So You Want to Become a Travel Photographer?

While we live in a day and age where camera gear is more affordable than ever, photo editing applications are much more accessible and social media platforms have connected each of us with more and more people from around the globe, many photographers still struggle with the idea of working professionally as a photographer. When it comes to travel photography specifically, things are even more complicated. While travel photographers have to learn the craft of photography just as a wedding or stock photographer, they also have to balance the notion of the cost of travel as well. After-all, it can be expensive to fly to India or Mongolia. While alot of people travel and take photos, very few of us get paid to live this lifestyle.

Working in the Canadian Rockies on a film project for Travel Alberta
Working in the Canadian Rockies on a film project for Travel Alberta

So where do you start? What path should you take? When I started my first photography company back in 2006 I too asked these questions. However instead of finding a resource to help guide me along the process, I ended up taking the long way up the hill. It was a few years before I first had my images published. Even longer before I started making any real money as a photographer. This is why I decided to partner with Matador Network and MatadorU and help them build something special. To train, support and prepare the next generation of travel photographers. So what is MatadorU? Lets dive in to find out…

The Matador Network

Launching in 2006, the same year I started my first photography company, The Matador Network had the vision for a travel site and community based not on “airline reservations and hotel rooms” but the real cultures, people, and places we encounter, as well as a broader global discussion of historical, political, and socioeconomic realities that inform our lives as travelers. Over the last eight years it has firmly established itself in the travel publication worlds as one of the top leaders in the industry. Earlier this year it became the largest independent online travel publication with over 6 million unique visitors per month with content that literally spans the entire globe.

The Matador Network

Partnering with MatadorU

In 2009, Matador created its own education arm called MatadorU that was geared at providing travel education for writers and photographers (with cinematographers to follow). The idea was simple. Matador not only wanted to help train the future generation of artists and journalists, but proactively work closely with its students to help them get published and even hired for jobs around the globe. In 2012 I partnered with MatadorU and have since helped them completely re-write their entire online curriculum for photographers.

Since than, MatadorU has been praised by a number of different travel institutions including National Geographic, The Society of American Travel Writers, Transitions Abroad and many more.

MatadorU - Travel Photographer Training

Fundamentals & Advanced Courses

When it came down to establishing a curriculum for travel photographers, I felt there was simply too much information to pile into a single course. After all there are two very important but separate aspects of being a photographer and wanting to do it professionally. Learning the craft of photography and learning how to make a living as a professional.

Fundamentals Course

If you are still in the beginning stages of learning photography or if you are looking for a refresher course, the Fundamentals course is for you. Here I break down the core fundamentals of photography including how to use your camera, discuss the ideas of exposure, composition and lighting, walk you through Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop in detail and show you how to compile your own photography portfolio.

Jokulsarlon Student and Ken - Colby brown
Learning the Fundamentals of Photography such as composition

If you struggle with answering the following questions, the Fundamentals Course might be the best place for you to start…

  • How do I get more comfortable shooting in manual modes?
  • What is exposure, and how do aperture, shutter speed, and ISO relate to it?
  • What are the best lighting situations to take photos in?
  • What does white balance mean?
  • What makes for compelling compositions?
  • What should I include in my captions?
  • How can I improve my focus?
  • How do I read a histogram?
  • What should I be looking for when I edit my images?

Advanced Course

If you have already mastered the fundamentals of photography and you are simply wanting to learn how to take your skills to the next level, both creatively and business wise, than the Advanced Course is probably for you. Here you will learn how to create photo essays, learn advanced post processing techniques, learn how to develop your brand, get key advice on pitching ideas to editors and learn how to get your own work published.

Want to learn how to get your images published? The Advanced Course would be your best bet
Learn how to build a brand and get hired as a photographer with the Advanced Course

If you can answer the following questions without much difficulty, you might want to consider the advanced course.

  • What is the exposure triangle and how does it relate to photography?
  • What is the difference between the basic and creative modes on your camera?
  • In which situations do you prefer to creatively over- or under-expose a shot?
  • What controls DoF? Which situations would you want a shallow DoF? A deep DoF?
  • Which features in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop do you use most often?
  • What are the benefits of shooting in RAW versus JPG?
  • Which social networks should you be on to build your brand?
  • What financial revenue streams are available for working photographers?
  • What are the important elements in a photo caption?
  • How do you tell a compelling story through your images?

