Swapping a Law Career for Freelance Photography

I have always loved travel photography. My childhood room held travel posters and calendars with glossy photographs of the places I wanted to visit. I used to dream that someday my own photographs would be among them.

In December, a box arrived on my doorstep filled with several calendars from the world’s largest calendar company, each with one or more of my travel photographs gracing the pages.

Some years ago I left the long hours of life as a trial lawyer for the freedom of life as freelance writer and photographer, a career I can pursue from anywhere in the world.

At first, I took on assignments from local publications; my vacation photos were just for fun. Soon, however, I discovered stock photography and suddenly some of those photographs I took for fun were earning me more than my assignments.

In stock photography, rather than an editor giving you an assignment, you decide what to photograph. You then submit the images to various stock photography agencies and they license them to their clients around the world.

Submitting photographs to stock photo agencies such as Shutterstock, Fotolia, Dreamstime, iStock, and Alamy is the easiest way to earn income from your stock photo images because they do all the marketing for you. Then each time your photographs are downloaded by their customers they pay you royalties.

The beauty of the internet is that you can find customers all over the world. Shutterstock actually has a map on your log in page which shows where your images have been downloaded most recently.

In fact, the very first stock photograph Alamy licensed for me—a photograph of barbed wire I took at a train station not far from home—was licensed to a Russian magazine. Some days my map shows sales to six different continents. Someone in Africa was interested in a lighthouse from Nantucket, Massachusetts (pictured above); in Latin America they licensed a photograph from Edinburgh, Scotland.

You can also set up your own website. I have licensed photographs from my personal website to magazines such as Smithsonian and Coastal Living. Yesterday, I had inquiries from someone interested in images from Italy as well as a local real estate agent looking for photographs of my hometown. The possibilities are endless.

Finally, you can approach publishers directly, providing them with a list of the areas you cover and a sampling of the work you have available. This is more involved than submitting to an agency, but when you license your work directly, you get 100% of the royalties.

Working as a travel stock photographer is very rewarding. You can sit in a cafe in Paris and photograph your cafe au lait, and you may well sell that photograph. Other times, success often means rising before dawn and hiking out to an ideal spot before the sun rises to get that perfect light.

The best part of being a stock photographer is that you can do it from anywhere in the world. You can live anywhere. And with the internet, even when you travel, you can upload your photographs and they can begin earning you money even before you get home.

Image ©iStock.com/wordplanet

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