Dispatch #3: Why This Photo and Not That One?
Dear Travel Writer,
Yesterday, I learned more over lunch with professional photographer, Riley Caton, than I have over any other meal in the last three years.
The secrets Riley revealed about what editors are really looking for in photos is worth hundreds of dollars, easily. Probably thousands.
Riley is a highly seasoned photographer. We were lucky to have him here. His photos have appeared in Life, Newsweek, Outside, the European edition of Time, and Knapsack, as well as the New York Times, USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Associated Press stories.
In other words, he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to providing editors the kinds of shots they’ll be entirely unable to resist.
How does he do it… and how can you do it? Well here’s an insight he shared that really opened my eyes:
Turns out, a publication’s editors rarely write down what it is they’re looking for in photos.
You can go to detailed writer’s guidelines and read all about how the editors have positioned their publication… what, specifically, they’re looking for in each department… what their preferences are in terms of style and tone…
Yet when you read that same publication’s photographer’s guidelines you’ll find — more often than not — almost nothing about the kinds of photos they want. Instead, most of the text will be given over to details about how you submit your photos, what format they should be in, and so on.
But you needn’t shoot blind.
Instead, Riley explained, employ a bit of detective work and you’ll learn all sorts of things about a publication’s photography needs that most people never notice.
For instance, you should —
** 1) Look through a publication and really study the photos — just as you would the editorial if you were planning to pitch a story. Look at the sorts of shots they prefer. Do they include people? Are they partial to landscapes? Are they filled with action and energy or are they quiet — or does it depend on the character of the text?
** 2) Read the writer’s guidelines and think about how you can apply what the editors say there to the photos you shoot. In other words, if the writer’s guidelines say, “We like strong, visceral experiences,” then you can bet that they aren’t looking for static photos. Send them shots that exude drama and excitement, and you’ll be giving yourself a real edge.
Those are just two of the dozen or so tips Riley shared about how, exactly, you can “dissect” a publication to discover the editors’ underlying wants and needs and better position yourself to take exactly the kinds of shots they’ll buy.
And that’s not all Riley talked about, either.
He also showed us how to decipher the jargon in those photo guidelines so you can be sure you’ve saved your photos in the right format and submitted them properly, too. I know this will spare me innumerable amateur blunders. (I’ve been writing and editing travel articles for nearly two decades, but I’m new to this photography thing!)
Plus he revealed the most important “trick” to keep in your grab bag of photo skills — the one thing you can do right now that will most improve your photos and make them instantly more attractive to editors. Good news: It’s incredibly easy. Even I will be able to do it, and I can’t even figure out how to get my photos to appear in that little screen on the back of my camera.
All of Riley’s insights provided take-away points I know I’ll start making use of immediately.
Plus he illustrated his entire presentation with photos he showed up on the screen — so nothing he said was theoretical. You could see, instantly, what he meant.
Your Live Workshop Correspondent (and budding photographer)
P.S. My husband, Patrick, and I just sold an article-photo package to a magazine (I wrote the piece, he shot the pictures). And while I’m a well-seasoned travel writer, this photography endeavor is something we’re just getting into.
Pat’s always taken good shots — but just for our own use. Never for sale. Yet he just earned a full $450 for the pictures he shot. And that’s on top of the $500 I was paid for the article.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]