Can you have a travel photography career without social media fame?
In a world where content is reminding us daily that we aren’t doing enough, seeing enough, sharing enough or working hard enough, we need to stop and remind ourselves, why are we letting this invisible (but all too visible) pressure zap our energy and productivity?
Social media has created a monster of sorts, fueling our personal insecurities, unraveling a fear of missing out, virtually pushing and prodding us to join in and contribute to the content conveyor belt.
I’m guessing I’m not alone in feeling a little old because I can’t (or don’t want to) keep up with the demands of social media?
If you’re considering a career as a travel photographer, it’s surely crossed your mind more than once that you need to be on social media. You need to have followers, be sharing regular content, creating reels, stories, carousels and goodness knows what else also becomes the next algorithm pleasing, energy sapping tool.
I love a funny video, dreamy destination post or cute dog photo as much as the next person and know social media can absolutely be enjoyed in small doses, but when it starts to seep into our thoughts post by post, it’s important to separate the fun and social part, with the impact on our personal and professional development. With the speed at which content travels, news is released and new content is produced, it’s little wonder why we all feel a little left behind and overwhelmed.
Let’s chat about the alternative in terms of travel photography and working in tourism as a creative. An alternative that still exists, but isn’t as visible because well…it’s not on social media.
Think about the photographers behind the images you see on commercial accounts or branded content for advertisements, editorials and printed materials. About the travel writers typing up the stories and guides in magazines, or the creative teams producing visual marketing campaigns for tourism brands.
They’re working hard, making a living and furthering their careers without the pressure of posting a pretty photo to Instagram daily. There can be a happy medium, a world in which you work as a travel photographer with purpose, projects, deadlines and deliverables. Where you get paid to photograph destinations, work to creative briefs and use your talents rather than sitting, refreshing the screen and hoping your new post will get likes or a high engagement rate.
If you’re a long-time follower or reader of The Wandering Lens, you may have noticed (or not, because there are so many other things to view online!), that I didn’t share much in 2022, or 2021 for that matter. I was actually still travelling and working, but for projects that didn’t require social media content, or that will be released in other forms/outlets throughout 2023/24. Most of the projects required long days on the road driving, photographing, researching and writing. While the photographs and written content was for both tourism marketing purposes and travel related publications, it wasn’t for The Wandering Lens as I still work as a full-time freelance travel photographer and don’t always share everything I create.
While we sometimes convince ourselves that everyone who is sharing on social media must be busier, better or have a schedule filled with creative tourism campaigns – sometimes it’s those who actually aren’t sharing that are doing a lot of the work behind the scenes. Working as a travel photographer for clients, for publications, or for projects that aren’t connected to their Instagram handle.
I may sound bitter about social media, but actually, I’m not, and I love how it’s helped me create The Wandering Lens community over the years. I’m only a little bitter about the fact that it’s stopped a lot of talented people following their dreams because they believe they aren’t good enough or popular enough.
Now, of course social media plays a part if you’re hoping to work in content creation or as an influencer and I’m in no way discounting this type of work. For some of us though, this level of sharing, personal branding and endless content creation isn’t what we become a travel photographer for. There are so many talented photographers who do have thousands of followers and are in addition to their social media work, are producing inspiring work for their clients. Depending on the type of clients you’re aiming to work with, they may prefer you share to social media when working on a campaign, or they may just wish for the content to be created for their own use. My point is, that if you don’t love sharing via social media, this shouldn’t be the reason you don’t pursue work as a travel photographer.
Also, just to note, because of how much content is required by businesses, brands and tourism boards, a knowledge of social media can be useful when capturing work for your clients. You may be briefed to compile 20 images for social media use that highlights the outdoor experiences of a particular destination. Knowing what people click on, like and engage with is crucial intel. However, again, this can involve browsing and researching, not that you personally need to be posting on your social media accounts. You can simply create the photographs, deliver them to your client and their marketing team will then share on the relevant accounts.
When I started my career in travel photography, Myspace was still the thing Facebook was just getting off the ground. I mailed travel magazine editors little booklets of my work in the post and postcards…actual snail mail. Over the years though, I progressed to emailing. I know you’re probably super impressed with my ability to keep up with technology!
I’m sharing this because a simple email, pitch or conversation has led to some of my most exciting adventures as a travel photographer.
I strongly believe you can form a career as a travel photographer with a curated portfolio of professional work and an email account. I know this because I’ve done it, for 17years. Not only can you find work, you can use your photographs to contribute to conservation and environmental projects, to get involved in exciting initiatives and to inspire others to see the world and life live to the fullest.
With published work in Lonely Planet, The Huffington Post, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and more, plus a tourism client list visible here, I can confidently say that it’s possible to get published, gain work on creative tourism campaigns and build longevity in the industry without popularity on social media. Most of my client work doesn’t involve sharing content on social media, I’m producing the photographs for their business or capturing imagery to be published as photo features or alongside editorial content.
Avenues to work as a travel photographer without social media –
Editorial: Take a peek at the bylines of your favourite travel publications then Google or try to find that person on social media. More often that not, they’ll have a portfolio website and small following on social media where they share behind the scenes content or not much at all. You can work with editors and get published by pitching your story/feature ideas and introducing them to your photography. The Freelance Travel Photographer Course has templates I’ve personally used and all the advice you need on approaching editors in the right way.
Creative Campaigns: Once you can prove your talents as a travel photographer and offer your clients something visually refreshing, you’re opening yourself up to the possibilities of working on campaigns. Create a website that highlights your best work, start to network with relevant clients and introduce yourself to agencies, marketing professionals and the owners of tourism businesses to discover what’s possible.
Photographic Services: Life as a travel photographer doesn’t have to mean you’re on the road 365days a year, you can find work with local tourism businesses, accommodation outlets and experience providers. They all need imagery to promote and showcase their offerings, as a travel photographer, you’ll know how to create a library of photographs to help highlight this. Pricing your work and knowing how to deliver professional results and licencing terms is crucial.
I can ramble on about this topic all day because I’m so passionate about forging a travel photography career that suits you, but you’ve probably got somewhere to be! I hope my opinion, that it’s possible to work as a travel photographer without social media fame, has struck a chord and sparked a little fire in your creative ambitions.
As a photographer, editor and educator, my aim is to raise the bar in the tourism industry and continue to support other photographers in their journey to work as a travel photographer – it’s a such a rewarding career path and I hope you’ll join me in the industry soon!
Enrolments to the next round of The Freelance Travel Photographer Course are closing soon. Within this course I share everything I know about creating income streams and gaining work as a travel photographer. Modules are released weekly for eight weeks (with no pressure to complete within any set time frame) on the topics of self-promotion for photographers, portfolio development, travel industry insights, pricing your services as a photographer, getting published and so much more. Every single workbook or bonus guide can be downloaded for you to access whenever you need. There’s no pressure to complete the course in eight weeks, it’s all yours to use over eight months or eight years if you like!
I’m always happy to answer questions via email, get in touch and say hello via email@example.com.
Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Travel and landscape photographer from Australia who is far more comfortable in a pair of flippers than heels! Having worked for publications such as Lonely Planet, Wanderlust and the Sunday Times, Lisa founded The Wandering Lens to share destination guides to the worlds most photogenic places and outdoor experiences.