How to Find Exciting Travel Photography Jobs
How things have changed for photographers. There used to be a time that it was a profession for specialists. Every important magazine, newspaper, or media company had an army of staff photographers ready to be sent all over the world. There are still companies like National Geographic that take care of their photographers, but not like in the old days. So, how do you find travel photography jobs?
In this article…
Most media companies and newspapers don't have staff photographers anymore. They work with freelance photographers. That's not a bad thing but the evolution of social media and technology has changed even more. Everybody has a camera in their pocket. Anyone can call themselves photographers and submit photos to newspapers and other media. And it seems like everyone is looking for travel photography jobs!
The days of photography being a job for specialist is long gone. Is that bad? Not necessarily but it makes it a lot harder for new freelance photographers to find jobs. Travel photographers and photojournalists need to change their game and learn new skills.
To do before looking for travel photography jobs
Photography is popular and genres like documentary and travel photography are growing. That means there's a ton of competition out there. When I started studying photography in the early 2000s, the amount of students had doubled in one year. It was already booming back then and the smartphone wasn't even there yet. Ever since, photography became more and more popular with amateurs and enthusiasts. A large part thinks of becoming a professional photographer. So, how do you find those exciting travel photography jobs? There's a lot you need to know and do before you even start looking for freelance jobs...
Find out what kind of photographer you are
You need to know this before you start looking for travel photography jobs. One of the mistakes that a lot of beginner photographers make is photographing a little bit of everything. Remember when I said it used to be a profession for specialists? Well, in a way it still is. You need to focus on one genre of photography and own it. Be an expert in that genre and convince other people that you are.
Related read • 7 Travel Photography Tips & Tricks with Examples
No one will hire and pay you for a travel photography job if your portfolio is just 20% travel photography. Find out what you want to do and focus. Get better at that genre and present yourself like that type photographer in any way you can, starting with your website. Find out if you want to be a travel destination photographer for travel magazines or if you want to photograph cultures and people for National Geographic? Those are two very different goals and paths to follow.
Website and portfolio
Make a website and make sure it looks good if you want to find travel photography jobs. Every photographer has a website these days so it's your job to stand out. A lot of people want to be a travel photographer and there are thousands of websites and Instagram accounts. Your website has to look good and different from all the others. It's better to spend more money on something that looks good because your website represents you all over the world.
It doesn't stop there. The photos you show on the website have to be your best shots. I hear a lot of beginning photographers say:
“I have hundreds of great photos and I want to show them.”
Wrong! Select carefully. Your photos might be good but taking great photos need skill. I'm taking photos for more than ten years and I don't have hundreds of great photos. If you're just starting out, start with 20 of your best photos. Ask around and let people tell you what they think.
Travel photography blog
If you really want to upload more photos, think about starting a blog. It will be separate from your portfolio and you can add photos and write about them. It's the perfect way to get exposure these days. I have my portfolio website https://www.jorishermans.com where I carefully select what I show. Here, on TWAOU², I show whatever I want and write about it. Of course, I still edit and select carefully to show only those photos I think are good enough.
Learn extra skills
One of the most important tips to get travel photography jobs: Learn extra skills! You have to be different from all those people who buy a camera and call themselves a photographer. One way is to get better than everyone else but what also helps, is to learn more than everyone else.
I have to write a lot for this blog. In the beginning, it was difficult but I love it now. People read what I write and offer me writing jobs. That helps to get exposure and that's what it's all about. People have to know you exist. It takes time and hard work but eventually people will find you and offer you travel photography jobs.
Video is another skill that's becoming more and more important. A lot of travel photography job listings say: “photographer/videographer wanted.” Learn the basics of video and editing and you'll be a step ahead of all those other photographers.
Related read • VIDEO: One Minute in Malaysia
How to find travel photography jobs
So, do you stand out? Then it's time to look for travel photography jobs and reel them in. This is how I got my first real exciting job as a traveling photographer when a media company asked me to travel with them to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I suppose you already have a nice portfolio. It's time to show it to people. And when I say people, I don't mean five or six. I remember sending dozens if not hundreds of e-mails for just a few replies in return.
Which magazines or companies do you like?
First, just look at what you like. What kind of travel photography job would like? Which magazines and companies? If you have a list, then you should select the ones that look for your style of travel photography. Would your photos fit in the magazine? You're going to send a lot of e-mails so you have to make sure every e-mail has the highest chance of a reply. Don't send photos of the best beaches in the world to National Geographic for example.
When you have the list, you need the e-mail addresses. Sometimes you can find them on the website of the magazine or company but more than once, there's just a general firstname.lastname@example.org address. You can send it there but it's always better to send it to specific people.
You can always find them on Google. Try to Google: ‘Journalist at MagazineYouWant’ or ‘Editor at MagazineYouWant.’ Just finding a name is enough. Then, just use name@MagazineYouWant.com and chances are it's correct.
Always write different e-mails. Don't send the same one to all magazines you found. It has to be written for that specific magazine. They might send the next travel photography job to you.
Join THE WORLD AHEAD OF US² and photographer Joris Hermans on Patreon for tips and behind-the-scenes information. Weekly posts and videos about editing, photography and marketing your work.
My first assignment was for a non-governmental organization. Smaller NOG's often look for photographers to document their work. It's really easy to find them and usually, they have an e-mail address for someone who's responsible for press and photography.
There's some discussion whether or not you should do work for an NGO for free. I didn't get paid for my first travel photography job. The company paid all expenses and that was it. On the other hand, it's a great way to put together a nice portfolio, get some experience and do something for a good cause. Up to you...
Connect and network
The most important thing you have to do is keep connecting and networking. The more people you know, the more likely something will come up. Take any chance to contact magazines, editors and media companies. You never know when they’ll have a job available. It's all about getting your name out there. The more they hear it, the more likely they'll contact you for their next job. Of course, make sure you have a strong portfolio ready for when they Google your name.
I don't believe that only having a super strong portfolio will get you those exciting travel photography jobs. It's always a combination of strong work and getting your name out there. If you can manage to do both, you'll eventually get those freelance jobs you're look for. Hard work, works.
I’m writing about how I market my work on my Patreon page. Join the community if you want to know more and we’ll talk about it. You can ask me anything there…