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Photographs in Travel Writing
Photographs in Travel Writing

Travel writers, unlike other types of writers, are expected to provide images with their work. This article will discuss the different options a travel writer has when it comes to adding photographs to their assignments. It also will explain the extra time, talent, and expense involved with this aspect of the job and how to acquire the skills needed to provide images with your writing if you so desire.

To Snap or Not to Snap

Overall, it is in your best interest to provide photographs with all of your articles. This is true for several reasons:

1. You will be paid quite a bit extra for providing this service.

2. Choosing you to write an article will be more appealing to editors if you can provide pictures with the piece.

3. Since you will be the one traveling to the destination you will be writing about, it is time and cost-effective for you to be the one taking the pictures.

4. It is most efficient when the travel writer is also the photographer because the pictures are sure to be sent along with the article without delay.

5. If you have to pay a photographer yourself, you will have to part with some of what you were paid for the article and images.

Ultimately, whether or not you do add images to your articles depends on whether you can take pictures. In other words, are you a good photographer?
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Are You a Shutter Bug?

The first question you need to ask yourself is, "Can I take good pictures? Good enough for a magazine?" Most aspiring travel writers can and do take beautiful pictures, which is one of the reasons they have an interest in the field. Keep in mind that your photos will most likely be edited and tweaked by professional editors before they are added to the magazine anyway, so the images do not have to be flawless. Composition, subject and clarity matter more than adding special effects or Photoshopping the image into perfection.

If you are a shutter bug, then you're in luck. You will have the easiest time of it as a travel writer because you already know what pictures will work with your piece and you know how to take them. If you don't already have a good camera, now is the time to invest in two. Owning a traditional film camera and a digital camera is ideal. They don't have to be new. If you are on a budget you can purchase a used 35 mm camera for a very good price. Search the internet for people or stores selling refurbished or used cameras. Often there is nothing wrong with the camera; the previous owner has upgraded to a newer or different model and wishes to sell one. In this way you can also get good deals on used accessories for the camera. This is also true of digital cameras. You can find good used digitals online and at camera shops. Of the two, if you are going to buy new, invest in the digital camera. They change so quickly and megapixel size seems to increase so often, that it is worth paying for a newer one. However, be choosy about which one you buy. Some digital cameras take truly awful pictures. You should shop around and read reviews before buying. As far as 35 mm cameras are concerned, they can get quite expensive, particularly when adding in the cost of accessories and attachments. However, they still are the most versatile and take the best pictures, both short and long range. You do have the option of investing only in a 35 mm and having all your images put on a disk when you have them developed, this has become inexpensive in recent years and it would save you from having to buy digital for a while. In any case, you will want to research any camera you are considering purchasing, even used brands, to see if they are well-rated and worth the price.

Once you have secured the appropriate tools, use them to take pictures of local hot spots for your portfolio.

The Average Picture Taker

Okay, so you love to travel and you love to write about it. You have good writing skills, but your photo taking abilities are somewhat limited. You have a few choices available to you. You can and should, take a class in photography. Go with your level. If you are a beginner, then take an entry level class; if you have some experience, take an intermediate class. Later, if you have the time and inclination, you can take an advanced class. These are offered at local schools, private facilities, and in colleges nationwide. An internet search should provide you with several options that will fit within your budget and time restraints.

While gaining the experience you need to provide beautiful images with your fantastic articles, you can hire a photographer to come along with you on your writing trips. If you include the cost of images with your article or proposal price, then you can pay your photographer from that money, just be sure that credit for the images is given properly in the article. You can do this by adding, "photographs by Mr. Shutter Bug" under your article's byline. Another option is to pitch the article without a picture option. You will want to let the publisher know that you would need a photographer assigned to the writing job. In this case the magazine would contact one of their many freelance photographers and find one that could accompany you on the trip or provide stock images of the destination you are writing about. In these cases, you will have to take the loss on payment for images, which can be considerable, until you acquire the skills you need to add photography to your writing.


Being a good photographer is required for you to include photographs with your articles. Other options are to have someone else take the pictures for you, or have the magazine hire a photographer for the piece. Since it is in your best interest all around, you should work on developing your photo skills, pun not intended, as soon as possible. If you already have good photographic skills, then you should focus on purchasing two good cameras and work on creating a photo portfolio of local attractions or landscapes.

