What do they do?
They’d wandered far away from town and into a weekly bazaar in Purulia (West Bengal). Kushal Gangopadhyay, a veteran photographer with 30 years experience, and his friend were so engrossed watching some people making masks that, before they realised it, darkness had descended upon them and even the last bus to town had left. “The villagers didn’t let us enter their huts and we remained stranded in the wilderness — even as some elephants wandered around! Luckily, after around three hours, a mini van passing by rescued us. Most travel photographers face such situations when they visit far-flung villages or uninhabited areas,” says Gangopadhyay.
Arun Bhat, 32, an engineer who had worked in several IT companies in Bangalore for around nine years, loved travelling. Thanks to his huge salary, Bhat would often visit exotic destinations and indulge in his favourite pastime — photography.
Gradually, these trips became frequent and his collection of pictures grew, bringing him good money when he sold them to travel magazines. “I was making Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 25,000 per month by selling the pictures. I thought I could make much more money if I did it full time. So I quit my IT job and took up travel photography — my dream career,” says Bhatt.
Though his earnings do not equal what he got previously, Bhatt has big hopes for the future. “It takes some time to build your professional network, but if you are successful you make a lot of money. As a freelancer, you have to sell as many pictures as you can, some for a low price and the really good ones for a better price. Remember, it’s the volume which bolsters your earnings,” adds Bhatt.
This career has its own set of challenges. Sometimes you’ll have to wake at the crack of dawn, probably when it’s freezing, to wait for the sun to rise and provide perfect lighting. At times you might have to shack up with the locals in small huts when there’s no hotel or lodge nearby. “You are there to click good pictures, which should truly reflect the destination’s essence. You tend to adjust all logistics on those lines. For example, if you think that a particular site would be just right for the shoot next morning then you would want to spend the night somewhere close by, even if it means staying in a native’s hut and not in a hotel five or six kms away,” says Sanjoy Ghosh, consulting picture editor, Outlook Traveller.
As a travel photographer, you can either work full-time (like Ghosh) with a travel magazine (like National Geographic or Outlook Traveller) or a web portal. Freelancers (like Bhatt) are paid according to the number of photographs they manage to get published. It also helps if you are a writer. “Most of my trips are funded by magazines, hotel clients, and travel companies; otherwise I recover the costs through the eight to 10 articles I write for multiple magazines and travel portals after each trip,” Bhatt says.So many travel pieces on one destination? “It’s not difficult. Each destination has many facets. You can, in one article, highlight the shopping hangouts at the destination, and the greenery or serenity there in another. I spent two months in Ladakh and I can write 25 different articles with good pictures supporting each,” says Bhat.
Picking out the novelty factor is another challenge. Whether it’s India or abroad, almost every major destination has been explored, written about and photographed. “You have to give your own perspective to each place” says Bhat.
. You need to have an eye for photography
. Have knowledge of the customs and cultures of various places
. Communication skills if you have to get through to the locals and do great shoots
. Must be able to manage with limited resources if you land up in inhospitable terrain
. You have to have the ability to stay patient for a good shot to come your way
How do I get there?
After completing Class 12, interested candidates can go for some courses in photography to understand composition, lights and the frame. After completion of the course, one should apply for an internship in a travel magazine or website.
Typical day in the life of a Travel Photographer
9pm (the night before): Do online search of the city I will be travelling to tomorrow
6am: Reach destination, visit various sites and click pictures as and when something interesting catches the eye – shoot the rising sun, the landscapes or people moving around early in the morning
10am: Interact with locals or get in touch with contacts to explore the area intensively
4pm: Evening trip for some more exploration, speak to some locals and find out more about their culture
6.30pm: Return to the hotel
Pros & Cons about this career
. You get to travel around the world
. Money is good if you can sell work to international magazines
. Unless you have a regular job, it is very challenging to arrange for regular flow of money
. It takes time and patience to zero in on the novelty factor of a tourist destination
. Things can get uncomfortable sometimes