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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Writing your way to a career in travel photography Part 4

Once you have a few publishing credits under your belt, and have established a rapport with editors then you can think about approaching tourism bodies and airlines to get some sponsorship for your travel. Ah, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Free travel. Only if you think it's free, think again. You have to work damn hard for it. You have to provide your sponsors with some bang for their buck.

Using my trip to Hokkaido as an example, I was fully sponsored by the Japan National Tourist Organisation and JALPAK, a travel company that specialises in Japan. Having already published a number of articles on Japan I approached them both with an itinerary, the type of article I was planning to write and a couple of letters of assignment from editors. In return for free accommodation and flights, I promised to publish articles on the area in a number of magazines and newspapers. I also agreed to do a slide show on Japan here in Cairns and down on the Gold Coast. Again this is not only great for my sponsors but I get to show my travel photographs to an even wider audience.

Sounds like a dream doesn't it? Only there is one glaring fact I forgot to mention. You do actually have to write something! But what if you don't know the first thing about writing? I certainly didn't. Fortunately, there are places to learn. One of the best of those is the library. Read, read and read some more. Study how other writers shape their articles and describe what they see, hear and smell. Copy the structure of their pieces on your first attempts. Again, by studying the magazines you hope to write for you can get a feel for the type of articles they publish.

I have some references that I found invaluable when I was first starting out. The first is Travel Writing: See the World, Tell the Story by L.Peat O'Neil. Another fantastic book, although a bit old now, is Michael Sedge's The Writer's and Photographer's Guide to World Markets. Published in 1998 the specific magazine contact information is well and truly out of date but it has a lot of good information on how to take your travel writing global.

My writing training ended with Year 12 English Literature. I had no idea what a travel article involved, let alone thought about writing one. After years of traipsing around the world photographing, I just assumed I would sell all my photos as stock and make a million dollars. I quickly discovered that it doesn't work like that. Some of my first published photographs accompanied that five page article on trekking in Nepal in Backpacker Essentials, and led me to one of my favourite clients. I knew very little about crafting a travel article but I did know about trekking and I had some great photographs that I wanted to show the world. Is it easy to become a travel writer? If it were we'd all be doing it. But it's certainly not impossible. With hard work and honing of the craft of writing I'm sure that you'll find a lot of joy in being able to say, "Hi, I'm a travel photojournalist".


B said...

This is such good info for us wannabe travel writers, thx!

LWPON said...

Hi Paul,

Like your site! Maybe you could put a hyperlink under the title of my book.....

Thanks for recommending it!


Peat (author of Travel Writing: See the World/Sell the Story

Paul Dymond said...

Hi there Peat,

thankyou so much for the comments, great to have you drop by! And I will definitely add that hyperlink for you. It must have slipped through in the editing. :)