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Why I love selling my local photos

Why I love selling my local photos

I have great photographs of Paris, Death Valley, Thailand, Morocco and more, but the ones that sell best for me are local photos of the following subjects that I’ve shot in my hometown in Connecticut:

– Town hall
– All the churches
– Main street
– The interior of the bagel shop (where many people begin their day looking at the display case)
– Local restaurants
– The annual community fair
– The ice cream shop
– Many shots of two local farms during growing and harvest seasons
– Scenic compositions of bridges, mountains, historic buildings, parks
– River scenes
– The high school including the football field
– The cemetery

When you think about it, most of the people who live in a community do so because they love it. And want to honor it by putting pieces of local landmarks on their walls.  To date, local shots account for about 80% of my sales.

I’ve found, too, that since I’ve developed a reputation as a local photographer, it’s opened up other opportunities to do commission work for people, portraits, events, buildings, products, etc. So my local shots have expanded my business and income opportunities.

If you’re just getting started with fine art photography, I suggest creating a portfolio of about 30 local scenes before you market your work. You need to look like the headquarters for local photography, not just someone with a few good pictures. (And remember: good pictures include good technique: think about things like composition, rule of thirds, and proper exposure when you’re out shooting.  I also suggest using a program like Lightroom to process your images once you have them out of your camera.)

It’s also important to take multiple shots of all your subjects at each season of the year. The local cemetery is picturesque in spring, fall, and with a covering of fresh snow. The town hall looks great in the spring and winter. River scenes are lovely in summer and fall. If you find a subject worth adding to your collection, you should have at least two seasons represented in your portfolio.

Regardless of what you decide to shoot though, you should remember one important thing when you&rsquo;re starting out:<strong> always have your camera with you.</strong>

Here are four shots that have become excellent sellers for me over the years. And each one was taken because I just stopped the car when I saw something worthy of a photo. None of these are the result of a planned trip.

local photos

Hometown Photos: Six Guidelines for Shooting Photography that Sells

Hometown Photos: Six Guidelines for Shooting Photography that Sells

Professional photographer Rich Wagner here again with some final tips on selling your photos locally.  Today, I’d like to start with two simple propositions. First a definition of what fine art photography is. I define it as something, anything, that people want to hang on a wall for decoration. The second proposition is that people choose to hang things on their wall that they enjoy looking at or have a personal connection to. I’ve shown you some of my “comfort food” photos. (You can see them again in my article from yesterday on selling your photos locally here.)  How do you know what that means in your world? Believe me, it’s easier than you think. Let me give you some guidelines. 1. First, and most important — understand that if you find it interesting and/or beautiful, so will others. Sing your own version of “My Favorite Things” and start there…you know, raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Notice I said interesting, not just beautiful. Cows are interesting; maple trees in fall are beautiful. 2. Concentrate on your composition skills. What do you include… what do you leave out… and how will you arrange the elements in the picture? We have a lot of information to help you. Good composition is very, very important. It’s the difference between a snapshot and a fine art photo. 3. Once you find a subject and composition, you need the right light. Usually that’s morning or evening. Often you have to wait and experiment. Some shots happen instantly; some you have to go back again and again. 4. If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where there is a change of seasons, be sure to shoot all year around. I have framed pieces that show all the seasons of the year in one piece that sell well. Here is an example of that: 5. The best place to start is by shooting what interests you. I know people who love flowers, chickens, mist, rain, dogs, cats, horses, bridges. I frame photographs for an artist that floats drops of oil on water to create beautiful soft patterns. There are no limits. 6. Finally, keep your eyes open as you move through the world you live in. That rainbow is there somewhere waiting for you to discover it. If you remember, earlier this week, I said that some of my most saleable photos were just a result of my finding the brake pedal in my car.  And stopping to capture the interesting and/or beautiful view before me. I challenge you now to find the brake pedal in your life. And stop and take a picture. You never know what sorts of masterpieces you might walk away with. Share on Facebook

