If you are new to Travel Photography I can understand the challenges you are facing. After all, the market is quite saturated already and you are facing a fierce competition between people who, just like you, would love to spend the rest of their lives travelling and taking pictures.
One way for you to make it as a Travel Photographer is to become famous. All these famous photographers you see online are just living the life, travelling around, talking about themselves on interviews, talking about themselves online, and talking about themselves to anyone they just meet. Living the dream.
So how can you become a famous Travel photographer? Here are my tips for you.
The good news is: you do not need to be a good photographer
Yes, you heard me, becoming a famous photographer doesn’t require you to be a good photographer. I can feel your relief as you read that line! Becoming a good photographer takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and time. Only after years and years of taking photos, can one really become good at the craft. Lucky for you, in today’s world that is no longer a requirement. It is all about being famous.
Know your technical stuff
Of course, you will need to know the technical side of photography. There is nothing more impressive than talking about the technical stuff. Learn all about the latest gear coming out, and make sure you own it. It will require a bit of upfront investment, but how could you imagine being a famous photographer without the biggest and best DSLR on the market and the lens to match! Once you have done that you can really start engaging the common people with your wealth of knowledge. Make sure you learn a few mathematical formulas calculating diffraction and pixel dynamic range. Once again, you do not need to understand it, just throw a few of them into a conversation and you will be perceived as someone who knows their stuff! Also make sure you are active on photography forums, where all the technical guys hang out. Don’t worry about the time spent on these forums, remember there is no need for actual photography just yet.
Also, do not joke about all photography things. You are taking your photography very seriously and there is no room for humour in the world of famous photographers. Also, remember that wearing the right scarf for the right event is crucial. My friend Justin Mott has a great tutorial about what scarf to wear for what occasion here, definitely check it out.
Learn about other famous photographers
These people should be your new idols. The Peter Lik types, selling photos for millions are the ones you should get inspired by. Being famous means automatically making a lot of money. Expect every single camera brand to be in touch with you once you are famous and offering you a sponsorship, free trips, envelopes with cash and luxury yacht cruises with girls in bikini or guys in mankinis. You should mentally prepare for this inevitability
Also, try to send your new idols direct messages on Instagram. With a bit of luck, some of them will reply to you with a “thanks” and you can tell all your friends that you have been chatting with them about photography and you are part of the close circle of friends. Also, tell people stuff that will never happen but will make you look good: they may invite you to run a photography tour with them or may come and meet you the next time they are in town. Don’t worry if it never happens, people have very short memories these days.
If you’d like to push it even further, you could get in touch with your local council or mayor. Introduce yourself as a famous photographer and ask them to facilitate your lifestyle. Who knows it may work, and if it doesn’t you can say that you are in discussion with them to build some great stuff. Really great stuff.
Now it’s time to build your portfolio
Here comes what you may think is the trickiest part but is actually the easiest. It may require a bit of investment, once again.
What I would recommend here is for you to join a few photography tours, where all photos are staged. I can send you a list (a very long list) if you want as there are many on the market. I suggest photography tours run in Asia as it is very easy to organize models and have them pose for you. There are a lot of photographers in Asia who have made careers from staging images. Do not worry if these tours will make you take the same photos as every other participant. Remember, people have short memories.
Chose your favourite location and subject type: novice monks in Myanmar, a Cormorant fisherman in China, Eagle hunter in Mongolia or Vietnamese girl in white dress and conical hat. I highly suggest the children throwing chickens in the air in Thailand with light beams through the jungle. Cute kids and light beams is a holy combination that melts people’s hearts instantly.
Once again, do not worry about being a good photographer. If you chose the right photography tour everything will be set up for you, including little “X” marks on the floor to tell you where to stand. As you own a very expensive camera, Auto mode is all you need.
The only technical thing you should remember is the wider the aperture the better. People love creamy backgrounds and you can then use the term “Bokeh” that seriously impresses your audience. Plus, it makes it easier as you don’t really have to worry about what’s in your frame.
I told you this would be the easy part!
Do not hesitate to heavily alter your images
Something you may learn on your few photography expeditions is that the weather may not cooperate. Even though you are about to be famous, some things will not go as expected. So instead of working hard and going back to the same locations many times to get the shot, why not making it look good on the computer?
