Do you want your photography published? International Living magazine Executive Editor Jennifer Stevens suggests packaging your photography with a story. Jennifer gives us concrete, specific steps we can take to make money and perks from our travel photography!
*Please scroll to the bottom of the post for the transcript.
How to Get Published as a Travel Photographer and Writer – Tips from an Editor
Do you want your photography published? International Living magazine Executive Editor Jennifer Stevens suggests packaging your photography with a story. Learn the basic writing skills and types of photography that editors and creative directors are looking for. Not only, can you get paid for your photography and articles, you can also get some mighty fine travel bonuses! Jennifer gives us concrete, specific steps we can take to make money and perks from our travel photography!
Here is the link to the travel writing class with the 58% discount: https://www.greatescapepublishing.com/twpodcast
The Understand Photography Show is an interview-style show about travel, nature and fine art photography. Host Peggy Farren interviews famous photographers, beginner photographers, specialty photographers, travel gurus and more on this weekly show. It airs on Fridays on the Understand Photography Facebook page, Youtube and iTunes.
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Hi, I’m Peggy Farren. Welcome to the Understand Photography Show where we talk about travel nature and fine art photography.
Hey, today we’re going to talk about travel writing, in addition to your travel photography, why not try to make some money and make some perks with it right? Jennifer Stevens is the executive editor of International Living magazine. So she’s going to give us some great tips.
Now. We’re all kind of sequestered at home right now. And so this is the best opportunity that you’re going to have to really get educated. I mean, there’re so many things you can do in your photography to learn and we have online classes that understand photography. Again, our motto is We Simplify the Technical so if you’re the type of person who needs things shown to you step by step. Step, then you will really like our classes.
Our signature class is the Four Weeks to Proficiency in Photography. And that is a foundational class, you’re going to learn to shoot the manual mode, you’re going to learn all about composition, about lighting, including flash, learn a little bit about flash. And then of course, the last class I called the techie stuff, where we get into metering modes and drive modes and focus modes and things like that. That class has a start date. So check our website at www.understandphotography.com to see when the next class starts.
It’s an interactive class so you’re not just going to get a video and then forget to forget to watch it because I’ve done that. You’re going to get reminders. Hey, you have homework, show me your homework because your teacher, who is me, is going to say, hey, do your homework. Let me see your homework. So the homework is designed to help really seal the information into your brain. Now the class is the technical side of photography, the composition part will help you be creative. But you’re going to learn basically the rules of composition, then you can make educated decisions on when you’re going to break them. Shooting in the manual mode is the first class. That’s the most important class because once you understand exposure, which is the light that’s coming into your camera, everything gets easier.
We also have some great Lightroom classes. Joe Fitzpatrick is the Lightroom guru, he is so good, so good at explaining. Our software classes are short little videos, like three to five to seven minutes, maybe have just one concept. And then you practice and then you can, you can rewind, if you want to see it, then you go to the next concept and it builds from each other. And then you get to keep the class for life. So if you forget how to do something, you just go back and watch that one little three minute video rather than trying to find it in an hour long.
Jennifer Stevens is My guest today and I have to tell you how I met her. I I don’t even know how I found International Living magazine. But somehow, I probably subscribed to their free newsletter or whatever. And then they just kept sending stuff. And it was really interesting stuff. So I kept reading it. And they had a travel writing course. And I thought, Well, I’m not really interested in being a travel writer, but I do want to improve my writing because I have the blog, and we do the show notes and all that kind of stuff. So I thought, I’m just going to take it, I thought the price was pretty good, although she’s given us a discount at the end here, which is a better price than I paid.
Anyway, I really, really enjoyed the class. So I reached out to her and said, Hey, would you be a guest on the Understand Photography Show. She’s been the executive editor of International Living for a long, long time. And then she is the author of this travel writing course. So welcome, Jen.
Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Tell our audience a little bit about you.
Yeah, so I’m the Executive Editor of International Living, that’s a magazine, we write about places around the world where you can travel well and live better for less. And I, gosh, about 20, some years ago now wrote the first edition of the Ultimate Travel Writers course. And I did that in part because I was editing an international living. And we needed all this great content from people who were traveling interesting places and living around the world, that they would send it in and it would be horrendous. And I’d have to rewrite everything. And I used to say out loud, like, this is not that hard to do. Why can we not teach people how to do this?
And so at some point, I finally put my money where my mouth was and decided to write a program to explain to the everyday person, not someone with an English degree necessarily, but just a regular old person who likes to travel, how to take the information, they’re gathering on the road and turn it into sellable travel articles. So that’s kind of what the travel rider course does, and not just sellable. But just more Interesting.
Because I think a lot of people will write about, you know, they might go on a trip and write and you know, an email to their friends and family about what they like to do what they did what they’d recommend. And there’s so there’s lots of people who, who put words on paper, but they never think about what they could do that beyond just sharing it with their it’s like small group of people. And my contention was, you know, lots of people want to know that insider information. If you can tell it in the right way, then you can actually sell it. And that’s kind of cool.
And let me just tell you why I took the class because I, you know, I have a blog, but I don’t write a whole lot but I write a little bit. I wrote a little bit here and there for the newspapers usually about travel photography. But one time, I wrote an article about travel photography, I went to the Philippines and it was for our weekly newspaper and the editor took my piece And she just made it sounds so much better. And I thought I want to learn how to do that. And I really did learn a lot in your class. I mean, you really are good at that. So if you’re going to write you want people to be interested. It’s not just like, here’s what I did. Right?
