Just How Much Money Do I Make As A Traveling Photographer?

I get asked this question a lot, “Beth, just how much money do you make as a traveling photographer?”

Well I promise to answer that question fully in a moment.

Bu first, you need to know that when it comes to being a professional photographer, there is much more to it than taking pictures.

You might just think you can get paid thousands and travel the world just for pointing and shooting a stupid camera at a few people or some landscapes. However:

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Event Photography Paid For My Trip Around Italy

Getting started as a professional photographer is a difficult proposition and one that I wrestled with for some time – do you go it alone, or do you join a studio and have security?

Do you open your own studio, or do you just travel around doing shoots here and there?

To open your own studio, you not only need to invest in all of the photography equipment and backdrops needed to take the photos, but you also have to lease a space to do business in, and lay out money for all of the marketing and promotion which will be necessary if you want people walking through your studio door.

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Speak Out: Photograph Something Controversial

girl-photosMaybe this is just my more rebellious side talking, but I think that photography is a window to the world — a window to both the light and dark side of it all.

That is why I think it is important that photographers know how to take pictures of more controversial subjects, and go beyond their comfort zone.

After all, the world does not revolve around cute children and puppies (though I admit, I can’t resist an adorable photo of a baby snuggling with a puppy).

I think that if you want to excel in photography, you should not be afraid to take photos of events, people, or objects in a way that would make people ponder. These “controversial” photos, for the lack of a better word, causes people to think about the world around them.

I want photos that make you want to change the world and see a different side of people. Now, I am not saying that you should go out and take scandalous photos for shock value. No, you should take photos with meaning. When you take photos of human subjects, make sure that you portray them fairly. Show people that they are human, and not just a subject.

My most controversial set of photos was when I took before and after pics of people who were entering a plastic surgery clinic in Scottsdale. Now, I realized that for some reason, people tend to criticise plastic surgery and those who try it without even knowing the ones who did.

controversial-photograph

Many seem to think that changing your natural features is disgraceful and somehow not right. However, each and every one of these individuals, the vast majority of them women, have a story to tell. Frankly, we do not know why any of these women decide to go under the knife, so I think it is unfair to judge.

As part of a personal project of mine, I decided that I wanted to find out what exactly goes through these women’s minds. I asked several individuals at the clinic what procedure they wanted and if I could photograph them.

Instead of the classic before and after photos of plastic surgery patients that feature them against a plain background and highlighting their new features, I decided to do something different: I took photos of what changed in their lives after their surgery.

So, I took photos of the women by following them around for one entire day (with permission of course) pre-surgery, showing them in different situations.

After they have had their surgery and after they have completely healed, I then follow them around for a second time to see what has changed.plastic-surgery

I then take two of the best photos, one before and after picture, to highlight what has changed. Generally, I see men and women become more confident and satisfied with their lives after surgery, so I felt that it was more than just superficial vanity. It was a way to empower themselves.

I was absolutely floored! It was an interesting project and an experience I will not forget. So whenever you feel like you want to take photos that are considered controversial, just do it. Be brave and express yourself.

Now here’s a few extra tips when shooting a controversial photos like nude photography:

Learning Things on The Road as a Photographer

You’d think that busy as I am taking photographs I would no longer have time to figure anything else out and learn things on the job, right? Wrong! The truth is I learn something on almost every job, especially since I travel.

I love learning things on the job, whether it’s about the culture or a certain industry or some sort of history. And with every job I do learn new things, which is absolutely another reason why I do adore my job.

If you want to know what things might be like when you work as a traveling photographer… read on to see what things I have learned so far!

I Learn the Most Random Things About Different Industries

Going to work for all sorts of different industries and all sorts of different jobs I learn a lot of things I don’t really need to know. But at the same time it’s useful information that I could use for the future. Like how when I was working to take photos for a storage company’s brochure I learned that for bulk items pallet racking is best.

Or like how when I was working to take photos for a digital printer, I learned that there are so many things I need to know in order to make the colors of my photographs print out accurately.

I Learn About Different Cultures

This is more so something I learn during traveling for my jobs rather than while actually doing my jobs, but I love it nevertheless. Learning about other people’s cultures is something that I really like because I can compare it to my own life and see how things differ.

I love learning about how people treat visitors, whether they are hospitable or not. I love to see how they go to work, how they go to school and get around I love to learn about their customs and traditions.

At times I end up missing those cultures at some point, but I know at some point I’ll be back if I loved the country enough.

