Shooting stock photos – family vacations

Recently I wrote up a post about on shooting stock photos while on a business trip. For a family vacation the preparation might be the same, but execution is quite different for me. I recently had a week-end “Up North” in the northeast part of Michigan, including a day at Mackinac Island, with my boyfriend. My approach is different for personal vacations with families:

I don’t worry about getting the perfect shot – Sure, it’d be great from a photography perspective to stay at that location 20 more minutes waiting for just the right shot, but I just can’t see making my loved ones have to wait… I got a pretty decent shot of the main street in Mackinac Island, and that’ll have to be good enough. As supportive as he is to be willing to wait, I wanted the week-end to be about us.

I don’t stress out if I miss some key locations – I let serendipity drive my vacations sometimes and who knows, there might be some new photo opportunities there…

I might have to skip the solo photo excursion – Sometimes I’ll have the option because of what others want to do to have a few hours to go off on my own and get those shots but with a small group and short amount of time I go with the flow and capture what you can along the way.

I focus on making memories – Sure, it’s tempting to invest in a water-proof case and take shots of family during an upcoming white water rafting trip, but I know if I do that I’ll focus more on getting the right shot and not on enjoying the experience to the maximum with my sons. I’ll just buy the photo the outfitters will provide, which will likely captures the experience better than I will ever be able to.

Overall, I try to remember that I am on vacation to get closer to my family and make memories, they did not sign up to tag along on my photo safari. I figure I get a lot more support from my family for my photo career if it doesn’t intrude on our family time.

I’ll be processing these photos soon – I’ll update this post when they are published.

I can imagine others would disagree with my philosophy, would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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Shooting stock photos – business trip to Indianapolis

I traveled to Indianapolis on a business trip and took advantage to take some stock photos. Steps I took to prepare:

Made sure my equipment was ready – Camera lens clean, battery and back up batteries charged, lots of space in the memory cards

Searched for stock photos of Indianapolis – It was clear folks had done a great job of skyline photos, so no need to do those, got some ideas for others.

Searched online for popular Indianapolis sites – Got some nice ideas, a river walk, monument circle… Added them to my reminder app on my iPhone.

Searched things to do and events – Googled for events calendars to see if there were any interesting events that might yield some good photos, good to know beforehand.

Got familiar with the area – Looked through a map of the area near the convention center, where the meeting was, so I could see which locations were nearby and I could catch during lunch breaks, etc., and which would be more of a drive.

I took some notes on some things I think I did right, so todo’s:

Take photos even in bad weather – Weather wasn’t great the first evening I got there and there were some bad shadows, but I had the time so I scouted some locations, got some just in case photos.  When I had the chance to go back I knew exactly what I was going for.

– Get the basics right first – First thing I did was check my ISO (100 if outside and sunny, down to 400 on really cloudy day, much higher if inside), then my shutter speed (1/250 to help ensure decent focus, else if inside I’d taken my monopod I’d have gone with a slower shutter speed). Took some test shots and checked my histogram to make sure I wasn’t missing some very dark areas or blowing out light areas, and adjusted the exposure as needed.  Exposure of +x moves the histogram to the right, of -x moves it to the left.   (My Nikon D7000’s presets are such that you have to rotate the exposure wheel to the right to decrease it and the left to increase it, which seems counterintuitive to me – I forget how I did it but you can change the preset so rolling right increases exposure and rolling left decreases exposure, so my finger motion matches what I want the histogram to do. Unfortunately I can’t remember how I did that and can’t find it – If you know it, please include in the comment section, thanks!)

Wait for the right shot – I took many outdoor shots of locations, and I would take a few shots then wait around to see if the scene got better, aiming for more folks in the shots, maybe a bicyclist riding past for additional interest and depth, think more “layers.”

DSC_3133 copy

Not something I would do on a family trip, but being by myself I could afford to do so. 

– Check the edges of the photo  – Sometimes I’d think I have a great shot but there was something in the edges of the photos that would have ruined it. Just moving a bit to one side or the other, or kneeling, would remove it.

Get farther  – When I shot the “perfect” shot I would shoot one more with a little less magnification, for a bit more flexibility when editing/cropping.

Get closer – I tried to avoid taking the standard tourist shot, still working on that one.

– Think of what photos you haven’t taken – Sometimes I’d think I was done then realize there were other looks, other angles, vertical vs. horizontal, tried to push myself to come up with better views.

– Be open to serendipity – I noticed some donation boxes to feed the homeless, so I shot some photos of it and people walking past it. Also realized that there are rental bikes available in Indianapolis, and my photos of those in Chicago are fairly popular, so I shot some of those too.  Walk around with an open mind.

DSC_3150

– Go for the iconic shot – I tried to think of an iconic image, not only the natural tourist shot. Still working on those.

– Take pictures of any descriptive plaques – Often public locations have a plaque describing it. I always grab a quick photo of it, for interesting information I’ll use for the photo description.

What other suggestions would you have for someone taking some stock location photos with limited time? I invite you to share your tips in the comments.

I’m going to edit, crop, and generally clean up the final photos and submit them, wish me luck. Search my Shutterstock site for Indianapolis soon to see how I did…

From DPS – Learning about ISO, shutter speed, aperture, aka the Exposure Triangle

I mentioned Digital Photography School as an excellent resource for tutorials. They recently celebrated their 8th anniversary and posted their 15 most popular tutorials.

