It's been a while since I've done any serious page building, so I thought I should do a straw poll of what people want from travel pages these days. When you build your VT pages, do you start with the photos and build appropriate tips for them, or do you write the review first and then find a suitable picture to illustrate it? Is it a bad point for a page when the accompanying photo isn't a helpful visual representation of the review?
No, I always wait with writing a tip till I have photo's. The way I take pictures and of what has rather changed throug the years though. Still I sometimes forget to take the opening pictures for the Intro page :( PJ
I usually look at the pictures I've taken and then build tips around them. What I've been finding with people reviewing my tips is that the "Things to Do" section gets looked at the most. The "Hotel" section probably the least as there are far better sites out there to review hotels. I still put hotel and now more b and b reviews out there, so if someone asks a question about a place to stay I can direct them to my tip on my opinions of where we stayed. When I'm looking at VT pages I'm looking at the "Off the Beaten Path" pages.
I try to do my pages chronologically, with the photo file open the whole time. Then as I advance through the tip writing and whatever, I then remove the pics from that file and put them elsewhere, so even if I leave one destination and start on another, when I come back I know where I am. As Rich, I also have a tendency to search out the "off the beaten path" tips before anything else from someone's pages, even a destination where I've been already.
As I wander around a place, I gain an idea of the major 'first division' tips that I'd like to write (and now tend to make a mental note to take a photo to illustrate that tip). However, once I've written those, I peruse my photos and use them as visual 'cues' to remember other things that I might have missed. These may be more obscure or lower key attractions, or things that I think are illustrative of the culture, challenges or my impression of a place. And I suspect that often those 'second division' tips - which may end up under the 'Off the Beaten Track' category - end up being more original, more interesting and hopefully more useful to others as a result. However, the wheels come off with this approach when I am writing up places that I visited before I was active on VT, and there, I just make do with whatever photos I have. I wouldn't go as far as to say that a tip without a photo is a bad tip, but I think it probably won't attract as much interest as people scroll through, and my instinct would be that a 'less than relevant' photo is better than no photo at all. But I'm not a perfectionist, so I'm sure there are many other more detail-focused VTers who would feel otherwise: horses for courses.
The way I intend VT is as a source for valuable information, where visuals are just an aid, therefore my written suggestions tend to prevail over photos. Certain tips of mine don't even have an associated image.
Excellent pointers all, thanks for your responses. It does make me realise how much my photography style has changed since I stopped religiously building pages for every destination I travelled to. I remember there being several VTers about 5 or 6 years ago who insisted on taking pics of food in restaurants to illustrate their restaurant reviews. I don't know if people still do that, but I was always embarrassed by that. I'd much rather just enjoy my trip without being a photo hound, and hope that people are reasonable enough to enjoy the photos I have. Great advice on the "things to do" tips too. I'll bear that in mind.
>> I wouldn't go as far as to say that a tip without a photo is a bad tip, but I think it probably won't attract as much interest as people scroll through Catherine, from a marketing standpoint you are correct but I don't feel I have to "sell" better as I'm not hungry for clicks/ratings :)
We take pictures of our food. If nothing else it's a personal reminder of what we ate. And if it's something really good we can remember to order it again sometime in the future.
Ant, I appreciate your viewpoint. However, I'm not so much looking for the 'thumbs up', but if I think that something's worth writing a tip about, then I tend to be a little evangelical about it! If I think it's 'ho hum' or don't have anything original to add to what otehr people have already said , then I just won't write about it (which is why I haven't written an Eiffel Tower tip, for example). If it cracks a mention in my pages, then I think it's worth other people considering ... but other people have to make their own decision, and in that regard, they have to read the tip to decide whether or not it's for them. Case in point: I think that I may well have written one of the few dissenting opinion on whether the CN Tower in Toronto is worth going up!
@Rich - when I finally meet you (which seems as though it will have to be in Chicago rather than Romania due to the parlous state of your airmiles) - cameras will be banned from the dinner table!!!
If you come to Chicago I'll let you call some of the "shots"
... otherwise I can't get in touch with my disreputable side ... :)
... unless you're only photographing the food ... ;)
Aha, it seems that the pictures of food debate still rages on! I think it's ok in a really informal place, but if you're in a decent place I don't even like people taking flash photography of each other, let alone the food they're eating. My reticence often leaves me without a picture for my restaurant tips though ;)
In most restaurants I try to take a couple of indoor shots, many times with the flash off and then work with the low light conditions on the computer at home to fix them up some.
