The following article on travel videography is authored by Garrett Galvan.
That’s how long it took the mouse to find the elevated area in a murky pool of water. I made the note on my clipboard, placed another mouse inside the pool and set the timer.
That used to be my job. Recording mice’s behavior in a research lab.
To say my job was boring would be the understatement of the year. I thought I was making a difference, I thought my years of studying neuroscience would bring me a more fulfilling job, I wanted to help people, but instead, I put mice in a pool.
After a trip abroad, it became clear to me that neuroscience was something I loved and I was interested in, and still am, but working in the field was not prolific.
After getting home from that trip and piecing my random GoPro clips together, I noticed I became obsessed with the process of creating videos.
Here I am three years later, a travel videographer.
I may not be rolling in the dough doing epic expedition videos around the world full time (yet) but I’ve learned some shit over the years and I’m well on my way to making this my full-time career.
I hope this post helps you decide if travel videography is your thing, how to get there, and actionable advice and tips on what to do.
Current Videography Jobs
How to Become a Travel Videographer
1. Passion And Borderline Obsession
Want to know the big difference between those who succeed and those who fail? It all comes down to the classic quote: “winners never quit and quitters never win.” Same goes for any type of photography or videography, especially travel videography.
Must. Love. Filming.
You really have to be dedicated to not only filming everything you do but also to traveling! You are not going to get a loyal following and earn money if you only travel once a year, to Hawaii, and that’s it.
This lifestyle is something you have to live and breathe by. If it is something that drives you, traveling and filming your ventures, then you will be doing it for love anyway, the money and the fame (fame?) will be a natural (happy) byproduct.
2. Inspiration VS. Mimicry
Some people will try to convince you that genius springs from a noble brow, that you must be highly skilled at birth and that no amount of training will make you an expert if you’re not already talented.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Your desire will guide you to your talent, and practice and mentorship will make you an expert, a genius, a pro.
Make YouTube your best friend and find your mentor. Watch other travel videographers and see what they do.
Pick and choose which pros you like the best and start practicing. Your own spin on what the experts do will spring naturally from your practice. Just find videographers you admire the most and turn your camera on.
I literally picked up my camera and started filming one day. And then I didn’t stop. Zero prior experience and no love for it since I was 12. I just felt a desire to film a bit of my month-long vacation in Indonesia, only to come home and leave immediately with a one-way ticket—I never stopped filming.
3. Turn Your Camera On
The sooner you begin, the sooner you will begin to develop your own style, the thing that will make you stand out from the rest of us. So turn on your camera and shoot.
Trust me: you will suck at first. Everyone does. This is part of the fun, part of the journey.
Travel videography is not for the faint of heart.
Make videos, and post them. Yes! Post them. You have to be willing to put yourself out there to an audience who will boo you, criticize you, troll you.
Get yourself a YouTube channel and upload those videos. Watching what you’ve done will give you the inspiration to fix and move forward. It all begins with the “On” button. Push it.
4. Edit Your Little Heart Out
Find yourself a program to edit your videos. You do not want to provide one streaming loop of you brushing your teeth and getting out the door, taking public transportation and arriving at some cool scene.
You want your cuts to be clean and your story to be clear as it unfolds on camera.
And you don’t want anyone falling asleep.
As a baseline for information, DaVinci is a free program, but Adobe Premiere, Final Cut, and InVideo are the standards most travel videographers use. Remember that in most cases, you get what you pay for, and if you pay nothing, well… you get the point.
With that said, for a free product, DaVinci is a great beginner program to segway into a paid one in the future. However, if you really get into editing videos, you’ll have to fill a larger gap if you started with iMovie or the like and try to move to Adobe.
If it helps you, here’s a tutorial on my video editing flow on Adobe Premier
5. Actually Make Sh*t
This point cannot be stressed enough. Make lots of videos. Take small road trips if you are not a nomad like me. Hell, take a trip across town and film it.
Film as much as you can and then take that footage to the drawing board where you can edit and create an actual visual story for your audience.
Remember, this takes practice. You cannot get frustrated and give up when it becomes difficult or tedious.
There are always behind-the-scenes to art, and this art is no different. You are the behind-the-scenes artist in these moments. So practice and hone your art. Find things that inspire you and film them, edit them, show them, and repeat.
Michael Jordan carried a basketball around with him all day, every day, even as a teenager. He played every single day after school and on weekends. Get the point? I think you do.
6. Equipment Matters
You absolutely cannot become a successful travel videographer with just an iPhone. Sorry. If that broke your heart, at least the worst is over.
You will have to invest in quality camera equipment. Again, you get what you pay for, so you will have to fork over some bucks to get the tools you need to become the Michael Jordan of travel videography.
Equipment is one of the things that really makes a good travel videographer stand out (and actually knowing how to use it).
