Free On-the-Ground Reporting from Paris

Day 1

The first day of the Ultimate Travel Photography Workshop has come to a close.

After this evening's opening seminar, we strolled together down the hustle-bustle Champs Elysees, around the Arc de Triomph, and to a private apartment for a cocktail party before dinner.

I would love to report on the fine cuisine, or at least the wine, but, alas… that is not what I have come here to do.

I will, however, be more than happy to fill you in on the table conversation…

But first, an introduction is in order.

My name is David Morgan, and I am writing to you over the next few days with free on-the-ground reports from our Ultimate Travel Photography Workshop here in Paris.

Consider me your official eavesdropper, filling you in on a few of the things you've missed by not being here this time around. (We hope to see you very soon, though - I'll tell you a bit more about that in a minute.)

I'm here to debunk the myth that you have to be exceptionally talented, "well-heeled," or rolling in money in order to enjoy an international lifestyle.

Far from it. You just need to know a few basics. Then put your knowledge into action.

That's the beauty of these workshops. Not only do we get to find out what techniques we need to succeed, but once we know what they are, we get to practice them immediately.

Lori Appling spoke earlier today about a few participants in AWAI's travel writing program. She said that the ones who tend to make the most money and get published more frequently also tend to be the ones who submit photos with their articles.

I'd like to give you a "leg up" so you can do the same - without spending a fortune on a camera with more megapixels than you need.

You see, I think it's a great idea to submit articles and photos together. It makes your chances of getting published much better than if you submitted either articles or photos alone. Plus, you get paid for both.

It's the best travel-writing deal going, and still not too many people do it… do it well, I mean.

And the fact of the matter is, it doesn't much matter what kind of camera you use to take those photos, once a few basic requirements are met.

Today I'm going to tell you that it probably doesn't even matter how many megapixels your camera has.

People were talking about the megapixel issue long after master photographer Rich Wagner's evening talk about it. Does it really not matter how many megapixels your camera has?

Well, yes and no. Certainly your photos need enough resolution to appear normal - without jagged edges - when blown up to at least eight-by-ten inches. That's as big as most any publication will ever need.

To that end, a five- or six-megapixel camera should be more than adequate…

… so long as you take into consideration another important factor: the camera's sensor.

The size of your camera's sensor is actually more important than the number of megapixels it has.

You see, the sensor is the part of the camera that actually captures the image. And, in very simple terms, the bigger the sensor, the more image data it can capture.

I've been in the travel photography business for quite awhile now, and I only learned this lesson myself very recently… so I was really happy to hear Rich share it with our participants… and now with you…

When it comes to sensors, at least, bigger does mean better.

Think of the sensor as the digital equivalent of your negative. The bigger your negative, the bigger each individual pixel is. Six megapixels on a large sensor is better than six megapixels on a small sensor. You'll get less digital "noise" or grain when each pixel is larger.

So, a camera with a big sensor and, say, six megapixels of resolution can take a higher-quality image than a camera with a small sensor that packs in eight megapixels.

Those megapixels really get crammed in there when you're working with a small sensor, so even though you're theoretically getting an image with higher resolution, you're actually getting an image of lesser quality.

So, how do you know whether your camera has a small sensor or a big one?

As a rule of thumb, digital SLR cameras (single-lens reflex) have larger sensors than digital viewfinder cameras (point-and-shoot cameras). If you're not sure what a digital SLR is, the easiest way to explain it is this: they're the ones with the interchangeable lenses. When you look through the eyepiece, you're actually looking at a reflection of what the lens sees, not through a separate window from your lens.

So… if you're trying to decide between a digital point-and-shoot camera with eight megapixels or a digital SLR with 6 megapixels, you'll get better quality images from the camera with the larger sensor. It will also do a better job in low light situations, where "noise" is more evident. Of course, price is always a factor and you can expect to pay more for the digital SLR. But if you can fit it into your budget, definitely go with the digital SLR. You'll have a better sensor, not to mention you'll also have much more control over your pictures once you learn your way around your camera's manual controls.

So that's PARIS PHOTO TIP #1: A larger sensor is more important than number of megapixels when you're shopping for your next digital camera.

And I'll add this. We can call it PARIS PHOTO TIP #2: There's no need to buy a new camera until you've outgrown the one you've got.

It's not the paintbrush that makes the painter. The first photo I ever sold was made with a $75 plastic-bodied Vivitar. Once I learned my way around that camera and made it take the best images it was capable of, and found that I wanted more, only then did I upgrade.

Like I said earlier, if the camera you have meets the basic criteria, that's good enough to make money. Whatever camera you have today really can help you sell more travel articles.

And if you haven't sold a travel article yet, submitting your article with photos could help make it happen for you.

