I recently spent a day with elephants near Chiang Mai, in the North of Thailand. I followed and photographed them through a lush, misty jungle, fed them small bananas and slices of pumpkin and bathed with them in a pond as they playfully rolled around in mud to protect themselves from the tropical heat.
At the end of the trip, one of the elephants rose its trunk, tried to grab my DSLR camera (perhaps for a selfie) and then gave me a sloppy kiss on the cheek as a parting gift.
It was incredible to see Asian elephants roam freely in their natural habitat. Experiences like that stay with you forever. For many people it’s the stuff of once-in-a-lifetime dream holidays, but for me it’s a part of my day job. It’s what I do as a travel photographer.
Ever since I picked up my first camera a few years ago, my passion for photography has opened new doors and allowed me to travel to destinations I never imagined going; from the glaciers of Iceland to the seemingly endless plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania.
And here’s the best part of it…I haven’t spent a dollar from my own pocket. On the contrary, not only were my expenses entirely covered, but I also got paid for assignments by different companies, publications, sponsors, even tourism boards.
When I quit my corporate job back in 2009, I wanted to earn money through photography but I had no idea where to start. With no background in art and no experience in running a business, I felt lost and overwhelmed. But then I realised there was no secret to success: I just had to take as many photos as I could, improve my skills along the way and put them out there for the world to see.
Fortunately, we live in a visual world and so there is no shortage of people looking for strong images, from editors to bloggers, businesses to art lovers. All that is required is to reach out to them and start selling.
But even when I’m not on an assignment, every image I take, whether it’s with my DSLR camera or with my phone, is a potential revenue source that I can add to stock photography and print websites. I can edit them, upload to different websites and forget about them. They’ll start selling on their own, creating a nice passive income.
The photos I’ve taken from my trips in Tanzania sell almost every day on stock websites, with two particular images bringing me more than $1,300—and they’re still selling. Some of my Thailand photos have been sold to websites, blogs, print magazines, even to an indie rock band for their album cover. And many of my images from my everyday life at home sell as framed prints, postcards and calendars.
As for my recent Thailand trips? I already sold a couple of my elephant shots on stock websites and received an order for a big print of one of my Thai temple images.
And even the shots I don’t sell provide value because when I share them on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram they help to attract more visitors to my portfolio.
Photography has not only allowed me to travel frequently and discover new experiences, but it has also taught me that every press of the shutter could potentially be an extra source of passive income, while I enjoy my incredible adventures.
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