|Jeremy Hoare is a freelance travel photographer residing in London, England. Phone/Fax: +44 20 7722 2065. Email: email@example.com Web: http://www.travelwriters.com/jeremyhoare|
In response to my previous articles, an e-mail from Scott Kemper of Minneapolis asked a key question of concern to all travel photographers: "How you might be making a living at this?" and the answer is simply -- "With difficulty!"
Travel photography is a wonderful way to make a living, a lifestyle combined with meeting people from all walks of life, and getting paid for it, much better than working. A commonly held view. But anyone reading Rohn Engh's excellent book 'sellphotos.com' will know that to be a generalist and stay solvent is virtually impossible today.
I speak from painful experience, having been such a generalist for far too long, and my lack of a substantial bank balance is testament to that. But I have changed, not because I wanted to, but in order to stay ahead of the crowd I had to, and I'm actually enjoying being more focused as to what I shoot. Turning away and not shooting a subject that only a short while ago I would have taken six frames of, was not easy at first, but my golden rules now when I look through the viewfinder are, 'Who's going to buy this?' and 'What market will this go to?' I would never miss a really good opportunity for those good frames even now, but I have re-educated myself after reading Rohn Engh books.
Like me, you can specialize in more than one area, as I have written about in this column recently. To recap, I shoot aircraft and flying pictures for an aviation stock library, I shoot well-considered (as opposed to grab) pictures for a high-profile travel image stock library, and I am now shooting more editorial pictures which I intend to go onto alamy.com, a scan-and-send-CD online stock library.
All very well, but does it make a living? I know a lot of photographers have had a dip in their income as a result of 9/11, not just in the travel field, either. I have for sure; it has put a lot of things on hold, and travel in all its various ways has been hit hard. Advertising spending has been down and I know that one of the huge stock photo libraries has taken a 25% drop in the last year. No doubt there are some mega-rich travel photographers out there, but the remaining 99% of us make a living in varying degrees.
Magazines that used to buy pictures direct are now using handout freebies from tourist boards, good images for sure but they have been around for a while and published many times. So I do things like deals with airlines who cannot spend cash, taking pictures in return for flights. It doesn't put food on the table today, but I'm in this for the long haul and those tickets will get me to places I've never been before and that should open up more possibilities for future sales. This only happens by getting to know people who can then trust you to deliver. That is the cornerstone of this business, and no opportunity to promote yourself should be overlooked, but be targeted to the people who really make the decisions, if you can.
You could just throw in the towel; there is a huge glut of general travel images around now, as it's all so easy for anyone with a foolproof camera to get results that are saleable, in good light. So that alone is precisely why you have to do your research as to what you want to shoot before getting anywhere if you can, then work out the best time of day to shoot, and then have the patience, tenacity and persistence to go and get it on film. Amateurs put their cameras away when the sun disappears, yet this can be the best time to shoot very saleable travel pictures! If you are a professional you will hardly need to be told this, as a feeling for light is of prime importance for this work. Anyone trying to make a living from this area of photography will not succeed unless they understand how light works and reacts on a scene.
Travel photography is no easy ride, but it is rewarding, and as long as it covers the bills and leaves a bit over for that 'rainy day' I'll stick with it. Besides, what else would I do!
Scott Kemper is a fine photographer as you can see from the images on his website; check him out at: http://www.kemperimagery.com. The online library where I have put some new and vintage pictures is: http://www.alamy.com then Search with my name. Happy Shooting!
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