How to Profit from Your Hometown through Photography

How to Profit from Your Hometown through Photography

Last week was a lovely week in my frame shop. In addition to framing other people’s memories, several of my framed photographs sold. I’m always thrilled when someone purchases my art. Even better when they tell me they “like my work” – it makes me feel like putting on my beret. One customer purchased three pieces for a total sale of around $600. And nicely went on about my artistic abilities. After she left I gave some thought to the pieces she had chosen. All of them were taken around five years ago, and they’ve all been selling steadily since then. Each one of the three was shot literally without planning to go out and take pictures. They were in my portfolio because I was driving and loved the light or the scene. Since I always have my gear in the car, it was a simple matter to pull over and take a few minutes to compose and shoot. In fact, one of them was the result of sliding into a snow bank and liking the scene so much I decided to get the camera out before I worried about getting the car out. I’ve lived in New England for over 30 years and I’ve passed each one of these locations hundreds, if not thousands, of times. I’m not alone. Anyone who is in town for more than a week couldn’t help but see at least one of these spots, and most likely all of them. Granted the lighting is important and not every sighting would result in a great photo. But each one of these three was taken as a drive by. I have other shots I’ve planned to shoot and waited months and even a year for the right conditions, but more often than not, my success stories are based on actually taking a photo when I see something beautiful. And I’m always looking for beautiful. I was with a friend the other day. We were planning on doing a little photography when it started to rain. She said, “I wonder where the rainbow will be?” If anything spells the right attitude for a photographer, that’s it. Some lessons to pull from my experience: 1. Always keep your eyes open for photo opportunities.  You don’t have to plan the perfect shoot to get the perfect shot.  As I said, some of my best sellers are photos that I took on the spur of the moment, on the side of the road. 2. Be prepared, but don’t overthink it. If you can, take your camera with you wherever you go. And if you see something worth shooting, go for it. But don’t waste so much time setting up the shot that you miss it. 3. Get started at home. You don’t have to travel far and wide to get great photos.  You’d be surprised how lucrative selling photos of your hometown can be. Just as you might like a local photo to hang on your wall, your neighbor probably does, too.  And will pay you to take it. 4. The best way to learn the ins and outs of your camera is to use it regularly. The more practice you get with your instrument, the more prepared you’ll be to get the shot when the opportunity arises. Tomorrow I’ll show you the three shots that have been selling well for me and we’ll talk more about what makes them saleable pieces. Share on Facebook

The Difference A Lens Choice Can Make in a Portrait Photograph

The Difference A Lens Choice Can Make in a Portrait Photograph

Recently I decided to demonstrate the difference a lens choice can make in a portrait photograph. Unfortunately for her, I persuaded one of my daughters to be the test subject. I started with a 200mm telephoto lens and filled the frame with her face. A very basic head shot.

Then I did the same thing with a whole series of lens focal lengths: 150mm, 100mm, 70mm, 50mm, 35mm, 28mm, 24mm, 20mm, all the way down to a very wide angle — 14mm! Each time I got closer and closer so I filled the frame the same way I had on the first shot. This meant starting off all the way across a large room and ending up (literally) in her face.

I’ll let you decide which gives the most flattering look. (Your choice may not be the one that best reproduces what she really looks like.)

While my choice is admittedly subjective, the fourth photo from the left in the top row looks the most like the real woman. It was taken with a 70mm lens. Most portrait photographers like the look they get from lenses in the 70-110mm range. They feel it gives them a flattering and realistic representation of the subject.

Longer telephotos tend to flatten the face (see the top left photo) just like they do with landscape images where great distances between places are compressed by telephotos. Wide angle lenses tend to exaggerate the spatial differences (see the bottom right). That’s why she has the typical “big dog nose” look in the last shot.

I suspect that shot will cost me a few points off my Father’s Day present this year. She may even forget the date. This phenomenon can sometimes be helpful with your subjects. A little longer lens can be more flattering to a subject with a large nose or chin. A wider angle can give a little more dimension to a flat face.