Right. Well, thank you. And yeah, exactly. I mean it when you want to tell your story, you need to tell it in a kind of a compelling way in a way that will make people not want to put it down. And so there’s lots of tricks of the trade for doing that. Like you don’t have to be you don’t have a master’s in English Lit to be able to do that. There’s lots of formulas and once you kind of understand those formulas and understand the core ideas that what makes people react in certain ways, and it sounds so hard to do. So you mean you do need to kind of get educated, but my attitude is it’s not rocket science. In fact, I had a rocket scientist take my travel writer workshop once and I asked if I knew that’s what he did for a living because we had chatted before during a break. And I said so tell me like we’ve got someone in the in the The room is this easier than your day job. He’s like, this is way easier than my day job is way easier than rocket science. You just need to know what you’re doing, you know, you need to know what those formulas are. But I don’t pretend to be able to tell teach somebody to write, you know, a beautiful 80,000 word. You know, like travelogue kind of thing. I can’t teach you to write a travel book per se, but I can definitely teach people how to write the kind of material that that is easy to sell these days, and it’s a lot more straightforward. So it’s really not that hard to do, if you know what you’re doing. And, you know, as I said, I can teach how to you know, my audience, you know, primarily, if not 100% of photographers, and pretty well traveled, a lot of our customers travel quite a bit. And a lot of them do have blogs or emails that they send out to their friends and family. But, I mean, the little hook that you’ve got in this class is you teach people how to get free PR How to get money.
Yeah, that’s the thing you know, when you’re travel, I think that there are several benefits of traveling as a travel writer that really go nicely hand in hand with photography. First of all, I think it’s you travel in a different way, when you’re happy when you know that you have to write about a place you’re just sort of engaged in at a level that you’re not, when you’re simply traveling as a tourist. And I think somebody who’s interested in photography, and already going around with a camera in hand, they’re already looking for interesting angles for new ways to describe something essentially, you know, they’re they want to show a place from their own perspective and travel writing is exactly the same.
So really, what you want to do is learn how to take that instinct that you have for looking for something that’s unique or something that’s interesting, and then learn how to take that image and write about it in a way that is compelling, but it’s the same instinct. And I think a great advantage of traveling that way, whether it’s as a photographer or travel writer or both, is that it does force you to pay more attention, you’re living more in the moment you’re experiencing a place kind of in real time in a way you don’t necessarily when you’re just going by, as you know, as a visitor, and you’re kind of passing through, just makes for, I think, a richer travel experience.
But that aside, in terms of the perks, this is the thing that most people I think, don’t understand. Lots of people, tourist boards, airlines, hotels, restaurants, they’re really interested in getting good press, essentially. And one of the best ways they have found to do that is to invite travel writers to come to their town and experience they’re offering whatever it may be. And they’ll invite people to do that for free. In the hope that they’ll get some good press out of it, because you know, you think about it. What is more compelling, really, for a reader? Is it seeing an ad from the Belize Tourist Board or is it actually reading an article about what you know a travel experience in Belize is live That comes with lots of beautiful photos and that sort of thing that’s worth a lot in terms of the return that they get on it. And so press, people who have like tourist boards and so on, they’re pretty happy to have, press essentially come in and write something about it, they’ll invite them to come for free, in hopes that they’ll get that good coverage.
Now, the trick, of course, is once you understand how that construct works, right, that kind of the system works. The trick is to be one of those people that they want to invite. And so that’s one of the things that I talked about in my travel writer program as well to sort of how the whole landscape works and how you can insert yourself into it. Now you can imagine if you’ve just started out and you’ve never written anything, if you get in touch with say, I’m randomly picking the Belize Tourism Board for no reason if you get in touch with the blisters board, and say hi, you don’t know who I am. I’ve never written anything. I’ve never had anything published. Can I come for free? I mean, they’re not gonna take you up on that right? Like they would be stupid. Which is totally understandable.
So what I teach people to do is figure out how you can get three or four little pieces published so that you have a little bit of a track record. So you can show when you approach a tourist board or you know, or a hotel or resort or something and say, Hey, I’m, I’m a travel writer and photographer, this is what I do. Here’s a few examples of where I’ve been published before. I’m interested in coming and visiting you would you be interested in sponsoring me when you ask with a little bit of track record a little background, you know it to go with it, then they’re happy enough to have you come and the good news now too is that you know, in the old world 2030 years ago, the only people publishing travel suffer newspapers and magazines, they were all print.
And typically, the photographer’s and the travel writers they were separate beasts like they you know, in the old world photographers took photos and travel writers wrote and near each other to meet Yeah, that is not the case anymore. We’re so many outlets now. To get published, so all kinds of places, you know, blogs and online publications, and so many print publications have online, presences now have an online presence that is a huge, I mean, I’ll speak for us at International Living. You know, we have 500,000 people who visit our website, on any given day. And so we have so much content that we call our free content that is completely different from our paid content that appears in our monthly magazine. And so like we have this insane appetite for content, and when we love it’s very visual, because it’s online. So we love it when we can have photographers send us, you know, photos to go with their stories. And so I know I’m not the only publication that’s like that. And we have lots and lots of options for both photography and travel writing these days, way more than used to exist and so it’s a really nice way it’s kind of a good time to be, to be considering this to figuring it to be figuring it out.
So, so if I wanted to, how would I? How would I get that credibility to start?
So I recommend really that people, you know, start small, it’s silly to try to sell something to Conde Nast Traveler, if you’ve never written a word in your life, like they’re just not going to buy your stuff, and nor should they, you know, like, that’s fine. But there’s so many smaller publications that you can, that you can really go after to try to get something published. And some of them might only pay 10 bucks or 20 bucks or 50 bucks, but my attitude is in the beginning, your job isn’t to sort of try to make enough money to pay for your camera in the beginning, if your goal is to be getting perks to be getting some of this free stuff, well, then you need a little track record. So your goal should be to get those clips what we call those clips, those examples of your published work. You need to you need to get those in and no one’s gonna ever ask you how much you got paid for it. So it shouldn’t really matter.
