Working as a Travel Photographer in 2021

Travel Photography Jobs in 2021 – Let’s start the conversation…

Travel, ah that word conjures up so many butterflies, memories and immediately puts a smile on my face. Unfortunately, most of us didn’t use that word too much in 2020 because Covid-19 came along and made us refer to travel as that impossible adventure instead. Especially when it came to travel photography jobs and opportunities.

Of course, for the safety and health of our loved ones it has been a year in which it’s been best to stay home. While some people are starting to slowly travel again, others are waiting for the right moment especially since changes to restrictions are still ongoing. I’m in the latter camp and won’t be travelling abroad until it’s completely safe to do so.

So, where does that leave those with a job or hoping to have a job in the travel industry? In particular, those hoping to work as a travel photographer in 2021?

Travel Photography Jobs and Working as a Photographer in 2021

To be honest, in a little bit of limbo but the good kind of limbo. The kind where you bend your back almost too far and think you’re about to fall on your ass…but don’t. The need for constant content, imagery, inspiration and marketing materials is still there, perhaps more than ever since we’re such a visually focused bunch.

If you’ve got dreams of being a travel photographer or were already working in the industry I’m sure you’ve been forced to stop and reassess. Perhaps you’ve been considering other career options or maybe you’re still crossing your fingers and hoping the world will allow it to be a viable career option again very soon.

Whichever way you’re swaying, know that it’s still possible, even though I’m sure there are a few sniggers (I actually wrote snickers first, must be hungry) about my positivity. Sure the road might be a little bumpier than pre-Covid times but there are always pathways to make it happen. It’s all about redefining the term ‘travel photographer’, finding your niche or unique service within the industry and making it work for you.

Let’s explore a little further…

Travel Photography Jobs and Working as a Photographer in 2021

*A little note: I’ll be using the term ‘local’ often as I’m aware that travel may not be possible for all of us so feel free to relate that to your current circumstances and expand further abroad if that’s relevant to you. Hopefully, if we are all photographing locally a little more in 2021 we’ll then be so damn inspired once we can travel further afield that the industry as a collective will be brimming with talent and creative ideas in the near future.

Travel Photography and Covid-19

Now I don’t want to start out all negative but let’s take a quick look at the way Covid-19 has affected travel photographers, then we’ll get on to ways you can still find work.

Like most people working in the travel industry, 2020 wasn’t a great year when it came to campaigns and client work for myself and The Wandering Lens. In fact, it was basically non-existent regarding international travel after March 2020 however there were some local opportunities and the site luckily continued to thrive due to its focus on learning photography. Depending on where you live in the world you will have been impacted differently so please know this article isn’t written without consideration for those still in lockdown.

As we all know, the tourism industry suffered greatly because of the pandemic. For travel photographers this meant some clients no longer have the budgets they once had for imagery and are instead struggling to stay afloat and keep busy themselves. Many travel magazines have stopped publishing, some hotels have been turned into quarantine facilities and tour operators have ceased working due to a lack of tourists. Those with travel blogs or travel related websites will have seen a dramatic dip in traffic since people aren’t currently searching for travel ideas or inspiration.

Travel Photography Jobs and Working as a Photographer in 2021

Local tourism boards and operators have been a huge shining light throughout this period, inspiring us to travel closer to home and explore our surroundings. You may have noticed a lot of travel photographers now doing campaigns or working with clients in their home states or countries. It’s these transformations that have seen some of us redefining what it means to be a travel photographer. Does ‘travel’ have to include a trip overseas or even a flight? Heck no! It can be about inspiring others to travel in your home region or even regions you’ve previously visited because there will be people still exploring locally there too.

If you’re keen to share how your photography has been impacted this year you’re more than welcome to leave a comment at the end of this article.

Travel Photography Jobs and Working as a Photographer in 2021

Where will the travel photography jobs be in 2021?