Of course, you want to stay within the bounds of realism. When I do portraits, I usually use a zoom that lets me take shots in the “sweet spot” range of 70-110mm. After I’ve picked the proofs to show, I let the client decide which one they prefer.

The Best Airport Compliment: “You Must Be a Photographer”

The Best Airport Compliment: “You Must Be a Photographer”

Airports are one of my favorite places to be. Of course there is the obvious thrill of traveling to or from someplace exotic. Most often that is why I’m in an airport. My photographic career has taken me all over the world — Paris, London, Hong Kong, South America, Australia, Iceland, Alaska, Africa, Thailand, Bali… and beyond. Every trip begins and ends at the airport. So I’m either thrilled to be going someplace wonderful, or excited to be home after a great trip. But there is another airport plus for me. You might think this is strange, but… I love going through security. I think it’s great that they almost always examine my bag in great detail. Before I have the chance to put my shoes back on, someone inevitably says, “You must be a photographer.” And I get to blush and confess it’s a dream come true. A lot of kids want to be something special when they grow up. A fireman or a policeman… From a young age, I dreamed of being a photographer. Now, firefighter and police officer are wonderful careers. And from an ego standpoint they have one great benefit over the photographer — they get to wear a uniform so everyone can plainly see what they do for a living. By the time I’m through security it’s as though I have a uniform and a big sign that says “Photographer!” As if that weren’t enough, airports and airplanes are breeding grounds for conversations with strangers. “What do you do?” and “Why are you traveling?” are questions that would be impolite at a restaurant or cocktail party, but are perfectly acceptable conversation starters inside an airplane. Another chance for me to announce my childhood dream has turned into reality. While I do wish photographers still wore fedoras with a sign that says “Press” inserted in the hatband, a few hours in an airport is a pretty close second.

A New Approach to Photographing Buildings and Landmarks

A New Approach to Photographing Buildings and Landmarks

I’ve always been a big fan of libraries. Since my gallery and portfolio is made up of “my favorite places,” most of which are within five miles of my home, I decided it was time to add my favorite library to the mix. It’s a little over my five-mile circle — 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City, to be exact. But this Beaux Arts beauty has the quintessential reading room. It’s almost as large as a football field and sits on the top floor where the tall windows bathe it with gorgeous light from above and the reading lamps on all those tables give it warmth from below. When I decided to shoot it, however, I confess I made a common mistake when photographing buildings… I spent hours outside, with and without a tripod, trying to get a killer shot of the building. That’s tough to do when it sits on Fifth Avenue surrounded by much taller, much uglier buildings. Forget about beautiful skies — the surrounding buildings are too tall. And unless I wanted to show off the street vendors and taxi cabs, any exterior shot would play second fiddle to the sidewalk and the street. On the drive home, I started thinking about what attracts me to that particular library and resolved to return, concentrating on taking those shots, instead. My next trip produced the following photos: The marble lions that guard the entrance are known as Patience and Fortitude, which I thought was fitting for the situation. The reading room is a magnificent space. It’s a big library, but those elements tell the story far better than any shots of the exterior. The truth was in the details. I didn’t expect to produce any sales from these portfolio additions. I just felt they belonged in my collection. But clearly I’m not the only fan of libraries. And my community in Connecticut is home to more than one transplanted New Yorker like myself. The photos from that day have produced several thousands of dollars in sales, including one large framed piece for $650. I’ve kept the karma going by using some of the money to buy coffee table photo books. [Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]

