Bartering Photography Skills to Photograph Wild Penguins in Patagonia


Stephen F. Dennstedt

Photographer, Writer, Traveller

As a photographer you don’t always have to be paid in hard cash. Bartering can be an effective tool in leveraging your talent. A case in point: I was at Pira Tour Travel this morning booking an all day trip to photograph the wild penguins on Martillo Island; Pira Tour Travel is the only company in Ushuaia, Argentina that provides an actual walking tour through the Penguin rookery to see up close and personal the Magellanic, Gentoo and King Penguins (it’s expensive at 2,130 pesos or $140 usd per person).

In the course of booking my reservation I mentioned that I was a wildlife photographer and I was asking all kinds of photography related questions: time of day lighting directions, camera to subject distances, lens recommendations and the like. I had also given the person helping me my business card—he looked up my website and immediately called his boss. Bottom-line they offered to let Joel come along for free (a 2 x 1 deal) if they could use some of my photographs and any articles we might write about the expedition (a value of $140 usd). I said absolutely and now we’re both going.

It’s a six-hour tour by mini-van and Zodiac. First the mini-van will take us on a long, convoluted, roundabout trek to our launch site and then we will travel out to Martillo Island by Zodiac (the last time I was in a Zodiac was in the Galapagos Islands). A local naturalist will escort our very small group on the island as we walk among the birds. We will definitely see Magellanic and Gentoo Penguins but the King Penguins aren’t always there. I’ll take whatever I can get. This is a rare opportunity (like Galapagos) to get really close to wildlife without disturbing it overmuch.

If you think bartering your photography skills might be a viable option for you make sure you consider the following: that your work is good enough (that a perceived value can be shared, a Quid pro quo); that you have a professional (clean & simple) business card to present; and that you have a professional looking (clean & simple) website of offer—I’m sorry, a Facebook Business Page, Flickr or Instagram profile isn’t going to cut it in most situations. Visit my website at To learn more about bartering click here to read my article at Northrup Photo.

penguinPhotographer’s Field Notes: The deal I negotiated (2 x 1) did not include the mandatory Penguin suit (a requirement for walking among the Penguins of Martillo Island). I will have to zip into this suite before exiting the mini-van and boarding the Zodiac. I must wear this suit at all times while on the island so the wild Penguins will be none the wiser (obviously they won’t notice my camera with its large telephoto lens hanging across my chest). I will go into town tonight to get fitted and I expect it will cost about 1.754 pesos ($115 usd) + a modest cleaning deposit of 10% (if you believe this I have some cheap land to sell you in Florida) – SFD

2 responses to “Bartering Photography Skills to Photograph Wild Penguins in Patagonia

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