Two years ago I did Marie Forleo’s B-School and the first activity that we had to complete before starting the course was to find out what our passion was. The whole course was learning how to build a career from your passion, so it was naturally the first thing you had to work out.
I had found my passion four years earlier when I picked up a camera. I knew as soon as I took a long exposure shot of Brisbane city at night that this would be a life long love affair between me and my camera.
Cameras have come and gone since then but the passion for photography has remained the same. I thought long and hard about how to turn this passion for photography into a career. I loved travel and the two go hand in hand, so I had the brilliant idea of traveling the world and taking photos. Surely no one else had thought about doing that, right?! Well let me tell you my story and the truth about tourism work…
I completed B-School, got my website/blog up and running and started writing.
I created my e-course The Secret Photographers Guide to capturing Pastel Skies and my e-book How to get thousands of Real Followers on Instagram.
After about a year of blogging I decided that I wanted to quit my full time job and give this travel photography a red hot go.
I was extremely lucky and got contacted by Tourism Queensland a few weeks after quitting. They wanted me do a camping trip to a lake about an hour west of Brisbane with 3 other photographers and they were going to pay me $50 per image. I was stoked. My first real photography/tourism job. I got paid $400 and I was on cloud nine. I thought this was going to be a piece of cake.
A few weeks later, Tourism Queensland contacted me again because a different department saw my camping pics. They wanted me to take a bunch of photos for their database that needed updating. They sent me on an assignment to photograph some well known areas and some remote areas of the Sunshine Coast.
Most of it I did on my own including Caloundra, Kondalillia National Park and climbing Mt Ngungun. Luckily I was able to bring my partner for the hairy stuff like four wheel driving through creeks and along the beach. We had an absolute ball and I got paid really well. I remember thinking this was the best job in the world.
But then…….it all went quiet. Nobody was ringing me to come to the Maldives and lounge around for a week and take the odd photo for them. So I thought, ok well if no one is coming to me, I will go to them. I got my media kit together with all my stats from my social media channels and put the camping and Sunshine Coast jobs in there and emailed it off to some tourism boards and some resorts around the place.
I got a lot of polite responses declining me, a lot of people didn’t even bother to reply at all but I got one Yes! I got to spend two days at a resort in the country west of Brisbane in return for 4 posts a day on Instagram and a blog written about the place and if they liked any images at the end they would buy some. I was so excited.
The two days came and went and I completed the famil that they wanted. I processed about 100 images from the two days which took me about 3 days to do and uploaded them to my website so that they could choose which ones they wanted to purchase. They didn’t purchase any!
Im not complaining. I had a fun two days in the country and they weren’t locked in to purchase any images. I should have given them different terms if I wanted to get paid from this job but I was just so happy to hear a Yes, that I was willing to do it for free.
A few months and a lot of emails later I got a tourism gig down in Canberra. They needed to update their database with new images so I went down for a week and hit up the snowy mountains and the South Coast of Sydney for accommodation while I was there. I had a great time exploring Canberra as I had never been there before. I also enjoyed the snowy mountains and the South Coast of Sydney. What I got paid for from the Canberra job basically covered the entire two weeks that I went down there for with a little bit left over.
The point of this story..
My point is, I hear so many people saying that they would love to travel the world taking photos and getting paid for it. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t work like that.
This kind of work will never pay enough to set you up for the rest of your life. This is the kind of job you do for the love of it. There are some successful photographers/bloggers out there that are killing it and are getting consistent work and job after job but they have been working at it for years and have massive followings on there Instagram or blog.
It takes a lot of hard work, determination, drive, ambition and rejection to get to that level. You have to be constantly working on it every minute of everyday and you need to have thick skin to handle all the rejection.
The down side of tourism work
Now Im not saying its all bad and I promise there is a bright side to this story and I am getting there, so stick with me..but its not the glamorous job that everyone thinks it is.
Being a travel photographer means that you are up an hour before the sun everyday to capture the sun rise. This is one of the best times of day for lighting and colour in the sky, photography wise. Then you go back and have breakfast and shower etc, before you are off running around for the rest of the day.
You are photographing all day, all the activities that are planned for you or taking photos of the place you are staying at to promote it to your audience. In between this you are checking emails and your social media accounts. You have to have photos ready to post to your social media channels throughout the day while you are on assignment.
