Travel Photography Jobs + Tips for Becoming a Travel Photographer
Travel photography offers a broad range of potential career paths that can see you and your camera heading off for endless adventures around the world. From working as a photojournalist to capturing photos at a resort, there are plenty of ways to combine your love of travelling with photography if you’ve got both determination and talent.
I’ve been utterly obsessed with travelling since I was in school and first attempted to become a pilot so I can fly myself (and a plane load of passengers) to exotic destinations. That plan fell through when I got violently air sick during every flying lesson so my back-up was to become a travel journalist. You can read about that journey here but long story short, that path led to discovering the art of photography and over the past 15 years I’ve worked a number of jobs under the ‘travel photography’ umbrella and it’s been one crazy, incredible adventure.
For those with a creative mind and the motivation to turn their dream into a reality and working business, it may sound cliché but the sky really is the limit. Sure it takes a tonne of begging, pitching, rejections, both time and money, BUT, now more than ever there’s such a need for photographic content that there are plenty of positions and career paths available!
Be flexible, travel photography requires a commitment to time away from home and long days working, unfortunately it’s only about 15% glamourous.
Now let’s take a peek at six travel photography jobs that may just be suited for you…
Travel Photography Jobs
#1 Freelance Travel Photographer
Working as a freelance photographer sounds quite carefree and adventurous but it does require a lot of organisation, patience and determination. As a freelance travel photographer you’re essentially running your own business so are responsible for not only finding work and clients, but marketing, managing, researching, producing the content to a high standard and then keeping a track of your invoicing and payments.
Freelance photography is a maze of opportunities when it comes to how you can make it work as so many brands, businesses and publications need content. As a freelancer you can potentially work for multiple clients at any one time or if you’re lucky, you may score a regular gig that will ensure a stable monthly income…a big plus when working solo!
While there are endless areas within freelancing that you can find work in, if you’re looking to focus on travel photography then you’ll want to have a good portfolio of work from your previous travels to use as you pitch for work. And of course, a passion for travelling and talent that helps you stand out when approaching clients and editors!
Having an online portfolio is essential when working as a freelance photographer, I used to actually carry around a printed album of my work and introduce myself in person (yikes, scary!) but thank goodness a well-written email introduction with a link to your work does the trick now.
Travel photography is quite a competitive market to work in however there is a constant need for content with social media, magazines, online travel guides, blogs, marketing materials, newspapers and so on all requiring regular updates and a fresh take on destinations.
If you’re looking to approach magazines to have your work published, it can be worthwhile to read the publication for a few months to get a feel for their style, what they publish and what regions they focus on throughout the year…more often than not they’ll be quite seasonal so you’ll need to time your pitch. You probably won’t find a photo or article about skiing on the shelves just before summer as an example.
A few tips for working as a freelance photographer:
Build a portfolio of both published + personal work (I recommend the Premium plan on Wix.com, loved using it for my site!)
Learn the art of pitching
Ensure you have enough funds to support yourself if it’s a little slow getting clients
Don’t take rejection as failure, you will get a lot of no’s whether you’re just starting out or established so get used to negative responses and learn to shine once you get a yes!
Streamline your finances so you have a steady system in place for expenses/income
It may come as a surprise to some readers but I actually owned a wedding photography business for six years on a tropical island in Australia. After the first two years on one very small (but beautiful!) island, I branched out and took enquiries for destination weddings, combining wedding photography with my addiction to travelling.
As a destination wedding photographer you’re typically booked by a couple to photograph their wedding day somewhere away from home. It could mean they’re travelling from their home to somewhere close to your base, or they may ask you to travel with them abroad to photograph their nuptials, aka the dream job.
I’ve photographed over 450 weddings and of those, many were destination weddings in places like Italy, France, New Zealand, the Cook Islands and on numerous islands of the Great Barrier Reef. The best part about working as a destination wedding photographer is that if you’re equally as passionate about travel and landscape photography as you are about weddings and portraits, then you get to combine the two and create magic for your clients!
I had a motto with my business that it was ‘blending love and landscapes’, a concept that attracted clients because my work wasn’t traditional and posed, it was relaxed and romantic mainly featuring the couple amongst a scene, enjoying their wedding day and exploring the destination. You can have a peek at my wedding portfolio here.