I don’t really recommend you necessarily write for free unless it’s your own blog. You Have your own following. And I guess I should say that to that now, because travel interests, I think are so sort of niched out that there are people who are interested in, you know, outdoors travel, say or multigenerational travel, and they’ll follow bloggers who talk about that. So while they might also subscribe to publications, they’re also following blogs, right? You have a blog about photography and travel. And so there are people who are interested in that follow your blog. So if you wanted you could then you’ve got lots of examples of stuff that’s your self published, essentially, right? You’re writing your own stuff on your blog, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t then approach the Belize Tourist Board or whoever and say, Hey, I have a blog I have a following of X number of people. And you know, they’re This is my open rate. Like I know that these guys are opening this stuff I send them would you be interested in inviting me to come and experience something I’d like to show my followers What they bought, they’re missing. And so that’s kind of a neat thing too, because that didn’t use to exist, you know, now nowadays, because people are kind of coming. They’re following those recommendations of individuals, tourists boards and so on are happy to work with people like who are in a position you are where you have your own blogs, and then lots of photographers have their own blog, so that could be cool.
So do you recommend like taking a trip to get started and then just saying, Hey, I’m going to Tuscany or wherever and write about it.
Right, you definitely can. But I always say that, you know, the cheapest and fastest way to get started is really to just write about where you are at home. I know. If you write about where you are, that can give you an advantage because you’re local. So you’re going to know things that the average visitor isn’t going to know you know, where you take people when they come to visit you. You know where you take them to out to dinner and those little secret hikes. We live in Colorado right now. And we have to We’re really close to the Garden of the Gods, which is, you know, beautiful big, giant red rocks. And it’s very pretty. But there are hikes, we know to take people on that the average tourist never finds. And so and they’re really cool. And they have great views.
And, and so if you can kind of write about where you live, you don’t have to pay to get on a plane to start getting those clips. You know, really, what tourist boards and what other publications want to see, really in the bigger publications, they just want to see that you can put words together, they want to see that you can have that, that you have that following. And so it doesn’t matter where you get published really, as long as you have a few things to show that look, I’m doing it right. So starting local can be really can be really smart. And I recommend it you should get read people should.
If you haven’t, go to your own Tourist Board and introduce yourself, you know, and say, Hey, I’m a photographer, and I’m starting to do some writing about our community and I just wanted to hook up with you. I wanted to get on your press release list and, you know, let me know when there’s stuff going on because I’d love to cover it too. A sport, the love that, you know, that’s just, that’s a great way to get in good with the locals. And then if you start writing stuff, then they’ll start calling you and say, Hey, we have this new thing.
Now, you do have to be a little prolific though, right? Or they’re gonna forget about you if you just do one article.
Yeah, obviously, the more you write, the more that kind of feeds on itself. But I did this once I just moved here. And I never wrote about the United States because I work for international living, we don’t write about us and so all of my clips are international. But I thought maybe I’ll write a little bit about town now that I’m here. I had grown up here on and off and we moved back here like 15 years ago. And so I thought I’ll go introduce myself. So I did and got on the press release list and didn’t think much of it and got busy and didn’t really do any writing locally.
And then about four or five months later, I get an email from the Tourist Board, saying Hey, this airline is going to start flying here and they really want to put you in, they want to put a story about colorado springs in their news or magazine. But they are on a really tight deadline. And I remembered you said you were a professional writer. And you you I figured you could probably do what they needed. So I just gave this editor your name. I was like, sweet. So then I ended up writing for her for a couple years, like all of these covers, store all these stories. It was like a gravy train. And then she was a busy magazine for the airline. Yeah. Okay. So I mean, and that just came because I stuck my head into the Tourist Board and introduce myself. So you just never know. So I would highly recommend everybody do that. Yeah. For what it’s worth.
So I’m going to get started by going to my tourists or saying, hey, if you have anything, but wouldn’t it be a good idea to bring my own ideas to or?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think you just want to let them know that you’re around, and the chessboard usually has lists of ideas, in fact, which can be kind of good. Of course, ideas now might be a little bit different than ideas a few months ago, given the travel situation that people are finding themselves in. And I’ve been thinking about this a lot, because I went to, I think, a couple things. One, because everyone is kind of sequestered at home. I don’t think this is the death knell of travel, writing, because I think a lot of people are going to be interested in armchair travel, and I’m just looking at what people are reacting to on our social media for international living, for example, and our correspondents are posting stuff about what’s going on where they live, you know, so this is what’s going on in France right now. This is what life is like in Italy right now. You know, people are posting things. And we’re also posting just like on Instagram or posting, like just beautiful places around the world because I don’t think that people necessarily everyone assumes at some point, this is going to pass and we’re all going to get back on airplanes.
We’re all going to go travel again. I mean, it will, you know, get back to quote normal, I suppose. But I think that there is definitely opportunity for sort of armchair travel kind of kind of stories. And so I would consider that like what are what do you mean by armchair? What do you want is like places that are somewhat maybe iconic in your niche in near where you live or places that people don’t know about, like secret spots in your town that you’ve you’re, you’ve always been too busy to go visit. You know, now that everyone’s slowing down and staying home that kind of thinking like, Huh, I could go out what would I do? So kind of offering up people some ideas about what they could do. I think stories about places that will allow people to maybe be outside and can maintain that social distancing, but also experience town. I mean, we’re lucky in in Colorado, there’s so much beautiful hiking, you know, in places you can walk and it’s we have lots of space here. So it’s not so hard to go for a walk where you can stay far away from other people.
But I think stories like that are worth telling right now. I would also, I would also say that everything that I talked about in terms when I teach travel, writing about how to formulate an idea how to talk to an editor, all of that is true whether you’re writing strictly about travel, writing, or about other stuff as well. So for example, if you have a professional background, say as a teacher, I’m or I’ll use teaching as an example.
