How to Become a Travel Photographer, Tips From the Finest

Travel Photographers get asked a lot of questions about how they do what they do. This is your chance to get your questions answered by some of the best photographers in the business:

Source: Nicola Odeman

How do you find time to travel so extensively?

Nicola Odeman: Most of my big travels take place during my term breaks. Since I’m still in university, these term breaks offer me plenty of time during which I can travel to the most amazing places. I also do shorter trips on the weekend sometimes because I live in Europe and everything is so close here.

Joe Nigel Coleman: Time is the easy part of the equation. No matter how much you may think you just don’t have the time. You do. 

Emily Sullivan: When I was in college, I tried to take trips for a week or two at a time whenever possible.  I began working as a guide in Denali, Alaska in 2010.  My job is seasonal, which opened up the opportunity to take longer trips in the winter, like a two-month stint in Nepal in 2011, a month backpacking in Italy and Switzerland in 2012, and a multi-week road trip across Canada in 2013.   By working a seasonal job, I was free to travel in the winter months without burning any bridges. 

Source: Joe Nigel Coleman

David Boyson Cooper: To be honest, it’s not particularly glamourous. I imagine it’s the same as most people – hustle hard on some minimum wage job and bail when you got a bit of money stacked. I often receive comments or questions, and I’ve seen people accuse The Adventure Handbook guys of the same thing, that we are all rich kids who get to travel the world without a care in the world and get everything paid for by companies and stuff. That is so far from the truth! Right now I work five days a week in an outdoor shop to fund trips. I get two days off a week and I usually try and go climbing and shoot a ton of photos on those days. It’s the same pattern, work some job for six months, bail for two months traveling, then pick up another job. I had funded residencies and stuff before, but on the whole I pay for and find time to travel by never really committing to a career. I’m not sure it’s the best long-term plan but its fun in your 20’s.

 

How do you pay for it?

Nicole Odeman: After my school graduation, I worked in a special needs school for a year and saved some money which I can now use for travels. I also recently sold two photos of mine, allowing me to travel some more as well.

Joe Nigel Coleman: Money is where it becomes a little more difficult. I’ve been lucky enough to find work when I’m back home, and while I work I’m usually saving pretty hard; daydreaming of the next adventure from my fluorescent lit office cubicle next to a pile of forms. I’ve never owned a car and I don’t really own any material possessions. For me, these are small sacrifices that have been made to allow me to do what feels right which is to travel. I’ve discovered plenty of ways of traveling that are easy on the pocket. Volunteering or working in exchange for food and a place to stay can really stretch your savings and give you a whole different perspective on the place you’re staying.

Source: Emily Sullivan

Emily Sullivan: One way that I pay for my travel is by working in the location I’m traveling to. For example, living and working in Alaska for the past four summers has allowed me to travel the state extensively. Pinching pennies all summer allows me to afford bigger international trips in the winter, and couchsurfing.org, WWOOFing, or living with local families helped me keep lodging costs low when in other countries.

David Boyson Cooper: I guess I answered this above. Travel funded through work or photoshoots, which is work too. I funded a two month trip in America and the Rockies from a photoshoot I did for Henri Lloyd, but that’s the only time I’ve ever managed that. I’ve been selling photos to the German magazine, Stern, recently as well.

 

Do you have any advice for a first time traveler?

Nicole Odeman: Don’t stick to your plan. You might have an idea of a country before you go there but once you are there you often realize that everything is different than what you expected it to be. Allow yourself to forget about your plan and also make some spontaneous decisions as those days usually are the best ones.

Source: Nicola Odeman

Joe Nigel Coleman: Don’t plan your trip too heavily. It’s so important to have the freedom to make decisions on a whim. Some of the best/most memorable experiences are the ones that may not seem comfortable at the time. Make mistakes, put yourself out there, ask a local for directions instead of using your phone, eat that dodgy looking street food, sing karaoke with those strangers. Keep an open mind and know that things will most likely turn out completely different than you expected in the best possible way.

Emily Sullivan: Get out of your comfort zone! My favorite trips have all been to places where the culture differs drastically from what we’re used to in the United States. It is so rewarding to immerse oneself in an unfamiliar culture. I’ve found that locals are extra welcoming to people who make an effort to speak their language and use local transportation, eat local foods, etc.

