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Although there are no hard and fast rules for what constitutes a best-selling travel image, themes that include nature, people having fun, and the experience of luxury — shot under unique conditions — especially appeal to editors and other photo-buyers.

Here are a few examples:


Peak foliage seems like such an easy thing to shoot, right? Not exactly. Too often photographers try to capture everything in a single image, rather than picking their spots. A photo of just a mass of trees in full color isn’t as strong as say a single oak or even a branch of leaves. Less really is more. Other tips: Don’t be afraid to play with mist and fog to create mood and know that foliage color actually pops more on an overcast sky.

photo themes

The main photo on this spread was taken just off a dirt road outside of Montpelier, Vermont, and ran in Yankee’s September/October 2014 issue. The early light casts a fresh glow on the pasture, while the golden maple frames the image just perfectly. That single part of a tree lets the reader know that it’s a peak October day. It’s an alluring, inviting image and for the reader the question becomes, do they want to run through that field or set up a picnic?


Landscapes anchor a story’s sense of place, but shots of people in those landscapes allow the reader to feel more engaged with what they’re looking at. They can picture themselves climbing that mountain or paddling that lake because, hey, look there’s a group of people who’ve already done it. 


This shot was taken in late summer on Maine’s Moosehead Lake and appeared in Yankee’s May/June 2013 issue. I love the early morning light and the way the mountain and lake serve as a soft background behind the sporty couple. They look ready to take on the day, to have some fun. The readers see the beauty of the region and the couple helps sell why we’re featuring it.  


At Yankee, we try and build strong narratives into our travel pieces. But some stories—a round-up of different destinations in a city or region, for example— demand the standard go-see-do treatment. In those cases, the photos are especially important. The reader needs to see that great entree, hotel room, or espresso. It’s not enough to just tell them it exists.


The luscious food shot of mussels in a white wine sauce was shot for a holiday travel story on Portsmouth, New Hampshire, that ran in Yankee’s November/December 2012 issue. The photographer’s use of natural light gives the dish a fresh look, while the shallow depth of field puts the focus squarely on the food.  One quick food tip: When shooting at low F-stop, put the focus on the part of the dish that you think the reader would like to try first.

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