Wouldn't it be great to be able to travel for a living? To be a roaming, world-traveling photographer? I do get a lot of questions about the first steps towards selling your pictures. The travel business is filled with aspiring photographers and it could seem almost impossible to get a foothold, if you don't know how to do it.
There's several ways of earning a living as a travelling photographer. With a large enough following, you could earn ad money only from your Instagram. You could be selling photos online, with the possibility to ear a passive income. Or you could go the old fashioned way, working for printed magazines and newspapers.
Neither of the above ways are particularly easy, heck, then everybody would do it! But with hard work and determination, it is more than possible! This is a concrete guide on how to get your first gigs for a travel magazine.
1. Understand what is requested
Look through every travel magazine you can find and try to understand what kind of pictures are used, and how they are used. Check out the opening shots, portraits, landscape shots, detail pictures, indoors and outdoors. When you need to cover five spreads there'll have to be a lot of diversity in the pictures, but in the same time they need to convey the same mood and each contribute to the story.
2. Publish a great online portfolio
This seems pretty obvious, right? But to make a successful portfolio you need to put yourself in the seat of the editor you are approaching.It's great if you are able to shoot weddings, portraits, studio, motor sports and kids. But the editors you are going to approach doesn't care about that, he/she only wants to know if you'll be able to pull of that Havana article. Show him or her that travel photography is your main focus. Maybe the wedding shots fits better on a totally separate website, away from the travel, documentary and portraits? A good bench-mark could be to include three travel categories (portraits, stories and hotels, or whatever you want to specialize in) with no more than 20 pictures in each. Ads and editors are busy people and do not have time to look for the good shots. Just include your absolute best images and let every picture reflect your unique style.
3. Learn how to write
Yeah I know, this is a pretty big investment if you currently aren't very good with words. But give it a shot. There are a lot of decent picturestaken by journalists but there are much fewer great photographers that are also able to write. The magazines would much rather send one person to do the job. Another major benefit for you is that you'll receive a larger honor if your name is behind both "text" and "photo" in the byline.
4. Make _THE_ list
Sit down with a piece of paper and write down your goals. What websites and magazines do you want to work for? Small and big. Decide on thedeadlines when your first piece of photography should be published. When are you contacting the different editors? When are you doing your first trip to grow your portfolio? A well thought-out plan will speed up the process ginormously. Include every small goal along the way!
5. Start out small
As in many other occasions there is a catch 22. You need to have something published to get something published. Find a couple of large travel blogs and online magazines and contact the editors. Tell them what kind of pictures you can contribute with and ask them what they are looking for. Also approach any local newspapers and magazine with a travel section. That could be a great way in! It won't get you rich but it will get you published!
6. Then grow!
When it is time to approach the larger magazines, it could be a good idea to actually visit them. Editors get loads and loads (and loads) of e-mails and send-outs from aspiring photographers so yours could easily be forgotten. To meet in actual person on the other hand gives them a face to remember. Send them an e-mail telling them a little about yourself. Ask if they would have time for a short meeting or coffee.
You could either bring your portfolio on a laptop or iPad. But even though we live in a paper-less society, nothing beats the feeling of a nicely printed physical portfolio. To put paper copies of the images you have decided to include on the floor is also a very good way for you to check if your images follows the same style.
7. Talk to them
Never be afraid to ask for advice. You could either try to guess what the magazines and newspapers have in the pipeline or you could just ask them what destinations they need photos of. Most of the time, editors will tell you exactly what they are looking for. It also saves them a lot of time if they don't have to read through e-mail about locations that would never run. I got my first gig by asking the editor of the largest travel magazine in Sweden what they were looking for. After that, I teamed up with a fellow writer, submitted four ideas about New York suitable for that specific magazine. They accepted two. I've been working for them since.
If you feel like reading more about mindful photography, these are a few posts that I suggest that you continue with: