Becoming a professional travel photographer is for many a dream job. After all who wouldn’t want to be paid to travel the world to take photos for a living. How hard can it be? The reality of being a professional travel photographer is very different. Whilst there are lots of positives there are also a lot of negatives that you learn through the years. So, here are 8 things that you learn when you become a professional travel photographer.
It is not a free pass to travel the world
Often the first thing that hits people when they decide to become a travel photographer is that it isn’t going to suddenly mean you are going to be travelling the world for free. Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more competitive these days and with falling fees, the golden age of being commissioned for thousands of dollars for a feature are long gone. So, don’t expect clients to be knocking down your door to send you to exotic places.
It’s not a holiday
It dawned on me pretty early in my career how different a photography trip or assignment was to a holiday abroad. For one, you are pretty much always short on time and having to survive on just a few hours’ sleep a day. There are also the missed meals not to mention the blisters and aches and pains from walking around all day with a heavy backpack. On top of all of this, there is also that sense of loneliness. There is no time to lay by a pool or spend an afternoon in a bar. Your entire focus and energy will be spent on capturing the next great shot.
You become a CEO and cleaner
Most people don’t realise that to become a successful travel photographer you have to become a one-man company. That means you are the CEO, the Finance Director, Marketing Manager and even the cleaner. You have to be willing to get out there to get clients and devise marketing and promotional strategies to get more work. You need to learn to do everything from expenses to research and logistics. You’ll also have to clean your camera equipment and workspace whilst answering every day emails from clients. It’s not just a full-time job, it’s a full-time job of an entire company.
It’s an easy job
When you tell people what you do, most will look at you through the eyes of someone who thinks what you do is easy. After all, it’s not a real job it’s just a holiday! After a while, you won’t bother responding and will just leave people to think what they think. You will need to develop a thick skin as there will be a lot of people ready to try to knock you down.
You need to have your finances in order
When you first transition to becoming a pro photographer you automatically assume that your first paid gig will be just around the corner. But in reality, paid work can take a while to begin to come through and even then, don’t expect to get rich. So before quitting your day job to pursue becoming a professional photographer make sure you have enough money saved up to keep you going for a few years. But not only that, but you also need to factor in expenses such as marketing and even going on trips yourself. Because you won’t get any work without some marketing and promotion. So, make sure you are prepared financially.
Everyone will want to offer you credit
The number of times I have been told by a client “we don’t have a budget, but we will credit you instead”. To be honest that should an absolute minimum offer even if you are paid for your work. Unfortunately, these days most clients don’t appreciate the value of photography. With stock agencies around which offer free images, it’s easy to understand why. Whether you decide to go down that route of offering your work for free is ultimately up to you. But consider this. If you don’t value your work enough to get paid for it then why would someone else? At the very least try to strike a deal to get paid even if it’s a small amount. That will at least show the client that you value your own work.
Other photographers won’t bite
Photography is a lonely profession and most photographers are wary of sharing any info with other photographers. But if you can find a few likeminded individuals and share information, help each other and even team up you will often find that you will all end up being more successful. But it has to be a two-way street you have to be able to offer something in return even if it’s just hard work.
It’s the best job in the world
From the above, it sounds like no one should ever become a travel photographer. On the contrary, being a travel photographer is one of the best jobs in the world. For all of the hard work and uncertainty, when you do capture that amazing photo it makes everything worthwhile. But when that photo goes on to be sold to a client, well there aren’t many more satisfying moments in a photographer’s career.
Becoming a travel photographer is easy but actually making money from it is tough these days. But with hard work and persistence and as long as you are willing to accept the ups and downs, there are opportunities out there. In the meantime here are 8 things that you will learn for yourself along your journey.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission. Dreamstime.