As a business, working as a wedding photographer abroad you need to ensure you have insurance, a good contract, price your packages to cover travel costs and just like working as a freelancer, you need to have the skills to market and manage plus a portfolio that allows couples to trust that you’ll cover their perfect day professionally.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to be professional when photographing a wedding. It may look pretty and calm on the outside but there’s a lot of pressure involved because the moments don’t happen twice so you’ll want to ensure you’re completely comfortable using your camera in any environment, are a pro at posing or relaxing your clients so they’re appearing natural and their most beautiful in front of the camera and that you’ve got all the equipment to photograph not just on the day, but to save back up and edit the images.
Tips for becoming a destination wedding photographer:
Build a career as a wedding photographer in your local area
Create an online portfolio of your wedding and travel images (I used Wix.com to create my portfolio site in a few hours)
Network at wedding industry events with potential clients
Approach destination wedding specialists (they may need to add to their list of recommended photographers)
Be confident in your abilities as a photographer and ensure you know how to capture a wedding day from start to finish in all conditions!
Advertise in bridal magazines, social media and ask your friends and family to spread the word if they know anyone heading abroad to get married.
#3 Resort Photographer
Many resorts whether they’re located on an island, a ski resort or are attached to a theme park will have resort photographer positions available. Typically they’ll be seasonal and are a great way to work your way around the world with the safety net of a fixed income and usually some discounted staff accommodation where most people holiday!
More often than not the positions will be quite casual, requiring a few hours work per day photographing people doing activities or you may be booked for family portraits, events or work in the photography store. This job probably won’t get you rich quick but it’s a fantastic way to improve your photography skills while working in a beautiful destination.
One of the first resort photography jobs I did was at Tangalooma Island Resort and every day was a mix between photographing people at the sand dunes, on quad bike tours (yes I got to ride one!) and then in the evening I’d shoot sunset portraits and photos in the water with wild dolphins. It’s a job that inspired a lot of what I do today and I’ll be forever grateful for the skills and people I met during the year I worked there.
Settings: ISO 200 (this was taken from a moving ski lift), f/3.5, 1/1600sec.
To find a resort photography job take a peek at online employment sites for the area you’re hoping to work. You may need to also look into working visas if you’re looking to work abroad but a number of countries have working holiday arrangements if you’re under 32 and casual work like a resort photographer is an ideal position for this type of visa!
The skill level required for a resort photography job is usually not too high as more often than not you’ll be working in a set environment so the camera settings and position won’t change too much. It’s a great job if you’re just starting out and will help build a lot of confidence as a photographer which you can then take on to bigger and more professional opportunities.
Tips for getting work as a resort photographer:
Be flexible with starting dates, working hours and living conditions
Show you’re a people person and can think on your feet
Demonstrate an interest or skill in photography
Research the resort/area you’re applying for
Learn the basics of capturing action shots and portrait images
Possibly the most respected job in the travel photography realm, a photojournalist is quite similar to working as a freelance photographer however is associated more with commissioned work from publications or clients.
Photojournalism is traditionally relating to the coverage of an event, issue, subject or location that helps to shed light and tell a story for a newspaper, magazine, NGO or online publication. More often than not, people working as photojournalists are also journalists who can write a supporting story or provide in depth captions for their images. To work as a photojournalist who specializes in travel photography, you’ll want to have gained a lot of experience before applying for jobs or approaching editors as these are sought after gigs!
Work experience, internships or publishing your own photo features and stories on a website/blog can be a great way to get a foot in the door as a photojournalist. These steps will also help you to develop your style and skills as a photographer because you’ll be booked for your ability and proven results.
It can be helpful to have studied or have a background in journalism and then check with your local newspaper for openings within the journalism or photography departments. Online publications can also be a great place to build a portfolio of published work so once you feel you’ve got a solid skillset and have a story to tell, pitch it, there’s nothing to lose!
