20 tips to become a better travel photographer
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How to become a better travel photographer.

Updated: 2021-06-30

So you just got back from your trip and you have hundreds of images sitting on your computer. You know some of them are good. You know some of them are great. And with a little tweaking, they could be phenomenal.

A lot of photographers dream of having their travel images purchased. Wouldn’t it be great to make money while traveling the world? Yet just like any other niche in the photographic industry, becoming a paid, recognized travel photographer takes work. If this is the direction you want to head this year, take a look at these 20 items and see how many you’re doing, and how many you have to schedule in to your to-do list.

Enhance your photography skills

In order to be a successful travel photographer, it is imperative that you know how to use your camera. The chances of you becoming a professional photographer increase dramatically if you are able to quickly adapt to your surroundings and change settings in the blink of an eye.

practice a lot

The key to becoming a good photographer is to practice as much as you can. What should we do first? It’s very simple. Take a walk outside. There are a multitude of photography opportunities waiting for you in the great outdoors.

When shooting in a harsh midday sun or while a rain is falling, or when the skies are covered in clouds, what kind of pictures can you take after the sun goes down and it’s time for the stars to appear? 

It is a good idea to take photographs of the people around you, the places where you go, pets and animals, nature scenes, as well as landscapes.

Take a look at your flowers or creatures, as small as ants in your garden, and find your perspective on macro photography. As long as you practice, it always pays off.

woman, girl, person
Photo by StockSnap on Pixabay

Find your own niche and style

It is impossible to be good at all things. You can specialize more if you have more competence in a particular area. The first thing to do is to find something that you enjoy doing, and then keep working on as many projects as you can in that area.

In the end, it is all about creating a niche style that reflects the vision you have about the world. There are many niches to choose from. Some specialize in drone aerials. Some photographers specialize in taking underwater pictures. No matter what niche you are in, stay true to it and find a way to make sure that you stand out from the crowd.

The process of finding a niche often involves a lot of trial and error. The most important thing when it comes to finding an interest is to have the desire to make it work and to feel passionate about it. If you put in more effort, you will be rewarded with professional results.

Tips and techniques for travel photographers

Organize your photos

Too often our “extra” images get lumped into the bottom of our work stack. Travel images can end up sitting on cards, or in a catch-all file on your computer labeled something non-descript, such as “travel photos”. Then when you find an opportunity, you can’t locate the image you had in mind. Start the organization process now. Start by filing them according to date and location.

You may also separate the great from the good … from the not so good. The easier access you have to your great work, the more potential you have to work with.

Define what travel means to you

The biggest mistake travel photographers make is thinking of themselves as travel photographers. It’s hard to find opportunity as a travel photographer; but it its easier finding someone who needs images from Brazil. What is it about travel that captures your heart? What do you want to do, where do you want to go, and what do you want to sell? Only after you’ve defined your clear picture can you move forward.

Invest in the industry publications

In order to sell photos, you have to know and understand who’s buying. Even if you are still unsure, this resource could open up your eyes to hundreds of possibilities. This is a resource you’ll want to keep on your desk and open it up every day to find a source to promote to.

Get to know your tourism offices

Every place on earth has a tourism office that works to bring people in to their local region. And every single one of them rely on the work of photographers in order to put their city, property or event in the best light. They need you. But they have to know you exist. Start with the List of Tourism Offices Worldwide to find what is in you local area, or the area you want to travel and sell to. Then work out from there and Google your regions for more in-depth resources.

Don’t forget about stock Photography

Can you make money with microstock? Yes. But like any other niche, you have to work it. Choose your agencies and submit regularly. Focus in on what you want to shoot and sell and build up a reputable portfolio. Connect with people buying what you’re selling, and work the system.

Combine your writing and your photography

Like to write too? Then you may be able to get your work into magazines and gain more traction on a deeper level. Selling your photography only works if they are looking for images to support a story. But if you sell it as a complete package, you have even more of a chance at succeeding.

Publish your own travel book

Publishing today is easier than it has ever been. If you have an idea, you can easily create a book to sell. Try a company like Blurb or CreateSpace. Then dive down and create something niched for the marketplace. Need some inspiration? Try Los Angeles to Buenos Aires.

Show your art

All over the world, there are art shows on a daily basis. If your goal is to have your artwork hang in homes around the world, put your images out there for people to buy. Google “art festival near me” to find an art festival near you … and enter it in a fast and easy way.

Become an area expert

Travel photography isn’t about traveling the world; its about defining your destination and becoming an expert in the area (s) you choose to travel. If you want to be an Italy expert, start visiting Italy every year. Learn the regions and what they have to offer. Photograph everything you can to develop your portfolio. You can even offer vacation packages to bring people out to your area, show them the region through your eyes, teach them how to photograph along the way… and earn money to help fund your own travel.

Develop your own web presence

Having your own site is mandatory. Whether you use your name or choose a business name, the more you’re out there, the more people will search for you. Use your site to control your online portfolio and direct people to where you want them to go. What can they buy? Where can they find you? The more you grow, the more sophisticated it should be.

Tap into the app market

If you’ve ever traveled and used an app to help you out, you know how amazing they can be. Yet there aren’t many apps out there – its still a new and untapped market. Consider finding your niche and developing helpful apps for your audience. Check Travelstart for advice or ideas.

Consider crowdfunding a project

If you haven’t heard of Kickstarter, it’s worth a look. It’s a great way to come up with an idea and have people help fund it to send you on your way. It can be a very lucrative way of creating the business of your dreams.

Collect contacts

As you start finding and working with people, or locating people that buy what you have to offer, make a list. They won’t come looking for you – you must go to them. Stay in contact with them and submit over and over again. The more they get to know you, the more you’ll be recognized. And don’t forget snail mail – most people avoid it because of the cost, which means there is even more opportunity because the average business owner doesn’t receive that much mail anymore. Choose your message and stay in front of the people that can help you build your business.

Build your following

For a travel photographer, social is huge. People love to live vicariously through those they envy – and travel photographers have a life to envy. Build up your following by putting your best images out there over and over again. Share with them tips about where you go and what you do.

Blog

Many, many people started out as bloggers. They designed a site and blogged only for their own peace of mind. They didn’t have an audience. And in many cases didn’t have a plan. They did it. It developed. And now they have an audience. It can happen – you just have to do it.

What is the secret to great travel photography?

It is important to consider things such as how much space you leave on the image to place the wording, where the subject will not be pushed down the bottom of the page, or where the subject might be placed on the right-hand side of a landscape shot in order to maximize the impact.

Images for editorial features should be more than just decoration. They must help tell the story. A picture can be beautiful, but it must be relevant to the text. The brief must be met by the image. The image on a travel blog cover should make the reader feel that they are there.

Is it possible to make a living from travel photography?

Yes! If you are willing to put in the effort and expand your skills, there are many opportunities. Travel photography careers are as diverse as the destinations they serve. You have complete freedom to create your own path.

Are you unable to afford to travel? Start building your portfolio by looking for opportunities in the nearest city.

Things you should not do in travel photography

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