Monday, 29 August 2011

Er ... Excuse Me ... Can I Take Your Picture, Please?

Following my last post, Taking Better Travel Photos, Nan Sheppard commented about the rules with regards to taking photos of people. This is an area that can cause some confusion, so I thought I'd take the opportunity this week to explain the basics. Please note that in this posting I am referring to UK law. Laws in other countries may differ considerably.

The picture in this posting contains many people. Did I ask their permission before taking the photo? No. It simply wasn't possible. Do I need their permission if I want to use this photo to illustrate a magazine article? No.

In the UK, the law allows photographers in a public place to take photographs. Permission is not required from the people who are captured in the image if the photograph is used for editorial purposes. There are two key points here:
  • the photographer is in a public place,
  • the photograph is used for editorial purposes.

In this posting, what I mean by a public place is somewhere where the public have a legal right to be at any time of day, such as on the pavement beside a public road, or on a footpath in the countryside. A shopping mall is not a public place, because despite being full of members of the public, many are owned by private companies. So, when you enter a shopping mall you are stepping onto private land. It just happens that the landowner is happy for you to do so! Generally, public land is the road/highway and its pavement, a right of way across a piece of private land, common land, and land designated as open access (such as mountains, moor and heathland).

There are many places which people perceive are public places, but they are actually privately owned. Railway stations, car parks, shopping centres, National Trust properties, even many beaches, are all places where lots of people gather, but they are privately owned. To take photos for editorial purposes, or commercial purposes, in these places, you should have the landowner's permission. (Generally, taking photos for your own personal use, to record a family day out, is not a problem.)

For editorial purposes means for use in media, such as magazines and newspapers. In other words, I can use the photo above to illustrate an article in a magazine, but I could not use the photo above as an image on a T-Shirt, on a mug, or on a poster to sell to the general public. Those examples would be classified as commercial use of the image. Any image containing people (whether it is obvious who they are or not) which is going to be used for commercial purposes, must be accompanied by a model release form signed by every person in that image.

This is why, in the UK, the paparazzi can operate. They take their photos from a place where the public have a right to be - genrally they are on the pavement of a street - and their photos appear in newspapers and magazines.

Of course, there is nothing stopping you from being polite and asking people if they mind having their photo taken, even if, by law, you don't have to ask them. Often, you'll get a better photo, if you do. If you're at a seaside location, and see four senior citizens sitting on a bench on the promenade, wrapped up in winter coats and scarves, but each eating an ice-cream, that could make a great photo! Ask them if they mind having their photo taken. Most people are actually quite willing.

Obviously, extreme caution needs to be exercised when taking photographs in public places where children may be present. (This is an area of the law that some members of the legal profession feel ought to be clarified further.) The safest option is always to ask the parents' permission, or simply return to the site when children are not around.

For many travel articles, taking a photo of market scene, or a carnival procession will not cause any problems, because you'll be in a public space and, the chances are, those people won't even know that you are taking their photo. But just be aware that if you're taking a photo that includes one person, or a couple of people, then being polite and asking permission first, is a good policy to follow.

Good luck.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Taking Better Travel Photos

Following on from last week's posting about writing travel articles, I thought I'd continue sharing some of Solange Hando's tips, this week looking at ways to take better photos.

I've had many writers ask why they should take photos, when they're a writer, not a photographer. The simple answer is, it increases the opportunity of publication. Gone are the days when magazines could pay a writer for the words and then send a photographer to get some photos. (Some of the prestigious magazines still do this ... Country Life, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, but most cannot afford to do this.) So, a writer who can offer photos is an editor's dream. Last week, I gained a commission from a magazine based upon some of the photos I had taken, which I included with my pitch. A friend of mine mentioned recently that she'd pitched an article to an editor, and he'd come back and asked her to show her a sample of the pictures she had available, before he would make a decision.

So, photos are important, especially for travel articles, but you don't need a fancy camera to take good pictures. These days, a simple point-and-shoot camera can produce great shots ... as long as the person taking the photo has some idea of what type of picture they want in the first place!

