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The Power of the Written Word with Photos

Lesson 19 from: Becoming a Travel Photographer

Laura Grier

The Power of the Written Word with Photos

Lesson 19 from: Becoming a Travel Photographer

Laura Grier

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Lesson Info

19. The Power of the Written Word with Photos


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


How to Break Into Travel & Destination Wedding Photography


How Are You Perceived as a Photographer?


Brand Yourself Before Others Brand You


Activity: What Are Your Photography Goals?


Owning Your Own Style


Preparing for a Photoshoot


The Importance of Research


Lesson Info

The Power of the Written Word with Photos

I I wanted to start with a couple of stories and and bring up one of my favorite places on this planet, which is Peru, and and that's actually the image. That is the main image that you guys have seen on the course image where you see some a girl walking away in the yellow sand. Believe it or not, that was shot in Peru. And Peru is such a diverse, amazing country. There's so much to see there. And as a photographer other than India and Bali, I think Peru is on my top three for sure for places to photograph. If you're looking to break into travel photography, I highly suggest going there and spending some time there and really building a portfolio. So So that was what I did at first. So yesterday I spoke a lot about how my destination weddings and submitting to magazines help me, you know, kind of transition and doom or travel related work. But what I didn't mention was that I didn't really have the confidence Teoh. At that time, I didn't really. I feel like I was a travel photographer.