As strange as this sounds, a lot of them will be online or in your local areas. As destinations focus on keeping those travel dreams alive, tourism operators will be turning to content and imagery to showcase their cultural and natural wonders via social media and online materials. If you’ve already got imagery from various destinations that’s of a professional standard and could add value to a potential clients marketing plans then this could be a great path to follow in 2021.

When the pandemic first hit it was news around the world and while it still very much is, have you noticed the shift in focus for travel related businesses and organisations? Back in March and April 2020 they had to manage cancellations then reassure and rest a little on their brand messaging. The later part of 2020 saw many travel companies back to showcasing their offerings and the opportunities and experiences that exist once we’re able to travel again.

Instead of seeking out the job title of ‘Travel Photographer’, delve deep into the forums or job websites looking for roles that require content creation or destination marketing for businesses or projects within the travel industry. If it were as easy as searching for ‘travel photographer’ then I’d hate to see how much competition there was for each advertised role.

Travel Photography Jobs and Working as a Photographer in 2021

Where to look for travel photography jobs and opportunities –

Networking or Direct Contact: Rather than waiting for the dream job or opportunity to appear, why not create it? You could approach a local tour operator about photographing some of their experiences and developing a media library for them or even pitch the concept of photographing their clients during tours or similar in return for a daily fee? Ideas like this need to benefit both parties but if you can prove that by adding your services as a photographer it will help to boost their business and/or add profit to it then it’ll be hard to turn down. Being proactive and creating your own career is one of the best ways to approach working as a travel or freelance photographer!

Government and Local Tourism Organisations: Even if roles aren’t advertised, there is usually information about their annual focus or reports available on their tourism sector. Take a peek at your local government tourism website and see what you can find then write down ways in which you believe your photography could play a part.

Social Media: Follow your local tourism board, tour operators that exist within your area and stay in the loop about their locations and products. You never know when your skills might align with their strategy! Engage and be genuine about your interest in their posts so if you do eventually reach out and enquire about photographing for them, they’ll know who you are.

Also on social media, particularly on Facebook are a number of creative groups that share opportunities to members. You can start by searching ‘Creatives in {insert your location}’ or browse the many travel photography and travel industry groups that exist and sometimes share opportunities.

Job Directories: Here in Australia we have seek.com.au that’s the go to place for finding work regardless of what industry you’re in. As I mentioned before, don’t just seek out ‘travel photographer’ or even solely ‘photographer’, also look for the positions that involve creative content, content creation or marketing within a travel focused business.

LinkedIn: This is a relatively new addition to my research roster but there is A LOT of information and opportunities to be discovered via LinkedIn. Not only can you find out the best person to speak to at companies you wish to approach or work for but you can browse job ads, follow people of influence within the photography community and start to piece together a little web of information. More often than not the opportunities you’re after won’t be advertised and instead are all about networking and pitching to the right people. Also within LinkedIn there are a number of interest groups like ‘International Freelance Photographers’, ‘Photography Industry Professionals’, ‘Media & Marketing Professionals’, ‘Travel & Tourism Industry Professionals’…there are so many, it’s worth having a browse and see which ones you’d be interested in joining in order to see if any opportunities arise!

Lastly, look no further than your own abilities: To be a successful travel photographer you don’t have to work for anyone, work for yourself! Create your own business whether it’s selling travel prints, publishing your own blog or magazine, starting up a media library or content creation business. It is TOTALLY POSSIBLE and the rewards you get from working for yourself far outweigh any of the doubt or difficulties that come with starting a new business.

Travel Photography Jobs and Working as a Photographer in 2021


Working as a Freelance Photographer in 2021

Those with portfolio of work should put together a presentation PDF (there’s an eBook on this coming soon) and ensure their online portfolio is up to date with your available imagery in order to start approaching potential clients and selling your images.

Always research what’s being shared, what’s on trend and what potential clients are looking to focus on in the coming months rather than looking back. Keep in mind seasonal trends too, if you’ve got a great collection of imagery from a particular season you think could work for the 2021 season, package it up so it creates the possibility of an easy yes!

