Austin Photo Workshop, Dispatch #2 - Take Photos That'll Sell Articles

Rich Wagner is a professional fine art photographer. He owns his own frame shop, and he sells most of his work locally. But sometimes -- when he travels (and even around his hometown) -- he'll write short articles to sell with his photos.

Today he talked to us about how to take photos when you have an article in mind (even if you don't yet have the topic in hand). Selling article-photo packages is an easy way to double your income from a single project -- whether you come to it as a writer or a photographer first.

You don't have to be a professional to capture images for an "editorial" package. But knowing a few secrets can give you an edge in selling them.

An image that works well for stock isn't necessarily one that will work for editorial, and vice-versa.

When it comes to editorial photos, Rich explained, it's all about feelings. Don't just shoot what a place looks like. Instead, Rich suggests that you look for situations, lighting, and compositions that convey what that place feels like. Shots with feeling will better illustrate your story and grab an editor's attention.

Here are a few of Rich's photos, which he has combined with articles, to give you an idea of what he means by "photos with feeling"…

Take Photos That'll Sell Articles

Rich didn't ask for permission when he took this photo of the reading room in New York's 42nd Street library, because he knew it was going to be an editorial shot.

This photo would fit perfectly with a story on the library because you not only see what it looks like inside, you also get a feel for how remarkably long and grand it is.

You'll also notice that Rich used the Rule of Thirds and really "anchored" the shot with a big, open dictionary right in the lower left third of the photo.

[Quick tip: To get a clean shot of the inside of a building, make sure you hold your camera parallel with the ground. This way, your camera lens won't distort the lines on the floor, walls, and ceiling.]

L'Arch de Triomphe is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Paris, but this photo that Rich took there stands out among other Paris photographs because it isn't the usual straight-on shot of the landmark. You do know exactly where it is… but it's not a typical photo of the site.

The reason this photo works well for editorial is because you get a real feel for the setting. It's night time, the streets are deserted, it looks like it just rained… there's a definite mood to it.

Keep your eyes open when you travel through the world and your own town for shots that convey the feeling of the moment. Sometimes your story will come to you after you get the perfect photo.

Yesterday, Rich took this photo of a traditional cowboy boot maker right here in Austin, Texas. Now, professional photographer Shelly Perry would probably tell you that it's too cluttered to sell as a stock photo. And she's probably right. But it's ideal to sell to a magazine along with a story about this boot maker.

Why? Because the elements that make a good story are also present in the photo. The main character -- a man who has been making boots since he was 11 -- is there, in his setting, with his hand-made boots. You get a feel for his personality, his shop, and the quality of the boots he makes. All of that, when present in the story, too, will engage your audience… and catch an editor's eye.

When you get your camera out to take photos to go with a story, think about the setting. What elements do you need to include to give your audience a real feel for the place? What elements can you leave out? Who are your story's main characters? Can you catch them doing what they do in your story?

Rich shared hundreds of practical photo tips with us today, and he's going to share even more tomorrow. So are all the other professional photographers, art directors, and editors we have on hand here in Austin.

I've been curled up in a lounge chair in the hall, typing this up while Shelly Perry does photo critiques and a pack of our attendees wander by, on their way to shoot pictures of the models we've hired.

As one attendee put it: "This isn't my first workshop… and it's definitely not my last. I'm having so much fun!" And it IS fun. Finally, that's a large part of the attraction, I think. Here we're learning the practical skills we need to turn that fun into profits.

I'm off to duck into another few sessions. I'll tell you what I learn, tomorrow…


Bonnie Caton
Your Live Workshop Correspondent

[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.]