I was looking at all of the people's work out there and that we're doing successfully in shooting for National Geographic and Conde Nast and all these amazing publications, and I just didn't feel like my work was at that caliber. And again, it's just like fear based because that's ridiculous and all of us air is good enough to do that work the people that are doing it. But it's about position yourself to be in the right place at the right time, in front of the right door when it opens its about marketing yourself and get yourself out there because you could be the most amazing artist. But if you don't know how to be a good business person, if you don't know how to get yourself out there and market in front of the right people, that it doesn't matter. And unfortunately, sometimes the people that are really good at that that can get themselves out there in front of people are the ones that are getting the jobs. And they might not be as talented as you, and that's just the reality. So again, when we talk about being a modern photographer, I love to talk about the whole being a triple threat because you have to be good at all. Three things at writing, video photography, marketing, branding, getting yourself out there, that is, just does, if not more important than the photography itself. So I wanted Teoh talked about being a triple threat and introduce writing today. There's so much involved with writing, and then we're gonna dive into it. But I wanted to tell a story about Peru and how I kind of got started and sort of the pivotal moment for me when I realized I needed to start writing down my stories. So when I first got asked, I talked yesterday about that serendipitous moment where I've been playing soccer for years with the CEO of Novica and was able to get my first job in Peru just because they're photographer fell through and they needed someone last minute and I was available and he had seen my work on Facebook, so I at first I was really nervous. It was one of my first riel travel jobs that I had done, and I really I wanted to take advantage of the fact that I was getting flown down to Peru, but I was also really nervous about it. So I decided to extend my trip and go travel in the Amazon and travel to different parts of Peru just for myself. It was It was an investment in myself at the time. I really didn't like I was like, I don't the money for this. Like why I can't spend money on an extra trip. In addition, I basically spent all the money I got paid on that job to just stay longer and to shoot. But for me, it was an investment back in myself. Teoh have amazing work to add to my portfolio and be able to use that to pitch for more travel jobs. And so I ended up going on this odyssey around Peru. I went Teoh. I stayed on a boat in the Amazon and went down through key toes, and I spent days up in Lake Titicaca. I lived with a Katula Indian family. I'll get into that story. I went to Coca Canyon and saw the huge Indian condors, and then I went down to walk a Tina and did all the sand dunes. You can go sand boarding on the sand dunes, which is where that epic picture is. The my course is from and I mean, it's unbelievable. We went down to the Nasca lines where nobody knows who made these ancient lines in the desert, and you have to go up in a plane and see them from the sky. And you just you're meeting shamans. And it was like this really magical country where one, every, every city, that you go to within Peru. And, of course, like watching peachy the most iconic place, every place that you go to, it feels like you've dropped into a different time and country and place in the world. It's such a magical place and so colorful and right up my alley. So I went around and shot, and it was really nice to to extend my trip and not have any pressure on the pictures that I was taking when I extended my trip, some of my favorite images I ever took to this day we're from the moments when my work was done for Novica and I was on my own shooting and had no pressure on me, and I just really was pushing the boundaries of what I could Dio and and I think even now, later on, like, a lot of times. My best favorite images come from my personal work that I do while I'm traveling or having a story behind it and really going in on my own and creating a story and in creating a photo story. So when I went to Peru, I've been there a few times now. But I the first time I went there and I took those photos Novica notice and they saw the images that I shot after I had done their catalog shoot for them and they were like, Oh my God, these are beautiful. Could we use them for some of our marketing and promotion materials? And I said, Yeah, you know, I just on my own went and did some photo stories and some of the villages, and it made them want to start doing photo stories of their artisans and send me out to go stay with and live with some of the artisans and do photo stories on them. So it was something that I initiated just because I wanted to do it and they love the idea, and they continued it on and paid me to do it. So my next trip down to Peru. They after the catalog shoot, paid for me todo and do like a home Stay with this catch one Indian family and I knew nothing about this. At the time. I had no idea that there were people living on floating grass islands in the middle of Lake Titicaca. They've lived like this for centuries. You're really, really high up in elevation and everything is made out of grass, their homes, their boats. They're the things that they make to sell their like everything is made out of grass. And I was like, This is such an amazing opportunity. I can't wait to go. But then I thought, I don't even know what to bring. Like there's no place to plug in for electricity. I'm gonna have to be prepared to do the shoot for a few days and not really have everything that I need. Plus, we're on these like a little jumper flights, like up too high in the Andes. And then I had to take a boat out to them, and I just really wanted to pack super light. So I ended up buying this. It was like