How do I become a sweet globe-trotting photographer?
June 7, 2009 7:51 PM   Subscribe

I want to be an adventurous, globe-trotting photographer! How do I do that? I can't really see my current situation leading to any globe-trotting, so I'm leaving in August to travel through South America for a few months and find some place I like enough to stay. What can I do right now to make it easier to sell photos and pursue my dream when I get there?

(my last question was sort of related to this)

I just graduated with a BA in international studies and I'm working full-time here in DC, but I don't think this sort of coasting is going to lead me to to the life full of adventure I want. So, I'm blowing it off.

I'd like to do photojournalism, but I'd take pictures of people's babies if it meant I got to travel. I'm also not relying on this for a full income right off the bat - I've got English teaching experience and I'm not averse to working less interesting jobs if I have to.

I have a portfolio and clippings; I've taken a lot of photos for minor periodicals and such in the area and I'll keep doing so until I leave. I'm also familiar with the whole "get a job with a local newspaper for a while and get press credentials from them" avenue, but my local paper is the Washington Post and I'm totally unwilling to work as an unpaid mail room intern for two years.

Other than continuing to take pictures and build up a resume, what can I do right now to further my goal? What sorts of people should I get in touch with? What should I be researching?
posted by borkingchikapa to Work & Money (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Start a blog. write about your travels as well as your photography stuff and struggles to make the dream work along the way, link to a site where people can buy prints. You should pick up followers along the way as well as perhaps get in touch with people in the places you'll go. If you're still willing to shoot families or graduation photos or weddings or babies or anything for the meantime that would be one way to find clients for that type of thing.
posted by nzydarkxj at 8:00 PM on June 7, 2009

Other than continuing to take pictures and build up a resume, what can I do right now to further my goal? What sorts of people should I get in touch with? What should I be researching?

Perhaps start blogging? It seems that there has recently become a new avenue to globe-trotting journalistic fame (or at least micro-celebrity) that bypasses print media, exemplified by people like Kevin Sites.
posted by jayder at 8:00 PM on June 7, 2009

Well i cant help with the picture part. But if you want to travel on the cheap and maybe meet people who will show you around for free try couchsurfing. I love the organization.
posted by Black_Umbrella at 8:23 PM on June 7, 2009

You have several potential options -- none of them mutually exclusive. First, though, I'd say (as a former print journalist) that you must have some sense of what you want to be shooting. I suspect one cannot be simply a photographer anymore than a writer (and make a living). You have to shoot, write, tell a story, about something — whatever you're passionate about.

So, first idea: Sharpen your focus. Decide what to shoot, and then find a way to shoot that subject, broadly speaking, and take advantage of your So America trip. Are you conservation- minded, for example? A number of conservation groups have So American interests and projects. Shop the markets of environmental magazines and pitch photo essays. Or volunteer with some group whose mission you believe in, and use your trip as a way to get high-end (if low-paid) clips by shooting for them. (Also, sort of on-topic, have you ever seen a Patagonia catalogue? I mean, really, they publish interesting, socially aware, photo-centric pieces about crazy travel all the time.)

Second idea: Find a model, and re-invent it. Perhaps following in the footsteps of a Michael Totten or a Michael Yon is a possibility, for example. They're in the Mid-East. Maybe Central and South America is wide open for a traveling war-and-danger writer.

Third idea: Your local paper isn't the Washington Post, no sirree. That's a national paper that's published locally. Rather, the local papers are the dozens of smaller dailies and weeklies in Virginia. Look at the Times Community newspaper group, for example -- 6 weeklies with a combined circ. of 250,000. Maybe the head office would see value in a local guy's travel shooting (and writing) a series for them.

Good luck!
posted by slab_lizard at 9:34 PM on June 7, 2009

upload your best shots to (you can sell the rights to your images and prints and digital downloads through PS)
blog about it at (owned by Google so most likely to get their search engine attention)
posted by cda at 4:02 AM on June 8, 2009

You might Google "location independent professional." There are several blogs that use that term and that can help you with the more general business and living-abroad aspects. Here's a start.
posted by PatoPata at 7:40 AM on June 8, 2009

Well if you have to ask...
Seriously, it's like a zen koan. You may as well be asking how to be a rock star.
If you can't figure it out on your own, you're not cut out to be a globe-trotting photojournalist.

It's a profession, not an "I'm going to dick around and be a photographer for a few years and get laid all the time" kinda job. There's so much more to it than having a camera, a plane ticket and a dream. You have to have immense skill to even think about competing in the market, you have to have even greater charisma and you have to be cognizant of and in the good graces of industry politics. You have to eat, breathe and sleep it for a few years before anyone will even think about considering you a colleague. We don't like dilettantes.

Look into grad school at Ohio or Syracuse. That might get you started on the right track as a photojournalist.

This is the worst time you could possibly think about doing this. This economy thing is hurting the print industry something fierce. Newspapers and mags are slashing budgets and shutting down left and right. No one is going to pay you to travel on assignment. No one. If you take a few cool pictures when you get to your destination and somehow against all odds manage to sell them, it's not going to cover half the cost of your plane ticket.

If you really want to travel and shoot, make money doing something else and go on photo vacations.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 8:10 AM on June 8, 2009

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