I Learn About Different Kinds of Food

Traveling leads you to different places with different cultures, but at the same time all those cultures and countries mean you get all sorts of different delicacies. I love trying them all!

I’m quite glad that I am one of the people who do not care about what food looks or smells like as long as it tastes absolutely amazing. I love trying food that I am served or just about any food that looks interesting to me.

I Learn Something About Myself

I love traveling because not only do I learn about so many things but I learn about myself as well. I learn about what kind of a person I am—am I finicky or do I go with the flow? Am I a paranoid person or am I easy going? Traveling gives a lot of time to reflect and I do love this fact.

The Good and the Bad About Being Self-Employed

When you’re a photographer you’re often self-employed, unless you work for a magazine, a newsletter, a collective or a studio. Working for yourself is all well and good, but of course there are many pros and cons to it, just as with anything.

Let’s take a look at the perks I enjoy and the cons I don’t enjoy so much.

personalfulfillmentPros

You’re your own boss—literally!

There will be nobody looking over your shoulder to micromanage you and tell you you’re doing really badly or you’re screwing things up horribly. There is nobody to make sure you get up early so you can get to work and clock in on time.

Working for yourself sounds like heaven, doesn’t it?

self_employedThere Are No Set Hours

You can wake up any time you wish and do whatever you want, when you want. Unless of course you are in event photography, at which point your schedule would revolve around the events you have to shoot.

Still, you control your own time for the most part.

Work Wherever You Want

I work from all over the globe! Traveling is my passion and I’m fortunate enough to be able to do it while I work. Or to be able to work while I do it.

Whichever way you spin it, I’m really lucky and I very much appreciate my life.

Dictate Your Rates

You don’t have to follow anyone else’s rates but your own when you’re working for yourself. You can charge something that is exorbitantly high (not recommended!), something that is somewhere in the middle grown, or something dirt cheap (also not recommend!).

But remember that your rates also say something about you—clients read into everything these days.

1102sickCons

You’re your own boss.

Being your own boss is fun, and it’s all well and good, but there are some cons to that as well. There is nobody to check your work and make sure that you are doing your best and not settling for less.

There is nobody to keep you in check to ensure you deliver constant quality. And without someone to please you end up losing motivation at times.

No Benefits Unless You Pay for Them

Just imagine. When you don’t work for a company you don’t really get any benefits. But having them is important especially if you fall ill or get into an accident.

If you’re looking for personal injury claims with high payouts, this wouldn’t be possible unless you pay an insurance for yourself.

lonely-croppedNo Real Social Life

Okay this is a real bummer. Since you work alone you have no co-workers to have fun with after work.

Or to bother around the water cooler. When you work for yourself you also keep your own hours and work wherever you want to work.

So where does that leave you, really? Unless you manage to keep in touch with your friends through the miracles of scheduling, you are likely to not have much of a social life unless you purposely go out looking for one.

Measuring The Cheese Factor Of Your Shots

There’s no doubt that no matter what precautions you take, some of your shots are just gonna look down right cheesy and awkward.

Sometimes it’s not your fault, no matter how you stage some individuals – they just look cheesy. Whether it’s their smile, the surroundings, or both.

One thing I use to measure just how cheesy my shots are is to think about those lame personal injury adverts like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FCm1SbBqb8 which you see on day time telly.

If I liken one of my shoots to something that would be fitting in those adverts, I normally have another think about some different posing or staging that could take the edge off the cheese-factor.

You know the ones I’m taking about, where there’s a guy in a corny voice saying “If you’ve been injured at work and think you’re due a claim” etc. etc.

I normally phrase it as “taking the personal injury” out of your shots.

So if you here that being said anywhere else, you heard it from me first :)

cheesy-stock-photo

Another tip I have is to grab a couple of shots of your subject whilst they’re not “posing” as this over-posing is what can also really ham up your shots.

Let me know in the comments if you’d like me to give some more tips on this kind of stuff, as I have tons.

What Makes a Photography Gig Worth It?

confused-girlWhen I was a wet-behind-the-ears newbie in the photography world, I struggled a lot with this question.

In fact it’s less of a question to me and more of a problem—how exactly do I even know what jobs are worth my time taking, and which I should skip altogether?

When I first started out I took everything that came my way regardless of the pay, the hours needed, and the location. The result?

I ended up losing money on many of those gigs. It was practically like I paid them to take their pictures, lol.

mr-burns-evil-laughI’m pretty sure that many of you have been in the same situation before (feel free to share them in the comments!).