a briefcase. It looked like A. It looked like some spy bomb case like, Honestly, I is really not my favorite thing to travel with now, because every Customs person was like, What's in the briefcase like it wasn't the most savvy thing to walk through an airport with, and luckily, my my skilled in Spanish were able to get me through that moment. But I wanted to have something portable that had battery power, that I couldn't have strobe lights and lighting in case I needed it where I didn't need to plug in anything. So I did bring a lot of extra batteries, charged my camera batteries. I brought my laptop, but I wasn't depending on that. That was more if I need to The backup information. I brought extra hard drives that you don't need to plug into a power source. You know what? This was unusual because I usually have a universal power adapter, travel with everywhere, and but, like in this case, I just needed to make sure I had a ton of battery power and memory cards and, like, just had things backed up right? And so I'm showing up with my assistant, Sarah, and we we go up there And we got my little, like briefcase in my roller bag and ready. I have no idea what to expect living with this family. And the idea was just to a photo story on on your life with these Katula Indians like this is awesome. Totally. I'll do this. And I'm thinking my Spanish skills like I'm gonna be fine here because, I mean, we're in Peru. They must speak Spanish. Well, they don't. They speak like an ancient dialect of of, you know, Inc. Unlike catch while language and eso. You know, we've got dropped off on a boat, and then the boats, like, okay, pick you up in a couple of days. And there we were, just with this family, and they didn't speak any. Like, they knew a couple words in Spanish. And I knew, And so we ended up having to almost, like, do a sign language with each other. And it was amazing. After, like, a couple hours of them, you almost forgot that you're communicating like pantomime ing with each other way. We figured it out and we actually lived and had fun, and we're even able to sort of joke around. I don't remember how that was possible, but I just thought, How weird is it for these people that, like, you know, like drop these two white girls off on their island like take care of them will come pick them up in a couple days isn't so. It was one of the most surreal but coolest experiences ever. And so when we first got there, this is an image I took as were boating up. And I was like, What is this place? So to give you a little background on who does the islands called? Kudos. There's probably about 60 or 70 islands, and they're all in Lake Titicaca up in the high in the Andes Mountains. So it's a really high altitude, and I was already, like, feeling like a 90 year old woman, like just getting off the plane. And it was It took me a while to tackle me. It was very just like every seven it took just felt really laborious, you know, And we're on the boat and we're heading towards them and you can see the boats. On the right hand side are tourist boat. So what they did is the islands are sort of almost like organized in an alley. They haven't islands on the left in a row, islands on the right, in a row, and then the boats kind of come through sort of like a water highway. And just so they limit the traffic of tourists coming to the islands. And these people kind of kind of live in peace. They say that the boats are allowed to visit one side of the islands one day, and the next day they're allowed to visit the other. And so, in one way, it's It's great because the tourists are buying their weavings and their arts and crafts and helping support these these families that are living on the islands. But it's also, you know, a lot of traffic, and a lot of people like ogling you tourists coming in and photographing them. They're allowed to be on the island for about an hour at a time, and then they have to leave. But we got to say there so we get dropped off of their bags, and what I learned really quickly was okay. We're going to like, jump in and just join in with the chores for the day. and whatever they're doing. Essentially, these islands are made out of this. This read the Grass Re that grows on the lake and the men's job during the day is to go fishing and to catch all of their food and cut down grass because, like they literally have to re layer the ground of their islands. Every I don't know every day, that key player or else it's gonna get soggy and the island will sink like in order, just preserve their home island. They have the re layer of the grass on the ground every day, and they do it like section by section. And then it's weird because I mean, it's like this much mud. And then there's layers of grass on top of the islands, maybe like eight feet thick, and so it's like a floating dock. So if a boat goes by like the whole island, your house, everything moves like this really surreal. So we get their island, and I was completely obsessed with the colors of these women. In fact, I'm gonna go back to the slide before just because this is one of my favorite images. This was sort of like the women welcoming us as we're coming in on the boat and I mean, you know me with color. I saw this like woods, and they are really known for their weavings and their diet wolves. And they also have their hair braided two long braids that are connected at the ends of these break colored pom poms. It's amazing, Great. I just was completely obsessed, like even whoa about a grass Ah, heart like entrance way to their island. And every island is different. Each family kind of owns and lives on an island so, like the patriarch will be on the island. And then his kids and their kids and their kids are like they all live in one island. And the cool thing about it is if they want to, Let's say somebody from one island wants to marry or move to another island Mary, something I really literally can cut their house away, like, floated over to another island and reattach it, which is pretty amazing. So I mean, it's just like