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Today:

  • How Pictures of Brick Walls, Red Curtains, and Fields of Grass Sell for Super-Fast Cash
  • Buying the Right Camera: Think More than Just Megapixels

Dear Reader,

With a digital camera and a little imagination, you could make an extra $500 a month from your photographs without even leaving your living room.

A few weeks ago, reader Shelly Perry wrote in to say that she earns, on average, $.75 per photo per month with an online stock agency. “There’s a trick,” she said. “My best-selling pictures aren’t necessarily the ones you’d think. In fact, my best-selling image is of a standard-issue red velvet curtain. And now I’m making about $500 a month in royalties. I keep telling my friends: ‘You guys need to do this!’ It’s so easy and it’s fun too.”

Turns out, stock agencies are looking for more than smiling faces and Eiffel Towers. They want ketchup bottles, tables and chairs, and popcorn too.

I invited Shelly to join us in Paris at the end of the month to show us how it’s done. She’ll talk about simple light set-ups you can arrange at home to take the kind of professional-looking pictures that sell to these stock agencies. She’s also going to talk about working with models and model releases as some of her other best-selling pictures are of everyday things like a guy and a girl shaking hands.

$500 a month in royalties… it’s like having your own cash cow.

I mean, even if Shelly stopped taking photos today, she’d still continue to earn royalties for the life of her photographs. Not a bad deal if you ask me.

This Paris workshop is guaranteed to be our best yet. And if last year’s program is any indication of what we can expect this year, we’ll have the success stories to prove it. Everybody left Paris with sellable photographs last year. Everyone from the teacher who showed up with a $200 point-and-shoot camera to the experienced photographer who admitted after the very first night’s sessions that he had just learned more about composition from our lead instructor, Rich Wagner, than he had in all the university-level photo courses he’d taken.

In four days last year, we led our attendees, quite literally, all over Paris. And this year will be no different…

We’ll head up to the top of Montmarte for a sunrise shoot… down the Champs-Elysees… across the Luxembourg Gardens… to famous cafes — Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots… around the Louvre… down the Seine… to the Eiffel Tower by way of Invalides… around the Palais Royal…

This is far and away the best way to see Paris. I mean, I saw more of the city in four days than I saw in the eight months I lived there.

Intrigued… but don’t know what kind of camera to bring? Or worried you’ll need to plunk down a whole bunch of cash to get one that will take good pictures? Don’t give those concerns another moment of your time. Instead, read on…

I asked Rich Wagner for some tips on buying the right camera, and you’ll find them below.

As always, remember to keep me up-to-speed on your success. If you have good news to share, send me a quick note at  lori@thetravelwriterslife.com.

I hope you have a great week,

— Lori
Lori Appling
Director, Great Escape Publishing

[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.]

BUYING THE RIGHT CAMERA: THINK MORE THAN JUST MEGAPIXELS
By professional photographer, Rich Wagner, in Simsbury CT

Photography is truly a field that has something for everyone. Whether you love gadgets and want the latest high-tech tools or you are always on-the-go and need something light-weight and easy, you can be sure there are cameras and gear out there to match your needs.

POINT AND SHOOT VS. THE SLR

Any camera – digital or film – that does not have a removable lens is technically classified as a “point and shoot”. If you’re just starting out, the camera you most likely already own, or the camera you’ll probably buy first, will fall into this category. For the most part, these sleek little cameras are lightweight, compact, and easy to travel with.

SLRs (or single lens reflex cameras), on the other hand, have lenses that are removable and interchangeable. In addition, they usually offer many more options for controlling the camera including the use of completely manual settings.

The biggest (and probably most important) difference between a point and shoot and an SLR lies in the quality of the pictures it’s capable of making. While point-and-shoot cameras have their own advantages, they cannot compete with SLRs in terms of image quality. SLRs, specifically digital SLR cameras, have much larger image sensors. This larger sensor size produces a much higher-quality image and therefore a better picture.

HOW TO CHOOSE WHICH ONE IS BEST FOR YOU

The truth is, you can take great photos with lousy cameras and lousy photos with great cameras. Your decision about what to buy rides mostly, then, on where you plan to sell the pictures your camera produces.

I, for instance, own a number of cameras — film and digital — and a point and shoot is among them. Point and shoots are great cameras to start learning on because they don’t typically have all the bells and whistles an SLR camera has. You can master basic photography techniques without getting bogged down in the technical specifics of your camera. And they’re great on trips where a bulkier camera might be more of a hindrance than a help.

The big downside to point and shoots is that they don’t produce images of a high enough quality for most publications and stock agencies. If you can afford an SLR, you’ll need one to break into these markets.

DIGITAL OR FILM? In my opinion, this is no longer a point of discussion. Digital is the clear choice for anyone buying a new camera today. Not only is it a great learning tool (because you can see your pictures instantly on the LCD screen on your camera and thus adjust your picture-taking habits accordingly) but these days a high-resolution digital SLR is just as competitive as scanned film. And it’s becoming more widely accepted (and even preferred) by most commercial photography markets.