So, photographers and photography enthusiasts… what makes a photography gig worth it for you?

Personally when it comes to taking gigs the first thing I look at is the subject matter.

I’ve grown enough has a photographer that I have become fortunate enough to be able to choose my gigs, but back when I was a fledgling photographer looking to get my name out there, I rarely looked at the subject matter at all.

Instead I looked at the digits at the end of the contract—all I cared about was how much I got paid!

The result was a lot of uninspired photographs, and a few unsatisfied clients. Not good when you are trying to build up a reputation.

It was like this one time I was hired to take photos of a Yorkshire laser cutting company so they could update their brochure.

It sounded simple enough, I mean all I had to do was show up and take photos and poof, the sheet metal company would have everything they need to update their brochure and company website.

But I had no interest whatsoever in that industry, so I ended up taking snapshots. Completely uninspired ones that really disappointed me. I was so disappointed in myself for those, but thankfully the client was happy with them.

So, my advice to everyone is if you are able to have the choice, pick gigs that interest you at the very least so you don’t have to stand around lifting your camera and clicking just so you can collect the check at the end of the day.

good-choice

That’s the main thing about whether a job is worth it or not. Of course the second thing is to make sure the pay is enough to cover your expenses—travel expenses, equipment expenses, your food if any, lodging if any.

Make sure that you actually earn something at the end of the day.

For newbie photographers x-deals and taking cheap jobs is common, but make sure you are getting at least something good out of it.

Otherwise you are just cheating yourself out of your own time.

Lastly make sure that it’s at a location that is accessible to you.

Remember you have a lot of equipment. Can you bring a car? Will it be safe? Will you spend more on petrol than what you earn?

Just remember you want to be the one coming out on top—photography is expensive and you don’t want to be giving your time away.

How Being Chatty and Friendly Can End Up Landing You Gigs

When it comes to finding work, the easiest way to do it is by word of mouth.

I say it’s easiest because you don’t have to do anything different to what you would do anyway.

word of mouth pop art

Word of mouth just travels and it’s quite convenient as you don’t have to spend a single penny for it.

There is no extra effort required, and no need for you to put up flyers or arrange advertisements. All you’ve gotta do is have some business cards handy and hand them out to friends and family, as well as just about any other person you meet.

While word of mouth is the easiest way to land gigs, I’m also telling you now that it is also the hardest.

I say this because with only word of mouth as your ‘advertising’ so to speak jobs could be few and far in between. Word spreads slowly and you end up having dry spells that can be quite difficult to break.

So while I personally enjoy using word of mouth as a way to advertise myself and my business, I still make sure to have alternate methods for people to find me like my website and social media pages.

Despite the difficulties that I have mentioned, I actually have had some great success with word of mouth advertising.

Let me tell you about the time that being chatty and friendly was able to help me to land a pretty good photography gig.

I already have mentioned that I always carry business cards around with me. This is very important as you never know who you might meet and whether or not they may actually require your services.

I tend to hand out my business card to people whenever I can, there was one time that I even handed cards out at a party (lol, it was a slow period and I needed to get rid of a gig dry spell) and even though it may have been a bit embarrassing it was actually worth it as I got a couple gigs from that.

So of course I was at my Huddersfield Dentist getting my routine teeth cleaning and bi-annual check up done (you ought to make sure you consistently go to yours too if you want healthy teeth like mine).

At the end of my appointment with the dentist I decided to chat with him a little and I brought up my business.

Dentist plus me plus Chair

Coincidentally he mentioned he actually needed to update his and his staff’s photos for some new promotional material.

At that point of course I took out my handy dandy business cards and handed him one. I actually ended up winning some of his business! It really just takes a little guts to get to talking to people and to be friendly.

It’s funny how you can get gigs from the most unexpected places and situations—I’ve had many different instances like that before.

Including getting business from a florist I bought a bouquet (for my mother) from. Just never forget your business cards.

Tips for Photographing Outdoor Events

camera-lensesWow, the first time that I have ever photographed an outdoor concert was an absolutely electrifying experience!

It was a local rock festival and I was right there, taking photos of both the musicians and the crowd.

I like outdoor events because there is always something to be seen, and natural daylight can give your photos a very beautiful look.

You just have to know how to utilise the natural lighting to your advantage, coupling it with your flash if you really need it.

Now, if you want to photograph an outdoor event, you should always keep the following tips in mind:

camera bagFirst of all, you should always make sure to bring what you need for the entire duration of your shoot.

Bring extra batteries, extra memory cards, a tripod, or whatever you would need.

