web analytics

The Era of the One-Man Band Returns to Travel Journalism

Filed in Blog by on January 14, 2014

The era of the one man band: Travel writing and photographyWhen I began my career in commercial photography and ventured into the genre of travel photography I was told that photographers should not try to write. They should concentrate their talents on the visual aspects and leave the writing to writers.  I suppose they may have told writers something similar about venturing into photography.

However, in today’s media landscape the ability to take compelling photographs and write dynamic copy go hand in hand.  You can’t separate one from the other and you should probably begin to hone your video production and sound recording talents as well because the era of the one-man band writer/photographer/filmmaker is back.

Whether you are writer hoping to break into new travel markets or a photographer looking for new places to publish your images, you need to make an effort to strengthen the weaker of the two disciplines if you are going to succeed in travel writing in 2014. Writers have to learn to improve their photos to publication quality for the image driven media outlets of today, and photographers have to learn to translate their ability to capture the visual reality of travel into well-crafted text.

Some might say that nothing has changed, but there is a slight shift from what I said to students in my “Selling Your Photos” classes 10 years ago, “If there is a short cut to getting published it is to package your images with text. Whether you write the copy or whether you team up with a writer to produce the copy, putting a text/photo package on an editor’s desk enhances your chances for publication.”

It was true 10 years ago and it is true now. It is just the last half of my so-called shortcut to publication that has changed. For the emerging markets online, you’d better be able to produce both the text and photographs because the checks are often too small to split.

In an era of constricted budgets, even major print publications are looking for ways to trim expenses.  Paying the travel expenses of one versus two people is important to many accounting departments.

The good news is that for writers who want to improve their photographs and photographers who want to take their writing to the next level, technology has made the transition to improvement in either discipline a gentle learning curve.

However, travel writers who want to create professional quality photographs can’t rely solely on auto-everything digital cameras and Photoshop to “save” poor images. Conversely, a word processor, voice recognition software and spell and grammar check won’t make a photographer into a writer without an engaged and observant spirit.

There are techniques and creative controls accessible to every writer, whether it’s using a high-end Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera, a low-cost point and shoot or a camera phone.  Photographers can make the effort to learn new writing structures and improve their ability to translate their visual creativity to the page.

In this brave new world of travel journalism we all have to do it all and we have to all do it a bit better.

I wish you a year filled with new adventures in writing, photography and travel.

Author Bio: Jerome Shaw (http://JeromeShaw.com) is a travel journalist and editor of Travel Boldly.  (http://TravelBoldly.com) He began his career as a commercial photographer in Aspen, Colorado. While there he got an opportunity to work on adventure travel television series for the Discovery Channel called “Sir Edmund Hillary’s World of Adventure.” He was hooked on travel. Jerome teaches travel photography for Travel Writing On Location, which offers travel writing workshops in top destinations around the world.

Upcoming workshops:

Travel Writing and Photography Workshop in Santa Fe
Dec 11-14, 2014

11-Day Travel Writing Workshop & Tour in Vietnam
Feb 6 -16, 2015