Making money with your camera
The subject should jump out at you!
Yes it can be done! You can make a
small fortune out of photography - provided you start with a large one.
I listened to a BBC radio program the other day, and
they mentioned Cartier-Bresson’s photo library called Magnum (not after the
ice cream) which has now been going 70 years. To get your photographs into
Magnum is difficult; however, even amateur weekend photographers can make
some money with their cameras, but they have to understand the marketplace
first. It is no good trying to sell a beautifully exposed photo of
hydroponic tomatoes growing in magic broth to a magazine called the Bird
Research the market by going to the bookshops and get a
feeling for what is on offer. Then find a subject that interests you and
after that start planning your own photo shoots. All that research needs to
be done before you even think about the hardware (cameras and tripods) you
are going to need.
For anyone starting off, look for magazines and
brochures that cover travel. Look at the stock photos of palm trees leaning
out over the water from a tropical beach. Seen one, seen them all, but still
you should try and get some shots like that for your own portfolio.
Next in the travel pic grab bag are ceremonies. The
Vegetarian ceremonies that include demented people sticking rods through
their cheek and tongues will always have a market somewhere – and they have
these ceremonies in Thailand, so you are miles ahead of your brother
photographers in Europe, who only get castles and woods in winter.
In fact, the tropical lifestyle will always be a ready
market for good photographs. Note that I said “good”, snapshots are very
rarely “good” enough.
The saffron clothed monks remain ideal subjects,
especially as you can get one on the corner of your street any morning. Just
don’t intrude. A long lens is best for those sorts of pictures. Of course,
the temples themselves offer the photographer endless subjects to
photograph. But try to get a different viewpoint of a very well photographed
All the images mentioned above must also have another
common feature. They must be well exposed and sharp as a tack. Art directors
or photo-editors may need to enlarge the image, by 100 percent or even more.
You must be 100 percent sure that the subject of the photograph is in focus.
Near enough is not good enough! If you are shooting medium format, you can
generally expect to get sharp pictures, but the lenses on modern 35 mm
equivalent are more than adequate.
That brings me to the next ‘must have’ piece of
equipment – a good heavy tripod. You will always get sharper pictures with
the camera locked onto a strong tripod. The el cheapo light aluminium things
are quite useless for the job you will want of them. I have used a Manfrotto
for 30 years and it is still good, despite the scratches that they get from
plane holds, rail travel and going twice around the world. Get a good one
and don’t try and cheat yourself with the bottom of the market ones.
Similarly, while chasing sharpness, you must have some
good lenses, otherwise your work is compromised before you begin. I am not
going to join the debate about after-market lenses. Some of them, I am sure,
are excellent – but not all of them.
Previously I have mentioned zoom lenses versus prime
lenses. The pro marketplace tends towards prime lenses and to avoid zooms.
The purist in me agrees, but again I think much will depend upon the subject
being shot, and where it will end up.
In my previous life I used 6x6 Hasselblad and had the
complete system. (My transparencies were always met with smiles, but I found
I could dupe 35 mm transparencies up to 6x6 and still get the same smiles.)
To sell a photo it must tell the story it is
illustrating, and it must be sharp. Good luck with the Fancy Birds!
Finally, try and get a copy a Richard Sharaburra’s
book, “Shooting Your Way to a Million”. The best textbook you will ever buy.
Long out of print, but try Amazon.
Getting great glamor
You want to take
‘glamor’ shots? Well better master the ‘Golden Glow’ first. And before
getting the Golden Glow get some massage oil as well.
I am writing this with
reference to Thai models, rather than European ones, which have their own
quirks as well.
Let’s use the massage
oil first. This is used everywhere that is not covered by clothing, The
oiled skin reflects light and increases the light to dark ratio, to give the
model’s body a much more tactile sense.
Now to get the Golden
Glow, with the model positively ‘glowing’ with health and vitality and have
you ever wondered whether people actually look like that? This is actually
another photographic ‘trick’ but one that you can use to your own advantage.
A trick that will cost you less than 100 baht for the equipment and three
minutes to master.