Photoshop is a very powerful tool that will help make your images more attractive. If you are not happy with your sky, just paste another one in. If there is an empty space in your picture, fill it with something from another image. If the light beam isn’t there just create one. If a plane is missing from your sky add one.
After all, it is Travel photography and no one really cares about what you are allowed to do to your images. That’s the beauty of it!
Now it’s competition time
You do not need to win prestigious competitions, even though you can win most of them with your staged images. Competitions are a money-making scheme judged by people who know little to nothing about photography. Throw in a few cute children lit by light beams with a hint of spirituality and you are sure to win. Don’ forget to ask them to throw a chicken in the air, you know how people love animals!
Enter as many photography competitions as possible, even the ones you never heard about. Something like the “International Vladivostok photography competition” does sound very prestigious!
They will give you a little badge that you can stick to your website and give you more credibility as a famous photographer. You could even ask your grandma to knit it and stick it on your favourite shirt. There is no way people will ignore you after that.
Be aware that some photography competitions may not award your image as it is a photo concept that has already been shot before, or because you have altered your images. Make sure you reply to them with anger and threaten to have them shut down thanks to all your famous photographers’ connections. You are about to be famous and people owe you the deepest respect.
Now you can go and scream it out loud all over the Internet: you made it as a famous Travel Photographer
Know your social media
Being a famous photographer is more about being famous than being a photographer. And for that, you need to be able to sell yourself properly. And the best way to do that is hammering people on social media about how famous you are.
If you tell someone that you are famous enough times they will perceive you as famous. Simple strategy but very effective.
Before social media, one really had to be a good photographer to be recognized by their peers and gain notoriety in the world of photography. Today, the peers have been replaced by social media, and the more followers you have the better you must be as a photographer.
Hammer people on Facebook, Instagram 500px and as many social media platforms you can think of. Also, don’t work too hard to try and get followers, there are a lot of websites offering you services to boost your following. Pay a few bucks and have robots like people’s photos. You can also follow as many people as you can. Do not bother watching their images as you do not need inspiration, and feel free to unfollow them as soon as they have followed you back.
Remember, it’s all about you.
It’s all about selling yourself and the way people perceive you.
Remember, most people know little about photography, they do not know the difference between a good photo and a boring one. Tell them that your photos are the best, and stick a few of your photography awards on them. This is a magic recipe that no one can resist.
If you tell them that you are the upcoming best photographer and have a few awards to show, people will believe you. After all, you are a photographer, so you know what you are talking about.
Once again, do not worry about not being able to take a good picture in an uncontrolled environment.
You can just openly lie about what you do as in today’s world no one cares. If the president of a country can openly lie on TV and face no consequences whatsoever, why can’t you? Today’s world is great, isn’t it? No one will ask you to justify yourself or face consequences, it’s just brilliant. Be bold and call yourself a candid travel photographer. Makeup stories about how you were lucky enough to encounter such and such situations, and enhance the fact that you had to get dirty and sleep on the floor in a monastery so you were at the right place at the right time. Feel free to give some money to some local people in a village to take a selfie with them while they are eating, so you can pretend you spent a whole week living with the local community. People love that! Just make sure you hide the TV and smartphones from the shot or remove them on Photoshop.
Also, try to come up with the saddest stories you can, I promise you this is highly effective in terms of engagement.
That little girl you ask to pose in front of a nice wall in exchange for candies? Just say “lucky encounter while exploring the streets”. That fisherman you asked to throw his net on your camera (as inspired by a photo you saw online in the past) in exchange of $1, just say “sometimes you have to take a risk to get a good picture”. People will love you even more for that, and National Geographic might be interested to feature your work. Yes, even NG will not check the authenticity of your work these days, they are too busy running their photo competitions.
To avoid brain overheating and a risk of questioning yourself, do not spend time studying the photography masters or the work of art photographers or photojournalists. Their work is super boring, and it doesn’t include any light beams nor close up portraits of people smiling. Gross!
Mostly, make sure you avoid street photographers. Way too much hard work to even understand the concept of what street photography is.
If you follow all my steps and spend enough time on social media bragging about how an amazing travel photographer you are, I believe you can achieve fame within 6 months!
And please, don’t mention me. Really, do not mention me!