I am not saying that you should haul your whole studio out into the open, but prepare the essentials and bring back ups.

I once had to photograph a local fitness competition and a fun run, so I had a lot of great photos of people participating in the various events.

ADULT-PLAYGROUNDSI took photos of all the runners, of the audience, and their children and pets.

I even had a lovely photo set of some elderly folks trying out the outdoor gym in the park.

It was just so fun to shoot them trying out and having fun on the outside air walker equipment.

The outdoor fitness gym was a colourful backdrop to the many participants.

Now, unfortunately, I was so caught up with taking as many great photos as I could that I ran out of battery.

I had completely forgotten to bring an extra, so I had to run back to my place to pick up new batteries, probably missing half of the events that took place.

Next, you should know how to prevent overexposure.

One of the problems with outdoor light, especially if it is sunny outside, is that your photos become overexposed.

I always shot by dialing down a half-stop, to really make the colours pop. Likewise, an overcast day may require you to use density filters.

exposure
When setting up a complex shot, especially of a landscape, it is a good idea to predict what your camera settings should be.

For example, I had wanted to take a photograph of the sunset by a lake, so I fiddled around with camera to get the optimum settings.

Finally, if you are photographing an event full of people, you might want to ask their permission first.

While everyone was smiling and happy during the rock concert photography gig, some people at my outdoor fitness event didn’t like to be photographed all tired and sweaty.

Instead, I took flattering photos and asked permission when needed. I managed to capture some great candid moments as well as some nice portraits.

Photographing outdoor events can be challenging, but it is all about preparation.

Would You Take A Home Birth Photography Gig?

I’ve been a photographer for quite a long time now and I still say that one of my most fulfilling gigs is photographing home births.

home birth photography is beautiful

Now, I know what you are going to say:

“Home births seem positively terrifying! Think of all the blood and the screaming!”

I admit that I originally reacted very similarly when someone first approached me about a home birthing gig.

Of course, I did not share my true feelings with my client, as I always make sure that I maintain a certain degree of professionalism.

I decided to read up on it first and thought that home birthing shouldn’t be all that bad.

After all, hospital settings can be cold and impersonal, so I see why others would choose to give birth in the comfort of their own homes instead.

After all, women have been doing this for centuries before modern medicine right?

As long as a professional midwife is there to help, healthy mothers should have no problem at all with home births.

So, if you are worrying about accidentally capturing the death of a young mother from childbirth, know that such complications are relatively rare.

Now, after steeling myself and preparing for the unexpected, I decided to finally take that home birthing gig — it completely changed my life! It was a wonderful experience.

Your Home Birth Expert Status

After three gigs featuring home births, I now consider myself somewhat of an expert. Home birthing is an intimate affair that was mostly done behind closed doors with only close family members or friends present, along with a midwife or a nurse.

However, more and more people are opting for home births because of the comfort, and are willing to share their memories with others, even complete strangers such as myself.

And what an intense experience it is!

Home births are extremely emotional affairs, and taking photos of such drama is every photographer’s dream.

First you have the anxiety and anticipation of the mother and her relatives, followed by the first twinges of pain as she starts contracting.

Then comes the immense struggle as she fights through the pain, followed with the joy and satisfaction of bringing new life into the world. It is absolutely miraculous and inspiring.

I personally like taking photos of the key moments, including the crowning of the baby’s head, to the cutting of the umbilical chord with nursing scissors, to more gentle moments such as the first time the mother gets to hold her baby.

Now, as a photographer, I have to act professionally. I need to stay out of the way and keep quiet, so that I do not disturb the whole process and stress out the mother.

framing the mother perfectly

I also try to take photos at a flattering angle, to avoid making the pictures look like some kind of scientific documentation.

Remember, you are capturing someone’s most precious moments on film, so you do not want to make it look cold and impersonal.

I love the joy and the tears of capturing home births, and I guarantee you that it will be one of the most amazing things you will ever encounter in your photographic career.

Which is Hardest to Photograph – Kids or Animals?

There’s no denying that some things are far easier to photograph than others especially the subjects that don’t tend to move much (those are the best when it comes to getting great shots!).

young-screaming-boyAs for me, two of my favourite things to photograph are kids and animals. The trouble with that is they are really hard to control so for almost everybody, including me, photographing them can be the most frustrating thing ever.

That is of course unless you know what you’re doing and you’re in on the secret of the world’s most patient kid and pet photographers.

