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Photography Tips That Help Sell Photographs
by Joan Airey

Awaken by a thunderous noise at five-thirty in the morning, I jumped out of bed on the run to look out the window. Overnight torrential rain washed out the road only feet from our house. I grabbed my digital camera, ran outside, and started snapping photographs as three gigantic metal culverts shot through the air. A thirty-foot deep hole you could drop a semi-truck into was an obstacle between me and our cattle. Using modern technology I was able to deliver photographs to editors instantly making numerous sales. When the water receded a little, I captured a young family rafting where another road had washed away which I submitted to a newspaper. Payment for that photo sold me on pursuing photo-journalism.

But all my sales weren’t as easy as that first one. I discovered that there was a lot about the art of photography that I still had to learn. Fortunately for me, I had several editors over the years that gave me advice on what they want in photography. Here is a few helpful hints that I learned from them that I wish I had know when first starting out.
1. Watch your lighting. When possible take outdoor photographs. Always position the sun behind the camera not behind the subject in the photograph. If you shoot right after a storm, the light will be more dramatic. Wet objects, even gravel roads, take on a more vibrant, intense tone. Early and late in the day, the colors are richer, the shadows are deeper, textures and forms are stronger. Go outside no matter the time of day or the weather if you want to sell scenic photographs.

2. Frame your shot. Doorways, arches, branches, wagon wheels, fences, rock formations and numerous other objects can be used to frame the subject. Create the best possible composition before taking the photograph. Organize your subjects so everyone can be seen. Remove as much clutter as you can from the setting.

3. Get close. Make the image of your subject fill the entire frame of your camera. When possible use your legs to get closer not your zoom lens. But remember, at times the zoom lens is the safe way to go.

4. Hold that camera steady. The slightest movement can blur a photograph. An editor told me to hold my camera with both hands and keep my elbows tucked in against my sides. Tripods are a great investment.

5. Be unique. Try to have something original about your photograph that separates it from the rest. The less posed a photograph looks the more real it feels.

6. Learn to use the “automatic” settings on your camera. I met David Matthew while checking out a local craft show for stories. His photography intrigued me so I asked permission to photograph him with his work and to interview him. At his website, www.atozillusions.com, a free newsletter is available which includes tips on how to improve your photography. Matthews gave this advice in a recent newsletter. For the best “people” shots, use “P” for program or portrait setting on your camera. This will give you the widest aperture for the lighting conditions. The background will be out of focus and the eye will be drawn to your subjects.

7. Shoot all photographs at the highest resolution. Go for quality, not quantity. Most digital cameras allow you to adjust the resolution of your pictures so that you get more photos on your memory card. Don’t do this! Editors want high-resolution pictures.

8. Don’t wait to shoot. When a photograph opportunity is in front of you, take it—in a few minutes that shot may not be available. One day, I was driving into town. I saw a load of gigantic pipe being unloaded by a huge machine. The shot would have been fantastic. I was in a hurry and I thought I'd take pictures on the way home—no such luck. When I returned, a train blocked my view of that perfect shot.

9. Never leave home without a camera. You never know when that award-winning shot will be before you. When I first started, I’d kick myself when that “Kodak” moment presented itself and I didn’t have my camera.

Using the helpful hints that numerous editors have given me over the years has sold photographs taken from my front step and those taken on fun-filled holidays. Take note and you too may fall into extra dollars with photography.

© Copyright 2009, Joan Airey

Joan Airey is a freelance writer and photographer. She resides in southern Manitoba, Canada on the family farm.

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