Source: Emily Sullivan

David Boyson Cooper:  I’ve got two main pieces: take up every offer and seek those with similar passions. If someone invites you to a party, go. If someone asks if you want to go get a coffee, even if you’re not feeling it, go. If someone says come hang with us, then do it. I took up every invitation when I was traveling around Australia and most recently America and Canada. You never know who you are going to meet and so many doors get opened at the most unlikely times. You can end up in some sketchy situations but if you are reasonably switched on you can usually deal with it. I ended up doing an an old couple in Perth’s gardening for $200 dollars a day for two weeks because of a guy I met one night at a party. Secondly, seek out those in foreign places with similar passions. I was pretty lucky being into skateboarding, as it’s such an amazing way to meet people. Broadly speaking, most skaters started skating for similar reasons so it’s easy to make friends. I remember I went to the skatepark on my first day in Perth, got invited to a party for the tenth anniversary of the local skate shop, and after that night had about 25 good new mates. Its the same with photography. I made so many mates bonding over trips in which photography was a massive part – Che Parker, Luke Byrne, Matt Anderson, Lloyd Stubber, James Whineray, Ryan Kenny, Joe Miranda, David Lekach. I met them all through traveling and photography.

Source: David Boyson Cooper

 

What are some of your favorite places?

Nicole Odeman: One of my favorite places is the Passeier Valley in South Tyrol, Italy. Since I can remember, we have been going there to spend some weeks in summer and sometimes winter, hence it is a place full of memories. Everything there is so familiar but you always find something new to explore. It feels like home. I also absolutely love all the mountain lakes around my hometown in Germany, such as Lake Walchen, Lake Sylvenstein and Kirchsee. And I love the Westfjords in Iceland. It feels so remote and the beauty of that loneliness is so, so incredible.

Joe Nigel Coleman: I struggle with picking favorites of anything, especially with places I’ve visited. It’s so different from place to place that I can’t really figure out how to compare them. Bit of a cop out really but there you go, no favorites from me. 

Source: Joe Nigel Coleman

Emily Sullivan: Gharmi Village, Nepal, where I lived with a local family in the foothills of the Himalayas, is one of the most breathtaking places I have had the chance to spend time.  Guatemala and Peru both wowed me with their varying landscapes and welcoming people. Denali National Park has a huge piece of my heart and holds many of my greatest backcountry adventures. The Canadian Rockies have some of the most stunning scenery on this continent.  And right now, I’m falling in love with the state of Montana, where I currently live. Snowshoeing, exploring, and taking photos in the mountains here has been more satisfying than I could have imagined.

David Boyson Cooper: Too many to mention. I’ve got so much love for the Perth skate scene, the greatest I’ve ever come across. I’d advise any skater to go there. So for skating, my favorite place would be Perth. In terms of scenery, I’d say the Canadian Rockies. It is almost too much for a lover of mountains and climbing. You could explore it for years and just scratch the surface of what it has to offer. New York is insane and Istanbul was nuts. To be honest, my favorite place in the world is the Scottish Highlands. I go on trips up there several times a week. The weather can put people off but if you persevere it pays off big time.

Source: David Boyson Cooper

 

Photographers featured: Nicole OdemanJoe Nigel ColemanEmily SullivanDavid Boyson Cooper

This Yodel by Matt Lief Anderson

Comments
  • Jesse

    Great story Matt Lief Anderson – well done!

  • http://hudsongardner.com/ Hudson Gardner

    This is a really insightful article written by people who are actually living it rather than just talking about it.. Pretty awesome. Doing a lot of traveling myself, I agree with everything they said. It’s often not as glamorous as it looks, and it can be quite miserable from time to time.. but honestly, that’s where my best work has always come from. When stuff sucks and it’s hard, beauty becomes all the more rapturous…

    Honestly, the biggest part of it for me was getting over fear of not knowing what’s next, after a lifetime of being told what to do.

    • Jesse

      Thanks for the insightful comment Hudson. I agree, it’s awesome to hear from the people living it as opposed to talking about it.

      And thanks for sharing some of your own experience as well. Keep on doing what you’re doing and show us your photos. We are excited to follow along!