Give it a try! And to that end…

New This Year: The Paris Push

I understand all too well that sometimes the hardest thing is just getting started, so I'll be here th
e rest of the week to help give you a little push in the right direction.

Here's your Paris Push for today: Think of your favorite place in your hometown. It could be a restaurant, a park, a museum, a statue, a swimming hole, a tree with history… most anything at all. If it happens to be something you pass regularly on your way to work or wherever, that'd be even better.

Right now, once you finish reading this letter, write a paragraph or two about what makes that place so great. (Be sure to follow the guidelines you've learned from the travel writing program… or even just from your free Write Way to Travel subscription!)

Then before this time tomorrow, go take a few pictures of the place. One up close, one from a distance, one with people in the picture… you get the drift. Take a bunch of different pictures.

Looks like you've just finished a travel article! More tomorrow…

Well, that's it for today. We're getting up before dawn to visit the Sacre Coeur monastery in the Montmartre neighborhood. We'd like to practice capturing the warm tones of early morning.

I'm looking forward to the shoot - but not so much the getting up, so I'll leave you with that.

Kind regards,

David Morgan
Writer and Photographer

P.S. I mentioned earlier that we hope to see you very soon. In fact, I heard Lori say that she was going to help pay for a certain number of our readers to fly out to our next workshop this summer… just to thank you for making it to the end of my letter. (She must not think much of my writing!)

I can't give you all the details right here and now, but if you'll join me again tomorrow by reading my dispatch from Paris, I'll tell you all about it.

P.P.S. And don't forget about your Paris Push. Think of it more as a challenge than an assignment, and break it down into bite-sized steps. If you're already overloaded like I often am, taking small steps instead of taking the whole thing on will make it a lot easier to finish. See you tomorrow!


DAY 2 

The second day of the Ultimate Travel Photography Workshop has come to an end.

And let me tell you, I am really tired. We all are. We've been up since before dawn, when we went up to the hill on Montmartre to take photos from the steps of the Sacre Coeur monastery.

It was rainy. Cold. Windy. And totally worth it.

We were the only photographers around at that hour. And an hour later, when other photographers trickled in? They were too late.

We also visited Notre Dame, captured images from a famous bookstore, snapped cafe shots along St. Germain des Pres, and a few of us even ventured to the Luxembourg Gardens…

Before I tell you more, let me introduce myself in case you didn't tune into my dispatch on day 1.

My name is David Morgan, and I am writing to you over the next few days with free on-the-ground reports from our Ultimate Travel Photography Workshop here in Paris.

Consider me your official eavesdropper, filling you in on a few of the things you've missed by not being here this time around.

I'm here to debunk the myth that you have to be exceptionally talented, "well-heeled," or rolling in money in order to enjoy an international lifestyle.

Far from it. You just need to know a few basics. Then put your knowledge into action. So I'm making it my mission here to pass that knowledge along to you.

That's the beauty of these workshops. Not only do we get to find out what techniques we need to succeed, but we get to practice them immediately.

Yesterday I told you a bit about how your camera's sensor is more important than the number of megapixels it's packing.

Today I'm going to tell you a little bit about composition.

After walking around all day, we put our images on the big screen for a peer review.

There were some excellent images - the group as a whole had advanced greatly in the course of 24 hours.

Rich Wagner, our master photographer, had set the tone last night, sharing more about photo composition than I had learned in a full semester of photojournalism school.

And, in the wee hours of the morning during our Sacre Coeur sunrise shoot, our participants started using what they had learned. Their first efforts were, well, what you'd expect: Fledgling.

I didn't have time to keep tabs on the progress our participants were making throughout the day -- I was so busy taking my own photos -- so I was stunned by what I saw on the screen that night.

I saw the work of professional photographers. Our program participants had not only learned the "how to" of taking a sellable photograph, they had practiced it. And there before me was the proof - images just as good as the ones sold by stock agencies and printed by glossy travel magazines.

One image in particular sticks in my mind. A program participant had taken a picture of a woman reading a book through a bookstore window. And, in the window, a different book was opened to a page that read "In France," in big, bold letters.

It was perfect - those two words gave the photo a whole new layer of context.

"I didn't even notice that when I took the picture," said the photographer during the review.

Rich responded, "You do get lucky shots sometimes. The best way to get more lucky shots is just to take more pictures."

I was surprised to hear him say that. Usually pro photographers will tell you that luck doesn't exist - they'll tell you that good photography is the product of talent and training.

But that's not what I'm seeing here in Paris. I'm seeing people with little or no photography or "art" experience at all churn out one saleable photo after another.

Of course, it helps tremendously if you're following the rules of composition, using diagonal lines, s-curves, proper exposure, etc. Do that, and sometimes the added "lucky" bonus will jump into your picture, too. Like that book in the window.