 

Taking pictures of buildings is easy. I mean think about it, what do you really have to do other than find yourself a good spot and fiddle with your camera settings? You don’t even have to ask a building to pose, you can move around them to get the angle that you want.building

They’re not going anywhere so you can change the filters on your camera, change your lenses, and fiddle with your aperture settings and your shutter speed all without having to worry about chasing after your subject. It’s practically a dream.

The same of course goes for taking pictures of adults. Adults tend to be better adjusted in front of cameras, and the best part is they are easily told what to do.

You can tell an adult subject to sit down, stand up, stand still, turn around and so on and they are more likely to be responsive to instruction. They also usually know what you are talking about as well so if you enjoy being a bit creative when it comes to your photographs, then you won’t have a problem directing them at all.

As for children, the younger they are the harder it is to get a proper photograph of them.

Babies tend to be difficult as there is no way at all for you to direct them if you need to. Toddlers are a bit easier as they tend to be easy to amuse and their curious nature makes it easy for you to get them to look at something and call their attention.

As the children get older it gets easier to get good pictures of them—some children as young as five enjoy being in front of the camera these days and no longer shy away. As long as you are natural and relaxed around children (and patient of course), things shouldn’t be too problematic.IMG_0618

catWhen it comes to taking photographs of pets, then it really gets difficult. If your pet isn’t trained it’s best to have some treats in your pocket since they’re more likely to sit still or do what they’re told. Last week I had some Barking Heads pet treats in my pocket that worked a treat.

Keep in mind your pet’s habits and personality and work your way around it. Remember though to set your camera to high-speed mode (or if in manual set it to higher ISOs and shutter speeds) so you can catch all those shots of your pets in action.

 

A Stitched Bottom – Where It All Began For Beth

I’ve been asked recently where I got my start in professional photography.

When people ask me that, I guess what they really mean is what was my first paying job!

I have fond memories of the first time I ever got paid for a shoot and it was for a company called Forum Packaging that sell paper sacks for potatoes – you know the kind you see in big supermarkets.

The gig was simple, get the staging and lighting just perfect (PDF on staging and lighting here) and snap away, here is an example (although these aren’t mine)

paper sack photography - my first ever gig

There are simply thousands of packaging companies in the UK and if you are new to buying specialist print you would be well advised to select the type of printer you need who can meet your brief exactly.

If you are specifically a paper sack buyer then this will of itself narrow down the selection process considerably. Consulting a packaging in the UK directory in the first instance might be a good idea.

Paper sacks suppliers also come in many guises and specialise in different areas of packaging solutions for paper bags and sacks.

Free Webinar On Lighting for Photography Which Is Quite Good

 

HINT: You don’t need all that equipment to get a great looking shot!

Due to a previous job I had many years ago where I had to work with paper bag suppliers I found an excellent company that were bag manufacturers for many industry sectors – go here for more ideas.

They were packaging suppliers of products to both blue chip and family based companies with high quality standards and were renowned throughout those markets.

They produced packaging for a wide range of markets from human consumption dry foods such as sugar and flour, through to chemicals and cements, waste management and forensic services.

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However they didn’t just manufacturing paper sacks, they were able to provide a full packaging design service and worked with their customers to develop ideas for a product that needed to go in a sack.

In addition they designed the artwork for maximum impact. And on top of that they were able to provide the packaging printing solutions that involved a high quality print finish in up to 8 colours.

And that’s exactly my point, where there is a business (any type of business) there will always be a need for a great photographer – especially now that every thing’s online and you need good images in order to sell anything.

Check out a few here, they ALL need your expertise:

  • Home Health Care Services
  • Hospitals
  • Junior Colleges
  • Kidney Dialysis Centers
  • Language Schools (hmm, maybe not this one lol)
  • Management Development Training
  • Medical Laboratories
  • Mental Health Practitioner Offices
  • Nursing Care Facilities
  • Occupational Therapist Offices
  • Optometrist Offices
  • Outpatient Mental Health Centers
  • Physical Therapist Offices
  • Physician Offices
  • Podiatrist Offices
  • Professional Schools
  • Residential Mental Health Facilities
  • Residential Mental Retardation Facilities
  • Secondary Schools
  • Secretarial Schools
  • Senior Care Services
  • Speech Therapist Offices
  • Sports and Recreation Instruction
  • Tutoring
  • Substance Abuse Facilities
  • Temporary Shelters
  • Universities
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Services

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So the thing I want you to remember today, is what businesses are local to you that you can approach them and even do some shots for free to build out your portfolio – just get on and do it!