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Let’s say you take a trip to the Loire Valley in France. You decide you’re going to take lots of photos and maybe even write up a story to sell, so you bring along your camera and notebook. While you’re there, you drink a lot of wine, see a lot of chateaux in the countryside, and photograph everything. But, once you get home, you realize you’ve only got three good photos of one thing, two of another, and a smattering of unrelated shots. You can’t do a story on the entire Loire Valley. And there’s no specific smaller story in your photos. If only you’d done some pre-trip research… Yesterday, I showed you photographer Efrain Padro’s story and photos about lighthouses in Puerto Rico… and told you how he thought up the story idea — and even found two publications for it — before he left. Today, scroll down for his four fun tips on what to do before and during your trip to make sure you turn every vacation into an opportunity for selling photos to magazines. — Bonnie Bonnie Caton Great Escape Publishing

The Story in the Haystack: Uncovering Saleable Story Ideas Before and During Your Trip

By Efraín M. Padró in Santa Fe, NM One of the biggest challenges freelance photographers face when traveling to a location is deciding what to photograph. Your initial inclination, which I strongly suggest you resist, might be to try to shoot everything. This approach is likely to yield a smattering of unrelated images plus a feeling of frustration and disappointment with your photographic efforts. Instead, I recommend arriving on location with a handful of photo/story themes in mind, while at the same time staying open to the spur-of-the-moment opportunities that are so common when traveling. Here are some tips to help you come up with story ideas for your next photo trip and avoid the stress of trying to photograph everything: ** 1. Research the Non-Touristy Aspects of Your Location. In addition to researching the top tourist destinations of the place you will be visiting, look for interesting cultural or historic details that might provide enough substance for a story. For example, before I visited Puerto Rico a few years ago, I learned that the Spanish constructed 16 lighthouses around the island in the late 1800s/early 1900s. I had read many stories featuring East Coast lighthouses, so I figured a story about Puerto Rico lighthouses would probably be of interest to a variety of publications. After further research, I selected a handful of lighthouses that were still in good (photogenic) condition, and went about photographing them. After returning home and putting together an article and photo package, I was able to place the story with both a lighthouse-enthusiast magazine and a photography magazine. ** 2. Research While on Location. As important as pre-trip research is, stay open to developing ideas for a story while on location. Once I am in a destination, I always make a point of talking with locals about “the weather,” which is not only a great source of story ideas but a learning opportunity. I also pick up a copy of the local newspaper (and look at the pictures if I can’t understand the language), stop by newsstands to see what’s making the headlines, and pick up locally-produced tourist brochures. The first time I visited Patagonia, about 10 years ago, I noticed that all the tourist brochures focused on the area’s remote, desolate feel. That feeling inspired me to do a story featuring the stark, ruggedly beautiful landscapes of Patagonia, which I titled “Photographing at the End of the World.” I placed the story with a photography magazine. ** 3. Flavor Your Stories with Your Favorite Spice. If you’re interested in the story you’re telling, chances are a prospective editor or reader will enjoy it. Therefore, write about travel-related things that you like — whether it’s food or markets or events or architecture. With time you might even develop your own travel article niche. ** 4. Engage Your Creativity When Coming Up with Story Ideas. As an artistic individual, do not abandon your creativity when you put your camera down. Use your creative juices to come up with story ideas as well. If you’re a foodie, for example, how about a story covering the art of decorating a tajine, the crockery used in much of Moroccan cuisine? If architecture makes you tick, why not explore how Arab culture influenced the architecture in Southern Spain? And if you’re a nature buff, how about a story of how the tulips in Holland were interbred to create today’s multi-colored beauties? I confess I don’t know much about any of these topics, but I bet there are travel magazines that would be interested in publishing stories about them. Mix your own interests and expertise with your travels and you’re sure to come up with something off-beat and interesting to magazines that have never run those stories before. [Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]  

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