Edited by Lori Appling in San Francisco, CA
“Magazine photography is the mural painting of modern times.” – Gene Thornton
Just a quick note today as I’m about to board a plane bound for Hawaii. I’m sitting at my gate at the airport in San Francisco (typing… and drinking as much water as I can, since I can’t bring any on board with me…).
We’ve just wrapped up another whirlwind photography workshop. And I think I speak for all our attendees when I say: I’m exhausted… but invigorated, enthusiastic, and really excited at the prospect of turning not just my travel shots — but simple photos I snap at home — into a regular income stream.
You see, at this workshop we did a little something different. Not only did we sling our cameras around our necks and walk, and walk, and walk…
But we added a whole segment on setting up a studio in your home — on how to light and position objects (anything, from people to apples to towel rings) — so you can shoot salable “stock photos” with ease.
(In fact, we actually had a studio set up at the hotel and even had on hand models so we could practice taking this kind of photo.)
Bottom line: It’s a lot easier to do than you might think. And we learned all sorts of simple tricks that made a world of difference in the quality of our shots. (Now, that’s all I’m going to say about this right now. In an upcoming issue, I’ll give you a full run-down with lots of how-to advice so you can turn your own kitchen into a money-making studio in less than 15 minutes.)
But for today, I’ve asked Stan Sinberg — an award-winning humor and travel writer — to tell you one important thing he learned about photography over the past few days.
Stan is the editor of the ITWPA Insider (that’s the new, twice-monthly publication for members of the International Travel Writers & Photographers Alliance). He lives in San Francisco, so I invited him to tag along with us at our workshop and asked, in exchange, that he report back to you about what he learned.
Stan is not a photographer by training… but he is a San Francisco devotee. And what he discovered is that, with a camera to his eye, the city he knows well took on a whole new demeanor.
I’ll let him tell you all about it, below, where he passes on five useful tips he learned for snapping excellent (and salable) photos of anyplace on the planet (even if it’s one of the most well-known and frequently photographed cities).
As always — let me know about your travel-writing or photography successes. If you have a story to share, send me a quick note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director, Great Escape Publishing
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A Sweetheart Deal for Travel Writers
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SHOOT SOMETHING DIFFERENT: FIVE WAYS TO TAKE “NEW” PHOTOS OF FAMILIAR PLACES
By Stan Sinberg in San Francisco, CA
When you think of San Francisco — which is where the group of us taking the Ultimate Photography Workshop currently find ourselves — you think of the Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39, Golden Gate Park, and perhaps North Beach and Chinatown.
So one big question for aspiring professional photographers is: How do you compete with all the gorgeous photos of these landmarks shot by far-more experienced photographers already out there?
One answer is: Don’t. Shoot something different!
For instance, yesterday morning we headed out to the little-known (by tourists) Mission District. This area has missions (duh), odd boutiques (if you call a Pirate store and a Voodoo shop odd), and dozens and dozens of beautiful murals painted on the sides of buildings.
Led by our tour guide, Joyce, we spent hours wandering up and down main streets and back alleys, snapping pictures of street life, gardens, colorful houses, and the ubiquitous murals. It was a San Francisco few of us knew, and even fewer of us imagined.
More importantly, relatively few outsiders know about it, making it appealing to editors who want to bring their readers something new and different.
TURNING THE “ORDINARY” INTO SOMETHING NEW AND DIFFERENT
Does that mean that you don’t shoot the Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39, etc? No.
In fact, last night we made a field trip to shoot the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset (albeit from a little-known — again, by tourists — viewpoint), and today we’re taking walking and shooting tours of North Beach and Chinatown.
But I suspect that when the workshop attendees start selling their photos from here, more of the paydays will derive from the photos taken around areas like the Mission District (perhaps a photo essay on “The Street Murals of San Francisco”), than from their more famous counterparts.
Of course, when we DO take photos of San Francisco landmarks (or of the Mission District too, for that matter) our chances of composing bankable shots increase if we take photos that are different from the ones we’ve seen a zillion times before in magazines and on postcards in souvenir shops.
FIVE TIPS FOR MAKING YOUR PHOTOS DIFFERENT… AND EASIER TO SELL
Rich Wagner, our workshop leader, gave us some tips for doing just that —
** 1. Shoot your subject from various angles. Walk around it. Get down on your knees or up on a bench and shoot from a different perspective.
** 2. Play with focus. By playing around with depth of field to make neighboring objects appear closer or farther away than they might actually be, we create new relationships between these objects. Similarly, by using selective focus (whereby one part of the photo is in sharp focus while we purposely blur, say, the background), we can create dramatic effects.
** 3. Look for patterns. Nature, as well as man-made structures, is full of repeating lines, curves, circles, etc, if only we keep our eyes open to them. Finding these patterns can provide us with ways to take artistically pleasing shots.
** 4. Look for patterns interrupted. As Rich observed, a picket fence is more interesting if one of the points is broken: ducks in a row instantly become more compelling if one duck is facing the wrong way. Look for something that is a little out of whack.
** 5. Tell a story. Put people in your photos. The human element arouses our curiosity about who these people are and what they’re doing, as well as giving the bridge, skyscraper, etc, a scale that we can relate to.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]