On-the-ground reports from the Ultimate Travel Photography Workshop in Paris
Since you couldn’t be with us in Paris for our photography workshop, I asked David Morgan – a freelance writer and photographer – to fill you in on what we’ve learned. You’ll find his report here below.
Director, Great Escape Publishing
Three days of the Ultimate Travel Photography Workshop have flown by, and we only have one to go. Our time in Paris is passing quickly, but we certainly have a lot to show for it.
We spent most of today in the seminar room, talking about how to turn a profit from micro-stock photography…how to show (and sell) your pictures on coffee shop walls…and some simple lighting techniques you can use to get professional results without spending a lot of money.
But that was not my favorite part.
Actually, I had two favorite parts – first, a walk through the gardens at the Palais Royal. And secondly, as usual, the group critiques of participants’ photos. For me, at least, the critique sessions continue to be the most valuable part of our workshop.
So that is what you get to hear about in today’s dispatch from Paris.
In case you are just now joining us, let me quickly introduce myself again. My name is David Morgan, and I’ve been writing to you over the past few days with free on-the-ground reports from our Ultimate Travel Photography Workshop here in Paris.
Yesterday we talked a bit about composition, and the day before we touched on a few points about choosing a digital camera.
Today I’m going to tell you what we learned during the critique session, and what we got out of our walk around the Palais Royal gardens.
During the critique session, in picture after picture, I heard the comment, “Great shot…would’ve been better, though, if there were people in it.”
There were exceptions, of course, but in almost every photo we saw on the projector that didn’t have people in it already, I agreed with those comments – people could really add to the scenery.
And according to Shelly Perry, the pro photographer who told us yesterday how to break into the micro-stock photography market, one of the best types of photos to sell over and over are photos with people.
In the gardens of the Palais Royal, people were everywhere. And it was almost as if they knew we were coming. They struck poses we never could have asked for, they were so good…
Lovers kissing under the arbors…kids kicking a soccer ball along a sandy pathway…very serious-looking French people sipping miniscule cups of cafe at a, er, cafe…people painting, reading, and – of course – taking photos.
We got some great shots, much better than had we tried to pretend no one else was there.
I’ve noticed that about tourists. Often, they want to pretend they’re the only ones around, that they’re the first to discover a place — and they’ll do their best to frame shots without people in them. And by that I mean, people they don’t know.
Not our workshop participants.
First off, they’re no longer tourists.
You see, our participants have enjoyed a real transformation. All of a sudden, they are experiencing the world with a new outlook, looking at it afresh… looking at it as a photographer would. They’re framing shots even when they don’t have a camera glued to their faces.
And in that sense, they’ve already taken the first, big step toward becoming professional photographers. At the same time, they’re learning (really, absorbing) the skills they need to take the next step… that is, to sell the truly extraordinary shots they’ve already got.
(I know I said this yesterday, but I’ll say it again today, because it really is almost unbelievable: The photos I’ve seen up on the screen during our critiquing sessions are, truly, amazing. I mean, this is a group of folks who, three days ago, were snapping run-of-the-mill vacation shots. Now they’ve got the eyes (and the skills) to take infinitely salable photos that wouldn’t look out of place in the pages of a magazine.)
The thing is, while trips like this one to Paris are, certainly, enjoyable… the truth of the matter is: You can be a travel photographer in your own hometown, transforming how you experience your everyday life.
That brings us to PARIS PHOTO TIP #4: Be a travel photographer even when you’re not traveling. When you take shots of the things and people and experiences that make up your everyday life, you can transform the ordinary into something extraordinary. Try it… and you’ll discover that the children in the sandbox out back or the mail carrier strolling along the sidewalk can, really, take on universal meaning and appeal.
Speaking of children and mail carriers… and people in general… here’s your PARIS PHOTO TIP #5: Whenever possible, take pictures with people in them, even people you don’t know. People add flavor to your photos, giving each one a “personal” story.
In these dispatches, in each day’s “Paris Push.” section, I’ve tried to give you a taste of how to transform your daily life through writing and photography. I hope I’m providing a little nudge to help you break through the inertia that’s holding you back.
Speaking of which, here’s today’s “action” for you…
New This Year: the Paris Push
Today I want you to take a simple step, one that requires a bit of reading — and rereading.
The first thing I want you to read is the mini-course on how to write persuasive query letters, written by John Forde and sent to you when you subscribed to this e-letter. (If you can’t find yours, email email@example.com, and she’ll make sure you get a second copy.)
And then, write a query letter to the publications you targeted yesterday. When you start doing this, you’re not just a writer or photographer, you’re also a marketer. Remember, you’re selling your article and photos to the publication. So think about how your article will serve an editor’s readers, and pitch your piece that way.
And, now that a day or two has passed since you wrote the article you’re trying to sell, it’s time to reread it. Does anything strike you as odd? If so, take it out. Sometimes the little things we love most about an article when we first write it are the things that rub us the wrong way later on.
Do you stumble over any sentence? If so, edit, edit, edit.
As long as you’ve done a smart job of targeting your article for a publication that takes articles like yours, you’re ahead of the game. Lots of people just don’t get that part right. They send a generic article to any-old publication and hope for the best. (The result is seldom encouraging.) But you know better.
Now, it would be unrealistic to think every editor will swing her door open and beg for your piece. Expect some rejection letters. But keep at it. As you practice and you gain confidence and skill, your persistence will pay off. And with every published piece, you gain experience and credibility.
Persistence is important, no doubt about it. Of course, as I’ve hinted there above, knowing where to persist is just as critical. (Try selling an article on dogs to a cat publication, and it doesn’t matter how persistent you are… you’re barking up the wrong tree, so to speak. That dog piece just isn’t going to sell there.)
I bring that point up not to harp, but because it’s important that you understand (as our photo workshop participants here are finding) that you don’t need to be the most artistic person, or have the sensibilities of Hemingway to be successful in this business. You don’t need the fanciest camera or the most expensive laptop.
What you need are the real-life secrets on which the most successful photographers and travel writers have built their portfolios. You need the inside scoop — the techniques, tips, and fundamentals the industry hot-shots really use every day to produce photos and articles that sell. And that’s exactly what we’ve designed our workshops to deliver.
Here in Paris, we aren’t getting theory or fluff. No way. I mean, it’s down-and-dirty, cut-to-the-chase, this-is-what-works-in-the-real-world stuff.
And not only are the experts sharing their hard-won secrets, but they’re coming out with us as we explore the city and helping us to put it all into practice.
You learn by doing… and that’s why we’re seeing such amazing results. I have complete confidence that every person here will walk away with at least one (and most likely many more) saleable, professional-quality photos in hand.
And it’s not just at the photo workshops where this happens. We take the same approach with our writing programs, too.
We’ve designed our travel writing workshop to ensure that you’ll come away with at least one “publishable” article in hand. The idea is that — just like here in Paris — you’ll immediately apply what you’ve been learning each day. Typically in seminars you sit back and scribble notes on a pad of paper. But that’s not really useful.
What is useful, on the other hand, is to roll up your sleeves, lean forward, and really put what you’re learning to practice.
All that said, I’m off to snap some evening shots along the Seine and enjoy the Paris night life…
It’s been a real pleasure writing to you this week. There’s still one more full day of our Paris workshop, so please check your email tomorrow for your next personal report.
Writer and Photographer
[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.]