After all the days activities are over, then there is sunset, the next best time of day photographically.
After sunset there is dinner, usually with your host or tourism guide. After dinner you go back to your room and process all the images from the day in preparation for posting on your social media channels the next day. Everyday is a 16 hour day.
After a couple of days of this schedule you start to get pretty exhausted. It’s also kind of hard to actually enjoy the moment as you are thinking with your other brain about how to capture what you are seeing so that you can promote it to your audience.
It’s nothing like going on holiday, sitting back and relaxing. Its actually far from it.
If you are doing a job on your own, it can be a bit lonely. You don’t have anyone to share your stories with or to share the experience with.
The good side of tourism work
Now its not all doom and gloom. It is pretty cool to travel to different places taking photos. Sure there are bad days like when the weather is completely shit, like the torrential rain and flooding Brisbane had when I had to host the Canadian Instagrammers recently. But it can also be a completely fun experience. I had a ball with the Canadian Instagrammers over the four days that they visited Brisbane and Noosa despite the bad weather.
The more work that you do, the more your social media stats increase and the more jobs you can add to your media kit which then leads to other work.
Another bonus is the free stuff you get. Because I have a good number of followers on my Instagram account I get sent lots of free stuff. In return, I have to post a photo or two about it on my Instagram account. Free stuff that I have received so far include a $400 watch, undies, a $200 necklace from Iceland, swimwear, a body scrub, another watch that is on its way, etc.
It’s also great getting free accommodation when you go on holidays in exchange for promoting the place you are staying at. This always saves you money that you can put towards your next holiday.
I initially wrote this blog because I was sick of hearing people say, “You are so lucky, you get to travel the world taking pics and getting paid for it. I want to do that too.”
I want to let people know the real story behind the people that do this type of work. Yes, it is an awesome job and I love it and much prefer it over sitting in an office all day but the reality is, its not a secure job. You don’t get a regular pay cheque every week. You constantly have to chase up the work and the jobs are few and far between. Most of the time you don’t get paid for it. If you do get paid, you usually get paid well but those jobs come along very rarely.
It is a massively competitive industry because everyone wants to do it. Everyone is fighting for the small amount of jobs that are out there.
So unless you are willing to put in the hard yards and put yourself out there everyday asking for work and can handle constant rejection, I say don’t bother.
Cheating is for losers!
You may think that you can just buy a tonne of followers for your Instagram account and Hey Presto, the tourism work will fall in your lap. Tourism companies are awake to this idea and now check your engagement closely to make sure you are a worthy bet of promoting their accounts/area. If you get found out to be cheating, you will be black listed from getting any tourism work. Its really not worth the risk.
If you read all of this and still want the work…
If you got to the bottom of this and still want to pursue a career in tourism/travel then here are some tips for you:
- Create a media kit with your social media stats and any jobs you have already done.
- Email tourism companies, hotels, resorts, etc.
- Have a plan of what you have to offer them. Don’t just expect that sending them you media kit is enough. You need to go above and beyond these days to stand out from the crowd.
- Continue to grow your social media channels the real way! Get my e-book about how to do this.
- Don’t lose hope, you may get a hundred No’s before you get just one Yes!
- If you can’t afford to quit work, then use your annual leave to complete any jobs that you get.
- Save up a nest egg before quitting your job and doing this full time.
- Improve your photography. There is always room for improvement so make sure your work is the best it can be.
Where am I now?
After two years of blogging every week, sending out fortnightly newsletters, emailing tourism companies, growing my Instagram account and growing my blog, things are starting to pick up.
This year I got free accommodation in Norway, a free camper van to drive around Iceland, a free High Tea at one of the poshest hotels in Paris and a free trip to Daydream Island. I hosted 3 big Instagrammers from Canada and worked in conjunction with Air Canada for the new flight between Vancouver and Brisbane. I sold a couple of images and just completed a job for the Regional Flavours festival here in Brisbane this month.
I don’t know what the future holds but I do know that I love taking photos and travelling the world. I also love teaching people to take amazing photos. At the moment I am looking into running photos tours and workshops. I’m not concerned with chasing tourism work right now. If someone comes to me about a job I am more than happy to do it but I need to focus my attention on other streams of income right now.
I sure am enjoying not working in an office though! 🙂
Is this the type of work that you would love to do? Are you struggling to get work? I would love to know so leave a comment below.