such a surreal place. They have these little lookout towers that look like look like tree houses. So one of the first things when we when I got there was a told me we didn't tell me. I mean, they did tell me that I didn't understand. Obviously, we're like making me get changed and put on their traditional clothing. I had Teoh dress like them, be like them and live in their life for a few days. So I loved I was green. I'm Mr Green was like my favorite color. And they came to the pom poms and very excited about these clothes were so warm. It was like a layer after layer after layer of thick wool. The skirts had multiple layers. You actually put on layer by layer underneath. And it was just felt like a fifties poodle skirt was so comfortable warm, but they didn't give me a straw hat or one of the cool hats of these ladies have. They gave me this like, netted hat, and then I found out later on that if you're single and you're not married, you were knitted hat. If you're married, your lottery straw hat and if you're somebody super important like the matriarch or whatever the island, you get a different hat. It's sort of like a ski cap looking thing but everyone knows their hierarchy and what village they're from based on their hats. And I thought that'd be so much easier here in the U. S. If you could just tell us it was, like, single or not based on their hat, but anyway, but it was really funny. I got the knitted cap like All right, I guess I'm that girl. So we was really funny. We went out on one of my choice at first was to go out and help them go fish. I don't know how much help I was, but we went out on this completely. You can see it there. It's a woven grass reeds and are tied together and again. The boats, like, get all soggy and they have to rebuild their boats probably every couple of months, because they just saw gout and stop working. And then this is a crazy boat that they have that's made out of hardened Reeves. And it's almost like Egyptian looking, these weird canoe boat houseboat things that they have to. It was pretty fabulous. So the woman on the left in this picture is doing their traditional Mobil's. They weave these it'll Mobil's for kids rooms and pillow cases and things like that to sell. And, um, the women I couldn't help them that much because a I don't know how to cook and b I don't know how to weave. So I was more like Okay, I guess I'll have the guys fish like I really didn't know it to dio. So we were walking around and kind of surveying and doing, but like, atmosphere pictures of the island and I don't even notice right there. But they do have some power on the island. They have a solar panel on a stock of grass right there to power their kitchen. So they actually do have power for their kitchen. They don't have outlets, obviously, anywhere else. But you can see in the kitchen sort of area. They do have power. And you can also see in this picture how they layer the grass. They literally just chop it and layer it like this every day. Okay. The bathrooms. Probably more for tourists. They wove these little dolls. They used porta potties and and they I'm pretty sure it's just a hole all the way through the island. Like I'm pretty sure they're not changing out these porta potties, but they had, like, a little men. Mandel on a little female daughter knew like which one was which I thought that was pretty cute. And then they had a grass swing set. They had, like, a leisure area on the island. They also had a pond with a pet flamingo just randomly living on their they on their island. And they had it was kind of genius. They cut out a circle on the island and put a net in it. So the water, the actual water could come up and it was ah, pond. And as a caught fish, we've gotten catch fish. Will you dump the fish in this pond? But they're all netted in any time. They wanted to cook fish for dinner. They just, like, walk over little pond and, like, scoop up a fish and then go cook it, which was pretty awesome. Um, and then this was just like a cute little entrance way from the water, and they decorate all their entrance ways onto the island. I mean, the island, Maybe I was I mean, I can't even do square footage. It was so tiny. It was probably maybe five times the size of the studio. I was in that bag. Okay, so this is my hut for for a few days that I was there and it was actually super awesome. They would heat up water bottles and put it underneath my blankets had, like, a straw bed, and then they move all these really warm quotes, and then they put heated water bottles, and it was probably one of the best sleeps I've ever had. Could probably doesn't like rocking on the water a little bit. But I had a really comfortable place to stay and, you know, and I felt like, really just safe and comfortable there. So my struggle was like, the first day. I really was more documenting what's happening and kind of taking it all in and acclimating. And the second day, I was having to do a portrait of these people. And remember, what I said earlier is that you need to have a photo release of all the people that use you. And so how am I gonna get these people to sign a photo released one like Like they probably don't even have a signature and be we're like, we're not even speaking the same language. And they had given me releases to you, but they're all written in Spanish. So I had to ask one of the tour operators that came by that happened in a little bit of their language to sort of translate and tell them like, I need you to scientist paper because you're gonna end up in this magazine and like, they just didn't even really understand what that was. I mean, they understood that I was taking pictures and using them, but, I mean, I don't think they really understood the document. But either way, you needed to have the document and I had someone translated and they and they signed it. And when we just did like a whole bunch of family portrait. So the next day. So this is a shot that I did a victor. He was sort of the Patriarchate Island. This is his hat, his married hat. He wears