Photo Tip: Take Great Photos on a Gray Day

Photo Tip: Take Great Photos on a Gray Day

Take a look at these two photos. They were taken 45 minutes apart from exactly the same spot on the same day. The assignment was to photograph a new building addition for a local church. The day I was scheduled to take pictures, the sky was  gray and about as ugly as it gets. But I know exactly what to do when this happens.  It’s a matter of simply waiting for something called the “blue hour”. You may have heard of the “golden hour”, that period just before the sun rises and before it sets. A lovely time to take a picture, especially on a pretty day. But the “blue hour” is my absolute favorite. It’s the period just after the sun has set, not before. The blue hour is magic. You can see how gray the sky is. Who would believe it would turn blue like that right after sunset? Yet I’ve done this all over the globe and almost always had a similar result. It may not look blue as you stand there taking the shot, but when you look at what the camera has captured – magic happens. The “hour” is rarely sixty minutes, often it’s just ten or fifteen, but as long as you’re set and ready to go, you have a good chance of capturing a WOW shot! Now, truth be told, I did remove the parking lot lines in the second photo using Adobe Photoshop on my computer. (Adobe Photoshop Elements would have worked too and it’s much cheaper at just $79.)  I also increased the saturation a bit using Lightroom. (Photoshop or Photoshop Elements would have worked, too, but I like Lightroom.) The client was there when I was shooting. When she received the final print, she couldn’t believe it was possible. My check for $280 arrived the very next day! [Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]

Picasa, Lightroom, iPhoto and Aperture: What’s the Difference?

Picasa, Lightroom, iPhoto and Aperture: What’s the Difference?

Before we begin discussing nuts, bolts and how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, let’s set some parameters so we know what we’re looking for. Why do we need software that processes images? Well, if you’re as old as I am, you know that photographers have always had to: ** 1. Store images somewhere you can find them again… ** 2. Develop them so they look good… ** 3. And provide the client with whatever they need. These days, it’s the same… we’ve just moved those processes to a computer. The good news is, it’s actually a lot easier these days than it used to be. After all, some software programs will do all of that for you. The two most robust programs used by pros today are Lightroom, by Adobe, and Aperture, by Apple.  iPhoto and Picasa are less powerful and more consumer-oriented. Decent starting points, but not up to the full featured capabilities of Lightroom and Aperture. Let’s take a closer look… —————————- LIGHTROOM 4 —————————- Price – $149 new, upgrade $79 Bonus – Try it for free with a 30-day, fully-functioning trial version Adobe made Lightroom so that photographers would stop trying to get an MIF degree (Masters in Frustration) trying to master the complexities of Photoshop. Photoshop is a great name, but a more appropriate name is Graphicshop. “Graphicshop” was not really for photographers, but for designers. We just used it because there weren’t any other good alternatives. I liken it to a carpenter using a jackhammer to pound a nail – expensive, hard to control, and very hard to learn. Lightroom makes everything easier. It’s easier to learn, it includes an organization element, and the processing results are great. * Storage: A+ Lightroom imports and stores your images, allowing you to use keywords and rankings to pick your winners. It’s very full featured, permitting custom collections and more. This module is one of the most important. Since the invention of digital photography, the average shoot has gone from 36 shots to 17 trillion images! Your ability to sift through the grains of sand and find the best of the best is critical to your success and sanity. * Develop: A The ability to make changes to the photo anywhere from globally to the individual pixel level is almost magic. All this is done without ever damaging your original. You can always go back to square one, or step backwards at any point in the process. * Client Output: A+ I can’t think of anything a client would need that Lightroom can’t deliver quickly and easily. That includes digital files of any size and format, a print from your printer or one to be sent to an online printer, a custom slideshow to put up on a large monitor for the bride and parents, an e-mailed slideshow to grandma in Japan — whatever you need. The latest version of Lightroom will even do an amazing job of producing a book with a large variety of formats and send it to the printer for you. * Comments: While this program has everything you need from organization through sophisticated development and every kind of output imaginable, it can be used even by a beginner. Not unlike the Program setting on your camera. Until you get up to speed, or even if you never do, most of the auto settings will give great results. —————————— APERTURE —————————— Price – $79 This is Apple’s most sophisticated image processing software and a direct competitor to Lightroom. It works only on Macintosh. These programs are almost identical in organizing and development capability. * Storage: B+ It does all the keywording and ranking needed, but it loses a bit in simplicity. I find it harder to see where my photos are and more difficult to find the winners I’ve picked. But a B+ isn’t bad — sure beats my college days. * Develop: A Aperture does a fine job of doing all the developing tasks. I think it’s a little more difficult to master than Lightroom, but I like the brushes better and all the tools are there. Aperture has the lead in retouching. It allows you to retouch irregular shapes and areas, whereas Lightroom is stuck with the spot retouching brush. Aperture also lets you work on developing at any point in the process, even while you’re ranking photos. Kind of a “do whatever you want whenever you want to” approach. Lightroom has different modules. Organizing is done in the Library module, Develop is another module. I find the Lightroom approach helps me develop and organize workflow. With Aperture I tend to wander. And like Lightroom, Aperture is totally non-destructive. * Client Output: A+ Aperture will give you everything you need for clients. Prior to the most recent version of Lightroom, it was the only one that would allow you to produce books and have them printed. The new Lightroom now excels in that category as well. * Comments: Aperture is a memory hog. You’ll need a Mac with a fast processor and at least 4 gigabytes of memory. Lightroom will operate comfortably with less than half of that. A few years ago, this program was more expensive than Lightroom, but now it’s half the price. There is a lot of conversation that it’s being dumbed down and that it’s becoming a glorified iPhoto. That may be true, but it’s still an amazingly powerful program. ————————- IPHOTO ————————- Price – $14.99 iPhoto is a scaled-down version of Aperture. It’s meant more for the consumer than the pro. In general, it does a little less in all categories, particularly in development. It will work as a starting point, but as you progress, you’ll want the extra power in either Lightroom or Aperture. ———————— PICASA ———————— Price – Free A Google product, Picasa is again a scaled down version of photographic software. It’s definitely for the amateur/consumer market. Its skills are the integration with all the Google software on the web for sharing with friends and working with social media. I can’t recommend it for an aspiring pro. Final Word: Having used both Lightroom and Aperture extensively, and having drunk more than my share of the Apple “Kool-Aid,” I still prefer to use Lightroom. My guess is, no matter where you start, you’ll wind up using it sooner or later. It’s also the only one than comes in both Mac and Windows versions, so you can install it on either computer. If you begin with Windows and later switch to Mac, you won’t have to buy a new program. I think it’s the standard to beat. However, either of these two programs will do what you need to sell your photos. [Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]

