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How do you become a travel photographer?

F Walsh , Nov 17, 2004; 01:40 p.m.

Hello all,

It has long been my dream job to be a travel photographer. After years of sitting back and thinking it's too unrealistic, I decided to at least find out the exact path to becoming one. Does anyone know how to become a travel photographer? Perhaps I work for travel agencies photographing their hotels, perhaps I work for magazines...I'm not sure. How would I start?!

Thanks, Fiona


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Maury Cohen , Nov 17, 2004; 01:53 p.m.

Take a look at some of Lisl Dennis' books; specifically "How to Take Better Travel Photos". She's a great role model for the travel photographer.

Bevan Donovan , Nov 17, 2004; 02:17 p.m.

A good question, and one I can answer as I've recently attended an excellent talk given by Richard L'Anson, who is known for his work with the "Lonely Planet" guide books and as an awesome travel photographer in his own right.

His answer to this question was you firstly need to go out and shoot. In other words fund your own trip. One you're back you put your shots together and either try selling them to a stock library, or go door to door to businesses you think may be interested in purchasing your work. He'll also emphasised that you need to travel reasonably regularly to actually make a living from it.

His book, "Lonely Planet guide to Travel Photography" is the best instruction book I've come across so far.

Good luck

Cheers Bevan

Steve Rasmussen , Nov 17, 2004; 02:21 p.m.

Getting to be a travel photographer is more about networking and knowing the right people than being the best technical shooter on travel. There are many travel photographers who are so-so shooters but make a living at it. My suggestion is to offer to work for next to nothing, just to get your foot in the door and move ahead from there. To say that it is competative business, would be a massive understatement.

Richard Cochran , Nov 17, 2004; 02:48 p.m.

Remember that a fair bit of "travel photography", as in postcards, publicity photos for hotels, resorts, etc., is shot by photographers who are local to the area. Being local makes it easier to schedule shoots to take advantage of the best weather, light, annual festivals and events, etc. So step one could be to move to a location where tourism is the major industry.

Ellis Vener , Nov 17, 2004; 04:19 p.m.

First you build up a library of truly first class images and contacts both in the field and at publishers and stock agencies. And you produce some unique ideas, stories & specialties. it also helps to start with a lot of money in hand as you'll have to finance yourself forthe first few years.

I hope you like being a gypsy because to make it in this field you have to be on the road constantly and constantly producing fresh imagery. Due to the very intense competition, this is one of the fields that has the lowest financial rewards to hard work ratios in professional photography. Most of the hard work is not the photography itself but the scut work of the travel, the waiting, the arranging logistics, and the marketing.

Quang-Tuan Luong , Nov 17, 2004; 05:35 p.m.

I became a travel photographer by traveling a lot (about at least two months per year for ten years), and building a large collection of travel photos along the way. Note that most travel photographers travel about 3 months per year, and spend the rest of the time taking care of business.

I would caution you against giving up your work for free while trying to break in, unless there is real tangible business benefits in doing so. More often than not, this gets you to nowhere as when you will try to obtain decent rates, they would just look for another unestablished/amateur photographer.

The most useful information I have found is in the book by Susan McCartney

Ray Generoso , Nov 17, 2004; 05:51 p.m.


Very beautiful travel photos. I was in Florence last month and couldn't keep from laughing out loud when I saw your nearly identical shot of the football t-shirts.


Jorn Ake , Nov 17, 2004; 06:28 p.m.

I'll second the motion against working for free or cheap. It only makes it tougher for established photographers to earn a living wage, and it makes it harder for you to ever get one. Work has value. If it is a good photo, it is worth what a good photo is worth. Any value above that has to do with the photographer's ability to produce a good photo consistently, within budget and on time.

Rich 815 , Nov 17, 2004; 07:09 p.m.

The idea that if more people just refused to work for cheap or free will somehow make wages or opportunities go up for working photographers is ludicrous. It's a pure and simple supply and demand thing. Demand is not that high but the supply of people willing to step up and do such a job for free or cheap will always be there. Nice thought but I sincerely doubt it will change anything in the end. Especially since if everyone demanded to be paid and paid well how in the world would you gain enough experience to then actually deserve a higher wage or pay? It's quite the same in many other fields too, especially commission-oriented or pay-as-you-do-it jobs. You gain jobs by getting and doing jobs. It builds experience, a customer base, referral sources, etc. It's business.

(Someone might say that if you do it cheaply then that buyer will always expect it cheaply. I do not buy that either. When you are young and inexperienced it shows in your work. When you are more experienced and better at what you do people pay up for that.)

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