it when he's working. But then later on, I'll show you the other hat he wears because he's like the more important guy on the island. But he was my gondolier, like he would Romy around and we'd go fishing together and and he was kind of like the main dude on the island is very cool guy. In fact, there. Now, after this experience there now off, this particular family is offering home stays for people. If you want to go and stay with them and have a similar experience, you can actually do that. I think the tour companies mystery peru dot com. I believe, um, and if you contact Mr Peru, they can. They can contact this family and organize it for you. A lot of these people are experiencing it. It's hard for them because you know their Children. They're not that far from land. I mean, as you can see the edge of Lake Titicaca and you know, the town is really close. So these people are still living as they did hundreds of years ago, but not that far plan. And because of all the tourists coming in, they're getting a lot of contact with the modern world. So their kids air now, like I want to sit here, and we have grass with the rest of my life, like I want have a cell phone like I go to the island like they have to go to the mainland to go to school at middle school age, so they're getting kind of a lot of them don't want to come back. So offering tourism and things like this is a way for them to make more money for the family and kind of an incentive for the kids to stay around and want to continue this lifestyle for tourism. And that's what we were talking about that yesterday. It's a tough thing because you're like, Oh, it's like Disney is like the Disneyfication of their culture, but at the same time they're like, trying to survive, and they're doing what they need to dio. But it's pretty amazing that, you know, with all of this modern contact that they're still able to live this way. Okay, so there's Sarah and I again we both have knitted caps. Eso This is like the little waterways that would kind of like cut waterways through the reeds to be able to go through and cut them down and bring them back to the island. And they set out nets and a lot of these and we would just go to the nets and like collect the fish that had gotten caught in it. And the picture in the bottom is is the lights of the city here we are with, like, you know, pretty primitive situation we were saying, but yet we can see modern electricity in the town around this and everything, and that is not far at all. It is pretty magical. Okay, so there is some of the syriza porches I started doing. Said these were done with a stroke. I had the Stroop set off, opt inside here and a hat on the left, and I had them here on the right. And there's just like a whole bunch of portrait that I did. And this was difficult because, like I said, I really only had a certain amount of battery power, had two big batteries that were charged for this particular light. So I think that gave me 400 pops of light like that's it. And I felt like I was back in my film days because I basically had, like, that's how many pictures I could possibly take a but or use them Well, I couldn't just rapid fire and and so I I really set up lots of different types of family portrait since up around the island at this time. It also got challenging because I was really feeling the altitude sickness. I was feeling really sick, but I still had to just kind of, like power through it and and do the shoot. But it was really just all around it, kind, I think, like part of my altitude sickness And just like how surreal everything was, it felt like I was just another planet. I don't know. So here is some of the fortress we did. I joined in for one. Okay, I'm wearing his hat, the straw hat. But in the you can see in the picture that Victor's wearing sort of like a ski cap. That's their patriarch Cat like your fear, the main guy in the island. You get to wear this kind of ski hat with these ears, Um, and so the women are all wearing these kind of straw hats, and the little girl to the kids were so cute. A couple questions that came in from the Internet. Would you show a commercial client all of the images that you take from one of these kinds of shoots and and how do you judge which images Teoh to provide? In the end? You know, it's money going back to I don't think it's it's ever disservice to show more. In fact, that weight. The reason I got this job is that I went ahead and did my own personal work and also provided that's an avocado like Oh, my God, thank you so much for the experience of Prue. Like I just thought you'd like to see what I continued on doing for two weeks afterwards. And they love the picture so much. Not only did they want a license and use them and sell them, but they wanted to send me on more trips like that. So I never think it's too much to show more. I mean, obviously, like going back to curation what we talked about. You don't want to send somebody like thousands of images that that the poor through. But if you're thinking in terms of submissions, which is 200 images or less for magazines like they always want, like 152 tutor images, if you're thinking in that way, then you know, just treat it like a submission where you put together favorite 150 images and to say, Hey, you know, in addition, this is what I did or I'd love for you to see these. I mean, you know, if this is you'd like to use any of these as well, atmosphere shots or anything, and so I definitely don't think it's it's bad, but I never give my clients when you back up. I do give my clients thousands of images, but I never give them bad images. Like if we're doing a fashion shoot where we're blowing through a lot of pictures and they want to be able to see the different looks and and like the models slightly turned this way it might look better. And maybe the clothing looks better at this one angle. I'll give them more options. But if I'm doing more of a photo story, I definitely curate it down and pick out like my favorite 200 images or less that that more Yeah, um, so along