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!

5 comments:

  1. a terrific post and I ALWAYS forget to take a photo of the room before we unpack and make it look like a tip. It's almost impssible to put it together agan perfectly☺
    One other use of photos are pictures you have no intention of publishing but which remind you of things for the article. I have photos of markets that just looking at them reminds me of the smells and colors; other photos remind of funny or odd things that happened . A photo of a shopkeeper that I took wasn't very interesting but it reminded me of all the things I wanted to say about the shop.

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  2. Another great post, Simon. Many thanks. Had often wondered why photos by the writer were preferred but hadn't considered that stock photos may be just that, standard. Thinking about photos taken by a family group they are all very different with different viewpoint, angle and even attention to detail.
    Ann

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  3. Hi to both Anns!

    The number of times I walk into some accommodation dump my bags, put the kettle on and then I think, "oh, where's my camera, I ought to take some pictures," and then realise I have to take all my stuff outside again!

    And yes, the tourist boards have images of the stuff they want tourists to see, but sometimes, if you're writing an honest review of a destination you need to include the things the tourist boards don't want people to see!

    Simon

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  4. I've been wondering... is it okay to publish pictures of picturesque natives doing picturesque native things? What about children? I'm not sure about this... I wouldn't want anyone printing a photo in a magazine of my kids without my knowing.

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  5. Hi Nan

    Yes, I'm writing about this topic for my next posting!

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