How To Get Started As a (Paid) Travel Photographer

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Not long ago, traveling with a camera was something only the pros did. Nowadays, however, traveling with a camera has become the norm. In fact, people take cameras with them just about everywhere back home, too. With the recent rise in good-quality pocketsize point-and-shoots, taking images on the go is easier than ever.

And not to mention the spread of smartphones, which take higher resolution images than some point-and-shoots. There is even an entire niche that has developed around iPhotography, that is photos taken with the iPhone.

With all this technology, it appears that any traveler could be a potential travel photographer. But is this really the case? Here are some myths and realities about getting started as a paid travel photographer.

Baby Steps to Break In

Baby Steps © Diego

The easiest way to break in as a travel photographer is probably online. The requirements for publishing images on the web are often less than those required for print magazines and large-scale advertisement campaigns. For some websites, the quality and resolution of a point-and-shoot will suffice. Travel Junkie, for example, pays 3 Euros for photos, which can be taken with a simple point and shoot.

What About Print?

At the recent Travel Classics Writers conference in Dublin, Keith Bellows, Editor in Chief of National Geographic Traveler, affirmed that unless you have been a passionate (and successful) photographer since about age six, getting your images publishing in print will be very, very difficult. NGT isn’t the only magazine with very high expectations for photos and in general, print will be harder to break in to.

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What frequently happens is that magazines source images from stock agencies such as Getty Images or Corbis. Again, getting accepted by either of these will require quite an extensive portfolio.

However, there is a way to get noticed via Flickr, through the Getty Images Call for Artists. Here, you can submit a set of images twice a year and have it reviewed by a team of editors. If they are interested in your work, they will let you know.

Combining Pictures with Text

Sometimes, pitching an article together with accompanying photos can help. Again, this will usually apply to online publications more than print. Print magazines tend to send a specific photographer to take pictures for a feature written by a freelance or in-house writer; this is also why print magazines plan so far ahead in their editorial calendar — they need to make sure to shoot the photos in season.

In terms of paying online publications, Go Nomad, for example, pays $25 for a story, and a big emphasis is placed on visual content, whether that be moving or still images. Publications such as Luxury Latin America currently pay extra for images that accompany hotel reviews.

In general, pitching photo essays to online magazines and/or newspapers can be worth a shot. There is no need to write a full-length feature story — instead a series of photos can be accompanied by short captions.

Do I Need a DSLR?

Photography © maistora

Stock agencies such as Getty may require a specific camera model. Similarly, sites such as state in their job description that a photographer must have one of the following DSLR cameras with a full-frame sensor: Nikon D700, Canon 5D Mark II, Nikon D3. Depending on the job, you may need to splurge on a DSLR (and know how to use it!).

Photoshop — Is It Necessary?

Again, it will depend on where you want to sell your photos. The big stock agencies will ask that you retouch the photos (e.g. get rid of any dust on the lens) before you submit them. Advertising photos are similarly retouched and frequently require that you know illustration and web design, too.

Sites such as, on the other hand, specifically ask their photographers not to alter their photos. It depends on the mission of the site and/or publication you are selling to, although knowing how to edit photos effectively will never hurt.

Useful Resources

Digital Photography School: Addresses photography tips and tricks in general (not just for travel-related publications).

The Wells Point: Photography site run by professional photographer David H. Wells. The online resources are free, and if you want, you can complement your virtual learning with an actual workshop (not free).

Breakfast Stock Club Newsletter: The American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI) runs several travel writing and photography workshops each year. Even if you cannot attend one of the workshops, the newsletter provides useful insights on how to get started as a paid travel photographer.

One Response

  1. David @ MalaysiaAsia

    Personally photography is a skill and these days, every other person either owns a DSLR or a high end compact. Well, in Southeast Asia I see it being that. So with the influx of modern cameras, photography has been brought to a whole new level. It’s those who have the ‘eye’ that will scrape through while the others keep trying. Just my 2 honest cents.


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