If you’re getting advice from someone who’s saying that digital is not as good as film, you’re being mislead. It’s that simple.

THE MEGAPIXEL MYTH

We’ve been bombarded by megapixel mania. We’ve been led to believe camera quality is all about how many pixels you have. But in reality, the number of pixels you have is only half of the quality equation.

The other half is the size of the digital sensor. Larger sensors are made up of larger pixels. Larger pixels have qualities that are better than their smaller brothers. Qualities you may find out you need to enter the market that’s important to you.

Point-and-shoot cameras are almost always made with smaller sensors and thus smaller pixels (think: 1/10th the size of a 35mm negative). So while they may have a lot of pixels (8 million – or 8 megapixels — is not uncommon) each one of those pixels is extremely tiny.

SLRs, on the other hand, are always made with a larger sensor (anywhere from 1/2 the size of, to equal to, a 35mm negative). They may even have fewer pixels than the point and shoots, but each one is significantly larger so therefore your image quality will be better.

THE IDEAL KIT

The truth is, there is no such thing as the “Ideal Kit”. No more than there is an ideal mate, or an ideal car. It’s all subjective, and all dependent on what your goals are.

While I always have at least one camera with me – I probably have a half dozen “kits” depending on what kind of shooting I plan to do that day. So here are my camera preferences. You, of course, will develop your own as you progress in your career…

My Point and Shoot – I always have a point and shoot with me. My favorite is an eights megapixel about the size of a deck of cards.

While I can’t make a 20″x30″ fine art print with it and most print stock agencies won’t accept pictures from this kind of camera, I can make beautiful 8″x12″ fine art prints, and some magazines will accept the file for use up to about 1/2 page photograph (this is true for point-and-shoot cameras over five megapixels — anything less than that isn’t considered salable quality).

Since there are a lot of different (and equally great) makes and camera models out there, I’m not going to tell you mine. It was simply the one that felt best in my hand when I was at the store that day.

If you have big fingers, consider the size of the buttons when you chose a camera. If you have other equipment like a PDA, printer, or laptop that supports a certain type of memory card over others, look for cameras that use that type of memory card. If you travel a lot and want something you can put in your pocket, look at the smaller models.

I suggest you go to a store rather than order online because I think you need to hold the camera in your hand before you buy it and flip through all the screens to see if you like it.

SLRs

SLRs. I have two of them. First a large Canon pro model: the 1D Mark II and a smaller Olympus E-1, about 1/2 the size and weight of the Canons.

Both are considered professional grade, which means they are ruggedly built and have a fair amount of water resistance. I’ve shot with each of them in the rain, sleet, and snow, and never had a problem. While the heavier Canon produces great quality digital files (and I’ve enlarged many shots to 30″x40″) it’s very heavy and not much fun to lug around. Moreover, I can never get a candid shot with this camera. If I put my telephoto lenses on, I look like the pros you see wandering the sideline at sporting events.

These days, the smaller Olympus E-1 sees most of the action. It’s light enough to carry, not intimidating to bystanders, and produces a file good enough for enlargements up to about 20″x30″ for fine art. Stock agency images are also fine. For me, it’s kind of a “Jack of all trades, Master of none” camera. The larger Canon I reserve for studio work, sports photography, and landscapes where I have a lot of time and most shots are on a tripod.

MY ADVICE…

It’s very important to physically handle multiple cameras before you buy. It isn’t enough to Google all the reviews and make your decision on the internet based on statistics. A camera is like a pair of jeans. You’ve got to try it on before you buy and make sure it fits. It needs to feel comfortable in your hand and the buttons need to be easy to push with your fingers.

MY EPSON RD1

I have one last camera that sees a lot of use. It’s a type you won’t hear discussed much because there is only one manufacturer and one model made in the world and not much demand from a consumer’s point of view.

It’s an Epson RD1, referred to as a DRF, or Digital Rangefinder. If you remember the old Leica rangefinder cameras, which were the first 35mm cameras and started the whole revolution back in the 1930’s, it looks just like that. It also takes interchangeable Leica lenses, and I have a nice selection of those from the “old days”.

It’s small, unobtrusive, light weight, and the lens-camera combination takes magnificent photos. The last time I was in Paris at the AWAI photo workshop, I had the Canon and the Epson and the Canon never made it out of the bag in 10 days of exploring the city. It also has analog controls just like an old film camera. Almost nothing is done with a menu and screen. This camera was made for zone focusing. That’s what makes it such a great street shooter where speed, silence, and unobtrusiveness are required.

So which camera goes in my bag? I always take the point and shoot and the Olympus E-1 with the following exceptions…

The Canon 1D MkII is my sport shooter and often my preference for landscapes; the Epson RD1 is for “street shooting” when I want great results without being noticed.

[Rich Wagner, our resident camera expert here, is a professional photographer whose images hang in public corporations and private foundations from San Diego to Boston and in homes from the Americas to the Far East.]

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