43 Things I Learnt In My First Year As A Travel Photographer

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Table of Contents

These are the 43 things I learnt after my first year as a professional travel photographer. Get a drink, sit back and relax; let’s get to it!

Man photographing a woman in front of hot air balloons

1) Uploading stock photography SUCKS

Tagging, writing descriptions, titles… It all SUCKS.

2) Getting paid from stock photography is awesome

Oh, that sweet sweet passive income.

3) Always have backup SD cards

By the time you need one, it’s probably too late.

4) Retirement plan?

What’s that? You better make sure you’re actively putting aside some of your salary as a travel photographer for later in life.

5) Nobody cares about your photos…

Until you give them a reason to. You need to network, make connections, become part of a community. Don’t just start an IG account with 0 followers and expect people to come. It rarely happens like that. You need to sell yourself first and foremost.

6) That I love to be asked if I can take a photo of every group of friends that walk past and see me with a ‘pro’ camera

I wasn’t bothered about taking my own photo before the next gaggle of tourists got in the way anyway.

7) That I’ve got such an easy job, all I have to do is take photos and get paid

Sometimes it’s almost like people think dollar bills fall out of my camera.

8) About the look on airport securities’ face when my bag goes through the x-ray machine

What am I going to do with 4 batteries, a bundle of charging cables, a drone, laptop, camera and a bunch of hard drives anyway?

9) That the one thing the world really needs… is another photo of someone’s legs hanging off the edge of something

I’m not sure I have seen enough pictures of stranger’s legs on Insta today.

Legs hanging over a forrest below

10) The same goes for #VanLife…

Stop it. Please.

A man sitting the in back of a camper van with a view out into the forrest.
#VanLife + Legs = 😐

11) And this…

Two people holding hands by a lake
Travel ‘influencer’ cliche 101

12) Always keep your eyes open, even when you don’t have your camera with you

You never know when you’ll be back. Location scouting is just as important as actually taking photos.

13) That it makes me a little anxious when my family ask me the question “So what do you actually do for a living?”

How long have you got nan?

14) That becoming a travel photographer is about more than just taking photos

Web design, graphic design, SEO, writing, marketing, the list goes on…

15) How to get used to not knowing exactly how much money is coming in each month

There are no sick days when you work for yourself.

16) Working on a laptop on the beach isn’t as fun as it looks

Oh, that screen glare.

17) Co-working spaces aren’t for me either.

It reminds me of being back in school.

18) Long exposures are a great way of getting rid of crowds of tourists

No photoshop needed.

19) That I’m now wondering if I should have started a photography YouTube channel…

Maybe there’s still time?

20) Pitching editorial images to publications brings in the most money

But it also involves A LOT of boring work.

21) How to almost lose a drone and think I’ll never see it again

Only to see it slowly returning home just as I run out of hope…

22) As a travel photographer, you need to be a good well-rounded photographer

Landscapes, portraits, street, product, architecture… You need to be comfortable shooting all kinds of photography, and crazy enough to do what’s needed to get the shot!

23) And through all of these images, you need to tell the location’s story

Travel photography is all about capturing the essence of a place.

24) Get a good camera bag

Your back will thank you.

25) Getting up for sunrise doesn’t get any easier

But is normally well worth the effort.

26) Following destination hashtags on Instagram is great for location scouting

It’s a great way to find out about cool photo locations before you get to a new destination. Check out these travel photography hashtags to get a head start.

27) Netflix always wins over working when I’m on a plane

Working + sitting in an uncomfortable seat for hours = not going to happen.

28) Randomly seeing one of your images as the background for an ad for the first time is awesome.

It’s when you know all of your hard work is starting to really pay off.

29) This…

Travel Photography Meme

30) I should have got an airport lounge priority pass sooner

They aren’t cheap but if you fly a lot then you can get into a lounge in almost any airport in the world where you get free food and drinks, a comfortable place to sit and good WiFi. The money you save on not buying expensive airport food more than makes up for the cost of the pass. You can get them free with quite a few credit cards also.

31) Don’t forget to enjoy the place you’re in without the camera

Sometimes it’s easy to only look at a destination through the lens. Put the camera down sometimes and take it all in.

32) Always rent a car when possible

If you want unique photos, you’ll need to get off the beaten tourist path. A car is the only way to really explore a country on your own terms.

33) Petrol in Iceland is expensive, very expensive…

Ouch, that one hurt…

34) How to get extra camera equipment on a plane as hand luggage for free

If you want to know how I do it, check this out.

35) Did I mention that uploading stock photography SUCKS

I did?

36) Always be prepared for the unexpected

Things rarely go the way you planned them in a new and unfamiliar country but don’t let that get in the way of getting a shot. Even if it’s not the one you planned. Sometimes the best things come out of the unexpected.

37) The future is mirrorless

It’s true. With the mirrorless cameras on the market these days there really is no need to suffer carrying around a heavy DSLR.

38) Travelling makes you look at your hometown through new eyes

The way I see my hometown when I come home to visit is totally different. You start to notice things you never did before, in the same kind of way you notice the little details when you first explore someplace new.

39) Cloud storage has never been so important

Because if you lose your bag, there go all your backups with it.

40) Forging a career out of doing something you love is the dream

But it takes a lot of hard work, dedication, blood, sweat and tears to get there. But if you want it enough and don’t give up, carving out a career in travel photography is possible.

41) The thing I would always recommend people invest in to improve their travel photography if I could only pick one thing is…

A ticket somewhere new and exciting. If you are on a budget forget about upgrading your camera, a mobile phone will do. Instead, use the money to get yourself somewhere beautiful. That will help you produce better travel photos than any new fancy camera will.

42) A great view doesn’t always make a great photo

Just because you are surrounded by stunning nature or up high at a beautiful viewpoint it doesn’t mean it will be a great spot for photography. So don’t beat yourself up if you just can’t seem to make it work sometimes, it happens to the best of us.

43) That I have one of the best jobs in the world

Even though at times I wonder why I always take the difficult route in life…