those lines, let's see. Oh, we wanted to know. What what kinds of articles did you write for? End up writing for a trip like that were totally about to get in that. My answer that in a second. Ok? Ok, so you are probably a lot. This is sort of the beginning for this. This trip in the reason why I'm showing this particular trip was when I finally decided I need to start writing these experiences down like it was so amazing for me. Teoh have this experience and like, yeah, I was doing photos for Novica, but I just thought I'd like people need to know about these people. They're living this way up in Lake Titicaca and and I want to write about it. And I'd always looked like keeping a journal in writing, but I knew that this one needed to have more power. So I just started writing about my experience. I actually I always said that one day I would write a memoir about, like, the crazy travels in my life, and I would just call it that time that I dot, dot, dot and every chapter would be a short story would be like that time that I jump off the cliff that time I saw him with great weight at that time that I lived on a floating grass island like. So I named the article that time that I lived with Indians on a flooding Grass Island. And I just wrote a whole the whole experience of pretty much the story, it is told you guys, and that ended up being the article that got me into writing for helping and post I have been doing and we're gonna get into, like, kind of the process. But for me, I had been doing guest writing and guest articles for wedding magazines and for wedding publications. So I was, as I talked about yesterday doing photo stories and I was submitting them with a story I'd written Teoh destination wedding magazines and such. And because of that, some of them had asked me to guess blogged. So because I guess blood, I had guessed blogged for having imposed weddings. And so I kind of was like, You know, I'd love to write more about traveling on how to get in. So I just actually contacted Huffingtonpost weddings, who had written for before, or they guessed bog Boy and said I wrote this article about an experience. I just hadn't Peru and I don't know. I know we're doing weddings, but I don't know. Maybe you could for this on to the travel editor, and she did, and they, like, accepted and publish. It was my first article published for them, and they asked me after that to be a guest blogger. And so it's cool, cause in the beginning that give you permission to just upload images and photos as much as you want. But then they have editors that would like, make sure it looked good and then make sure you're not doing anything like illegal or bad or whatever, and then they would publish it. But now, after you do that for a while, then you become a contributor. Where it now I have the freedom to write and post. Like if I like, run article now and posted it instantly. It's online. No one's checking my work, and it's there for everyone to see, which is pretty amazing. At the same time, we'll get in that later. You need to like fact check and make sure things were spelled right and looks like no one's checking it anymore. So but this was my beginning. This experience in this story was my beginning of getting into writing and it was really fun because I had to stop writing. Over the years, I went to school for photo journalism, and I used to always write down my stories and keep a journal when I was traveling, but writing articles and writing a journal or two very different things like and we'll get into that later, too. But just I used to just ramble on and on, and I'm very good at that, just like I would like, right on napkins, on planes and just right on anything. I could find this tell stories, but it was never, you know something where I said, Okay, I've got 800 words or less and I've got to get my point across. So it was It was difficult. Teoh edit myself really down Teoh. A succinct article. But it was I was so excited that this one got published, cause it was just that I think the how passionate I was and how excited I was about that experience came through in the article. But so that was my moment, and I think you know where it starts. If you have to have a timeline of like, how do I get there? and there's going we're gonna talk about that in the section is you know, if you start guest blogging for other people, it's going to open doors for you to get an article published, but you do have to write something to send out to them. And so I did exactly that. I sent, you know, my favorite 50 75 images and and this article, and then they accepted it.

Class Materials

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Travel Gear List

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Art, Life, and Business Discount Code
Writing & SEO Guide for Travel Magazines
Sammy's Photo School Discount Code
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Ratings and Reviews


I've been listening for, like, two hours. OMG. Like, I could, like, you know, get more from this if, like, she stopped jibbering and get to, like, you know, the topic? She sounds more like a rambling stream-of-thought teenager than a mature adult giving a succinct organized presentation. In two hours, I have, like, learned about two or three things I can, like, use. Like, Ehhhh...? It's like, bor-ing! Like, whutttt? Is she, like, 15 or what? Sheesh.

a Creativelive Student

I have to start by saying that I was lucky enough to be part of the live audience in this class! What Laura has shared this 2 days, is something that will have taken me a few years to learn. Thank you for remanding me that we create our own opportunities and we have to go for what we want instead of waiting for it to happened and will these tips your share in this class, will make it a lot easier to approach editors or potential clients to be able to conquer my goals! Thanks you very much Laura and Creative Live for making all these possible for the photo community all around the world. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Student Work