Building Your Platform and Expertise
If your ultimate goal is to someday write a book on travel, then you should use your freelance or full-time writing gigs wisely now. you This section will explain how the travel writer can go about building a solid platform, and how to channel expertise to assist in developing a long-term writing career. This section also will give you guidance in finding out what your specialty area should be, and provide some ideas and examples that lend themselves to travel book writing.

What is Your Passion?

Do you have a love for Latin America? Are you an aficionado of ancient ruins? Perhaps wine country is your thing? Have you visited every Asian country and still return to learn more about the various cultures and histories? Every traveler has a passion and an area that excites them and interests them more than others. Do not let the fact that other travel writers have claimed a similar (or the same) area for their own and are already successful in it. Burger King and Wendy's didn't let the imposing McDonald's keep them from pursuing their interests; why should you? Stephen King's success in horror didn't stop Dean Koontz from getting his books published and becoming successful in the genre. There's always room for another passionate expert, provided the true love is really there. How do you know when you've found your passion? Well, most people say that they lose track of time when they are studying or involved in that area of interest. This is akin to the feeling you get when falling in love. When you find your career passion, it becomes a central theme and devotion in your life and you pursue it with a vengeance. If you haven't found that yet, don't worry, as you write and travel you will find your bliss, and when you do, try to focus on it and give it as much attention as possible.

Building Your Platform

As you learned in Lesson 8, your platform is proof or demonstration of the expertise you have acquired in one or two specific areas. While it is not feasible that you will get assignments exclusively in your passion area, you can try to find opportunities in that area as much as possible right from the start. For instance, if you are currently publishing in your local magazines and newspapers, and traveling to wine regions the world over is your passion and future goal, suggest an article about the nearest winery. Most states have at least one boutique vineyard that produces local wine. If not, perhaps a neighboring state does? Or perhaps there is a wine importer in your area that is worth investigating and writing about. Along the line, as you grow and gain momentum in your career, you will have to take assignments that are not your first choice, but you can advocate on your own behalf to build a platform of expertise in your area of passion while you work your way up. As you build a reputation for your area of focus, magazines will contact you for input or articles because they know you are familiar with that specific territory.

By now you should have a small portfolio of clips, but at some point you will want to create an additional, separate portfolio with just the clips from your area of expertise. You can simply make copies of the pieces you created for your portfolio and add them to your "platform" portfolio, or you can create special presentations for this grouping. The choice is yours. But, if you start at the onset to create a specialty focused group, it will be easier to show the effort you have put into your specialty when presenting a book proposal to agents or publishers.

Still Undecided?

Perhaps you have published several pieces and have traveled extensively, but still are not passionate about any area in particular. If you still fancy the idea of writing a book, then you will need to keep looking or write a book about general travel (much harder to publish) or change your goals. Below are some ideas that may inspire you. If you find any of them interesting, then learn more about them and see if you get that "time slipping away" feeling. If so, then you've found your passion; if not, just keep looking!

Travel Areas to Specialize In:

Q Latin American Travel

Q Cruise Ship Travel

Q Wine Regions of the World

Q Culinary Travel

Q Island Hopping

Q Beach Towns/Coastal Travel

Q Honeymoon Spots

Q Domestic Travel

Q Tropical Travel

Q Family Travel

Q Economy Travel

Q Spiritual Havens

Q Ancient Cities

Q Historic Travel

Q Asian Regions

Q African Destinations

Q Archeological Hot Spots

Q Singles Travel

Q Great Landmarks

Q Wonders of the World

Are you getting any inspiration yet? If not, do some research on the internet and in the library. Relax and keep writing, traveling and snapping pics, and soon you will be on your way to finding what makes you the happiest - that one area that you want to know everything about.


For some people, it is not always easy to find your niche or area of passion. For others, they knew all along what that passion was. Whether you have it or are still searching, keep in mind that if you someday want to expand your career into travel book writing, then you should begin to develop expertise and a platform to show publishers and agents when you are ready to write your first book proposal!

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