  • For travel articles, photos are essential, and these days, digital makes life so much easier. Editors expect digital images these days - in JPEG format.
  • If you have photos available when pitching an idea to an editor, include some of your best photos in your pitch - but just send low-res images.
  • Always send your best pictures - this is what catches the reader's eye when they flick through the magazine - and these are what will catch the editor's eye.
  • Photos can be obtained from tourist boards, however, some editors dislike this because tourist boards tend to send out the same photos to potential markets - which means the same picture gets used over and over again. A writer who can submit their own photos will be offering a different photo - something the reader won't have seen before.
  • Take loads of photos. Digital makes this easy! Photograph everything and anything! Take photos of information panels, general scenes, people doing things, unusual events. Whatever you see with your eyes - take a photo of it!
  • Every picture should tell a story. There has to be a reason for the picture in the first place. Why are you taking the image? Does it show how luxurious the hotel is that you are staying in? Does it show how close to the beach it is? Does it show the rats running away from the refuse bins out the back?
  • Think variety. Take pictures in portrait mode (ie. rotating the camera 90 degrees to take a tall and thin image) and also landscape mode - the traditional format (as in the image at the top of this blog). Take pictures without people in them, and take pictures with lots of people in them. Ideally, if you've done some market research before hand and have an idea as which publication you are targeting, look at the photos. Do they like photos with people in them, or photos without? Give the publication images that you know they like using.
  • Take photos of your accommodation - inside, outside, and every room - including the bathroom! (Take them as soon as you arrive and before you unpack, for that 'clean' look.)
  • Take pictures of funny signs - especially ones where they've tried to translate into English, but it hasn't quite worked.
  • Have something in the foreground - near to the front of the image - because this can help with the sense of scale.
  • When taking photos of people (where they agree to be photographed and look straight into the camera) take two photos. Take the first one (where the subject will 'pose') and then quickly take another one when the subject has 'relaxed' after the first one was taken. The second photo will be more natural.
And that's all there is to it!

Take a picture of your bathroom in your accommodation!

And take a photo of your room as soon as you arrive and before you unpack and make your room look untidy!

And take a picture of other rooms within the property too.

Finally, have something in the foreground to add a sense of scale.

Good luck!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Top Travel Writing Tips

At the end of July I was at the Caerleon Writers Holiday and one of the workshops I attended was on travel writing, by Solange Hando.

I thought I'd share with you some of the useful tips that travel writers need to consider when writing travel-related articles.

Before You Go:
  1. Buy a recent guidebook and read it. Find out about the places that people recommend visiting. It might also enable you to create a feature about great places to go that the guidebooks miss out on!
  2. Research previous travel articles. (What's changed since they were written? Can you write an updated version?)
  3. Jot down any ideas in your notebook that come to you as you read through the guidebook.
  4. Look for any special approaching anniversaries.
  5. Check out when there are any special market days or festivities. Find out about them in adavance and plan going to them.
  6. Learn a little about local customs in order to become friendly with the locals. Once the locals appreciate that you have made an effort to understand their culture, they are more likely to open up to you and share knowledge with you.
  7. Research your target market before you go. (If one magazine prefers photos of views, whereas another magazine prefers pictures with lots of people in them, you can then ensure you take the right type of photos for each market.)
  8. Check to see whether the publication uses a picture of the writer 'on location'. If so - make sure you ask a passer-by to take your photo of you 'on location'!
When You Are There:
  1. Keep a diary. Don't write down the information that you have in the guidebook, write down your personal experiences, what you see, feel, taste, smell and hear.
  2. Whilst out and about, don't write copious notes - write enough to help jog your memory for when it's time to write up your notes at the end of the day. (Solange gave us an example: Monk + Crash Helmet and from that she recounted an interested anecdote! But those three words were enough to trigger the memories.)
  3. Make a note of a dominant colour. Lanzerote is white because of the houses. Wales is green, because of the hills. (Actually, I think its green because of the rain, but still.)
  4. Talk to people. At first, Solange thought the food in one place was very cheap, but it wasn't until she began talking to people at the adjacent table that she learned the alcoholic drinks were immensely expensive. What she was going to call a good place out for a cheap meal, suddenly became a venue that needed to be selected with care.
  5. Make a note of email addresses and contact details of anyone official at any organisation or attraction you visit. It's useful to have this back-up to drop someone an email to check out a fact.
  6. Collect everything you can - leaflets, postcards, business cards.
  7. If you have a tape recorder, don't just use it for interviews - use it to record any sounds - it helps with atmosphere. Record a few minutes of the bells peeling in a local church, or the sound of a busy market place.
  8. Look up! We spend too much time looking around places, but we often forget to look up. You just don't know what you could be missing out on!
Good luck.

