How to Become a Professional Travel Photographer

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Years ago, being a professional photographer and taking pictures around the globe was something only afforded to an elite few.

Nowadays, with great quality digital cameras, Photoshop and cheap flights almost anyone (with enough determination and ability) can become a professional photographer.

In this article I’ll show you how to create a portfolio, how to break into the photography industry and how to make money as a photographer.

Get a Camera and Develop Your Skills

First things first, get yourself a camera (if you don’t already have one). For help with this, check this article about buying a digital camera for travel.

Secondly, I’m assuming that if your aspiration is to become a professional travel photographer than you’re already at least a fairly decent photographer. If you feel you do need to work on your photography skills, the following sites can help you to improve:


Build Up Your Portfolio

Shoot photos for free
When building up your portfolio the only thing that really matters is how many quality photographs you have in it.

When you’re just starting out it’s unlikely that you’re going to have lots of people offering to pay you to take photographs.

Taking photos for free (and honing your skills) is nothing to be ashamed of, and is a great way to get yourself out there and start earning clients. You never know who might see a photo you’ve taken and want to hire your services.

Create your own website
Having your own website (which you’ll use to show off your photographs) is a good idea for any aspiring photographer, as it allows anyone around the world to view your work.

You don’t need to be a computer expert to do this and you don’t need to spend any money (unless you want to) as you can easily create a free blog/site at

Breaking into the Industry

Professional photography is a notoriously difficult industry to break into, so to succeed you’ll need to be extremely determined (whilst also having some amount of ability).

Going Online
It seems that the easiest way to get started is online, as it’s far easier to get photos published on websites than it is in magazines and other print media.

If you can manage to get your photos on a stock photo site (such as Getty Images or Corbis) than you’re making good progress.

This is easier said than done, however, as the entry requirements can be tough.

To get your foot in the door, start uploading your photographs to Flickr. From here you can apply bi-annually to the Getty Images Call for Artists program that enables you to have your photos looked at and reviewed by a team of Getty’s editors. If they like what they see, they may offer you the chance to work for them.

Print Media
Indian riverGetting photographs published in magazines such as National Geographic is often the pinnacle of most photographers’ careers.

This is partly because these magazines are extremely well respected and high quality, but also because it’s incredibly hard to get pictures published in them.

Once your photos are on stock photo websites (such as Getty Images) getting photos in magazines and other print media (such as adverts and newspapers) becomes a lot easier, as lots of media companies like to use stock images as it saves them a lot of time and effort.

Putting Pictures to Your Writing

If you’re already a writer (or you have a talent or an interest in writing) you can always write articles and include the pictures you take in them.

This is great because you’re making opportunities for yourself, rather than relying on other people to publish your photos.

This is easily done online (especially when traveling) as you can easily write about your traveling adventures and include pictures of the things you saw.

As well as writing for your own blog/websites, some other sites (such as Go Nomad) will pay you for your articles and encourage you to include lots of photos.


Do I Need a DSLR Camera to Become a Professional Photographer?

To become a professional photographer you don’t necessarily NEED to have a DSLR camera, but you will need a camera that takes high quality photographs.

That being said, many of the top photo stock agencies (such as Getty Images) require you to use certain cameras (many of them being DSLR).

That being said, spending a lot of money on a DSLR camera is pointless if you don’t know how to use it, so make sure to brush up on your knowledge.

Do I Need to Be an Expert on Photoshop?

Whether or not you’re required to have knowledge of Photoshop will largely depend on how you’re going to sell your photos, but for the most part it does help.

Travel photographersFor example, when selling photographs to stock photo agencies (such as Corbis or iStockPhoto) they will require you to touch up your photos before submitting them.

On the other hand, if you’re working for a company that requires you to go out and photograph things exactly as they are than they will no-doubt require you to submit your photos exactly as they were taken.

For example, if you get a job working for as one of their ‘special investigators’ your job will be to visit, photograph, review and rate hotels. In situations such as this, capturing dirt or grime on film (i.e. things that you’d normally remove with Photoshop) isn’t a problem, as these are exactly the kinds of things that you’ll be looking for.

If you’re looking for ways on how to become a professional photographer, following the tips above can help you go a long way, but always remember that in such a competitive industry it’ll be your drive to succeed (or lack of it) that really determines whether you’ll be successful or not.

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