And now you’re thinking like, but you always did have done photography on the side. And you’re interested in getting more into photography and travel writing. If you don’t feel like you can sell a travel piece right now, because no one is traveling. And indeed, no one is necessarily traveling this moment. What could you do with your teaching background? So what if you did a story about like, 10 ways to keep kids 10 smart ways to keep kids occupied while they’re home? That kind of story. You sell the same way you sell a travel story and can you illustrate it? Well? Yeah, go take a picture of kids. Working at home and sell that picture with your story, right you have to be a little bit creative. There’s I always say that there’s a an opportunity in combining your interests and your hobbies with travel writing. So, you know, if you’re a knitter and you might write about some great yarn shop in London, or something like that, but you could also, if you’re a knitter, right about what are you knitting, you know, what are people knitting while they’re home? You know, you can kind of parlay your interests it doesn’t have to be just travel but the same way that you kind of define an idea and talk to editors. It’s true no matter what your what you’re writing about. Yeah,
Let me just say though, if you are taking pictures of people, make sure you get model releases before you sell a picture of someone because that’s a well,
Right you would if you’re doing it inside and certainly for commercial use, you know, typically for travel photos, you don’t necessarily that are going to appear in a magazine. You don’t necessarily have to have a release though those rules just depends on the publication. Um, you know, you go and look at stock, guys leave stock photos you always need for commercial use you always need a model release. You don’t necessarily for you don’t necessarily need a release for print, particularly for print and editorial use but it might as well it Yeah, and if it’s in a private home I think you do yeah. And if the home available place, it’s fine but right.
Yeah, in a private home you would want to get permission take picture of your own kids your grandkids.
Yeah, yeah, here sign this.
How do I formulate the story in the first place? I Okay, so I’m coming up with ideas for stories. So I live in Southwest Florida. You know, we can go hiking in the Everglades. probably not going to be going out to eat or anything that a lot of people tourists do here but we could go hiking for sure. Or we could just talk about the nature trails we have right in in the town. So that’s my idea. How do I put that story together to make it interesting to someone else?
Well, the good news for somebody who’s coming to travel writing, newly you know, is that the easiest stuff to sell is short. Okay? So that’s good news because you don’t need to write, you know, 50,000 words you might write 500, maybe 200. Which and 200 words is like, two paragraphs, it’s like eight sentences summary long. So, you know, you I think that thinks shorter rather than longer. And you think about it this way. Most publications, like print publications always have short little holes, they need to fill up in the front what we call the front of the book, right? little tips kind of thing. Newspapers are always looking for small things to fill spaces. You know, usually the way newspapers work and editor has a certain number of pages that he or she’s working with. And then the ad team comes in and says, Okay, well we’ve sold this space, this space in this space, you have to fill the rest of it with words. And so sometimes that’s easy to do. And sometimes you end up with a really funny shaped space that you just need something short to stick into. So most editors, whether they’re for magazines, or for newspapers, keep a kind of collection of these short little blurbs that could go anywhere. And so those can be really easy to sell, or easier to sell than a longer than a longer piece. And that’s the case online. So you know, a lot of the stuff we publish on, I can speak for international living, but it’s true of everybody.
The online stuff, you know, our attention span, as a society is so much shorter than it used to be. And so we tend to want to publish relatively short stuff, we have a daily letter and you know, I don’t think it goes past 600 words, you know, it’s not very long. And so that means that the sort of more narrow your idea is, the better you cannot do a story like what to do in New York and 300 words like you just, I mean, you just can’t.
So what instead, think about how you can narrowly do To find to find a story idea, and I always suggest that people think about their story ideas audience first and my diet. I mean, who’s going to be reading this? And what would that person be interested in? And how can I then make a recommendation for that person? So if I’m going to write to somebody who’s interested in knitting, for example, then well, what would that person want to know they want to know about and then maybe yarn shops, or a special tour that’s about knitting or some new kind of thing that like a new design that is, comes from a certain place in the world or, you know, whatever it might be. But if you think about it, in terms of that audience, first, you’re going to come up with interesting ideas that other people might not come up with. So I recommend that when you don’t know the audience, likeif you’re going to write for the newspaper, well, it’s pretty general audience for the newspaper. So you got to figure and in fact, a newspaper audiences tend to be a little bit older, typically then, you know, teenager sort of thing. And you can ask You can ask an editor to like what’s, what’s the demographic of your readership, you know, you can poke around, and sometimes those, that information will be online.
At a publication. If you look for a publications media kit, that’s the information they send to potential advertisers. Most publications have this online already. You know, they’re making it easy for people who might want to advertise. But you as a potential writer can learn all kinds of interesting tidbits from reading that media kit. And usually that includes their demographic information, who their readers are, how much money they make is male and female split, all that kind of stuff. So it’ll give you an idea about who’s going to read what you write.
All right, so let’s, let’s slow down a little bit. So let’s say I’m going to do you know this we have this beautiful walking and bike trail through the middle of Naples, which is you feel like you’re out in the middle of nowhere, but it’s really right in town. What kind of angle Could I take on something like that?
Well, I mean, I think You could do lots of different things. You know, one thing would be to suggest a portion of it that you would take if you were going to be going with your young grandchildren say, or another thing might be like where, you know if along this bike if there’s like a point A to start and a point B to end, if you’re going to spend the day would you bring tell people how to best spend the day so you should pack a lunch, you should bring, you know, water, or you should stop halfway here and pick up a shake at this little spot that’s done. You know what I mean? Like, you would kind of give your recommendations particularly if you live there as an insider, you’d want to give your recommendations for this is the best way to experience this thing. Right this activity. Okay. It’s that into that question.
And then I guess you could even do little niches things in there. I’m just thinking of this particular hiking trail. You know, you could say the birds of the you know, the wildlife of the core absolutely or something like that.