Faculty Feedback, Getting Published & Matador Access

When it comes to online education, there is no shortage of options for photographers. Between Creative Live, Lynda and even Kelby One, alot of bases have already been covered. This is why I wanted to do something different with MatadorU. I wanted to provide an education that was more in line with what you would get at a university than simply as if you were sitting at home in front of your computer. The problem with most online education is that the courses are built as one way streets of information. As a “student”, you have access to a wide variety of topics and information, but you don’t get any interaction with the online entity. If you have questions or need clarification, you are out of luck. If you wanted feedback, probably not going to happen. If you want help finding paid jobs, not going to happen. This is why MatadorU is different.

Want to be paid to head out on assignment in Zion National Park?

Faculty Feedback

As an international online travel publication, the Matador Network has staff all over the globe. When it comes to MatadorU, you have a number of faculty staff members in charge of each of the different departments at the online school. These individuals are there for you. Not only will you get feedback on every assignment you turn in, but you can further the conversation from there, asking questions, proposing ideas and taking things a step beyond the core curriculum.

Getting Published

As I mentioned earlier, one of my biggest challenges as a photographer when I first started out was getting published. I didn’t know where to start or what to do. With MatadorU being the education arm of The Matador Network, things a much easier. The staff and editors at Matador and MatadorU are geared to work closely with students to find new and creative ways to help you get published (and paid for your work).

Matador Access

Of course, learning how to be a travel photographer wouldn’t be nearly as fun if there was no possibility of actual travel right? Over the years as the Matador Network has built itself up to be a power house in the travel publication industry, it has made contacts with thousands of entities, companies and travel destinations around the globe. When these companies are looking for travel photographers, writers and cinematographers, they often reach out to Matador. This is why Matador Access was created. Think of it like an online travel job listing that you can apply for. Matador might need a photographer to head to Uganda to document the Silver-back Gorillas or to head to the Philippines to capture images of a festival. As a student with MatadorU, you have first hand access to these job listings.

Enjoy a Free Preview

While all of this sounds great on paper, you probably still have questions about MatadorU. No problem. Matador has opened up part of their online travel school for you to take a look at and poke around. There are no obligations, you don’t have to put any money down. Simply sign up and start looking around to get a feel for the programs yourself.


Taking Your Photography To The Next Level

As photographers and artists we are all constantly looking for ways to improve our skill sets. At MatadorU, I feel I have helped create an online educational experience unlike anything else out there in the world. While I want to make sure that you learn the core elements of photography, I also want to help you take things to the next level. The staff at MatadorU are geared and ready to help you (along with the thousands of other students that have come through the program) to break through the barriers of entry in this industry. To learn the craft of the art form, the business side of things and provide you with resources that are unmatched in the industry to help you not only get published, but ultimately paid to travel the world and truly become a travel photographer.

Between now and December 1st, all MatadorU courses are being discounted by over $150 per course. Click on on this LINK, sign up for a free trial and find out for yourself if this is right for you.

MatadorU Courses

About the Author

Upcoming Photo Workshop Adventures...

Leknes Northern Lights Lofoten Islands Norway Photo Workshop

Norway Photo Workshop – Lofoten Islands

February 22nd – March 1st, 2025
Join us this February as we explore this impressive series of Islands located above the Arctic Circle. While we will work hard to get you in the right spot for both sunrise and sunset, with over half the day steeped in darkness, we will make sure to chase any and all Aurora activity that presents itself throughout our time in the Lofoten Islands.

Wildlife Photography Workshop in Brazil Jaguars of the Pantanal

July 31st – Aug. 7th, 2025
The Pantanal region of Brazil is known as the land of the Jaguar. Nowhere else on Earth is there a higher concentration of these elusive big cats than this remote region of Southern Brazil, close to the Southern Amazon Basin. In addition to Jaguars, you will see Caimen, Capybara and a wide assortment of birds.

Uganda Photo Safari – A Trip of a Lifetime

July 27th – August 3rd, 2024
Uganda is one of the most unique wildlife destinations on the planet. Here you can find the endangered Silverback Gorilla along with amazing troops of Chimpanzees and the world-famous tree-climbing lions, which are found in a single area of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Join us on an adventure of a lifetime that offers some of the most intimate and incredible wildlife experiences on the planet.

A cheetah image captured in the wild in Namibia by Colby Brown during a Photography Workshop

Namibia Photography Workshop

October 12th – 24th, 2022
Namibia is home to some of the most incredible desert landscapes and wildlife on the planet. From the great sand dunes of Sossusvlei to the remote Himba tribes of Northern Namibia to the amazing mixture of wildlife found in the country, Namibia is a photographers paradise. Here you will find large populations of cheetahs, lions, rhino, elephants, buffalo and much more!

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