Must see: 23 breathtaking travel photographs captured around the world by South African photographer Jon Reid.
Article and photography by Jon Reid aka Nomadic Vision, a South African travel photographer based in London.
240 days away…
88 different hotels…
That’s what 2014 looked like for me. To some, that would be a nightmare. To me, it is a dream job. I’m a professional photographer making my living by photographing tourist attractions.
I bought my first camera about 10 years ago. At the time, I spent my weekends exploring rural parts of the Eastern Cape. I was so frustrated at fleeting nature of memories, that I bought a camera to “solidify” these memories.
Due to the prevailing subject matter in the Eastern Cape, I gravitated towards landscape photography. Through shared interests, I was introduced to the online South African landscape community. It was a thrill to be able to share my travels with likeminded photographers. It also pushed me to grow in the art of landscape photography.
Some of these photographers went on to become the leading landscape photographers in the country. I chose a different path. I’ve always been more interested in landscape photography as a tool to get people to travel. My interest was never in creating art. Rather, I’ve always wanted to share a moment in the hope that others would travel to experience something similar.
I continued to practice travel photography, taking road trips with my wife all over the country. My first ‘travel commission’ came to me whilst I was living in East London. I continuously posted work from East London online, so when a local design agency searched for East London photographs, they found my work. It was a small campaign for Eastern Cape tourism to promote the Nahoon Nature Reserve. I was woefully unprepared to work with an art director and photo editor, but the experience was incredible!
In 2009 I moved to London to make it easier to travel. I was working as a teacher, using all my holiday time to explore the world. It was on a trip to Thailand that I said to my wife, “wouldn’t it be amazing if someone paid us to do this?” It was the first time that I had seriously considered becoming a full time travel photographer.
I had no idea how to go about realizing this ambition. There is no obvious route to becoming a professional travel photographer. I’ve never had the personality or confidence to ring up art directors to punt my portfolio. Instead, I took a slower route, consistently posting travel work online in the hope that someone would discover me.
It was probably wishful thinking, but in 2014, I took on two of the world’s largest travel companies as clients, both of which found me through my Flickr portfolio.
For 2015, I’ve booked enough travel days to provide for my family for the year. It is half the amount of days that I worked in 2014. For the remainder of the year, I will be based in London, photographing hotels and guest houses. The mix of architecture, travel and hospitality work is perfect for me.
If there is ‘formula’ for my successful move into professional photography, it is this:
- Photograph something that you find interesting, as opposed to where you think the business opportunities are.
- Become obsessed at constantly bettering your photography of that subject.
- Consistently post your best work online.
- Put yourself into a position that enables you to take an opportunity when it arises.