So you can slice I mean, you got to figure people have written about that Greenway no doubt like, yeah, regularly. It’s like Paris. I mean, if you go to any, you’re going to any newsstand and look, there will always be a France or Paris article on everything. Somewhere someone’s writing about Paris. I mean, it’s been written about a gazillion times, but people think of new ways to do it. So absolutely. Like, you could come at it by audience and think like wildlife, birds, going with kids on bikes, walking, if you could take skateboards, I mean, I wouldn’t be the one to write a skateboard article. But you could ask kids that are skateboarding and be like, so what should What do people need to know if you’re going to skateboard? I don’t know. You know, if you there’s lots of different ways you can slice and dice it. Like if you want to just experience the Greenway for an hour, here’s and you’re in town for a short period of time, this is the best way to do it. You know, start at the visitor center and then do this or start, start here and then end at this point or whatever it might be like, I think you just you have to kind of come up with a little bit of a narrow way to describe Write it.
So is it better to write like, first person? Or?
You know, it really it depends. It’s just not a useful answer in some ways. But I want to clarify that by saying, Look at where the publications that you’re kind of aiming for, look at what they’re doing, what are they publishing, if they like first person stuff, then just follow the model. That’s another tip, actually, you know, I, I can’t go into everything that’s in my travel writing course. But I will say one thing I do is kind of break down different formulas for different kinds of articles. And one thing you can do is if there are publications usually have a style, they usually have sort of little sections that they need to fill in each section typically has its own character.
And so what I would suggest to somebody do is look at what they’re spending an hour, or, you know, some amount of time looking at what a publication is doing. And kind of even make yourself notes like if there’s a story you like, and you think like, Oh, that’s interesting. So that’s A story about, you know, a spa in Switzerland. But I could write something similar to that about the spot here in town like I could see how it’s kind of comparable. So what I would recommend is kind of reverse engineering it is taking out a piece of paper, and looking at what an article is doing in the first paragraph and like writing notes saying, Okay, first paragraph, quote from somebody enjoying this second paragraph says what it is and where it is. third paragraph, you know, it kind of make yourself a cheat sheet basically good.
And then you can then then you’ve got sort of a scaffolding, if you will, to put your story on. And then you can write your story about your place, which is unrelated to this other thing you were just looking at completely, but you’re borrowing the architecture essentially, and that there is a certain sort of alchemy that goes on between the architecture and the ideas. And if you can borrow, I think that was when you start out that architecture can be hard to figure out like, you’ve got all this information and you’re really excited and you have had a good time and want to write about it, and you have no idea what to put first or second or third. So borrowing that sort of proven architecture from somebody can make really good sense.
Okay, so is it is it almost always better than to figure out where you’re going to try to sell or, or publish your piece before you write it?
So I think it is when you’re starting out, particularly because I think it gives you, you know, publications want to publish something that feels unique to them. And when you send an article that is just this could be published anywhere. Editors tend to feel like did you even read my magazine, do them look at it. Whereas if you if you can write something that kind of feels like what they already do. It shows one that you did a little bit of homework, and to it, you’re making your editors job a little bit easier, and so they’re more inclined to buy your piece. So some stuff of course, as you said, like what if you’re writing for a newspaper audience and it’s relatively general Yeah, some stuff is going to be relatively general. But if you can have that audience in mind first, I think that gives you a leg up.
Okay, so let’s talk about photography and all of this, you know, this is a photography podcast. So, I mean, should you submit lots of pictures, one picture, what kind of variety?
Right so what I would suggest is a couple things. First of all, I should say that photographers are finding I’ve several editor friends who’ve told me recently that they have found good writers that they like, because they’re actually photographers, but they’re posting their stuff on Instagram. And they’re writing just little descriptions of what they’re posting. And so multiple editor friends who are like stalking photographers on Instagram, like not saying that their editor you know, they’re just like watching them. And after a while, they’re thinking like, this title right for me. So even though they’re not these photography, are not writers, they’re doing a good enough job of describing what they’re doing. And their photos are really good. And because magazines and the web is a really visual, these are really visual mediums, an editor if you can put together the right information, and you have fabulous photos, editors will work with you to get those words in the right places. Do you know what I mean? Like they’re willing, because you’ve got something that the average person doesn’t, you’ve got great photos.
So it can be a really powerful tool. So when you’re offering up, to answer your question more directly, when you’re offering up photos, don’t send a gazillion send maybe three and send thumbnails and say I have a whole bunch more. You know, if you have more of this to illustrate this, this thing you’re writing about, here’s an example. And if you have them posted somewhere, if they’re on Instagram, that’s a great place, you can just send them to your Instagram and say there’s a whole bunch more here on Instagram or if you have them catalogued on a web page. Great. You can Send them to your web page. Or you can just say, Here’s three or here’s five. Don’t send humongous full size files, just send little thumbnails, they can get a sense for what kind of thing you have. And then say I’ve got plenty more if there’s something specific you’re looking for. If you’d like to see a bigger selection, I’d be happy to send it on. Don’t overwhelm their inbox, but let them know if you’ve got great photos.
I mean, you can say when you’re pitching a story to an editor, you want to sell the story first, they care more about the story than they care about you. So you don’t want to say like I’m an award winning photographer, and I’ve done this and I’ve done that. Would you be interested in the story? Like, I don’t care who you are, I have not even read past the first paragraph. Send me out if you send me an interesting idea that I’m kind of intrigued by and then I see at the end that like and I’m you know, I’m actually a photographer first and I have some great photos to illustrate this and you send me three thumbnails that I’m thinking Oh, good idea. can put a sentence together and great photos. Okay, so now, you know you’ve got a secret weapon to a degree because if you’ve got the kinds of photos other people don’t have You’re gonna help an editor put together a package that no one else can put together, basically. And that’s cool. That’s what editors always want. They want to be publishing something that no one else can publish in quite the same way.