Also don’t forget to enter photography competitions as some include a commission and chance to have your work published! National Geographic runs a monthly ‘Your Shot’ competition, and a number of other publications such as Wanderlust and Lonely Planet also regularly run talent based contests which can help get your work seen by editors. World Nomads offers regular travel photography scholarships that offer talented photographers a chance to learn from industry experts and have their work published! *Always check entry terms when submitting your images as some contests are run purely to grab content and don’t have the photographer’s rights in mind.
Tips for finding work as a photojournalist:
Research the work of other photojournalists, see where they’re getting published.
Find a niche or issue you’re passionate about
Develop a consistent style that editors can come to rely on
Network with writers, photographers and editors at social travel and/or publishing events
#5 Cruise Ship Photographer
Now this is a travel photography job for the more patient and seaworthy photographer…for obvious reasons. While you’ll be visiting a number of exotic ports, there’s a lot of time spent on board the cruise ship so before you follow this path, be sure you’re ready for time at sea, cramped staff cabins and repetitive working conditions.
Typical tasks as a cruise ship photographer include capturing portraits of guests on board, at dinners, doing activities and if you’re lucky, some adventures off the boat but more often than not, it’s focused around what happens on the ship itself. The size of ship can differ, there’s luxury yachts right through to the mega cruise liners and you’ll find it much easier to secure a job on board one of the big boys.
There are some very cool opportunities that exist on board expedition vessels, not just your typical cruise ship. It’s worth researching available opportunities with Arctic or Antarctic expedition cruises as they’ll have on board photographers to and these positions will be more focused on not only photographing guests but teaching them how to capture the stunning scenery you’ll pass.
It can be a great job to build your confidence and skills as a photographer and you’ll get very comfortable using flash as a lot of the time it’s a staged setting (on a traditional ship). Because you’re working with guests, there’s a lot of interaction with people so you’ll want to be comfortable socializing or looking to use this experience to bring you out of your shell a little. Take a peek at MSC’s career site to see job outlines relating to photography on a cruise ship.
A few things to check when applying for a cruise ship photography position:
What are the hours you’ll work?
What country is the cruise ship company based in, for visa/work permit purposes?
What are the living arrangements like? Is it a shared cabin?
Do you get sea sick? If so, visit your doctor to be prescribed some medication!
Do you get to actually visit the locations the ship docks in? In my opinion there’s no point being a cruise ship photographer if all you get to see is the ship! Unless you like ships…
#6 Travel Blogger
Ever wanted to take full control of your career and release your creative projects into the world without having to wait for someone to approve them? Travel blogging may be just the thing for you!
Now firstly, take away all those ideas that a travel blogger only writes about ‘what I did on my holiday in Paris’, more often than not, bloggers are savvy and business-minded people and the blog is not only a creative outlet, but a full-time job. Travel blogging is a career path open to anyone from any background with one common interest, a love of travel and thanks to the good old internet, is a job that can be done absolutely anywhere…with a WIFI connection!
Technically you can turn your own travel blog into anything you want! You can publish hard hitting political pieces about destinations effected by war, environmental articles and images that highlight issues relating to climate change, or you can of course, focus on the travel experience, cultures and destinations both popular and more off the beaten path.
Now having a travel blog doesn’t mean you need to be an accomplished journalist or writer, you can be a photographer keen to have somewhere to publish your images. I started The Wandering Lens to write destination guides for photographers and while I have a background in journalism, I wanted the site to be very image heavy so people would be attracted to the visuals, not the words. I actually don’t love the word ‘blog’ and prefer to call it a guide or website because essentially, it’s a little library of content that sits online waiting for someone to type some golden search words into Google and discover my Destination Guides or Photo Tip archives.
A blog can be a fantastic way to share some behind the scenes of your photography missions whether they’re personal or professional to document the destination or project. At first it may feel like you’re pressing publish and only your mum is taking a peek (Hi Mum!) but building an audience to follow your work is one of the essential elements of having a blog and does take time and patience.
