15 Things You Should Be Doing To Improve As A Travel Photographer

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 purchases. 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.

1. 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.

2013 Photographers Market

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.

2. 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.

3. Invest in 2013 Photographer’s Market

In order to sell things, 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.

4. Get to know your tourism office

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 Tourism Offices Worldwide Directory 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.

5. Don’t forget about stock

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.

6. 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.

7. Publish your own travel book

Tulum on the ocean
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.

8. Set up at an art show

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. Check out Zapp to find an art festival near you … and enter it in a fast and easy way.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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 out Rick Steves app advice for ideas.

Cinque Terre - Italy12. 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.

13. Choose your mailing list

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.

14. 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.

15. 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. Get inspiration from Ralph Velasco, David Lebovitz, Almost Fearless, The Lettered Cottage or Pinch Of Yum.

3 thoughts on “15 Things You Should Be Doing To Improve As A Travel Photographer”

  1. Great post, and I appreciate being recognized here in #15, thanks.

    If I can offer one tip to help improve your travel photography it’s to get out early. Be out in the best light of the day when it’s the kids on their way to school and the people on their way to work, capture the locals in great light, not the tourists at high noon. Plus it’s cooler out, there are less bugs and traffic, and animals will be more active in cooler temperatures, too.

    Patrick Symmes says, “If you don’t like getting up early, then be a writer.”


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