And so do you have any tips on? I mean, I know you’re not a photographer, but I mean, but I by what I saw, I do know.
Yeah. So we’ll come and talk.
Yeah, we will, we’ll grab their interest. So what I would do is definitely
if you have a specific publication in mind, spend a little time just the way I was suggesting you look at what kind of stories they’re running, look at what kind of spreads they’re creating. So mostly, most magazines want, they want some broader shots. They want some macro shots, you know, they want a mix that they can use, but look at what the publication what the publication is you’re potentially aiming for our offering. Do they include people in them or don’t they? Is it more kind of nature stuff or do they want more macros? You know, not just like macro, but kind of small images that might illustrate Straight, you know, the handicrafts or something like that, like what? You need to get it take your hit from what they’re publishing.
At International, I mean, for instance, we tend to publish more. We’re writing about places, I’m less inclined to have like a macro shot of a little, you know handicrafts than I am. This is what the view looks like, this is what this town looks like, I want to have like, what’s the iconic building in this place? What does that look like? So for us, we don’t have a ton of photos in the publication, we have more online, but in our publication itself, we were more word heavy, but we’re very careful about what we because we don’t have as many photos where we’re thinking like, Okay, if I only have one or two photos, what do I want to show this person, it’s probably not that pretty picture of the little pot. It’s going to be, this is what the town square looks like, or this is so you know, you need to kind of take your your hints from what a publication is already publishing, okay, so I’m just going to Make some suggestions to my audiences.
So one of the things you know, if you’re in a town square, you know, a lot of especially European and in Latin America and they all have little town squares, right?
Um, you know, look for reflections, shoot from a low angle shoot from a high angle, you know, do something different, right? Because of this just from eye level, just like everybody else. It’s not gonna capture anybody’s attention.
Yes, absolutely. And you know, you can also take a gander at what is selling on like I stock and selling elsewhere to see what’s out there. And then try to provide something that’s better. And which you can do because a lot of stuff particularly about places unless it’s a super well traveled place, there might be more interesting photos of it. But a lot of the places we’re writing about it international living we’re we’re writing about them before anyone else is writing about them, which is part of our stick. But the downside of that is we don’t know no one has pictures of them. You can’t get a Decent picture of quaint are well Cuenca. Now you can get decent pictures of in Ecuador. But like Khodorkovsky in Ecuador, they’re like five photos on on ice dock and none of them is very great. So if you happen to be in a place where you know, there’s not a lot of stock photography, look at what’s there. And then even if there is a lot of stock photography, look at what’s available and then shoot something different because magazines don’t want to be using stock all the time. They don’t want their stuff to look like everybody else’s. They don’t want it to look like an advertisement. They want it to look unique. So I think that’s really good advice that you’re offering. And you know, if you can get get upstairs in a window in a building on the square, and this is an advantage to being a travel writer too. Because you can say, Hey, I’m a travel journalist. I’m writing a story about this place. Can I get up on your roof? And you know, people let you do all kinds of things. If you just ask, it’s crazy. And so you know, you climb up, get up, go up into the steeple of that church and shoot down like go ahead and like wreck your legs, climbing eight stories out. Because you’re going to the average person isn’t exactly and that does make a difference that because if you do have good unique shots, people, as I said will be inclined to work with your words because they want the photos.
I have to tell you a short story my I walk with a friend every morning, and she works right on our Fifth Avenue, which is our busy shopping, restaurant area. And Christmas time at night, they left the lights on till, you know two in the morning, let’s say I don’t know. And she said somebody needs and she was talking about me. Somebody needs to go there at two in the morning before they shut the lights off. But when there’s not so much traffic and so many people and get some beautiful shots of this, I would buy that as a stock photo. So I said well, how much would you pay and it was not enough to make me stay up till two in the morning. But if you’re a night person and that’s not a big deal, there might be some cool stuff after midnight.
Yeah, and this is getting exactly I always think, you know, we should when I was writing regularly about my hometown, my husband’s a photographer, so he was taking he was doing photos to go with my stories. And what we discovered is especially because we’re writing again and again, about our where we are, it’s really useful to have a, like an all season collection of photos of where you live. Because we publications are often writing three and four months ahead, they’re buying their stories for, you know, publication months in advance. And it’s problematic I was writing a story about this park Mueller State Park, which is just sort of up and around the backside of Pikes Peak, it’s a really cool place that the average tourist doesn’t necessarily know about. But if you’re in Colorado Springs for a conference or something like that, it’s a really cool place to go escape to for an afternoon like play hooky from the conference are supposed to be at you want to go hiking, like that’s where you should go because you can see the whole the whole Front Range, it’s really it’s a beautiful spot. But we went to our rent to write about it. And it was running in I don’t know x issue like the June issue. But we were writing about it in March. And it was so wintery up there still, that we were like desperate to get photos that looked like summer. But it was like it was starting to be kind of spring and summer down. We live at 6000 feet. So we’re starting the trees are coming, everything was warming up here, but up in the mountains, it was just, I mean, there’s still snow on the ground. And we ended up sending some photos using photos that we had taken on a family hike, like two years, not for publication, just they were like, my husband has, you know, a good camera out. So he was just taking family pictures of the kids. And I was like, we’re gonna have to use those because those are the only things of any like, color in them. Everything else looks desperately wintery.
So it made me realize we really should just be systematically kind of shooting those iconic places that you think you might write about or that or that just even travel publications might want even if they’re not using your words they just pictures in Even the Tourist Board might be interested in buying your photos, if you’ve got good local shots that are all seasons. So that’s just another idea. I mean, people I know just from my own family, if you like to take pictures, like an excuse to go out with your camera at any time is always welcome. And so I do recommend like, think about what are the 10 places you could write about? And write about them over and over and make sure you’ve got pictures of those and all seasons.