That I would overlook Rich...as it's you! ;)
We're currently planning a Europe trip at short notice due to a death in the family, which means that we are having to do all of this at much shorter notice than usual. I derive enormous pleasure from just writing - and if people read, comment and rate this, then it's an enormous bonus - but I have found it interesting to find myself in the position of being the 'consumer', looking for infomation at short notice. What personally drives me up the wall are 'tips' which are ONLY photos. Or tips that don't tell me why it appealed to the writer to the point where they wrote the tip in the first place. I don't want to tick things off: I want to connect to places and my chalenge is to use the limited travel time that I have available to explore places that appeal to my interests. But that's just my perspective. Regards Cathy
Agree Cathy, I take a look at some of my early written tips and go, "Wow those are really exciting!" LOL What I try to do now is add a little humor which fits my personality. Try to add some of my impressions. If I have something negative to say I mention why I think that and that others may have a different experience. I do go back to some of the tips I've written and make changes periodically, but it gets harder to remember certain things after a period of time has passed.
And you see also Jules, that we still go back and forth on forum questions and sometimes get off the intended question.
Yes I see where you're coming from Cathy, as I sometimes feel as if I don't have enough input in a tip, but then some of the time I do have a tendency to also use VT as a visual encyclopaedia for myself and not only for others.
We all use VT for different purposes. Mine are at least partly a personal travelogue, which others may possibly find useful. But that's not always the reason why I write.
But don't we all look at some of our earlier tips and cringe, Rich? I vividly remember that my very first was righteously indignant about correcting the name of a shopping complex in Johannesburg that had since changed ... I just didn't know to consider how old the tip was. But it got us started, and hopefully we learned and improved. If I think of the one element that a tip should contain, it's some degree of passion about why that thing's worth considering in the first place. Being passionate about a launderette is clearly not going to rate the same degree of passion as a tip about an ultimate honeymoon destination (or if it does, then someone needs to seek professional help, which is not my domain at all), but you get the drift? Regards Cathy
Gawd. If I didn't have the camera as a memory jogger, where would I be. Taking pics of the restaurant meals and bills helps me a great deal. I love my food.
I shoot food too but never, ever with flash - it makes it look terrible. In fact, I rarely ever use flash at all. I do start with photos but the photos were usually taken with a future review in mind to begin with. When I'm out and about I'll not just snap away at pretty places and fun/interesting things to do but opportunities for helpful, instructional reviews as well: the how to's, ya know? These last few weeks in Italy I pointed a lens at everything from pedestrian crossings to train station ticket machines to the hot/cold water pedals on restroom sinks. Anything that's challenging or different - and potentially baffling - to people from my country make for helpful blurbs that just may keep someone else from scratching their 'lil heads.
I think I'm similar to Cathy in my approach :-) When I visit a place there are some things I know immediately I will want to write about on VT and I make sure I take photos of them to illustrate my tips. But I was a keen photographer long before I started contributing here, and trying to take the best photos I can is a key part of any trip for me, so I take plenty that aren't necessarily linked to an idea for a VT tip. But because I like to share these, and because I reckon any place thaty inspired me may do the same for others, I often find myself adding extra tips to my list once I get home and look more carefully at what I have photographed. For the tips I plan to write from the start I always take some notes, but only very brief - just enough to remind me of a few facts and also why I want to recommend the place (why I liked it, what made it stand out etc) But for the extra ones I rely on my incrfeasingly poor memory! I also like to do post-trip research - it helps fill out my tips and I enjoy reading more about places I've visited in any case. Oh, and yes, I do take photos of food in restaurants ;-) It used to embarass my husband but these days he even joins in! But if I can manage without flash I do - not only does it not disturb the atmosphere for other diners, it also makes for a better photo.
I've done all manner of different ways. This includes the methods that annoy everyone else (i.e., start with a tip only and no intro page - as I had no useful information on the community itself other than the one item). You have to start somewhere, as a good intro doesn't usually do much without tips (unless it is a community with nothing in it) and the tips don't do much without a global view of the location, provided by the intro. The best way? Start with what you want to write about first. After all, none of us are paid to write stuff here. It's a hobby not a profession. Keep it enjoyable for yourself.
I also like to build a Provence and Page country, when I first visit a town in a country new to me. Also I check the locations nearby, because the VT database has many many locations available. PJ
locations? yes but not Roslin.
I must admit that whilst I realise that laundromat tips don't make for riveting reading, I find them extremely helpful as I am always looking for a laundromat when I am travelling. Washing clothes under the shower is fine, but every few days I like to think that they are having a good machine wash. So please don't stop writing laundromat tips. Some tips are better with the right amount of passion and others are just plain good for much needed information.
LOL, Kate - we just did laundry in Florence and I took pictures!!