The ultimate goal for most of us is finding freelance travel photography jobs
Imagine a situation where your freelance travel photography job allows you to be location independent. You can run your business off of your laptop from anywhere in the world and have the freedom to travel wherever you want.
Sounds great right?
Most people would love that to be their reality but, for whatever reason, they think it’s not possible or that it’s too late for them.
The most common reason I hear is the “I just need to save X amount of money first” or “I’ll think about it more seriously next month” excuse. Take it from someone who is doing it, there is never a perfect time to set off and start making that dream a reality.
There will always be some kind of excuse not to do it but if you really want it bad enough, then you just have to take that first step. You’ll quickly realise that whatever you thought was stopping you before, actually wasn’t.
Things aren’t always easy, we could all always use a little more money but this isn’t about getting rich. It’s about following your dreams and getting by just enough so that you can do it comfortably.
The good news is that freelance travel photography jobs are one of the best ways to become location independent. And despite what you might think, they aren’t so hard to find.
The internet is always hungry for fresh, new content.
The single best way you can start earning money as a freelance travel photographer is by chasing editorial work.
Online magazines, blogs and newspapers are always keen to find new images to publish along with their written content. The best way you can approach editorial publications, and stand a chance of at least getting a response, is firstly by taking amazing pictures and secondly by being able to tell a story.
If you want to make your journey towards becoming a travel photographer easier then you have to realise it isn’t just about taking great pictures. It really helps to learn how to write well for an online audience.
So here’s what you do regardless of your location.
You could use your hometown as an example (which btw is a great way to test the waters and find out if you have what it takes to become a travel photographer!):
- Pick a subject or scene that you think captures the essence of the location you are in.
- Shoot a series of images from different angles, perspectives or as conditions change. Make sure they are awesome images!
- After the shoot select 3-5 images that you think best tell the ‘story’ of that location. It helps to think about this step while you are shooting the images so you end up with 3-5 that flow well together.
- Edit them however you like to edit photos, photography is all about your interpretation at the end of the day. Just don’t go too crazy. Here are some tips on editing with Lightroom.
- Put your final, edited images in their own cloud storage folder (Dropbox, Google Drive etc…)
- Write a short piece to accompany your images telling the story of how you captured them, the surroundings, about the history of the area and why the images represent that. Aim for around 500 words so nothing too crazy.
Armed with a link to that Dropbox folder you’re now ready to pitch your images to online editorial publications and attempt to get them to license your work. They may or may not want your writing as well (they often have their own writers) but it’s still important as it helps to sell your photos which is the main aim.
Don’t worry too much about them stealing your images before reaching an agreement (please don’t watermark them, I hate watermarks I think they ruin the perception of an image. You only get one first impression). They won’t steal your photos as they stand to lose a lot more than you by doing that. If you’re really worried, include low-resolution versions in the Dropbox folder and then send them the full-resolution ones once they agree to a deal.
Don’t be afraid to tell them your prices
Obviously you have to be fair, but once you decide your price just tell them. Don’t dance around the subject, that way it stops everyone wasting their time. Use the Getty Images Price Calculator to get a rough idea of how much you should be charging.
If it’s your first freelance travel photography job then maybe use the calculator but take 20-30% off so you can get some experience under your belt and hopefully even get some references.
Going after editorial jobs is hard work, but don’t get discouraged
If you get 9 responses telling you thanks but no thanks, firstly well done for actually getting a response from 9 people, but don’t give up. The 10th might be a yes.
What I’m trying to tell you is that you’ll face a lot more people saying no than yes. That’s just how it is.
It’s a numbers game, and it’s about being able to deal with rejection. What’s the old saying? Throw enough of something at the wall, some of it’s bound to stick?
Landing commercial assignments are maybe the holy grail of freelance travel photography jobs
Another way of securing a freelance travel photography job is being awarded the chance to go on assignment for a company.
Admittedly this is going to be extremely difficult if you are just starting out, most companies will want someone with a track record of delivering to their standards.
That’s why I recommend going after editorial work first. For a start, you have the power to approach people and get the ball rolling on your career. And also it lets you build up a reputation and shows potential clients your work is good enough to sell if others are buying it. The exposure and credibility you earn from doing editorial work will naturally lead to commercial clients approaching you.
The difference between editorial and commercial is that with commercial work your images are being used to sell a product and most of the time the client pays for exclusive rights to those images. These two things mean the money you earn from commercial work is a lot higher than editorial.
Here’s some free stuff, now get on a plane and take pictures of you using it in some awesome locations
Although that sounds a little too good to be true, it’s often the case.
Brands always need new photos of their products to be able to market them. And travel brands, in particular, don’t just want photos of their products in a studio. They want to show their product off as cool and adventurous.
Someone has to take those photos right?
Well if you hit the jackpot then that could well be you.
For example, the camera accessory brand Langly have a whole bunch of ambassadors they sponsor to provide them with unique photos of their products being used all over the world.
Long story short…
Start with looking for editorial jobs, it might be hard work but it has a low barrier to entry. Once you establish yourself as a photographer who produces work good enough to sell, then more than likely you’ll start getting approached to do other kinds of work.
One other thing you should focus on is social media. These days it’s your online portfolio and how most people will find you. If you don’t know how to sell yourself, or if you don’t feel comfortable selling yourself, then there are plenty of resources online that will help you with that.
To become a successful travel photographer you need to be a jack of all trades. Simply taking great photos isn’t enough. You need to become a salesperson, a writer, a marketing specialist, a personal assistant to yourself, and everything else in between. If you work very hard though, it should all be possible.
Freelance travel photography jobs don’t come looking for you, but if you make the effort to seek them out, the reward is more than worth it.
If you have any more questions about becoming a freelance travel photographer then please feel free to email me, or leave a comment below. I’m passionate about helping others escape the 9-5 routine and follow their dreams so I’ll make sure I get back to all of you.
Since 2016 I’ve travelled full-time working as a travel photographer and writer remotely. I move around at my own pace (I hate fast-paced travel) and like to spend a few months getting to know each place I base myself in. Currently in the north of España 🇪🇸 and loving it.