Making It as a Travel Photographer


Photography: Jeremy Mason McGraw

Make a list of the most desirable jobs in photography and there’s a good chance that travel photography would come close to the top. Make a list of the toughest jobs to land in photography and flying around the world, staying in exclusive hotels and shooting beautiful locations would hold about the same position.

But for the last five years, it’s a job that Jeremy Mason McGraw, a photographer from Branson, Missouri has been able to call his.

Jeremy took up photography in high school in 1993 but his first jobs were in the entertainment industry where he designed theatrical scenery and lighting, skills that still influence his shoots. His move into travel photography came four years later, when he took a job with a production company on a cruise trip. Although he wasn’t hired as a photographer, Jeremy continued shooting for fun and used his trips to look for commercial outlets for his photography. With some careful marketing, he found them.

“I turned my seafaring life into an opportunity to sell my photos and was able to get prints of my work consigned to gift shops in the ports that the ship docked,” Jeremy explained. “I also sold them to the tour excursion companies that the ship used. Selling that work was my first experience as a travel photographer.”

Jeremy was still working in the entertainment industry but by this time, he was also hooked on a life of travel. After working for a while in Australia, he returned to Branson, and after eighteen months bought his first DSLR and some used strobes, and quit his production job to become a full-time photographer.

“I did a lot of publicity shots for the local shows in Branson at first. I was not making a lot of money so I set up a number of trades with local businesses for things that I needed to reduce my cost of living. I took every chance to get my work out into the world.”

Finding a Sales Partner Paid off
Contacts he’d made on the ship led to jobs in Vegas and Sydney, and at the end of 2002, a friend who would later become Jeremy’s business partner helped him to win a contract shooting photos for the Kohala Coast Resort Association, a chain of luxury hotels in Hawaii. That job in turn led to new contacts, and Jeremy’s partner acted as his sales person, targeting clients and selling them packages.

It was forming a partnership with a sales professional, Jeremy says, that really let his travel photography develop.

“Working with a business partner who solely did my sales helped my career
more than anything… Finding someone whose talent is in sales, marketing and business, who is equally as driven in their own talents [as I am in mine] is imperative for me because it allows me to spend more of my time doing what I am best at.”

That partnership has recently dissolved but Jeremy has now worked in Australia, Hawaii, Italy, Croatia and Malta, not including the 24 countries he visited while on the ship. Much of his work involves shooting hotels, commissions which, he says, pay him to stay in incredible destinations with all of his gear, and provide him with the freedom to explore his surroundings and obtain a feel for the place.


Photography: Jeremy Mason McGraw

Getting into Galleries
In addition to the commercial work though, Jeremy’s opportunity to travel also allows him to develop personal projects. Over the years, buyers have contacted him to order prints but being always on the move made it difficult to keep track of purchases and control quality, so print sales weren’t an option that Jeremy considered seriously. Galleries looked a better choice but without contacts, Jeremy knew they wouldn’t be easy to break into.

Because Branson lacks a good range of photo galleries, he emailed galleries further away and visited others while traveling, presenting his portfolio on his computer. But that wasn’t an approach that brought success either.

“What I found was that you really have to see a picture printed to get its full impact,” Jeremy explained.

Eventually, a friend agreed to host a show for him. They converted the ground floor of her house into a temporary gallery, added lights and using e-vites and photo cards. invited every one in Branson from the Mayor to the President of the Arts counsel. As a result, Jeremy has been invited to exhibit at a number of forthcoming art shows and two real galleries.

Clearly, every photographer has to find their own route to success in whichever niche they choose, but Jeremy’s experience does have lessons for everyone.

Finding someone to handle the marketing if that’s not your strong point, even if it’s only on a commission basis, can be a good way to build a client base and contacts.

And you don’t have to wear out your shoe leather to get your images in a gallery. Exhibit them yourself and promote your show well, and your success will depend only on you and the quality of your images.

[tags] travel photography, travel photographer [/tags]

9 comments for this post.

  1. webpatrol Said:

    Being a travel photographer is a rewarding job in the sense that you'll gain future contacts and also be able to develop good judgements about places.

  2. R. Kneschke Said:

    Making it as a travel photographer is certainly _not_ the easiest way to make money with photos, because the holidays are the time when _most_ people take out their camera... 🙂

  3. Scott Said:

    I received some ideas that would require a little thought and personal tweaks. I was very impressed that a friend would allow you to take over the first floor of their home and re-align lighting for your show. That has to be a very precious relationship. Thanks for the insight to get closer to galleries. I'm one of those guys with a wonderlust and would constantly be travelling to see and photograph different, and unusual places.

  4. Iris Said:

    This is every photographer's dream...from the moment I got into the photography industry I knew this was the area that I wanted to excel in the most as it allows me to do the other thing I love most in life ~ travel and having new experiences.

    As mentioned in this blog, it's not an easy industry to break into, but well worth the effort. It is essential to have successful team players involved.

    Once you get to a certain level you will be hooked for life, as in my eyes, there is no better career than this.


  5. ivan Said:

    im ivan,29,philippines.i'm very much interested in pursuing a career in photography but unfortunately i dont gain experience yet.This is the thing i like doing(taking pictures)of evrything that's unique and things that appeal's to my eye.Sadly i havent been into it which i think would also be difficult because i dont have the resources i need(the equipments)knowing that its very expensive owning a camera at this time.I dont know if i can still pursue this passion of mine.Maybe anyone of you guys can help me..Is there any philantropist there who are willing to share a camera.It would be a great help for me.A really big help for my dream..Thank you guys..

  6. Bryce Said:

    I too dream of being a traveling photographer. I've only been a photographer for 2 years and I am working hard to accomplish this dream.
    This blog definitely helped fuel my incouragement to keep on pursueing my dream. Because I didn't think it was possible for anyone to be a traveling photographer. Thank you.

  7. Justin Wright Said:

    For the last year, I have been traveling as much as I can here in the states. I have taken a lot of pictures and have realized this is my dream job. Thanks for the post, it's a reminder that it is possible to make money from something you love doing.

  8. nainole nagaraju Said:

    I have inspired ,and learned how to market ,I will impliment on this,
    I like the way you have achived your goal,
    I am Finished my Professional photgraphy asistantship,
    and started my own freelance photography,i find some time frusted ,when i site idle and i donot have job in hand for months,
    but i think as i am begineer in this industry last 3 years,i am facing so many problems,in this industry,i am trying to overcome this,
    I am looking to get in to travel photography
    if you can help ,that will be grate thankful to you,
    Thanking you,

  9. Greg Roberts Said:

    Nice article. I love the south east Asian landscape. One thing I find most freelance photographers think when they first start is they need the absolute best camera available. I have a dslr50 that I can take pictures with the best of them with. Start out with a low end dslr at least your taking pictures then work your way up. Look in your local thrift shops and charity stores sometimes you can find a jewel there.

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