Yeah, as you said, especially right now, we’re all kind of sequestered in and we can’t really get out and about, but we can still get out in nature. We still go out at two o’clock in the morning, maybe still early. And take pictures just don’t go with a crowd.
Yeah, exactly. But this would be the time to do your own hometown.
That’s such a great way to get started because, I mean, I just think about our weekly newspapers, we have to one you know, one is a smaller part of the big newspaper, and they’re pretty easy to get articles.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. So you can be writing about local places for local publications, sometimes those are easier to break into then certainly than big national publications. But also just if you’re, if you’re local, you know, things other people don’t and so you can offer your expertise to other publications that are not just, you know, located just talking about your town that are that are national or even International. And, and, you know, give them that content. You can argue, look, I live here, I know, things that someone passing through for weeks never going to figure out.
Yeah, yeah, that’s a good point. All right. So how do we put this together? Do you shoot the photos first?
No. First you go to the magazine, and you look to see what their articles are like. And then you write and shoot the photos. Kind of, right. I mean,
I think you can do it either way. What I usually tell photographers who have come to my travel writer workshop is they tend to go someplace with their camera and They want to be shooting pictures. And so they’ve got their photos. And then they’re thinking, Okay, what can I write? So I think if you’re going if you’re and that’s okay, you can you can do it that way you can use your photos to give you hints. But if you do that with that exclusively without ever thinking about what you’re going to write about, then then you may miss you may miss things you should have taken a picture of kind of thing, you know. And so I would recommend you can shoot first you don’t need to be worried about writing when you’re on the ground, but do have an idea about those publications and, and things you might want to go do people you might want to talk to, you know, one advantage of being a travel journalist essentially is that you gives you an excuse to talk to people that you don’t otherwise talk to you. I think sometimes I have a lot of photography friends who are pretty introverted. I mean, they’re not once you get to know them, but they’re not sort of super type a running around. They’ve kind of like having, excuse me, like having that camera in front of their face. I think Because they kind of hide behind it a little. But if you’re there on the ground writing about something, it gives you an excuse to talk to that shop owner or talk to those other visitors. There’s just sort of a reason for you to be doing it. I think it gives you permission to maybe be a little noisier than you would otherwise. And that’s, that’s kind of fun. I mean, you meet interesting people that way.
And so I think if you’re going out with your camera, whether you’re writing about home, you’re writing about a place you’re visiting, think about, well, who might I want to talk to while I’m on the ground? So yes, I’m going to get all the pictures I would typically have gotten. But are there any additional photos I should get? Given that I want to be writing about something. So while you might have originally taken a picture, for example of the outside of a really cool storefront, say, if you know you’re going to be writing about or you think you as you’re taking the picture of the outside, you’re thinking, Oh, this is so cool.
Well, maybe you should go inside, talk to the owner. Chat, get, you know, just get some information about how long is this shop In here, what do you do? And how are you different than other people and tell me your story, and then maybe get a picture of that shop owner, which is something you might not have done, if you were just thinking, I’m going to go shoot this place, right? I’m just going to go take pictures or make pictures. So if you’re going to write about it, think about like characters that you might write about. Even if you’re taking some people take wonderful pictures of the characters that they see in the places they go. Well think about, like, maybe you should go up and talk to that person. Like maybe there’s a story with that person travel writing, I think you know, is often about the characters that you encounter in a place and you can find really interesting stories by talking with people that you meet on the ground.
And sometimes publications are really interested in having profiles too. And that is something that a photo can really sell for you because often people might run into an interesting character, but then then the publication and we run into this problem. We have to ask the person who has been interviewed if they can send us a photo of them. And those photos are often terrible. You know, they’re like just a family snapshot kind of thing. Sometimes, like person’s cut out of it, you know, like, so if you are traveling with with your camera, and so think about people you could talk to and take pictures like portraits of those people, that’s hugely valuable for publications.
Okay, okay, that’s good stuff now, but does it come to? Like, for me, I think, Oh, this is a cute little shot, but, you know, they don’t want to give somebody free advertising unless they pay him right. Or Is that true?
Um, no, not necessarily. I mean, it depends on what you’re writing. Like I used I think I used this sort of, as an example earlier of a yarn shop in London. Like, let’s say you’re going to write for a knitting magazine, and there’s a cool shop like, I don’t know, I spent my offices in Ireland. So I spend a lot of time in Ireland. So there’s these adorable shops everywhere we hold the whole town is the whole country’s beautiful, right and there’s these lovely stores everywhere. And so you know, Taking a picture down the street that has this cool storefront in it that there’s not I mean, that’s okay. I’m not necessarily giving, you know, if I’m a publication, I’m not going to say, Well, I’m not going to run this unless I, unless I have, you know, they’re going to pay me like doesn’t work that way. If you are recommending something, you’re saying, hey, for an audience of knitters, and there’s all kinds of knitting magazines and knitting websites, I don’t know why I’m fixated on knitting right now.
So, you know, if you have a cool storefront, and you go in and you talk to the owner, and you take some pictures inside, like, Yeah, it’s great free press for them, but it’s also doing the service to the reader, who’s thinking God, oh, my God, I got to go there. Next time. I go to London, or I want to go to London and I read about this really cool shop and they’re doing neat stuff. Like it’s fine. It’s an it is good press for them. But it’s not like I as a magazine, I’m going to say oh, no, now I’m going to approach them and see if they’ll give us money to run this. It doesn’t work that way. Okay.
All right. I was just curious about that.
Okay, so let’s, let’s summarize because we’ve kind of was, we’re fast, so The first thing you’re going to do is start locally.