The ‘golden glow’ that
comes from the subject in the photo is really just reflected golden light,
bounced back on to the subject. People shots benefit from this warm healthy
look and when you use the technique properly, and the results can be
Now in the photographic
sense, the natural golden glow comes in the late afternoon, with the sun
getting low on the horizon. There are good scientific reasons why this is
so, but here is not the place to discuss them. Just accept the fact that
late afternoon sun is the “warm” time. Take pictures at this time of day and
you will get that golden glow – but our photographic trick will allow you to
get that warm golden glow at any time of day – and control it as well,
something you cannot do so easily with the sun as your light source! The
celestial light technician can hide behind clouds at any time. And you will
be able to produce this lighting even indoors.
What you have to do is
build a light reflector that reflects that warm color. Go to the newsagent
and get some gold foil paper. The sort of wrapping paper you use for wedding
gifts. It may be embossed or patterned, and in fact it is better if it is,
but must be gold in color. Glue the gold paper on to a sheet of cardboard or
polystyrene sheet approximately one meter square. You do not have to be
deathly accurate or neat. If the surface gets a little ‘scrunched up’ that
is fine too. Your capital outlay is probably around 50-100 baht. Not bad, so
Now you have a
reflector, which if you play with it near a window for example, will shine
“gold” on to any subject. You are now ready to impart that golden glow.
The best photos for
this exercise are people shots taken outdoors, with the sun behind the
subject. This we call ‘back lit’. You will find that the subject’s hair
becomes very bright around the edges, almost like a ‘halo’ effect.
Now for the addition of
the golden glow. To do this, you position your reflector to shine some
sunlight back towards the subject (that is why the sun should be behind the
subject). Prop the reflector in the best position to give the degree of
golden glow you want (I generally just prop it up with the camera bag, or
you can get an assistant to hold it for you) and look through the
viewfinder. See what a difference this makes? The ugly chin shadow has gone
as the light is coming upwards, and the subject now looks brilliantly
glowing and healthy. The one meter square reflector will also impart catch
lights to eyes to make them sparkle as well. The end photo has shiny hair,
bright eyes and a golden complexion radiating warmth. A fabulous glamor
Now, the downside! It
is more difficult to get the correct exposure setting in the backlit
situation. If your camera has a Backlight button, then use it. If not, walk
in close to the subject so that the persons face fills the frame, and take
your exposure reading from there. Use the exposure lock, or just memorize
the readings and put them in on manual mode. It is worth it.
Good points and bad points with smartphones
This is not the future, this is now
Just as digital cameras
changed the photographic world, so did smartphones 20 years later. In fact,
smartphones have all but killed the low end of the compact camera market. So
why are they so popular?
At the outset I should also
admit that I own a smartphone. I also admit that it is a lot smarter than me.
Fortunately I have children to show me the ‘smartness’ of it all, and they are
kind enough not to complain when I need another dose of the ‘smarts’. Yes,
smartphone is here to stay. Have you noticed that your spell checker accepts
‘smartphone’ (all one word) when it used to be initially ‘smart phone’ (two
The first good point with
smartphones is you are likely to have one in your pocket at all times – unless
it is too big and you keep it in your handbag (or manbag). Those ‘once in a
lifetime’ shots are yours for the taking, provided you remember to shoot it and
the battery is charged! Because of its size it is also easy to carry around;
however, here’s the first drawback. If it is very small to be portable, the
screen size is also very small, so all the hype about watching movies, is just
that – hype. To get the larger screens you have to invest in a smartphone
‘tablet’ or ‘iPad’. Neither of which is particularly portable because of the
Of course one of the
initial plus points for digital anythings, is the ability to get instant
gratification. That is the prime requirement of all three year olds. We were
supposed to grow out of that, but instead we grew to adulthood with the need,
and now the ability, to see your photos instantly, and then upload the image to
other smartphone users, or people who can access your electronic images. Like
the barber shop needing three chairs working and no waiting. Nobody wants to
One very negative point
with smartphones is the almost universal fascination of looking at the small
screen while walking along, not seeing anyone in front of you, in fact not
seeing anyone else at all. And getting killed.
Smartphones really are
killers, when you think about it. Not only have they killed the compact camera,
but also killed personal communication. Look at couples in a restaurant,
flicking through their messages and not talking to each other. I particularly
liked the cartoon of a restaurant notice board saying “Sorry. No WiFi. Try
talking to each other.”
The third demerit, as far
as I am concerned is an acceptance of the mediocre. Smartphones just give you
‘record’ shots. An ability to change the depth of field has been lost. Stopping
motion has been lost. In fact, any creative instinct is not transferred to
smartphones. And if you really want something dreadful, try using one of those
after market “wide angle” lenses!
