How to Restart Your Career as a Photographer in Another Country

How to Restart Your Career as a Photographer in Another Country

Despite the fact that it requires certain skills at a certain level, photography is one of the easiest things to do as a job anywhere in the world. But there are some other things to consider if you are relocating to another country.

I started my career as a photographer in 2009, and since then, I have had the chance to live and work in three different countries: Turkey, Australia, and the United Kingdom. I decided to move around the world to live in different countries and experience different cultures while doing my job: photography. Unlike the traveling photographers who prefer shorter stays, I decided to spend at least four to five years in each country. Such a process might sound quite tiring to many others, as it requires restarting your photography business from scratch in each country for the local markets. However, dealing with this depends on the lifestyle you choose.

Here are some topics I gathered about how to survive and stay motivated when moving abroad and restarting a photography business.

1. Do Your Research

Before getting ready to jump on a plane, make sure you do your research about the country you’re planning to move. This should include the market research and analysis, overall economic situation, and the city where you’d like to live. If you are lucky enough to have some friends living there, you can easily learn more about the daily life, taxation system, regulations, etc. If not, you can have a general idea about these things just by going online.

2. Come Out of Your Shell

As a self-employed expat, you will be all alone initially; therefore, you can try using the platforms like Internations and Meet-Up in order to make new friends sharing the common interests with you. As is known, networking is the key when marketing yourself as a photographer, and these kinds of events will help you socialize while expanding your network in your new city.

3. Be an Entrepreneur and Keep Learning the Business of Photography

Starting a business in a new country is not easy. Depending on the country in which you plan to live, you should calculate all your living costs considering the worst-case scenarios. In order to avoid spending all your savings, you should focus on gaining new clients by expanding your network and marketing your business.  Before getting to work straight away, you might need to recalculate your hourly and daily rates, based on the dynamics of the new market you’ll be working in. The business side of photography works similarly in most parts of the world, but if you still want to dig deeper, you can check Monte Isom’s tutorial.

4. Get Ready to Switch Between Genres

There is a general belief among photographers that specializing in a niche area is the way to go in order to survive. On the contrary, if you’re changing countries, you should be flexible when it comes to commercial photography to keep your cash flow running. Of course, you can keep earning money by doing what you’re good at, but offering various services may help you get gigs in a shorter time. For example, you can find photography jobs as an e-commerce photographer in almost every country, as this type of service is quite common in every part of the world. This doesn’t mean you should do something you don’t like, but if you are good at the technical side of photography, then switching between genres might be useful in order to keep you busy.

5. Apply for the Required Certificates and Licenses

Unless you are an aerial photographer, probably, you will not need a special license to run your business. But, if you are an e-commerce photographer or a portrait photographer who shoots family or school portraits, then you might need to get a certificate for working with children depending on the country you live in, so keep in mind to check country-specific regulations and requirements.

6. Spend Your Advertising Budget Responsibly

As a new business owner, you will need to spend some money on both digital and print advertising. Before throwing your money around, make your research about the effectiveness of each platform by comparing the ad-return values on the local market. This is not an easy task, and it requires a long time, so to play it safe, Google and Instagram ads might be the safest ways for promoting your business in the beginning.

7. It Will Never Be Easy

The photography market is hard to get into regardless of where you live. If you are lucky enough to be one of the top 100 photographers around the world, then probably, your agent will handle all the hard work for you, but if you are a self-employed independent photographer, then you will have to deal with everything. So, being prepared both physically and mentally is significant to cope with all kinds of challenges. But hey, this is life and nothing is easy. So, the key is staying healthy and believing in yourself.

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10 Comments

Ivan Lantsov's picture

if you top 100 you not need this

If you're top 100 you probably aren't reading this lol

Deleted Account's picture

Great article. Even moving within a country to a new state or city is challenging. I relocated from a big city with 15 years photography experience to a small town of 10 000. The first year was tough but with hard work you can make it work. I'm not sure I would be up to the challenge of moving countries now, especially with a family and if my native tongue wasn't the language of choice.

Dana Goldstein's picture

This is a business post? Really? How about getting a work visa, setting up a legal business as a foreign national, how long you can legally stay on that visa, securing insurance, finding an accountant and business lawyer in your new country that works with foreigners, working with a translator, transporting enormous amounts of gear to a foreign country (carnets need lots of info)? I’m not sure that going to Meet Ups and taking on e-commerce gigs are really the important points that should be addressed.

olivier borgognon's picture

Point 1 addresses this issue : Do your research.

Dana Goldstein's picture

It was tossed off as an aside, when in fact those are the most important issues.

And those issues vary by country. If listing all those steps for every country the post would end up too expansive to read. Also since the author is not a lawyer in those countries you'd have to research and verify by yourself anyway, unless you make legal decisions based on blog posts?

Dana Goldstein's picture

I am not suggesting that all the intricacies be laid out, but that the fact of them be emphasized. I know so many people who go out of the country to work but do not do so legally, and there’s always the possibility of it coming back to bite them. Clearly the fact of my comment indicates that I do *not* make legal decisions on the basis of blog posts.

olivier borgognon's picture

I didnt feel that way about it, this shows how we are all different and read information in a different way. I see it as the first element, thus pressing the importance, but its just how i read it.

However, This does seem like common sense to me, when starting a business, or going pro, whatever the type of activity, checking the legal is s number one element, and imho goes without saying.

In europe, a doctor is not allowed to advertise his services, imagine a young medical student, freshly graduates buying a double page spread and being banned from practicing ?

So yes, do your research, because :
"some go out of country and do it wrong", i could say many stay in country and do it illegally too.

Being pro is also about due dilligence. Or a conscient decision to play by the side rules and accept the risk (the business model of medical labs, facebook, google, lawyers, insurances, banks, etc)

I think that if you are a talented photographer, then it will not be difficult for you to get a job in another country. To do this, I just needed to translate my resume into another language using the service from this review https://isaccurate.com/resume-translation-services , and after a week of negotiations I was accepted.
It is difficult to get used to the new culture and the rhythm of life, but from the point of view of work, it changes a little.