Yep. So think about places that you like to take people when you when they come to visit you. And that’s a great way to think, Okay, well, this would be a good thing to write about, then you want to think like who would be interested in this, right? So in your audience, or maybe multiple audiences interested in the same thing. So if I was going to write about walking in the Garden of the Gods, I could write it right about where to go if your mobility impaired, where to go, if you’re hiking with young grandkids, where to go if you want to see birds where to go, if you want great photos stops, like if you want to go and get great pictures of the Garden of the Gods, these are the five places to go. If you I mean, like, you know, I can come up I could keep going. I could come up with 10 different articles that I could write basically from my one trip over there. You know, I believe myself a little list and like to have I gotten everything I needed to get, but you’re local. So you can go back you could go a few times, right? So you want to kind of feel You’re out. Okay, this is the topic I want to write about this is the audience, I’m going to start with my first piece I’m going to do is going to be for this audience. I’m going to take pictures to illustrate that.
And then I would recommend you, you want to bite off a small enough chunk that you’re writing something short, you’ll have a lot of an easier chance selling, say, three to 500 words, two to 500 words, and something longer. So you can’t say, Here’s everything there is to see and do. In the Garden of the Gods. You’re just gonna say, Here’s five great places to get perfect photos in the Garden of the Gods. Okay, it’s gonna be my story. It’s just going to be short and sweet. Right? I can revisit it for a different audience. That’s what you want to do.
Now. Let’s talk a little bit about the travel writing course because you just made me think about how important are the titles? I mean, do you help people with that kind of stuff.
So I recommend that your title, the title that you put on, your story should be really exciting. applicative and what I mean is, it should just say what it is like, don’t be clever. Don’t be fancy. If you’re going to write about great places photographers might like in the Garden of the Gods, then you should say, as in your, in your notes in that editor, would you be interested in my story on five perfect spots to take photos in the Garden of the Gods, like, tell the editor what your story is about? Now, editors notoriously won’t use your title. That’s okay. Like you should not care about that all you care about is selling your story to the editor. You don’t care what the editor puts on it, they might put something fancy and clever, but you know, fancy and clever is kind of about, it’s about the writer, it’s not about the reader. Let them be fancy and clever. You just want to sell your piece. So let the editor know what it’s about. That’s a very important tip because sometimes people will put the waste that space editors are getting lots and lots in their inbox. And if you if you put put a title on it or again, your subject line if you put something like You know, fancy photos in the garden? I have no idea what that is about. Right? And that money. Right? That might be what the headline they want to put on the story in the magazine is, but that does not help you sell it. So when you sell it, you need to just say what it is that you’re writing about. Yeah,
I completely agree with that. That’s so so good. Because when you’re clever, sometimes people don’t get it.
No, they don’t get it. And again, editors have so much stuff coming into their inboxes that like, I mean, they don’t know what that is like, I can’t I don’t have time to deal with it. I can’t even Oh, literally will not open it. So don’t.
What is in your travel course?
So I basically take the tack that anyone can be a travel writer, you don’t have to be experienced at all. On I kind of have broken the whole process down to show people. This is how the industry works. This is what’s the easiest thing to sell. This is how you write those things. This is how you talk to editors, I kind of run through everything you need to know. And I’d structured it in such a way that you’re actually working on an active, I have assignments in there essentially. And so I kind of teach a section, and then you, you do the assignment. So by the end of the course, you have a story you can sell and you have a letter you’ve written to an editor. So you’re kind of ready to go, it gets you to the point where you just have to sort of hit Send and send it off. But if you’ve gone through it, you will have the goods you need to break in.
And we’ve had such great luck over the years. I mean, I can’t imagine I can’t tell you how many fabulous success stories we have people who came from all kinds of backgrounds, you know, like they for doctors and massage therapists and photographers, and I mean, any teachers, all kinds of people done all kinds of things, lawyers, and then they ended up turning themselves into travel writers. They love it.
Well, it’s funny because I didn’t get the class because I wanted to be a travel writer. I just wanted to be a better writer, but because my audience travels, so much I thought well and you know you guys are really good at the hook or whatever so I bought the class and I really I didn’t finish it yet but I really did so far I’m enjoying it so far.
Think about good writing too as you know cuz you’ve been going through it well then I’m just sort of good writing good writing and I believe that I believe that the world would be a better place that people just obfuscate if they just wrote plainly what it is that they meant. And so I talked about how you do that.
I love it and you have a special for our audience.
I do in fact, I was telling you ahead here like I can’t believe we’re selling this thing for so cheap. So I’m going to give you guys the link and you should go to it if you’re interested in this because this price does not appear anyplace else. This is special for you. So it’s www.greatescapepublishing.com/twpodcast.
So www.greatescapepublishing.com/twpodcast and that will give you a very special 58% off the regular price on the travel writer course and we also have a free letter a great escape publishing calm which you’re welcome to subscribe to but if you want to get the course you really should use that link. You will find it at that price anyplace else.
And I will put that in the show notes so that if they if they’re driving and they forget what it is just go to www.UnderstandPhotography.com and the link will be right in there. Perfect. That’s great. And thank you. That’s very sweet. We love it. We like to get deals.
Yeah, those are good. I like everyone likes a good deal. So I appreciate that.
Yeah, well thank you so much for being on the Understand Photography Show, Jen.
Thanks for having me. It was fun.
That was really good. I think you gave us a lot to think about and thank you for the discount on the travel writing course that’s amazing. And to the audience. The link will be in the show notes at www.UnderstandPhotography.com. In fact, our show notes are really good. We have pictures. We have A summary. It’s, you know, it’s well worth going to www.UnderstandPhotography.com site to check out the show notes. And while you’re there, just click on the little link right when you get there, it’ll say, click here for freebies, click there, and you’ll join our mailing list. We send out a newsletter once a month full of photo tips and things that are going on with understand photography. I’m Peggy Farren. Thank you so much for joining us on the Understand Photography show. We’ll see you next week.
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