Why travel writers should learn to shoot video clips
By Tracey Minkin in Birmingham, AL
Here’s what happens when I arrive at a destination:
- I make my way to the beach.
- I whip out my iPhone.
- I shoot a series of horizontal photos that capture shoreline, horizon, and any kind of photogenic wave action.
- I repeat step 3, but with vertical photos.
- I set my iPhone camera to video and shoot:
- With my camera set horizontally, I shoot a pan from left edge of the shore to right, taking 30 seconds.
- Another horizontal pan, right edge to left, taking 30 seconds.
- The same two pans in 15 seconds.
- Then I flip my phone to vertical and do all four of those pans again in that format.
- I sit down so that I’m nearly at the water’s edge and shoot 30 seconds of the water and waves breaking toward me, first in horizontal, and then in vertical orientation, without moving the camera.
- Then I do 15 seconds in horizontal and vertical.
- Then I go get a welcome drink.
Why I don’t go straight to that welcome drink.
I’m the travel editor at Coastal Living, so capturing beautiful beaches is one of my key missions when I’m on assignment (and in life in general). Our social media editor uses short videos like these to push on Instagram and Instagram Story (vertical), and on Facebook (horizontal), while my digital editors use my videos (horizontal) to embed in stories from these destinations.
What’s up with all this video?
Currently, video is king for digital publishers of content. Most brands have specific video goals they must meet, and editors are therefore hungry for videos they can embed in online stories and use in social media posts.
But isn’t that what photographers are for?
Yes and no. Here’s the thing. Sometimes, if a magazine is putting a bunch of money into a story, it might be hiring a writer to write it and then a photographer to shoot it. But paying a separate writer and photographer, and then paying the photographer for videos, too, can get expensive.
If the article is just for digital publication, there likely won’t be a separate photographer to shoot your story. The editors will need to search for stock images and videos instead. You can score big points (and sometimes even a little more money) by offering the whole package.
Which is to say, if you’re a freelancer and you’re looking to be your editor’s most trusted contributor, come to the table with an offer to provide short, useful video clips along with some equally usable photography (and of course, your killer story).
I hear you saying, “I’m just a writer. How can I become a provider of video content?”
All you need is a smartphone with a decent camera, a steady hand or a tripod, and a checklist of types of videos you want to get while in the field.
Feeling overwhelmed? Take a breath. It’s not that hard!
Start by thinking of video with these three “M’s”
- Movement: A video adds a sense of movement to a digital story.
- Moment: A video is short and shows a slice of life from a place.
- Memorable: A video leaves you with a sense of the place that lingers.
Prepare before you go.
Imagine being on location in your next destination—a beach, a town, the desert, a cosmopolitan city—and think about what you might see. Then apply it against those 3 M’s. What 60-, 30-, or 15-second videos will capture movement, a moment in time, or are just memorable?
Based on that projection, make a list in anticipation of traveling. Some good possibilities include:
- Sunrise and sunset
- A panning shot of any landscape: ocean, mountains, desert, botanical gardens, a busy public square
- Something being made: a cocktail, an oyster being shucked, a coconut being prepared for a straw, a bakery cake being frosted, a cigar being rolled, a basket being woven
- Music: A musician captured in his or her act (ask permission and always tip!)
- A moving shot: An interesting view going by fast (from a car) or slow (from a bike, horse, or pedicab in a busy city)
Get your sea legs by practicing in your own backyard. Make a video shoot list where you live and make it your lab. Spend a day shooting like you’re on assignment, come home, and watch your videos on your phone. No need to upload them anywhere or edit them anywhere. Just watch them and see if you hit any of the 3 M’s. If you did, great! If you didn’t, think about what was missing.
Watch videos posted by travel outlets you want to write for, and see what they’re posting (both on social media platforms and in articles). See how you can get your clips closer to theirs.
“But I’m looking at National Geographic, and their videos are super professional, with text, music, edits!”
Of course those are! And someday you may find yourself teaching yourself how to put together fully produced videos (there are apps for that). Meanwhile, trust me: Lots and lots of brands are looking for short videos to use in a variety of ways.
Writers who can bring the goods are three steps ahead of writers who can’t… and those three steps can make all the difference.
So hold off on that welcome drink. Whip out your smartphone, and join the video world!
[Editor’s note: Besides being a foot in the door with editors… travel video is also a hot and profitable way for you to earn more money on your adventures. Your next trip could mean $200 to $4,000 and a free stay. Check out this video to see how it’s done.]