How to Photograph Performing Art: Day 2, AWAI Photo Expedition in Bali, Indonesia

How to Photograph Performing Art: Day 2, AWAI Photo Expedition in Bali, Indonesia

In Bali, men and women will often wear a Western-style shirt on the top and a traditional sarong on the bottom, like our guide Wayan: Certain statues and trees wear sarongs, too, but theirs are made of black-and-white checkered cloth. The white squares represent good, the black squares represent evil, and the gray squares represent the balance between the two. Bonnie here, again, coming to you from our photo expedition in Ubud, Bali. Today we photographed the famous Barong Dance, watching the balance between good and evil play out in dance form. I’ll let our instructor, professional photographer Rich Wagner, tell you more about it, along with a few tips for taking great travel photos of performance art, below. Take it away, Rich… ———————————– We are in the middle of the artistic and cultural center of Bali here in Ubud. Many of the surrounding villages specialize in one, and only one, craft. There’s a stone-carving village, one for wood-carving, another has only weavers, and yet another is full of jewelry-makers. The one common denominator, however, is that everybody dances. The Balinese learn the history of their culture through elaborate dances. Starting at a young age, they watch and participate in the performances. Later some of them become dancers professionally. Others will choose a different craft or find another vocation. We’ve been fortunate enough to see two performances. At one we were even given access backstage to watch and photograph the dancers as they put on their elaborate makeup and costumes. Photographing performance art can be tricky. If you are to truly capture the spirit of the motion, you can’t use a very fast shutter speed. That would be like photographing a waterfall and freezing each droplet in time. I prefer to show the fluid motion in a waterfall by slowing the shutter. But dancers are tricky. Too slow and they are nothing more than a blur. Too fast and they are frozen statues. I find a speed between 1/30th and 1/80th of a second to be just right most of the time. At that setting, only the faster motion is blurred, like the swirl of a dress or the blur of arms in motion. But the important parts — particularly the head and eyes — remain in perfect focus. To make life easy, I set my ISO to auto and let the camera decide when it needs to boost the sensitivity. With my mode dial set to TV (time value) or S (shutter), I can decide what shutter speed I want and let the camera automatically choose the aperture. I have nothing to worry about but concentrating on my composition and looking for the “decisive moment” all photographers seek. Here are two examples from our journey. In each case, the majority of the photo is perfectly focused, but a part shows the motion blur. Like cooking, you can season to taste with this effect, just vary your shutter from 1/30 to 1/80. — Rich ———————————– Tomorrow we’re headed north to Besakih, or what Balinese call “The Mother Temple,” passing through rice paddies along the way and stopping to shoot the countryside. Stay tuned — I’ll send you a new tip for taking great travel photos you can sell. Every day, we’re discovering new things about Balinese culture, sampling different foods, and taking the kinds of photos our friends will drool over.  The best part, though, is looking forward to making an income from this amazing, fun-filled, freewheeling life. What could possibly be better? [Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]