You will get better images, better sound quality, and clearer colors and hues with good equipment. It is not worth honing your skill and perfecting your videographer’s eye if you don’t plan to have the camera to back you up.
Of course, dropping $10,000 on gear after the desire to be a travel videographer for a whole twelve seconds isn’t the smartest move either. And there’s no need to get top-rated equipment to start yourself off either.
Get some of the basics. Maybe a point-and-shoot for your first camera, so you can try out travel vlogging, is a good start and will only set you back a few hundred bucks.
Maybe even borrow your friend’s DSLR to play with or there are even options to rent gear for a bit if you’re deciding between what camera to get.
Just remember, you don’t want something so expensive and advanced that it just sits there because you’re too intimidated by it.
7. Freelance Videography and More
So you’ve honed your skill, you’ve purchased the equipment you love, and now you want to know where the money is? The money is literally where you find it.
You will need to reach out to current videographers and ask if they want a second-hand cameraman. Look for any low pay or even unpaid opportunities to start testing your newly acquired skills in a professional setting so eventually, you can start charging the big bucks.
Be prepared to do internships, to do grunt work, and to make very little money in the beginning.
Not only will you begin building your own brand in this way, as a freelance travel videographer, but also building a network in the field.
You will find more lucrative jobs, you will start to raise your own fees, and the cycle will continue for as long as you want it too, it will get better and will start making you more money.
How to Make Money as a Travel Videographer
There are numerous ways to do so and you can choose to do all or some of the choices depending on your skills, availability, and how far along the travel videography path you’re down.
1. Freelance Videography and Editing
This is rather broad. You can either freelance as a videographer helper, as in you help another travel videographer with their video assignment or you can even work for brands and companies as their travel videographer.
There’s also freelance video editing if you choose to go down that route.
Perhaps you’ve mastered Premier. Well, guess what? There’s a need for editors out there because not everyone has the time or motivation to learn video editing software. They send you their video clips and you work your magic.
2. Selling Stock Video
There’s a high demand for 4K 60FPS video footage from all around the world.
Of course, it needs to be good and perhaps not a place that’s filmed by the thousands every day, but even then! If you capture a unique angle or a super sick shot, people are selling their video footage for a pretty penny these days.
3. Your Own Brand
This is life goals, right? This is making money as a travel videographer through your own brand.
Whether it’s companies paying you to do videos for them and using your audience, tourism boards inviting you and paying to create a video of their country, or you making money simply off ads on people watching your YouTube channel.
Making money using your own brand is super rewarding but also, not very easy.
Top Tips for Becoming a Travel Videographer
1. There’s no do-over when it comes to getting the shot. Chances are, you’re traveling (duh) and you won’t be back to that spot or the sun has gone down and it’s too dark, or the scene has changed… Get it right on the first round. This, of course, doesn’t mean you get literally one take. What I mean is take the time to set up properly the first time, tick all the boxes, and then shoot.
2. Get different and dynamic angles of the same shot. Get a close-up, a far shot, a wide shot, a blurred shot… all of the same thing. Whatever your subject is that you’re focusing on, you need dynamic shots of it.
3. Tell a story with each video. Think of the story beforehand and think of the shots you’ll need to convey to tell the story. Make people feel like they are there.
4. Focus. Don’t have 12 things to do in one day. Have a main focus for the day and surround your story around it. Don’t get distracted by all the beautiful scenery you will see in your travels. Focus on your story and shoot the shots that are required to build it. You’ll thank me in the editing room. Which brings me to my next point…
5. Shoot with purpose. If you shoot everything, you’re going to have a mess on your hands when you get back to the computer. You’ll also be buried under 40,574 hard drives. Shoot with thought.
6. There’s no set path to this job. There are certain things you should do, yes, but each person’s path to the goal will be different.
7. Know that there’s no fast-paced lane to success. Work hard and the rewards (and opportunities) will come. It will seem like an eternity while you slog along but if this is truly what you want, you’ll happily crawl through the trenches and come out on top in the end.
8. Start social media immediately. This way, people can see your work and you can have a mini fan base rooting you on. This is also your portfolio!
Being a travel videographer isn’t for the lazy or the impatient. Building your self-worth takes time, your skills will take time to develop, and your equipment bag will also take time to get filled with the right gear.
If this is something you truly want, GO FOR IT!
Unsure? Play around with video on your iPhone and with free video editing apps and see if you get into or not.
There’s nowhere else I’d rather be than behind my lens, that’s where you’ll find me.
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Is travel videography for you? Did you have any more questions on what it takes to be a travel videographer? Let us know in the comments!
Garrett left his small town in Oregon with a dream and a camera. A few years later he has been to over 30 countries all while producing high-quality cinematic adventure videos and photos of the destinations he visits. Join him as he pursues a life of videography, photography and expeditions all over the world. You can find him on YouTube at Garrett Galvan, his blog MotoMoves, and Instagram.