Friday, December 7, 2012

Add Value to Your Writing With Photos

Today, we live in an iconographic world. Images bombard us from every angle. In the good ole days back in the early 20th century, photography was a new form of communication and for the most part stood by itself. As the century progressed, writing changed as photographs drew readers to articles and stories. Photos topped the front pages of newspapers and the covers of magazines. It was the photos that began to be the main selling point for periodicals.

Many freelance writers look at photography as a chore, an extra step that takes them away from their main purpose, writing. In fact, photography can enhance writing, adding a third dimension to an otherwise two-dimensional medium. But creating good photos is a skill, and one not easily learned until today.

Photographs add value to any piece of writing. Most editors want them included with articles. Some pay extra, others include them in the price of the package. So as a freelancer in today’s upside-down, inside-out world of publishing, it will pay you to take the time to learn some photo basics.

With the advent of digital photography, learning to take good photos just got easier. One of the big advantages to using a digital camera is that you can see your photographic mistakes right after you make them. Instead of waiting until after your film has been processed to see your results, you can see them instantly. This allows you to retake the photo if necessary to assure you that you have the image you want and need to complement your story.

However, not all digital cameras are created equal. Don’t fall into the trap of purchasing a cumbersome, extremely complicated DSLR—a digital Single Lens Reflex is a camera which has removable lenses. Just because a camera like this has all the bells and whistles doesn’t necessarily make it a good one for you. And while you’re at it, forget the photo vests and all the other pseudo-professional gear. A fancy camera and fancy gear won’t make you a good photographer. You’ll only look like one. What you need is a good basic camera that will enable you to capture what you need to enhance your writing package and make it more saleable.

With today’s high-resolution, high megapixel-sized digital cameras you can obtain good photos without much effort. In fact, you can operate the camera on the AUTO setting and get fine results. No one will ask you how you took the photo. They’ll only see that it works perfectly with your article or story.

But you will need to learn a few things. Check in your local area for a non-credit digital photography course. These run from 4 to 10 weeks and cover all the basics. Don’t worry if the course isn’t taught in a computer lab. Remember, you need to learn to use your camera, not a computer as such.

The best type of camera to start out with is a compact model. One like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8, which sells for less than $200. It includes loads of features, allowing you to take great photos without straining your brain or your budget. Learn to use this type of camera well, then consider moving up to a super-zoom.

A super-zoom digital camera has a powerful zoom lens that will enable you to take photos at an extreme wide angle for overall shots to a long telephoto of up to 600mm. The cameras weigh less than a pound, and everything is included—no extra lenses to buy or lug around. This helps with your budget and your back. But start off with a simpler camera first. The photos you get from it will work just fine with your writing.

NEXT WEEK: More on using photos to improve your odds at publishing.

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