“Where was that taken? It’s gorgeous!” is something I love to hear, strive to hear. When your photo gets a response like that you know you’ve hit the mark as a photographer.
My photos are a constant joy for me and have sold with articles, been the main subject in photo journal articles, been published in books and on covers, sold as stock, and even landed me a job at an international school teaching photography.
These are my top five dos and top two don’ts to get that magic shot editors will love and pay for.
Do: Capture the life of a destination
Whether it be salsa dancing in Cuba, camel racing in the Australian outback or tequila tasting in Mexico—iconic shots are iconic for a reason. Fun, vibrant action shots sell. Like people watching these royal dancers in Udaipur, India.
Do: Be patient
If your day is rainy, overcast, and grey you can still save it and get a great shot. In photography the period around twilight is called the blue hour. Your grey sky will turn an alluring cobalt blue at twilight creating magic shots.
Like this shot of Santa Maria Novella Church in Florence, Italy, I took on a drizzly day. It transformed from gross grey to beautiful blue in the space of time my friend and I sat and enjoyed a glass of wine before dinner.
Do: Get up close and personal
Close-up shots make people feel like they are standing there looking down at that amazing array of artisanal chocolates, or shopping in that Asian market. It helps readers insert themselves into a destination.
It works on activities and festivities too. Instead of taking a photo of an entire procession, get in closer and focus on its people for a more intense shot. Like this Roman soldier during a Catholic procession in Guatemala.
Don’t: Be Unaware
Be considerate of people around you, other photographers and especially locals. Don’t barge to the front because you want “the”photo. Wait a moment, smile and be courteous. This will put you ahead of tourists or pushy photographers. If the crowd isn’t dispersing, stand on a bench or go into an adjacent building and take a photo from an elevated position for a different perspective. This little courtesy has gained me access and opportunities because it shows you are a professional not a tourist.
Do: Photograph everything
You will find hidden gems. From sweeping panoramic shots overlooking cities to unique street art you discover while walking the streets. Any shot could turn out to be gold. Editors run different angles of a destination, so it also helps you get multiple articles published from multiple angles.
This is my favorite. Have fun. Take photos looking up, standing on a park bench, or from the balcony across the street. Don’t be shy, crawl on things, lay on the ground, and climb up things. These types of shots will stand out because it is not the same as every other photo taken standing in front of a subject. Like this photo looking up at a Mexican small-town church.
Don’t: Take photos without permission
This is a big one. If there’s an old lady sitting quietly in a park eating ice-cream and it’s the sweetest thing you have ever seen, by all means yes take the shot. But ask first. If you don’t speak the language, gently approach them and use sign language—point to them then to your camera, they’ll understand.
Ninety percent of the time people are gracious and happy for you to take the photo. I’ve always given them a small something in appreciation as well. For example, in Guatemala five Quetzal ($0.65) or in India 50 Rupees ($0.70). It shows them respect and the fact that you offered anything at all is greatly appreciated. It’s nothing to you but everything to them.
Now go have fun exploring and getting those great photos.