Photograph the world, develop some money*.
Digital Nomad Jobs – Photographer.
Pretty much everyone almost everywhere in the world is taking pictures these days. From selfies (acceptable only when drunk) to pictures of their food (never acceptable unless it’s literally the best food ever created, not just a cheeseburger) to that weird one where it’s just your legs in the frame by the sea (I’m almost 100% sure not acceptable but it might have a hidden meaning that passes me by?)
It’s nigh on impossible to go out and not see someone standing in an incredibly inconvenient place trying to get a great picture of themselves with a bit of plastic stuck on the end of an expensive stick. For every professional photographer trying to get one great shot of something there must be 100+ amateurs desperately trying to pull off the ‘angle the camera down and pout, it’ll look great on Facebook’ shot in their peripheral.
Basically, what I’m trying to get to in an incredibly round a bout way is that it’s not going to be easy forging a career as a photographer. You probably won’t make a fortune overnight but with the right equipment, the right know how and a few ideas you can (hopefully) make your hobby work for you and have some fun at the same time.
Obviously, the starting point for any would-be photographer is the equipment, if you’re going for the full-on professional approach and actually want to make some money it’s (100%) unlikely that a camera phone is going to cut it. You’ll need to invest in some decent equipment, a DSLR is ideal and you want to be going for as many megapixels as you can afford. As with most things in life you get what you pay for and by not skimping now you can save yourself countless hours editing and fiddling around with an inferior product. Along side your swish new camera you’ll also need some swish new lenses, preferably a telephoto-lens for any up-close and personal shots and a wide angle-lens for your, er, wide angle-shots. As with the camera, it’s best to get the best, cheap lenses use cheaper quality glass and may often not give you the best results. Right, camera? Check. Lenses? Check. Anything else? Yes. Like that cockney pirate in film series that has gone on far too long you need to accessorize, ‘savvy’**. Depending on what type of photography you’re aiming to do you’ll need to decide what best suits you, but a must I’d say is a tripod, a flash and a travel bag. No one said photography was cheap and it can run into thousands of £/$/€ if you want it to, so make sure you’re committed before diving in!
**Sorry, that was bad, really, really awful.
Okay, now that you have the equipment you’re ready to start. I’d assume that you already have at least some knowledge of photography otherwise you wouldn’t have spent so much money but if not, never fear, the internet is here. It’s incredibly easy to find paid and free tutorial courses and videos online, just search for what you’re after and prepare to lose a few hours of your life. I wouldn’t say you need to be a genius at this stage, just master the basics, fully understand how your particular equipment operates and go take some photos.
Unless you are the authority on photography it’s likely that you’ll need to edit your work, this is where you have the chance to spend more money. As usual, Adobe is a go-to option for a fee but you can also find free software such as GIMP, Paint.NET and Pixlr. 100% have a look around and a play with the free software before committing to a subscription. As with all new software you’ll need to learn to use it, open your browser, search away and kiss goodbye to another few hours. Play around with your existing pictures, edit them any and every way you can and soon enough you’ll be ready to start this photography business for real.
Now that you’ve got the equipment and the knowledge it’s the ideas time. There are a few ways to make money online through photography but they are obviously quite saturated, it won’t be impossible but it won’t be easy either. The old school option (and dullest in my opinion, still worth doing mind) is stock photography, take pictures, edit pictures, ensure you have rights to photos, get releases, try to stand out from the crowd, upload them to sites like Flickr, Photoshelter or Shutterstock. There is obviously a lot more to it than that but I won’t go into it here, the websites listed have how-to guides on them that you can browse at your leisure. I suppose a benefit of selling stock photos is that it’s done for you, all you have to do is upload the work. If you get lucky and hit gold with a few pictures it might be a good way to get some solid residual income flowing.
Stock photography down, we can now look at some more exciting ways for digital nomads to earn money as a photographer, since you spent all that money on a sturdy travel bag you might as well use it and see the world. Why not park yourself at a local tourist spot and set up a little stall (legalities permitting of course), I bet quite a lot of people would like a professional photo taken of them and sent by email, you wouldn’t have to charge much, say 3 £/$/€ a time, if you can sell 50 of those a day you’re laughing. As well as these pictures you could offer professional portraits at say 5 £/$/€ a time, a lot cheaper than people would pay back home and in a much more exciting location than the local photographers’ studio. You wouldn’t need to charge very much as the passing trade in these locations potentially could be huge, all you need is your camera and a way to take down people’s email addresses. It would even be possible to set up your own online shop and start running a drop shipping business. Who wouldn’t want a picture of themselves stood outside of the Great Pyramid of Giza on a baseball cap or pillowcase?!
As a digital nomad, I’m sure (I hope) that you have found yourself in some very interesting and exotic locations, as a digital nomad that excels in photography I’m sure you have some very interesting and exotic pictures to show and sell. Setting up your own website and promoting it to the droves of tourists you photograph might be a lucrative sideline for you. If you have fascinating photos of flamingos or something equally amazing put them up for sale as prints on your site and see, it won’t cost you much to run and will more or less look after itself.
What do I need skill wise?
Only the basics listed above, obviously a natural gift for photography would be great but we can’t all be that lucky. I suppose that if you plan on setting up your online shop you might need a bit of skill mastering that but fortunately you can learn that on this very site, amongst others.
What do I need hardware wise?
The camera, lenses, tripod and bag aside it depends on what you’re after, the more equipment you have the harder it will be to lug it all around with you on your travels though, that’s something to bear in mind. You’ll need a way to edit and email these pictures so a laptop of sorts is also a must.
Where do I find work?
For the stock photographers out there have a look at the sites previously mentioned, there are obviously more available to you and each will have different royalty payments and various other terms and conditions. Shop around and see what suits you best.
For any other photographers, find work wherever you go (again, check the legal situation first) the world is your muse.
How much can I earn?
Stock photography won’t make you rich quick but a large portfolio, commercial pictures and a bit of luck could combine to get you some money coming in.
As for the other markets, that really depends on how much you want to charge and how busy the places you visit are. If you get a prime spot at a bustling tourist attraction you could be looking at hundreds of £/$/€ a day, not bad for a bit of pointing and clicking!***
***It’s almost definitely not that easy
How well does it suit the digital nomad lifestyle?
That really depends on what kind of photographer you want to be, if you get lucky with your stock photos it could set you up quite nicely for your travels, nomad-ing around whilst the money comes flooding/pouring/trickling into your account setting you up for the next adventure.
If you want to proactively seek out customers to take pictures of it could be fantastic. There potentially wouldn’t be a limit to what you could earn, put in a week or two of hardcore photography and you could make enough to have a month or so off.
Whilst the equipment is an expensive outlay (get insured) it’s relatively easy enough to carry on your person at all times so you don’t have to worry about it getting lost or damaged in transit, sounds a bit minor but I know it would be a huge weight of off my mind.
All in all, it sounds pretty great to me but I might be wrong, let me know if I am! I’ll be in touch when I get back from the camera shop.