3 Tips to Get Started as a Travel Photographer

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One of the trickiest parts of becoming a travel photographer/blogger is supporting your journeys. It’s not as simple as taking great photos and watching the money roll in. In fact, many seasoned travel photographers find it difficult to make a steady living. Taking beautiful photos just isn’t enough.

Taking beautiful photos just isn’t enough. The most successful travel photographers work just as hard on marketing themselves as they do on learning to take better photos, in most cases more so.

Sponsorships are great for a short burst of revenue, but how do you build a passive income to keep you going? By thinking about how you can take a hobby like photography and turn it into a passive income stream, you may be able to fund your travel for a longer time than expected.

Happy photographer
Happy photographer

Below you’ll find three ways to help use photography to earn passive income and keep yourself moving.

  1. Create a portfolio
  2. Attracting eyeballs
  3. Getting paid

1. Create a Portfolio

The first thing you need is a solution to properly show off and be able to sell prints.  You can either sell the original high res photo to a collector or one-off prints to consumers. Backpacker Travel has partnered with SmugMug as they provide a range of solutions for beginners to professionals.

SmugMug offers numerous website designs built specifically for photographers.  All packages give you secure, unlimited photo storage, easy uploads anywhere you can connect online (this saves camera and card storage space) as well as a simple e-commerce solution where you set your own retail prices. Now your friends, fans, or the people who discover your shots can purchase them or print them on more than 1,200 products.

By having these tested websites ready to sell your work, you have a custom print shop opened 24 hours to help fund your trip. Click on the following discount link and save 15% off any SmugMug package to get your portfolio started today.

Smugmug portfolio
Smugmug portfolio

2. Attracting Eyeballs

One of the hardest parts of being a travel photographer (who gets to continue to travel) is having the funds to keep going. The more real eyeballs you have on your site, the more you can make. Just make sure they are real and engaged viewers.

Buying likes/fans or counting robot and traffic exchange traffic doesn’t count. Your sponsors will catch on when they don’t get visitors or sales and you’ll find yourself with a bad reputation and a lack of funds. This is where your photography helps.

As you take amazing shots, make sure you watermark them so that people can find you and your website. You may first want to upload them to social media and sharing sites like Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, and Flickr. You can even create a slideshow with a narrative for YouTube which can drive a ton of new visitors.

Next, add your URL to the social media image descriptions so that people can go to your website and also source the image back to you if they decide to use it.

Instagram likes
Instagram likes

3. Getting Paid

Having your photos out there and an easy way to contact you (your store or site) is a great way to attract attention and gain sponsorships and perks. If you’ve built a following and are traveling to a specific city, you can use your traffic volume to pitch a hotel or bed and breakfast for a free night.

To make a pitch stand out more, send sample hotel/food posts that have a lot of shares and activity on them. The samples show the sponsor the quality of your work and the activity shows that you can generate real engagement. You may also want to offer them the rights to a shot of their choosing in exchange for the perk. Next, you’ll need to look at your website and social media analytics.

If you have a decent amount of fans in a specific region, try writing to some restaurants in that area and agree to do reviews in exchange for a nice meal. The same goes for entertainment and tours.

National parks, airlines, and even some cities offer press junket trips so that you get to experience everything while also going behind the scenes. If you have the audience, it doesn’t hurt to write to them and see if you can gain sponsorship money as well as complimentary rooms, board, and entertainment. The sponsor will be happy if you drive the traffic to them and you’ll earn money, or at least get a free perk.

Once you have an audience on your website you can begin monetizing the traffic. Try a mix of monetization techniques including:

  • Affiliate marketing – selling cameras, parts & the travel gear you personally use
  • Adsense – this pays you on a click basis
  • Sponsored spaces – you can sell or trade these to vendors & other bloggers
  • Stock Photography sales – list on these sites and you get a commission from any of your photos people/companies buy
  • Newsletter subscribers – bloggers refer to this as their ATM, here’s a guide on monetizing them: 10 Places To Monetize Your Newsletters & Emails (You didn’t know about)
  • CPM ad networks – pay you for every 1,000 impressions

Plus a lot more…

By finding the right mix of monetization strategies, a way to sell your work, and building a loyal following, you can use your photography to help fund your travels. It all starts with having a website and a blog to sell and share your work. From there, if you have the talent and a bit of luck, you can build a solid stream of income to help fund your journey.

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Michael Glass

Michael is the founder of Backpacker Travel. He also runs walking tours in San Francisco and is a freelance travel writer. Michael is extremely passionate about travel and loves to explore festivals around the world.

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