So that's your PARIS PHOTO TIP #3: The more pictures you take using the techniques imparted by Rich over the last couple of days, the greater chances you'll have of getting a lucky shot.

Of course, your shot has to have solid composition to start with. But we're finding that advanced, professional composition techniques really can be absorbed in a handful of hours during one of our photo workshops,(under the generous guidance of our pros) and on your own with AWAI's home-study photo program.

Then, once you have your saleable shot, lucky or not, you can use it to help get your first travel article published. To that end, here's today's "Paris Push"…

New This Year: the Paris Push

I understand all too well that sometimes the hardest thing is just getting started, so I'll be here the rest of the week to help give you a little push i
n the right direction.

Here's your Paris Push for today:

Yesterday you wrote a couple of paragraphs about one of your favorite places in your hometown. And hopefully, by now, you've had time to go take some pictures of it.

Today we're going to look for someone to publish your article for you. We're just going to brainstorm.

Does your local paper print articles like the one you just wrote? If not, how can you change your article so it would fit your town's newspaper?

Are there any regional magazines in your area - like the ones you often find in hotel rooms? These kinds of publications are often looking for small pieces about the area -- and photos, too.

Also, you might do a search for publications that print articles on the subject you wrote about. If, for instance, you wrote about a local swimming hole, you can look for publications that have printed articles about swimming holes in the past. There might even be a whole publication somewhere dedicated to swimming holes. You never know until you look.

The same goes for local "watering holes," picnic spots, historical trees, whatever you can think of to write about.

Have you found a publication or two you can target for publishing this article? Once you do, we'll jump into action. Stay tuned for tomorrow's dispatch, when I'll show you exactly what to do.

That's it for today.

Kind regards,

David Morgan
Writer and Photographer


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, 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.

That's what you'll do if you join us for our next Ultimate Travel Writer's Workshop.

Mind you, we won't leave you hunched over, staring at a blank piece of paper and struggling with what to say and how to say it. Instead, we'll send you out in the downtown on assignment, and we'll walk you, step-by-step, through exactly what you need to do to put your article together, answering your questions and helping you along the way. You'll learn the secrets that will cut hours off your writing time and months off your learning curve.

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.

Kind regards,

David Morgan
Writer and Photographer



The Ultimate Travel Photography Workshop in Paris just came to a close. We lingered at the restaurant long after our empty dessert plates had been carried away.

That, I'd say, is a sign of a successful farewell dinner.

It was difficult to say goodbye. Though we'd only known each other for a handful of days, we'd grown remarkably close. (I suspect rolling out of bed at 4:00 a.m. to hike to the top of Montmartre for that sunrise shoot might have had something to do with it. There's nothing like a common, quirky pursuit to draw people together.)

Anyway, now it's over. And though I'm sad to see everyone pack up and leave, I know we all have a great deal of work to do.

You see, the real story for our Paris attendees is just beginning. We've learned how to use our digital cameras, practiced professional composition techniques, and put our knowledge to use in one of the world's most photogenic cities.

Our participants have walked away with some truly stunning images… people waving from the bridges of Paris as we passed underneath by boat… picnickers enjoying the shaded pathways near the gold-domed Les Invalides… unique angles of the Eiffel Tower and its many tourists…

I have no doubt we'll all keep snapping shots. The challenge, it seems to me, will be maintaining the momentum we've created here and getting our photos sold. Certainly, there are a number of markets to tap…

Pro photographer Shelly Perry told us how to break into the micro-stock photography market, where you can make a whopping 20 cents for every sale of one of your photographs.

I say “whopping” in jest: Although it sounds so tiny it'd hardly be worth it, in fact there is so much demand for this kind of photography that many photographers, Shelly included, make $500 or more a month just by submitting a few of these shots every few weeks.

We also learned about a second type of stock agency – an agency that sells advertising and editorial images… and pays you royalties! One specific agency in this category is gaining on the big agencies like Corbis and Getty not only in the number of photographs it represents, but also in prestige.

And the beauty of it is, if you know how to take technically correct photographs (we learned how here in Paris), this agency will represent your work. They don't care where you've been published… or even if you've been published. If you take half-decent photos, they'll do their best to sell them for you.

And each time one of your photos sells, you can make anywhere from $200 to $2,000.

We also learned quite a bit about getting our photographs published in magazines by submitting them with travel articles. This is, by far, the fastest way to get your photos into print and get paid for them, and I want to talk a bit more about this outlet today…

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 how taking pictures of people can help your photos sell. This week we've also covered some important points about what to look for in a digital camera and how to get more “lucky shots.”

It's been a real pleasure writing to you this week, and I hope to meet you soon in person.

Kind regards,

David Morgan
Writer and Photographer

[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.]