Three of these are some great tutorials about ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, which are the three settings that determine how sensitive the camera is to light (ISO), how long your shutter is open to allow light in (shutter speed), and how big an opening you have for that light to come in through (aperture, which affects how much of your photo is in focus). I encourage you to check them out:

ISO settings in digital photography

Introduction to Shutter Speed in Digital Photography

Introduction to Aperture in Digital Photography

Then let me know what you think in the comments!

Susan

Macro shots make it into Shutterstock

Uploaded many photos to Shutterstock over the week-end. I was delighted that my two favorite photos from Mike Moats Macro Bootcamp just got accepted by Shutterstock! Workshop participants will recognize these props:

Peacock Feather
Peacock feather Shutterstock

Watch Parts
Watch parts Shutterstock

You can see my review of the workshop here.

Thanks for the lessons, the guidance, and the confidence, Mike!

Need Help with your Macro or Business? Get Mike Moats’ e-books

For those who can’t attend Mike Moats’ wonderful workshop, here are some e-books you might want to get.

Mike Moats

Daily Macro View

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Need help improving your macro skills, or looking to make a little money with your photography, check out my e-books.

Creating Art With Macro – $14.95 click here

70 Tips for Making Money as a Nature Photographer – $4.99 click here

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My workflow for editorial photos of classic car shows

Just submitted some editorial photos of some classic cars to Shutterstock, thought I’d share my workflow. You can see my classic car show photos here.

Taking the photograph is of course the most important part. For classic car show photos, such as this one from last summer’s Woodward Dream Cruise:

Woodward Cruise 2013

I can easily spend 15 minutes waiting for the crowds to thin out so you can see the car itself, yet have enough people in front of it for personal interest. Funny thing is that people in the midwest are really nice so they are all trying to get out of your way so you can get the car shot, so I have to explain that I want the crowd shot…

Luckily I also like to take non-stock close up of classic car details like this one:

03 2012 Cruise 1960 Corvette side copyright

so I balance my time with those.

You are hoping for a nice day but not too sunny that it gives you harsh shadows, as I had in this photo… In taking the photo you see I have an ISO of 100 because it was a nice sunny day, and a shutter speed of 1/125 to aim for that focus at 100% magnification:

Woodward cruise info of shot

I tend to pick the shutter speed I want then adjust the exposure correction as needed if I go into shadowy areas, to get as much of the histogram covered (don’t worry if this doesn’t make sense right now).

In Photoshop I create a duplicate layer (command-J), then crop it to show the street details but keep the focus on the cars:

Woodward cruise crop

I then look at the histogram. If I have to, which I didn’t here because I had usually play with exposure when I’m taking the photo to make sure I have a good histogram in the first place, I might have to play with the edge levers to but them up to the edge of the histogram so it expands the histogram to give you the full range. Then I play with the lever in the middle to give the photo some “pop”, but you can see that would make the shadow on the right very harsh, so I “masked” the layer on the right side just by drawing on it with black pen (with maybe 10% hardness so it blends easily and shows no sharp edges) on that right side. You can see in the layer description on the bottom right, labeled “Levels 1” how it shows a screen that is all white except for that black in the right area, where I “masked” it:

Woodward cruise histogram

Woodward cruise histogram close-up

OK, now the photo is all set, it’s time to enter the photo information. I access the “file info” from the “file” menu and enter a title, editorial headline description, keywords, and copyright information:

Woodward cruise file info

I save the file as a PSD file, then save a copy as a JPEG file, and that’s the file I submit to Shutterstock.

Hope this helped you get a sense of what to do. Questions? Ask me in the comments section.

Becoming a small business person

So I had been going along making some money with my photography hobby, then a bit more, enough to buy new equipment, and of course I was paying taxes on that money, but was not keeping track of expenses. I also decided to put in a proposal for the gifts of art program at UM, which if accepted, would allow me to sell my framed photographs, which means charging state taxes, and I need to be a business owner to charge taxes… you see it was starting to get big.

So, time to become a small business. I looked around the internet researching different business options and decided that since I don’t intend to shoot weddings or other such situations that might end up with me being sued, and I’m not planning to have employees, I didn’t think I needed to become incorporated. Instead I went with the “sole proprietorship” model, which in Michigan is sometimes also referred to as DBA, or “doing business as,” such as me doing business as Susan Montgomery Photos.

So time to keep the money separate. I checked my local credit union’s website about opening up a business account, and found out that I had to bring a “Certificate of Assumed Name or Doing Business As Certificate.” A bit of research in the State of Michigan website and I downloaded the form, got the notary public signature, filed at my county courthouse, back to the credit union, and voila, I have a business account, with checks and a debit card, and I started a Paypal account in my business name. Small business person me, who’d a thunk it.

One of my big points here is that I didn’t know anything about this when I started. I just took it one step at a time, learned what I had to learn, checked with some friends to make sure I wasn’t making any terrible mistakes, and I keep learning. Don’t be intimidated. There is a lot of knowledge out there, seek it out as you need it. As my neighbor Linda says about running 5k’s, “It’s just taking one step after another.” If I can do it, so can you – really!

Disclaimer: I am merely sharing my experience here, I have no legal expertise, so please do your own research to determine which options works best for you.