Being a travel writer and a photographer is probably one of the most interesting careers ever. The sheer thrill of trying to shoot unique photos of beautiful locations, or managing to be there just in time to get an exclusive shot, is simply great! However, being a travel photographer poses challenges too. So if you are considering taking up this career it is important to consider all the implications that come along with it.
First of all you need to picture yourself traveling from one destination to another. Even though most probably the first thing that comes to mind when mentioning traveling is, having fun visiting new places, you need to be objective about it. Traveling also means having enough money to pay for the trip. It also entails being away from home, and this may pose certain difficulties especially if you cannot be away from your family for a prolonged period of time. Traveling also entails trying to get used to different countries’ weather conditions and cultures, as well as not allowing time differences to wreck you. Traveling may also imply the challenge of locating where you need to get to, and this may be a bit difficult if you are not good when it comes to directions. As a travel photographer you thus need to be very adaptable. You need to know how to go through different experiences resulting from your trips, often on your own. Chances are that you will always be traveling solo, and not everybody feels okay about that.
My first assignment started earlier in the year 2016. It was the perfect time to take a trip and try to embrace my creative energies. The first thing I noticed about being photographer was that everyone walked around with this big SLR hanging from their neck. I knew I was the worst photographer at the time. I would shoot anything that moved and half the things that didn’t. I thought a huge, expensive camera would give me a better shots. It didn’t. It made me worse to be honest. Back then I didn’t know anything about manual controls, f-stops, ISO or exposure to be honest. I was really overwhelmed. I started to study. I asked from the experts and digested as much information as I could – I read some photography books, I attempted to experiment with every style and technique I could think of, and I met some of the best photographers in the country. I started using off-camera flash to copy images I saw in various travel magazines. As luck would have it, a travel company in Thailand saw some of my images on Flickr and asked me if I’d shoot one of his properties. I took the money I made from my first assignment and purchased a ticket outside of the Philippines; I decided then I would spend my earnings on experiences and not new equipment. On that trip I had a lot of fun but since I was shooting without any purpose or focus my work was uneven at best.
It wasn’t until I returned back home that I got my first big break as a travel photographer. An editor at an inflight magazine in Singapore contacted me and asked if I could write an adventure travel story about the Philippines. I knew I could do it, so I did accept that assignment. The magazine editor also asked if I knew anyone who could take images to go with my story – I had no idea if I could accomplish a good result but I told the editor I had it covered. Never did I realize I must have done a decent job that I was offered a second assignment. Since that time I’ve written a few more travel articles and had more images published on various publications.
When considering being a travel photographer you might be thinking about specializing in one kind of photography. For instance you may be considering shooting only landscapes, or street photography and people, or wildlife. However, when you start working as a travel photographer you will quickly realize that it may be best to avoid specializing in any one area, as it is often better to do it all! Once you are there, you should make the most out of it. Capturing the beauty of a country often entails shooting photos of different locations and areas after all!
Basically, my typical days of being a travel writer and photographer are divided into three parts: the pre-planning stage, working on the site, post-trip work.
I live like Dora the explorer. There’s the exciting, adventurous life of the road, where I live out of a backpack and travel to roads less travelled destinations chasing good photos and creating nice stories. That’s the awesome part. That’s actually the part people tell me they are jealous of. No time restrictions, no commitments. People have a romanticized perception of how life on the road really is, and for the most part those perspectives are fairly accurate. It’s THE dream job right? Traveling from one place to another wandering with your camera capturing the beauty on earth.
When I’m not traveling or when I have an assignment due I spend more than 12 hours in front of the computer so basically a lot of time communicating with clients and editors, organizing trips, researching places and arranging shooting itineraries. It’s difficult to come up with a good travel material; it’s more than just showing up to a place and creating stories about it. I may have to put in another 100 hours of research to produce a 2000-3000 word article – not to mention the time I spend on the road. I put in more hours at “work” than most people I know. I’m not complaining because I know it’s rewarding.
When you work as a travel photographer you will need to be a good planner too. You cannot just hope to be successful and do a good job by deciding to go on an impromptu trip. Some planning is required to make the most out of a trip. So, it is best to spend some time researching and doing some pre-trip planning. This will put you into perspective as to what you are going to encounter in that location, what you should expect, as well as how it may be best to spend your days once you are there. Without planning chances are that you will just go here and there, and you will probably end up missing several great locations and good opportunities. While carrying out pre-trip planning and research you will also need to consider the clothing that you should take, such as how light or warm it should be to allow you to shoot photos while feeling at ease, and any special equipment or apparel that you might need, such as boots, backpacks, and other things that will come in handy if you plan to go in a forest for example. Or, maybe you need special lenses for long distance shots.
Being conversant with the history of a place is also highly recommended. Some countries are richer in their historic locations than others, and it would be a pity if you were to go there and fail to visit certain locations that are renowned for their historic elements.
It is also important to plan the types of pictures you intend to take. This will have an effect on what you pack. You need to learn to pack lightly but wisely, and this is a really important skill if you are considering working as a travel photographer. There are some things that you should always pack, such as certain medications, sunscreen and insect repellent.
I spend a great deal of time walking, and you need to be used to walking long distances without feeling tired. You will need to get up early so as to make the most of early morning views, and most probably go to bed quite late. My days start at sunrise, and end after sunset.
Working as a travel photographer makes you focus on one goal ultimately – that of going back home with several meaningful and beautiful photos. So it is normal that during the trip you may start to panic at some point because you feel that you did not shoot that many good photos. At the back of your mind there will always be the pressure that you need to make this trip worthwhile. Try to avoid thinking too much about this. You need to be objective, and you should not only go on vacation and have a good time. You need to remember that you are working, but at the same time it is okay to enjoy it. Often it is only then that you manage to capture some good shots. To be a good travel photographer you have to take things seriously, but do not overdo it as otherwise you will end up being too rigid in what you see around you, and this will limit the shots that you take.
Considering all of these things, most probably you have come to realize that there are several ups as well as downs to being a travel photographer. It sure is a unique career, and a rewarding one, but there are also various difficulties that you need to bear in mind and prepare for if you want to make the most out of your trips. Besides problems such as precarious weather conditions, homesickness, different cultures and food; you can end up with hundreds of beautiful shots and unique photos that will remain a fond memory of your trip to that particular destination.