Thailand Report: How to Make a Thai Smile

Thailand Report: How to Make a Thai Smile

Rich Wagner here, writing to you from Bangkok, Thailand on the first day of our photo expedition. I’m happy to report that the easiest and fastest way to make a Thai person smile is to simply point a camera at him! Yesterday I took over 800 pictures. It’s a confession, not a boast. As a supposed fine art/travel photographer, it doesn’t show much self-control or discernment to take that many photos. It’s as though a wine expert went out to dinner and drank everything on the wine list. But in Thailand, no one objects to a photographer. That’s an open invitation. We started with a tour of three amazing Buddhist temples (out of 32,000 in the country). And nothing was off limits for photography. There were places where I couldn’t wear shoes or a hat, but nowhere that I couldn’t take a picture. We then spent the next two hours on a canal boat where we were as close as 20 feet to homes. People smiled and waved when they saw the cameras. Even the catfish jumped out of the water to get a picture. (Well, we did dangle a loaf of bread, but they were smiling.) We finished the day with a night shoot across the river from Wat Arun — the Temple of the Dawn. In between, we had a wonderful lunch with green chicken curry, many varieties of rice, pork, chicken, cashews, and on and on. I also had a watermelon smoothie and a coconut smoothie. The total bill was less than 200 baht — six bucks or so. Thailand is a wonderful country to visit, with lovely people and staggeringly beautiful sites. If you bring a camera, you’ll think you’re in heaven. I’ve posted some of my Thai people photos, below. All the best… — Rich Rich Wagner Senior Advisor, AWAI Photography Program P.S. Not only is this the most picturesque country I’ve visited, and the one most welcoming for a photographer; it’s one with truly interesting things to do, as well as see. Later this week we’re taking a Thai cooking class.  Our instructor is a woman who has just been selected by Chef Ramsay to appear on a new show with him next season. We also have plans to take off on a one-hour trek through the jungle on the back of an elephant and visit hill tribe villages. Then, on the way back to Chiang Mai, we’ll make a detour to the Queen Sirikit Botanic garden, where we’ll find orchids, lotuses, and other native Thai plants to shoot. If your work day today consisted of sitting behind a desk filling out paperwork that couldn’t be more boring, or talking on the phone to people you don’t want to talk to, when are finally going to say enough is enough? I’m not suggesting you quit your job and become a photographer.  But I AM suggesting you at least try to figure out a way where you can add a little adventure like this to your schedule.  And hey, if you can sell the photos you take from it to magazines, newspapers, stock agencies, or as fine art like I do, then so be it.  And, if you make enough to really do it full-time, that’s great, too. My next photo expedition with AWAI will be in Bali this March.  The trip is already sold out, but we’re hoping to announce a second workshop later this week.  You can sign up to receive more details, here. Finally, here are some of my Thai people photos (I had trouble narrowing it down to a few!): [Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]