Monday, 8 August 2011

If You're Going To Read Someone's Diary ...

... I would recommend this one.

In September 2009, Rachel Johnson took over as the editor of The Lady, the oldest women's weekly magazine in the world, and was charged with turning the magazine around and increasing its circulation.

This diary is an account of her first twelve months and is absolutely hilarious. It's not an insight into what happens in a typical magazine, but for those interested in writing for magazines, it certainly shows how frenetic putting together a magazine can be.

I should offer a word of warning ... to those who may have sent in articles to The Lady during Rachel's first year of office. Occasionally, she starts her daily diary by listing the post that has come in, which includes detailing the outlines of some of the articles and proposals that freelance writers have submitted. Don't panic, she doesn't name names, but if you sent in something you might recognise it ... and not like Rachel's comments. (But then, shame on you for not doing your market analysis properly!)

Not only is it revealing about the sort of material that writers send to editors, but the lengths an editor goes to get the front cover image they're looking for is interesting. I was a bit surprised to read about Rachel going into her nearest Tescos store and comparing how the front cover of The Lady looked on the shelf, with the covers of Take a Break, Chat and the "juggernaut" that is The People's Friend. (I must admit, I've never thought of The People's Friend as a juggernaut!).

Anyway, if you want to know how Rachel got on during her first year as editor (a role she hadn't done since her University student days) then this is a great read.

For more information, click here.

Good luck!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Single Copy Purchases

When it comes to analysing potential magazines, getting hold of a physical copy isn't always easy, especially if the title is not carried in your local newsagents. (County magazines are a great example of this - living in Shropshire, my local newsagents does not carry copies of Cumbria magazine, but that doesn't stop me writing for it!)

Traditionally, the only ways to get hold of a single copy were to find a large newsagents that did carry the title you were looking for, or to contact the magazine to see if you could purchase one issue, or even, if you were lucky, blag one for free from the editor.

But times are a-changing. One the UK's largest regional publishers, Archant, (who also publish several national titles too) have just launched a website called, which does exactly what it says; it allows you to buy A magazine. Yes, you can take out a subscription, but you can also buy a SINGLE issue.

In fact, simply browsing this site may spark off potential ideas that may suit some of these titles, so it's worth a browse just for this!

Another potential (and money-saving) source of single issues is the Zinio website - Anyone with an Apple iPad, or other tablet device, may already be familiar with this service that allows you to buy electronic version of magazines - either an annual subscription, or simply a one-issue purchase, which is then downloaded to your gadget. If you don't have an iPad, or similar gadget, don't dismiss this service - it's possible to download Zinio's application on your Windows, Apple or Linux computer, enabling you to purchase single issues to read and analyse on screen.

My father, who has an iPad (and he's working very hard at convincing me to buy one!), says that what he likes about it is that prices are often cheaper. Some publications that may cost £3.95, or £4.25 for a physical copy from the newsagents can be purchased for as little as £1.79. (Zinio also has the advantage of being able to offer magazines from different countries including the USA and Russia!)

So, if you find it difficult to obtain single copies of specific magazines then consider looking at both of these websites. They may just provide you with the solution you are looking for.

Good luck.