While a lot of travel publications have ceased operation for the foreseeable future, there are still plenty of opportunities to contribute as a freelancer to both print and online publications. Spend some time venturing down the Google rabbit hole and explore just how many are out there, it’ll probably surprise you! Focus on magazines or websites that cover regions or topics that you’ve already got experience or images on so you can put together a pitch that’s interesting for the editor and almost ready to go. You want to do all the work on your end so when they read your pitch, it’s an easy yes or no as to whether it fits their upcoming editions…don’t be disheartened if you get a lot of no’s, it’s completely normal when working as a freelancer!

I’m always so impressed at how many beautiful travel photography magazines are out there; Take a peek at the inspiring travel focused editorials in SUITCASE (which makes such a beautiful coffee table read!), GetLost, Cereal, Lodestars Anthology, Sidetracked and one of my absolute favourites Tiny Atlas Quarterly…their website is an explorer and design lover’s dream.

Travel Photography Jobs and Working as a Photographer in 2021

When you think of travel photography, what part of it attracts you most as a future career? If it’s the jet setting and posing in different locations for Instagram you could be in for a bit of a wait before this can happen freely again. If however you’re intrigued by telling stories of cultures, places or projects, there are ways you can start to pave a career for yourself as a freelancer without applying for jobs or venturing too far in the near future.

Documenting conservation, environmental or humanitarian projects are great ways to carve a portfolio and highlight important issues facing the world while at the same time showcasing your creative abilities. It’s the National Geographic, reportage style of travel photography that requires research and a bit of hustle along with a real interest in your subject. Using 2021 to photograph NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) or local projects could be an incredibly rewarding and inspiring way to build a reputation in the freelance world. Not only to the organisations usually need imagery to share their message but you can also use the images to get published by helping to tell their story or document their work.

South Africa Rhino Notching-5

Travel Photography Jobs and Working as a Photographer in 2021


Exploring Stock Photography

As companies look to advertise and continue focusing on travel experiences, they may be looking to stock libraries for content to fulfil the constant need for something new.

I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with stock libraries, some pay next to nothing to photographers and help to reduce the overall worth of photography, whereas others are taking amazing leaps forward to ensure the growth of the industry.

Adobe Stock and Shutterstock are two I recommend looking into if you’ve got a library of travel photographs (or lifestyle imagery etc.) and want to see if they’ll generate income via stock sites. Shutterstock has a handy page called ‘The Shot List‘ that’s updated monthly and lets photographers and creators know what people are actively seeking. For example, in January 2021 the main content relates to Black History Month, Health-conscious imagery, hospital interiors and aerial drone footage.

It’s not a guaranteed huge income earner but you do hear of success stories via stock photography all the time and if you’ve got travel images you’re not using just sitting on a hard drive, why not give it a go? You may need to provide exclusive rights to selling your images via certain stock libraries so just be sure to read the fine print before signing up and make sure you’re comfortable with the agreement.

Travel Photography Jobs and Working as a Photographer in 2021


 

Committing to Improving your Photography

All this time at home has allowed many of us to take a closer look at our photography. If you’ve read other articles on The Wandering Lens or attended one of my courses you’ll know that I’m always rambling on about being open to always learning and improving your craft. I LOVE discovering a new technique, setting (not even professionals have it all worked out!), location or inspiration.

Take a peek at this guide to ‘How to Learn Photography – 8 Learning Styles, find what suits you!

Whether you’re just starting out as a photographer or have been working professionally for years, there is always something you can do to improve your photography and build upon your skills. Always! Those who settle in their current skill set will get left behind as other creatives build upon their talent and incorporate both modern technology and concepts.

One of the best things you can do to improve your chances of success within the industry is to spend time developing your own style. Creating a unique vision in which you capture scenes with a refreshing approach, allowing yourself to stand out from the crowd when approaching clients! What makes your work different from the next photographer? Learn more here.

