Travel Documentation 101
Travel Writing and certainly Travel Journalism have taken a back seat to travel imagery which is, not necessarily, Travel Photography. Traditionally, the main focus of travel documentation was to present a place or a people in an educational, engaging, entertaining and unique way, preferably with an author’s “voice” or perspective. Ideally, this could bring about greater global understanding and motivate readers to become travelers.
But as print media declines in readership, influence, and advertising revenue, the result is that there are fewer outlets for writers and photographers and far less pay for the jobs that do exist. Some publications pay nothing at all and stock photos can be had for as little as a dollar.
What’s replacing the familiar travel magazines and newspapers is, of course, the internet with everything from spin-off sites created by large and established publications, myriad websites, and countless blogs to the exponentially-growing but elusively defined universe of social media. Just when you think that you’ve got a handle on the latest, hottest, “in” communications app, it all changes and you find yourself chasing this week’s facebook. (Facebook is still a gorilla but, depending on your target demographic and age range, it may already be regarded as passé.) Pintrest corrals one group, Snapchat another and Instagram overlaps a couple.
Although the quality of photography is improving, due to the quality of cameras and the skill of those entering the arena, stills already feel the impinging nudge of video. And even that has the live broadcast apps Periscope and Meerkat breathing down its cyberneck. As far as the most important aspects of online imagery go; it’s speed, content, consistency, and product output. Quality, though getting better, is still subjective and, in instances you can readily find yourself, not particularly important. What would’ve been considered snapshots (touching, small human moments or animals being cute) can go viral with a speed and reach that are the envy of major communications industry players.
What to do
- Hone your skills as a shooter by knowing your gear, learning your craft (both aesthetically in the field and technically in processing), and creating a visual persona –a look that is yours.
- There are a lot of image filters out there, but only a few that you’ll probably use, so beware of getting bogged down in that tech swamp.
- Promote yourself in all forms of online media, particularly the social venues where you’ll connect with others to build both relation-ships and the numbers necessary to attract potential sponsors and underwriters. A high-visibility presence can also drive people to your website. In some cases, it might be the only way they’ll locate it.
- Whatever else you do, keep it going. Post often and follow others with likes and comments. Use hashtags (#) for ID and search purposes.
- Pay attention to numbers and note which of your photos attracts the greatest interest –your viewership may surprise you and help define your look and ultimately orchestrate your success.
- It’s not just the image, learn to write too. You can take more time than a tweet, especially if you have something to say and an interesting way to say it. Maybe your strength is news reporting, poetic imagery or humor. Words and pictures together compliment, expand, and add nuance and depth to your story. If you’ve a particular area of interest, make that your specialty and can become regarded as an expert in the field.
Bloggers are being noticed and supported by all aspects of the travel industry. They’re being offered agency representation, invited on trips, and being given money for product placement. The rules that applied to journalism, if not being ignored, are being outrun.
I am not suggesting that you succumb to temptation, I’m merely seeking to make you aware. The tools are accessible and affordable. The travel communications field is as vast and vague as cyberspace. It’s the Wild West with nobody shooting back.
So have fun.