including your hometown, can be a destination that you have an opportunity to photograph. Likewise, consider the equipment required for travel photography and your budget. Consider shooting with the camera and lenses you already possess and upgrading as you gain expertise and discover your niche.
4. Choose a niche
Travel photography is a diverse field, and while you can initially sample different areas of expertise and offer clients a range of services, developing a niche can help you focus on your business goals. Consider reviewing your favorite images you’ve taken or ones you most enjoyed taking to narrow your area of expertise. Creating a list of your favorite photos can help you focus on a niche and provide direction on the skills and knowledge required to pursue that interest area.
Related: Find Your Niche in 5 Simple Steps
5. Build a portfolio
The next step toward becoming a travel photographer is to build a portfolio to promote your work and find clients. A portfolio might be a PDF booklet that you email, a page on a free online gallery or your website. Regardless of how you create your portfolio, consider selecting your favorite images that showcase your creativity and your capabilities. Also, try to update your portfolio with your latest and best work and promote it as often as possible on social media platforms.
6. Generate an online presence
Developing an effective online presence is vital to discovering potential clients. Using social media tools and other creative mediums can help you properly display your images and provide contact details accurately. Here are some ways in which you can develop an online presence:
- Personal website: A personal website is crucial for a travel photographer, as this is where you can showcase your talent and sell your images. There are free, easy-to-use website builders that you can use to create your website, and many have templates tailored to travel photographers.
- Travel blog: Creating a travel blog is another great way to generate quality content that increases traffic to your content. You can use your blog to share your travel experiences while boosting your SEO rankings.
- Social media: You can use social media to market your images and services to potential clients. Try to post useful, exciting and engaging content as often as possible and use social media to promote your website and blog.
7. Find clients
Once you’ve honed your skills and possess an effective portfolio, you can begin to seek paying clients. Here are some ways to find clients and publish your travel photography work:
Contact local hotels and tour operators
Developing relationships with local businesses is a great way to establish a clientele base. Hotels and tour operators typically require advertising content to post on their websites and social media platforms for various events or holidays. Consider contacting these types of businesses in your area and determining type of photography services they require. If you’re traveling globally, try contacting tourism boards in those areas for work during the times you plan to visit. This can also help you improve your portfolio as a travel photographer.
Enter photography competitions
As an aspiring travel photographer, consider entering magazine and online photography competitions. This can help provide exposure and practice for future travel photography assignments. Try entering as many competitions as possible, as many publications host these competitions, to develop and improve your skills.
Submit stock images
Submitting stock photography is another great way to develop your travel portfolio and earn a modest, consistent income. Consider researching a few stock image libraries to submit some of your high-quality photos, in which you can receive a commission every time a customer purchases one of your photos. It’s beneficial to conduct research beforehand to determine the types of photos that sell most often and what content clients seek.
Pitch photos to lifestyle and travel magazines
Digital and printed lifestyle and travel magazines are a great medium in which you can attempt to publish your work. Try using social media to promote your work and pitch your photos to as many editors as you can. When these medium publish your work, consider promoting the accompanying article on your website and social media platforms.
Search for paid blog posts
Many successful blogs hire writers to create engaging content, and some also hire photographers to provide high-quality visual content. If you have some writing experience in addition to your photography skills, consider combining the two skills and providing written articles with accompanying photos. Online job listing platforms are useful locations to search for paid blog posts and visual content creation opportunities.
Approach marketing and advertising companies
Providing unique photographs to marketing and advertising companies is yet another beneficial method to gain more clients and increase your revenue as you travel. Having a portfolio with appealing images can help you when pursuing work with marketing and sales teams. Advertising campaigns often display captivating travel images to promote products and destinations, so try to showcase your best shots when meeting with a client in this industry.
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Travel photographer skills and qualities
A career in photography offers a range of specialties, and having a diverse skill set and accompanying qualities can help you become a successful travel photographer. Apart from being proficient in several photographic techniques, travel photographers also often possess skills such as:
- Interpersonal skills
- Attention to detail
- Organizational skills
Some qualities that travel photographers frequently possess include:
- Passion for traveling