In the world of magazines and newspapers, photographs are usually referred to as the “art” or the “creative” – the crucial images that bring visual life to the written word.
Tracking down art is one of the more difficult tasks that falls to the editor – or sometimes the page designer or graphics editor in conjunction with a travel or features editor – because not every staff writer or freelancer is also an adept photographer.
So, if in addition to writing travel stories, you also take your own photos, you are considerably more in demand and valuable to an editor. And if you consistently come up with an assortment of pictures from each of the three important styles, then you’re golden.
In addition, many publications are looking for good travel photographers that they can go to for the shots they require on an as-needed basis – that means that if you have a website that showcases a variety of photos from all over, that can give you an in with publications looking to supplement what they have or can find on stock photo sites.
Here are the three crucial types of photos editors want:
The overview photo
This is the one that usually runs very large – either on the front page of a newspaper travel section or as the lead-in photo to a multi-page magazine spread. When your story is about a city, then a sweeping city shot is definitely in order. Or, if you’re hiking or conducting some other outdoor activity, you should try to snap a couple of broader-angle photos that can convey space and context.
Because these bigger photos often require the use of a tripod, they’re typically the ones that freelancers leave out of their offerings to publications. But if you can get even one larger-scope shot, you will make an editor’s day – mainly because it means that they won’t have to scroll through thousands of photos from a stock agency or scramble to track down another freelancer who might have the needed pic.
The detail photo
Detail photos are the ones that usually run smaller on jump pages – where your story goes from the first page, when it’s continued – or as illustrations for the “If You Go” places you recommend.
Including a handful of detail shots is the smart move, because you never know what an editor needs. In a magazine, the story can jump over several pages, which necessitates many detail shots. But even when a publication can’t use all of the shots you send, these can be valuable (meaning, you will get more money) if the publication is one that puts slideshows up on their websites in conjunction with a story package.
The candid people shot
While some magazines prefer photos of hotel rooms and landscapes with no people in them – the guidelines for each publication should tell you if this is the case – others prefer to include a human element. Most newspapers prefer people, as well.
The tough thing, though, about getting photos of people is that they often come off as staged. Even when you’re trying to take a candid picture, the subjects often are aware that you’re doing this, and they will stop moving and pose, or make unintentionally weird faces.
But if you can surreptitiously snap a few shots or converse with the subject to keep him or her from focusing on your lens, you will come away with much better photographs that will be in high demand.