Maybe you’re great at landscapes but have you ever tried incorporating a new element like water into your shots? Perhaps you enjoy photographing people but have you used foreground features to add colourful bokeh around your subject? These are two very simple examples but once you start exploring new ideas for your photography the sky (preferably a pastel sunset sky) really is the limit.

Travel Photography Jobs and Working as a Photographer in 2021

For a lot of photographers, it can be hard to stay motivated, especially if you’ve been approaching potential clients or pitching ideas to editors/brands and are continually get told no thanks. We’ve all been there!

The, ‘thanks, but no thanks’ reply can hit you in the jugular but sometimes it’s just not meant to be. It may not be a reflection of your work, your professionalism or you as a person, it may just not be a good fit for that client at that time. On the flip side (not to be a downer) it could be that your work wasn’t presented in the best light, perhaps your website wasn’t user friendly or the images you shared weren’t relatable to that particular client.

Knowing how to approach clients to improve your chances of a positive reply requires even more effort than actually taking and editing your photos. Most successful photographers will agree that the photography part of a travel photography or freelance photography career only takes up about 10-20% sometimes even less, the rest of the time you’re putting on hats relating to marketing, business and self-promotion among others.

Travel Photography Jobs and Working as a Photographer in 2021

When it comes to improving your photography, it’s not solely about taking photos, it’s about creating a plan for showcasing your work, knowing how to promote it and developing a plan alongside some goals for your work.

If you’re still keen to work as a travel photographer in the future but are spending more time at home over the coming months, why not use this time to invest in your career? I’m teaching how to develop a creative vision, build a portfolio and work towards a career in the industry via The Creative Photography Course. It’s a six-month online program that’s completely self-paced so you can download the workbooks each month and work on them in your own time. The third round started on August 1st with the next course start date being March 1st, 2022. Ensure you’re on the newsletter list to be the first to know when registrations open!

 


Things you can do to benefit your future photography career path:

  • Define your creative vision (I’ve written an eBook on this here)
  • Decide on the areas you’re keen to work; is it travel portraits, hotel marketing, influencer work, selling landscape prints, conservation/environmental projects?
  • Create or redesign your online website/portfolio to ensure it’s showcasing your work in the best possible light that’s easy to browse and understand. (Read about using Wix, just one of the many platforms you can use, I’ll share a Squarespace review soon also because I LOVE their page layouts and design features)
  • Spend time learning about SEO to help boost traffic to your online portfolio
  • Create a list and research potential clients and the best contacts to reach out to
  • Curate and do a self-assessment of your portfolio. Are there improvements you can make? Things you need to learn in terms of the technical side of photography?
  • Work on posting via social media regularly in a way that stays true to your future photography goals. Develop stories, behind the scenes videos and posts that relate to how you want to work as a photographer. For example, if you want to only focus on landscapes and outdoor experiences, only showcase these and the stories behind your work so people don’t get confused about who you are as a photographer.
  • Be open to exploring new opportunities, it may not always be your dream gig but can it lead to other openings or add to your CV or portfolio in a positive way?

I love seeing new photographers developing their career so feel free to leave a link to your portfolio or Instagram account in the comments below so myself and others can follow your adventures!

To read more about a career in travel photography you can read the following free articles on The Wandering Lens –

How to Become a Travel Photographer (written pre-Covid)

Curating Your Social Media for Photographers

How to Stand Out as a Photographer Today

Travel Photography tips and photography tipsTravel Photography Jobs and Working as a Photographer in 2021

 

 

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Blog Comments

Great post Lisa!. Good and helpful tips to help travel photographers go through this crisis in travel photography. I’m following you creative photography course and I’m really enjoying it. Keep up the good work!

Wow Lisa, this was so helpful, thanks for writing it! I am so excited to be diving into a career in travel photography and writing and learning from the best, of course 🙂

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