Friday, December 14, 2012

The Business Side of Photos for Freelancers

Adding photography to the list of talents you offer editors will greatly increase your odds at getting published. After you purchase a digital camera and get some instruction in using it, you’re almost ready. Before you start taking photos to accompany your articles, there are a couple of things you should know about.

The kind of photos you take of your family and on your vacations just won’t do. These more then likely are snapshots, quick shots you take on the fly without much thinking. To create good photographs, you’ll need to know what you need to illustrate your work.

Before you begin taking your own photos, study the photos used with articles in the magazines or other publications in which you want to be published. Notice how many people are in them, what information they convey to the reader, and whether they’re in horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait) format. Search for the listings for these periodicals in Writer’s Digest’s Writer’s Market or some other market directory. Read what the editors require in photos or contact them to get a copy of their publication’s photo guidelines.

While you’re at it, check to see what they’re looking for in cover photos. Photographers working regularly with these periodicals usually do the covers, but it doesn’t hurt to check. Remember, cover shots are always in portrait format. Be sure to leave an area clear of objects and such at the top for the magazine’s title. Keep cover shots simple, especially if the publication places other text on it. Again, check back issues of whatever periodical you plan to shoot a cover shot for to see what they’ve done in the past. A good way to increase your odds here is to include several good cover shots in the selection you send along with your article. If the editor places your article in a prominent place in the magazine, chances are good that he or she might choose to use one of your cover shots to lead readers to it.

When composing your shots, be sure to get in close. Always imagine that your photo will be printed no longer than a quarter of a page. If it’s that small, the closer you are to your subject the better. Also avoid crowds of people. Unless the art director—the person who ultimately lays out your article and photos—decides to make one or more of your shots double-page spreads, readers will be barely able to see the people in the crowd.

Art directors of today’s periodicals like their photos to be bold and graphic. They’ve learned from the pages on the Web and want to make their pages stand out, too.

Good exposure is paramount. If you can’t figure out how to refine your exposure or are just starting out, shot everything on AUTO. No one will know. It’s the end photograph that counts. If it’s a good one, you’ve succeeded, no matter how you got there.

Another photo selling point is to give editors a good selection of photos. Let them choose which ones they want to use. How many photos you send along depends on the length of the article and status of the magazine. For short pieces in lower-paying markets, three or four photos might do, but for longer pieces in higher-paying markets, you might send up to 20.

Today, most digital cameras have rather high megapixel resolution. That means that the photos they produce are huge—too big to send along with your article text. Before you send your photos, you’ll need to resize them and change their resolution to 300 or 600 dpi (dots per inch). Make each photo 6x8 inches or 7.5x10 inches by 300 or 600. The higher the resolution number, the larger the image file size.

Freelance writers used to send their photos as slides or color prints. Today, almost all photography is done digitally and sent electronically. If you don’t know how to attach photos to your Email messages, you better learn fast. When you have a larger amount of images to send, send several messages, attaching three or four image files to each message. Most likely your editor will have high-speed Internet service, but even so it’s best to break up your photo group in case one or more of the messages drops into the black hole of cyberspace.

Some publications pay extra for photos while others include them in an article/photo package. If some of the periodicals you want to work with don’t pay very much, you might consider letting the editor know where he or she can obtain stock photos to use with your article. If you’re not getting paid extra for your photos—or at least enough for the package—you might want to forego taking your own in favor of using others that are readily available.

Learn how to use a digital camera and shoot photos with some imagination. Shots with different angles, shots with different lenses, shots with impact are the ones editors like.

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