When I first moved to Napa Valley, I started out working in a busy tasting room. When the opportunity presented itself to take a sommelier exam, I jumped on it.
Convinced that my wine career was going to be spent in front of the customer, I originally found it exhilarating to be a sommelier. But after a while, the crowds and the chaos became too much.
Time for a change.
I thought about what inspired me to be my best, most authentic self. So I googled “How to get paid to travel.” Great Escape Publishing popped up first on my screen, and I was immediately intrigued. I signed up for the Ultimate Photographer’s Workshop and found my motivation to make an income from travel photography.
The next couple of years were filled with the most amazing adventures. I went to Tanzania with GEP twice in one year. I chased lightning in Tucson and the aurora borealis in Alaska with some pretty amazing people, all of whom I call friends today. All the while learning about the technical and artistic nuances of photography and my camera.
“I’m a photographer,” I’d tell people—half-emboldened by the words and half-terrified that someone would call my bluff.
Then one day, in a job interview, someone did. They wanted someone to photograph wine bottles for ads… and, even though I’d never done this before, I heard Bonnie Caton’s voice in my head telling me to say “yes” and then work hard to figure out how it’s done.
I got the job and immediately started working on my bottle photography craft..
Bottle photography, you might not know, is a very technical craft with lights, backdrops, and reflections to worry about, so I took a deep breath and approached it step by step.
While I’m still tweaking things to get clean, professional results, I’m proud of what I’m producing and confident showing my work to prospective clients—who pay me $100 per bottle, plus a sizeable setup fee. Not bad for a day’s worth of work and no crowds and chaos.
Eventually, one of my clients approached me about an event they had coming up. “Yes,” came out of my mouth before I even heard the details. I was to shoot a party inside a dimly lit cave without using a flash.
As the event date approached, I felt nervous, even though I knew I had everything I needed to do my best. The expeditions I had taken with GEP had given me the skills necessary to literally shoot in the dark. The nerves, I told myself, were a natural element of putting myself out there into the unknown.
In the end, the photos turned out beautifully, and the client has asked me to shoot another event. I’ve also done some other shoots for them, which has generated a nice side income for me for which I’m grateful.
Working in the wine industry has certainly taken an unexpected turn. I never dreamed I’d be the photographer who’d come and pick up bottles to shoot. I was always jealous of that guy. Now I am that guy, and it feels like a dream come true.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can fund your travels and make an extra income with photography, travel writing, blogging, and more in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Five Fun Ways To Get Paid To Travel: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]