Part of my freelance job working for a big travel company here in London is looking after blogger outreach. This means I contact bloggers (or get approached by them) with the question if they can write content for the company’s website. We need text, but also photos to go with the articles.
While there is usually some stock images that we can use, they often take quite some time for me to find, are often a bit boring and a lot of the locations that the bloggers describe just don’t have any recent stock photos available and I have to improvise. So we started to ask the bloggers if they can send in their own photos as well; the more content they provide, the more they get paid. But still… getting quality images turned out harder than I thought!
Often, photos I receive are of poor quality, or there are other factors that make the photo unusable for me to use. That’s why I wrote this quick guide that can help you have more success in getting your photos accepted… and probably get more writing assignments in the future!
1. Your Photos Are Too Dark
This is one of the most common problems I come across: photos that are too dark. They look unappealing, colours are flat and you can’t really see details of what you’re looking at. These photos just don’t sell a destination.
Lucky for you, there is a quick fix. It’s called Adobe Lightroom and if you’re not using it yet, you’re missing out, big time! In Lightroom, you can do some small edits that will make your photos look much better in a couple of seconds, even if you’re not computer savvy at all.
Play around with the exposure & contrast and with the highlights, shadows, whites and blacks. Big changes will happen right away!
2. Your Sky Is Too Grey
In addition to the first point, I’d like to separately mention grey skies. I get it, some destinations just don’t have great weather while you’re there. Or ever, really. But in all truth, I just don’t want to see a grey sky, do you?
No worries here too, you can definitely work around it without painting the sky fake blue (please, do NOT do that and don’t mega-saturate your photos either) Instead, zoom in instead of out! Cloudy, grey weather is perfect for photographing architecture, flowers and other interesting details that you can find. Surprise me and be creative!
Rain in Tokyo? When?
3. You Photographed People
For most commercial websites, you need to have a signed model-release form if you want to use any photo featuring a clearly recognizable person in it. And most of the time, you don’t ask them for that on your travels, right?
The best thing to do? Don’t get people in your shot! Or when you want to (because sure, photos with people are more interesting than those without) or have to (at very touristy spots), work around it and photograph them from the back, or just in detail. When it’s dark, you can go for a nice silhouette as well.
This geisha in Kyoto was pretty from every side I photographed her :)
4. You Photographed A Famous Building
What? There are copyright rules on photos of buildings as well as people? Oh yes! I didn’t know this first, but some well-known places around the world also need permission to be photographed (for commercial purposes, editorial is different).
Here are a few that you’ll probably recognize: British Royal residences (UK), Chrysler, Flatiron & Empire State Building when used as primary subject of your photo (USA), CN Tower Toronto, also when used as primary subject (Canada), Eiffel Tower when lit at night (France), Hollywood Sign & Walk of Fame (USA), Sydney Opera House (Australia), Universal & Disney Studios & theme parks (worldwide, including logo’s, characters & rides)… and the list goes on and on.
To avoid possible trouble, only shoot these as part of a city skyline photo, or go for the smaller buildings around them (they are usually less touristy, so more interesting for a story anyway!)
Read more: shutterstock.com/…/stock-photo-restrictions
You cannot take photos of the Skinkansen, the high-speed Bullet Train in Japan. I guess the departure board will be fine? Ugh, copyright is so difficult sometimes!
5. You Don’t Have The Shot
I understand that you can write articles about trips you’ve been to in the past and that while on that holiday, you didn’t take a good photo of the exact place or activity you’re writing about in your article. But for any future trips, you have no excuses to miss out on a bit of extra money.
Make sure you get shots of that cool little place you had lunch (without people in it), that detail you spotted on that interesting building (next to a famous sight), overview photos of a funky neighbourhood, local market and/or lots of nature and typical local food shots. The more specific the photo is, the better!
On top of that, be sure to have both a vertical as a horizontal picture ready, so the editor can choose and brush them up a little with a program such as Lightroom (or Canva, or Picmonkey, or Picasa, or your photo editor, if nothing else).
Deliver them in the right format and the right size (usually never less than 800 pixels wide and never bigger than 1MB per photo, but always be sure to ASK if you’re not sure) and give the editor a couple (2-3 fairly different, not 40 almost identical) to choose from, ideally.
In this restaurant in Okinawa, you get local green noodles served in a sea shell. THAT’s what readers want to know!
I hope these tips helped you a bit in making sure you will sell your photos next time you pitch to a (travel) brand. Again, I don’t think you need lot of talent or expensive equipment to shoot very decent photos, you just need to be aware of some rules and take a little effort to boost your photos a bit to make them look good! Let me know if you have any tips that helped you selling photos, love to hear it.
This post is also available in: Dutch