Since The Wandering Lens started back in 2015 I’ve grown from just 100 visitors per month to over 125,000 and it’s incredible to finally see years of work paying off. There were definitely times when it just didn’t feel worth it and it takes a lot of work and a tonne of motivation to stick with it. You’ll also need to dedicate quite a bit of time to creating content, to actually do the travel part of having a travel blog! This sounds like the fun part but because you’re working for yourself, need to ensure that you’re sticking to a budget and not going bananas on the credit card to become a famous blogger…that’s never going to end well. Once you’re more established you can approach partners, tourism boards, tour operators and accommodation outlets to work in supporting your ventures to reduce costs but to do this you need to be able to prove there’s a benefit to them, eg. your blog needs a lot of visitors or you can provide them with high quality imagery.
You may hear a lot of people say that you can start a blog in just a matter of minutes, which is very true. However, to create a successful travel blog you need to continuously work on it and treat it as a business. There’s always new technical updates to install, HTML code, plugins, SEO, checking your domain name and server subscriptions are up to date not to mention writing, photographing, editing, creating a layout then working to make sure your posts are seen across social media or visible on Google.
If you love sharing stories, telling people where to find amazing places or simply just want an outlet to publish your images then building a travel blog is such a rewarding career path. Eventually you can aim to monetize your website via display advertising or affiliate income but when starting out, it’s important to lay a foundation of solid and informative content or inspiring imagery that make people want to visit your site again and again.
#7 An Influencer
Since the rise of social media, a career path has evolved that relates to creating content with the aim of ‘influencing’ others. I’m sure if you’ve got an Instagram account you’re well aware of who the influencers are, personally I still find it a little bizarre that people are out there pretending (in some cases, definitely not all), to live a certain way or use certain brands because they’re being paid to do so. I know that probably 70% (random figure) are genuine but that other chunk can make this career appear a tad questionable and from a business point of view, very risky, especially if it’s your only source of income.
Influencing is essentially marketing with a fancy new name and the game of promoting and selling things to people has been around for centuries, it’s now just a bit more obvious. Combining travel photography with being an influencer is a no brainer because visual aids are essential when selling a product or experience and the need for fresh content is never ending. Working as an influencer can mean collaborating with clients to showcase their product, creating content for them to use in their own marketing requirements or using your influence to support something meaningful or a creative project.
There’s a lot of factors that come into working as an influencer and while it may look glamourous on the outside, there’s countless pitches, emails, negotiations, planning, research and creating that goes into taking that perfect photo. More often than not people will judge an influencer solely on their images but forget about how much time and effort went into the set up and production, something you’ll need to perfect in order to become a professional influencer.
I’m a little old school but of course have social media and due to my following on Instagram @the_wanderinglens, I’m often considered an influencer despite the fact I have no fashion sense or rarely show myself on camera. Starting to consider yourself an influencer usually comes down to numbers, the amount of likes and engagement you receive and also, your message…which is the part I’m much more comfortable with. Being an influencer has many, many positives because once you’ve built a large following (or small and super engaged) and audience, you can use it for good. A lot of what I share relates to revealing beautiful places to photograph, creative photo tips for people to use on their travels and very soon I’ll be sharing content from a project I’m photographing that highlights destinations impact by climatic conditions and environmental issues. There’s a number of influencers currently involved in sustainable tourism projects, clean ups, wildlife conservation and charitable initiatives which is something that’s on the increase and a wonderful outcome from the world of social media.
One thing I do want to mention about becoming an influencer is that due to the ever changing algorithms and lack of control you actually have over how your content is delivered, it can be quite a risky career move. Instead, combine social media with another element of your business such as travel blogging, travel writing and travel photography to give yourself a better chance of a stable income and more opportunities.
There are a lot of courses available online that promise to ‘help you become an influencer’ but really, you need to follow these few steps:
Create beautiful and original content
Engage with other users on social media
Have a message and/or tell a story within your posts
Hello! I’m the founder and photographer behind The Wandering Lens. With 14+yrs experience as a professional travel and landscape photographer, all advice found on this site is from my personal experience on the road. I hope it’s useful for your own travels and would love to hear in the comments about your trips and experiences around the world.
I'm Lisa Michele Burns, a professional photographer and founder of The Wandering Lens from Australia. Welcome to your guide to photographing the world, improving your photography and scouting unique and inspiring places to experience with your camera. Click here to start exploring popular guides + articles. After four years online, The Wandering Lens has turned into the leading publisher of photography focused travel guides!