This will come as a dampener if you’ve been wondering how to get a travel photography job. This happens to be one profession which does not involve a 9-to-5 grind. But then, neither does it hold any promises of a solid paycheck at the end of the month. And yet, there are so many dreamers out there, desperately waiting for that one break which catapults them to stardom. And not just any kind of stardom, but Nat Geo stardom or Smithsonian stardom.
Gee, it even sounds preposterous when it’s put like that. Photography, until recently, was seen as more of an exaggerated hobby, rather than a means of income, unless you were doing weddings or wars. Travel photography, heaven save us, is even more lethal, as one has to pay for his travels, at least in the beginning; with no solid assurance of any returns on the initial investment.
But when it comes to creative passions like photography, returns and investments are tossed out of the picture (pun intended), and the only thing that matters is creative satisfaction. Which is our first point, by the way.
Treat photography as a passion, not a source of income.
Now, there is no way to define a good picture; it simply lies in the eyes of the beholder. Which means that you may click anything, from an elusive black jaguar in the Amazon, to a done-to-death beach sunset shot in Phuket, and surprisingly strike gold with the latter. You’ll never be able to tell what exactly sells, but the only thing you can count on is your sincerity and consistency. When you’re working in a highly eccentric and creative field like photography, it won’t do well if you keep clicking things with one eye on the anticipated paycheck. Keep your focus solely on raising the bar, do all it takes to not just get it right, but keep working until you can’t get it wrong. At the end of it all, if your work manages to “speak” with the viewer, you’ve got yourself a winner. And remember, doing this is possible only if you do not have any bread-and-butter worries.
Know where to begin.
Assuming you have your bread-and-butter issues comfortably sorted, you need to take the first step, which is building a portfolio. Which means that you need to pack your bags and leave to wherever you think the best pictures lie, be it Cambodia or your backyard. Yes, it is a good idea to begin small―you may want to make a picture profile of your town, clicking the good, the bad, and the ugly. Because when it comes to travel pictures, you never know what will get you that much-needed first assignment.
Cultivating some writing skills would be great.
A great and affordable way to put your work “out there” is to have a blog. The Internet is a godsend for the times we’re in, and it only makes sense to milk it for what it’s worth. A travel photography blog is a nice way to get noticed, considering the massive reach of social media. The only downside here is the plethora of such blogs out there, but as long as your work manages to shine, you’ll have nothing to worry about.
Keep your customer in mind.
Who do you think will be willing to pay money for your work? Magazines, holiday resorts, tourism boards, book publishers, web publications, travel agencies, advertising agencies … the list can go on. Make a list of your potential employers and reach out to them, ensure that your work gets a look, and glue your fingers crossed.
Expand your vision.
You may think of stock libraries to be your Plan B, but it’s quite competitive even here. Do your research and find out what they want, though doing this is easier said than done. It could be random shots or peculiar ones; as far as stock libraries are concerned, anything goes or nothing. Of course, do not stop at these, and consider lifestyle or editorial shots as well. Say no to nothing is the best mantra here.
Selling travel photos requires a lot of backbreaking work and frugal living. But in the end, none of this matters if you’re doing this for the happiness rather than the money. Travel photography job opportunities are hard to come by, but you should never stop putting your work out there, as the big guns are always on the lookout for something groundbreaking each day. A former director of photography at National Geographic magazine used to say, “If we want to hire you, we already know who you are!” And that, my friend, is how you land your big break.