The Recipe for Becoming a Successful Travel Photographer

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What is travel photography?

Most people assume that it involves lots of all-expenses-paid travel to exotic destinations and maybe taking some nice photos to keep your editor back home happy. Well I’m sorry to break it to you but it’s not quite like that.

The idea many people have in their heads of photographers sitting in their office surrounded by award winning images in frames hanging from the walls waiting for an email or phone call offering piles of cash to jet off and photograph a newly discovered tribe on a remote tropical island somewhere, as sad as it is, just isn’t the reality.

These days editors don’t need to have in-house photographers at their beck and call when they can simply browse libraries of images online and only pay for the ones they want. It’s a lot cheaper to buy photos that have already been taken than it is to pay a photographer, pay for his or her airfare/accommodation/expenses just to go and photograph one location.

Back in the day before the internet I’m sure photographers who worked for big editorials like National Geographic or the Lonely Planet lived the life. These days though it works a little differently, at least for 99% of us anyway.

Having said all of that though, it does mean the barrier to entry is a lot lower. You don’t need to land a permanent job with a big name magazine, all you need is a camera, a laptop and an internet connection. If you throw in some hard work and talent as well, you will be well on your way to becoming a successful travel photographer.

This is how to start that journey.

Home Is Where The Heart Is…

Travel Photography

Shoot what you have easy access to, which means your hometown or where you’re currently living. It might sound like it goes against the whole idea of being a travel photographer but you can’t expect to buy a plane ticket and literally hit the ground running. Here’s the important bit.

You need time to practice.

Everyone does. Ask people to critique your photos in forums or Facebook groups and really take what they say on board. Listening to people point out the floors in a photo you think is amazing isn’t easy, trust me I know, but if you can handle constructive criticism then it will make you a much better photographer at the end of the day.

Get Social

Not only do you need time to practice, but you also need to start building a reputation for yourself and a portfolio of work.

Which means social media these days.

This is the fun part. Building an ENGAGED following is so important. Forget the traditional rule book, social media is one of the biggest weapons in your arsenal as a travel photographer. It’s more than just showing off and counting likes, it’s a way of showing potential clients that you produce work people actually like! What better way of demonstrating to a tourism board/travel magazine/tour operator that the photos you are proposing they pay you for will actually go down well.

Travel Photographer Social Media

You might be thinking: “but I only post quality images and try my best but I still can’t break the 1000 followers mark and build a bigger following.. How do I gain a solid, engaged social media following?”

Now this is a secret most people won’t tell you.

You follow people that are interested in travel photography, and you follow A LOT of them. At the very least you should be on Twitter and obviously Instagram. This is how you do it for both Instagram and Twitter:

  • Find accounts that share travel related photos (Eg. National Geographic Travel)
  • Follow them and TURN ON POST NOTIFICATIONS for that account.
  • Every time they post a photo you will get a notification, then after that photo has gotten some likes, follow the people that have liked it.

Do not follow more than 30 accounts per hour or you will risk being shadow banned (can’t follow anyone else) and if you keep getting shadow banned you will risk being banned all together.

By only following people who have just liked a recently published post, you know they have their phone in their hand at that moment in time. That means that they are much more likely to see that you started following them, check out your account and follow back.

In my opinion by doing this it’s kind of like tapping someone on the shoulder and saying “Hey, check out my account” and if you have good quality content on your account you will see quite a lot will follow you back. You’re not forcing anyone to follow you back, you’re just making a little noise to let people know you are there.

Once you get to a following/follower ratio of about 1.5/1 use an app like ‘unfollow for Instagram’ and unfollow ONLY the people that DO NOT FOLLOW YOU BACK. There are plenty of free apps that will do this for you so just take a look in the App Store or Play Store for one.

Follow Your Dreams

If you start unfollowing the people who HAVE followed you back, you will annoy people and that’s where I think this technique becomes spammy. So remember to only unfollow people who haven’t followed you back after a day or so.

Using this technique will mean that only people who you know are interested in travel photography will follow you and that these people actively engage with travel photography accounts by liking photos, these are the people we are looking for!

Do not under any circumstances buy followers. This is a terrible idea as the accounts that you get following you are often fake and will never engage with your posts. What use is it having 10k followers if you only get 50 likes per photo? It doesn’t really show potential clients people like your work does it?

Pitch Perfect

Once you think your work is up to standard and you have started to build a reputation for yourself on social media your getting closer to the point of pitching your work to companies. The possibilities are endless when thinking of who you can sell your photos to. Let’s start with the very obvious ones first though.

Tourism boards are always looking for fresh images of their destination, they are always hungry for more. They need to promote their destination in the best way possible and new original imagery will be at the top of their list of ways to do this.

However, one thing they’re not short of are pitches from photographers.

This gives us, the people who really know what we are doing, the perfect opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.

Most pitches are the same, boring and predictable. This is GREAT news for us. It makes standing out from the crowd as easy as this little guy does.


He’s trying his best to fit in though, cute little guy.

Anyway back to pitching. A few simple tricks to creating a great pitch is all you need to get noticed.

  • Keep it short & simple. Since starting World of Travel Photography I have received tons of pitches for articles and the thing that puts me off the most? A thousand word essay telling me everything from where they grew up to what they had for breakfast that morning. Seriously, keep it to the point.
  • Don’t dance around the subject of money. After you’ve said what you have to offer, give them a price. That’s that, move on. If your offering true value you shouldn’t be worried about asking for money. Do offer a fair price though.
  • Demonstrate your ability to create original work that your target audience likes. This goes back to what I was saying about building an engaged social media following. Better still, if you have examples of previous projects you’ve worked on for clients send them the links. Don’t include previous work within the email itself (to keep it short) but do include any relevant links (including social media) so the recipient can check them out if they wish.

Final thoughts

If you’ve made it this far give yourself a pat on the back. The things I’ve talked about here are the basics of what you will need to do if you’ve decided that travel photography is a great career parth for you and want to start building a future for yourself that gives you the freedom to travel and get paid for it.

Once you master the basics and prove to yourself that you can generate an income from travel photography you can start traveling to countries that are further away and which will require you to spend some money (on flights, expenses etc…) before you see a return. But it is possible. Everything is possible with a little hard work.

As always, thanks for reading!

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