But the battle hasn’t
stopped there. The smartphone people are continuing to be smarter. Remember all
those ‘soft’ out of focus shots you took and didn’t retake at the time because
you couldn’t see how blurry they were on your small screen? The latest
technology can correct what you took, and like the electronic filters that gives
you ‘sharp’, ‘sharper’ and ‘sharpen edges’, this new technology does it for you
in the smartphone!
The new technology is also
ready to fix the small screen problems. Imagine a screen that opens out like a
folded piece of paper, to give you a large screen, then folds to go back into
the handbag (or manbag – another silly name).
Samsung has been awarded
patent rights for a foldable screen.
Patent for a design of such
a fold-out smartphone which would curiously put Lenovo in a rather dangerous
position as they have been touting a foldable smartphone already this year.
No, we have not seen the
end point of smartphone abilities, the big names are working on all the problems
right now. Be prepared.
However, they will never
displace the photographic eye. You!
The Photojournalist’s creed
Just by being at the
“scene”, photojournalists can have a problem with morality and ethics. The
following test shows just how much stress there can be for these
photographers. Think carefully before answering.
The situation: You are in Pattaya.
There is chaos all around you caused by the hurricane with severe flooding.
You are a photojournalist working for a major newspaper and you are
recording this epic disaster.
Suddenly, you see a man in the water.
He is fighting for his life, trying not to be taken down with the debris
through the tunnel. You suddenly realize it is a well known violent criminal
on the run. You notice that the raging waters are about to take him under.
You have two options:
(1)You can save the life of this man –
(2) You can shoot a dramatic Pulitzer
Prize winning photo, documenting the death of one of the country’s most
despised, evil and powerful men!
Now the question, and give an honest
answer (nobody can see you)!
Would you select high contrast color,
or just go with the classic simplicity of black and white?
So now, to be sensible after that
little chuckle, the job of a photojournalist is to get back to the editor
with a usable photograph of some event, be that a fire, a debutante ball or
the Combined Chambers of Commerce networking night.
The photojournalist’s creed of “f8 and
be there,” may have come from Arthur H. Fellig, known as ‘Weegee’. Born in
Poland in 1899, he came to America in 1909. He worked for a few studios and
then got a job in the darkroom at Acme Newspapers. Life in the newspaper
business is always exciting and frantic. Arthur H. Fellig reveled in that
excitement. He had found his niche. He was only 21 years old but he decided
he was going to be a freelance news photographer.
He soon became known as the first on
the scene of any newsworthy happening, be that fire, murder, suicide or
landslide. He was so uncannily aware of what was happening that people began
to feel he had some kind of psychic powers of prediction. At that time,
America was also in the middle of a Ouija (“Weegee”) Board fad and from this
Fellig was to adopt his nickname “Weegee”.
Of course, Weegee was not psychic, but
just used to sleep fully clothed, with a police radio on his pillow. In the
boot of his car was his “office”, complete with typewriter to knock out the
words, spare film and lots of flash bulbs. Weegee would arrive, record the
shot, type the words and have everything on the editor’s desk within the
hour. It was no wonder that Weegee was so popular with the news media of the
day. (He would be even more popular today!)
By 1935, Life magazine was doing
features on Weegee and his work. There was no doubt about the fact that he
had the photographic “eye”, but for Weegee, the subject was the all
important part of the photograph. And the subject he dealt with was done
incredibly directly. Weegee was not one to be horrified by the sights before
him, such as gangland killings. He took the shot that kept that horror for
the eyes of the newspaper readers the next day. (Interestingly, that direct,
confrontational photographic style is still used in the Thai language papers
today – check any front pages for graphic images.) Another quote from this
amazing man, “I like to get different shots and don’t like to make the same
shots the other dopes do.” When asked what his formula was he replied, “I
just laugh. I have no formula, I’m just myself, take me or leave me. I don’t
put on an act. I don’t try to make a good or bad impression. I’m just
Weegee will be remembered for his
record of the seamier side of New York life. This was put into book form,
called the Naked City and was published in 1945. Unfortunately, the wide
public recognition that came from this book ended the directly grotesque
nature of his images and Weegee went to Hollywood where tinsel-town
swallowed him up. He died in 1969.