As a travel writer, you want to capture the true essence of a destination. Mainly to inspire people to go there, but also to have saleable photos to go with your articles.
See, photography is much more than just pretty pictures. Done right it inspires, captivates, and motivates others to visit that place, try that exotic dish or embark on that adventure. Great travel shots ignite the passion to get on a bus, train, or plane and go.
Photos help your writing in two major ways.
Firstly, by referring back to them. Your photos record everything. What the weather was like and how a place felt—sunny or overcast, windy or still, hot or cold. I like to think of them as a sneaky little revisit. You can remember how it felt to be there taking that photo which pulls your senses into your writing.
Secondly, they spark more article ideas when you look back through them. That little hole-in-the-wall café you enjoyed a coffee at could be the hidden gem you forgot about.
So, the big question is: how do you photograph everything you may need when you visit a destination?
That’s easy. Photograph everything. I do. And I mean everything. It may sound odd but you want to capture everything you possibly can.
From a shell on the beach to a brass band marching down the street. You can use every image. If there is a town crest, seal, or iconic plant…you guessed it—photograph that too! It sums up a destination.
Every place you see, everything you eat, drink, or smell. The culture, the people, the food, signs, architecture, colors and feel of a place along with the scenery and attractions.
That is the whole point of travel photography. To convey a destination in wonderful vivid color to the readership.
To help, here is a list of 10 main things I aim to cover at a destination:
1. Wide scenic shot of the destination
A panorama or entire city shot from a lookout. Look for the tallest building, a church bell tower or any other place you can get a bird’s-eye view capturing the whole city.
Eating out is one of the biggest joys of travel, so capture every meal. The dish, indoor and outdoor dining venues, the staff, owner, and any specialty cocktails or menu items they are famous for.
A woman cooking a traditional dish at a cooking class, old men who meet in the park daily to play chess, salsa dancing, or someone making a traditional textile. Anything that the region/city is famous for.
People love seeing the locals and how they live. But be respectful. I always ask permission first and offer them a little money to show my appreciation and let them know their time is valuable.
These are the shots that make people feel like they are right there in the location with you. You can almost taste that local dish or feel the ornate carving of a church’s facade under your fingertips. Close-ups are king.
Indoor or outdoor—from farmers markets with artisanal breads and cheeses to rabbit warren, tin-roofed dirt floor markets in emerging countries, people love markets.
Street signs, menus, tall signs listing local attractions, each and every sign you pass. These convey everything in one quick pic. Plus, they will help you later with correct spelling.
8. Tourism workers
Museum docents, local guides, even waiters—anyone that has anything to do with tourism may happily get their photo taken and are great for profile pieces later on as well as a face to put with an article. People love people. But, as with photos of locals on the street, be respectful and ask first.
Google “top 10 things to do in …” and look at the top attractions. Yes, they’ve been covered before but they are top attractions for a reason. There are bound to be some that fit your niche. Take a look at the photos that already exist of the attraction online. Is there an angle you can spot that hasn’t been taken yet?
I love strolling the streets and finding beautiful architecture. The ornately decorated facade of a church, Spanish colonial baroque of past conquerors, or old weathered doors full of character. These are where people spend lifetimes. They tell a story. The history of the people that live there.
Even if you only cover a few of these, your next trip will yield a wealth of great saleable photos to accompany your article. Happy snapping!