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Most people have to finance their own travel ambitions, and are therefore obliged to balance their expenses with the conflicting demands of work, home and family. Life-style compromises are inevitable, and luxuries have to be sacrificed. Long periods away from home are not always compatible with family life, and a trip to the other side of the world may be possible, for instance, only if money is saved by not replacing a car. Priorities are an important factor in such calculations. Those who travel extensively have often put travel at the top of their priority list, and may be unmarried or without children.

The cost implications of where in the world you live are also significant, since air fares vary considerably from country to country. Air travel on domestic US routes, and some European routes, is relatively cheap. Elsewhere, such as in Australia, domestic travel can be very expensive. Europe also has better value international routes than anywhere else. Europeans travel a lot and the cultural diversity of the continent makes it attractive to others – particularly American and Japanese visitors. A wide variety of cheap worldwide package trips is available, and the basic travel and accommodation deals often provide excellent access to a location. Amazing bargains can sometimes be obtained at short notice and during the low season.

Earning money from travel photography is not without financial risk, and generally more difficult than getting a similar income from a conventional job. It is therefore necessary to have sufficient float to be able to finance trips and await the anticipated income from future sale of articles and images. Relying on credit is risky when dealing with uncertain markets. Consequently expenses must be realistically researched and minimized, and the likely returns must be objectively evaluated over the short and longer term.

Public domain image by Patrick Houette - freeimages.com

Picture libraries hold millions of images from all over the world, so to make money it is necessary to offer something equally good, better, cheaper or different. Travel costs vary, can be difficult to estimate and often exceed expectations, and returns are rarely guaranteed. Little money is paid up front simply because libraries and editors want to see the images before committing themselves. Illustrated travel articles may be easier to sell than images alone, but are text driven so it helps if you can write well. Magazines change direction or go out of print, and editors leave or just don’t like you images. They may also take the view that the pictures they require can be obtained more cheaply or conveniently from tourist boards or travel companies. To eliminate bias, newspapers take only pictures obtained at your own expense. Brochure work is rather dull and usually involves photographing lots of hotels and swimming pools.

Those who are motivated by wanderlust just go where their heart takes them, and are probably less familiar with the travel photography market. They know that they are unlikely to recover the full cost of their trips through image sales, and are content to recoup just part of their expenses. In a sense, and if you can afford it, this is an ideal solution. Go wherever you choose, photograph whatever catches your eye and hope to make a little money. This somewhat self-indulgent approach is very enjoyable and maximizes freedom, but is not a good basis for making a living. Magazine articles, image sales and book publishing may go some way to meeting expenses, but it’s a risky game. Choosing a dream destination is not such a bad idea, but your bank balance must be able to stand the strain.

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