From Shutterstock – Event Photography Tips: Battling Space, Time, and the Weather

Shutterstock’s blog has a great article on event photography tips. Short version:

1. Stay on the move
2. Get the right gear
3. Work with the weather
4. Keep yourself informed

See more details and great photographs for examples of each tip here.

Shooting stock photos – Store logos

I had noticed that many articles on websites and newspapers about companies include shots of company logos, so I decided to hunt up some company logos for stock photo shots. I went early on a Sunday morning with no bright sun to one of our streets with lots of stores and went up and down the different strip malls and took shots of close-ups of logos:

ATT

and store fronts:

BBB

I then cropped and aligned them, and composed an editorial caption by looking up some news about them, and following Shutterstock’s captioning instructions , so for example:

ANN ARBOR, MI – AUGUST 24: Chili’s, whose east Ann Arbor store logo is shown on August 24, 2014, has announced it will create a line of frozen foods.

I also have to remember that when I submit them to iStockphoto I have to change the capital letters at the start to lower case to match their caption style…

What I did right:

– Went on a Sunday so parking lots were empty and I could move around easily and not so many folks thinking me creepy for taking photos. Some of the shots were taken from the van.
– Made sure my van was not showing in the reflection of the glass..
– No bright sunshine, so no harsh shadows
– Looked up news about each company, or if I couldn’t find any news looked up their website and wrote up how many stores they have in the US or some such.

What I would do differently:

– In some cases I got just the logo and not the store, later realized I should get one of each, so going back to reshoot some of them.
– Weather was a bit too cloudy at times, so some shots were not as good as I’d like, have to back for some of those too.

Some might think of this as too much like work, but I am a collector at heart, so this is more like a scavenger hunt for me, really enjoy it for some weird reason… To see all such photos in my Shutterstock collection click here.

Dec 6 addendum – You can see by looking at my complete Shutterstock collection by popularity just what a huge hit the logos have been – sharp increase in my Shutterstock income!

Stock photo tip – Develop your own events calendar

I realized recently that I was relying on my memory to remember when certain annual events took place. It occurred to me I should develop my own events calendar, so I thought I’d share the idea with others, as I bet I’m not the only one this happens to.

I googled a number of annual events listing websites around Ann Arbor and the Detroit area, and created my events calendar as a Googledoc text document, making a note of the actual date for those whose dates were already listed, and leaving the others to look up later. So for example for June I have:

JUNE

2015 3-7 Ann Arbor and others – Cinetopia International Film Festival
2015 5-7 Ann Arbor – Ya’ssoo Greek Festival
2015 6 Ann Arbor – African American Downtown Festival
2015 12 Ann Arbor – Green Fair
2015 12 – July 5 Ann Arbor Summer Festival

Ann Arbor – Dexter Ann Arbor Run
Ann Arbor – Juneteenth
Race for the Cure – Susan Komen foundation
Belleville – National Strawberry Festival
Detroit – Cruisin’ Gratiot
Howell – Michigan Challenge Balloonfest
Lincoln Park and others – Cruisin’ Downriver
Frankenmouth – Bavarian Festival
Detroit – River days
Sterling Heights – Stars and Stripes Festival
Detroit – Motor City Pride
Ypsilanti – Depot Town Cruise Nights, Thursday nights

I made sure I noted “2015” on those dates that I knew, so in the future I know to update it. As dates for the other events are finalized I’ll incorporate them into the chronological listing.

Now I am more confident to not miss an event, and can plan ahead to check for press pass deadlines, etc.

I didn’t want to use an actual calendar, list seemed better for me for some reason. I also decided not to worry about including related websites since I can always Google the event, but you might prefer to do so, and might decide you prefer a spreadsheet vs. a text document.

Of course this makes me wonder – how do others keep track of possible shooting opportunities? I invite you to share your ideas in the comments area, thanks!

Shooting stock photos – Michigan Football Youth Day!

Had lots of fun last week-end shooting photos of UM football players at the University’s Football Youth Day open house! How I prepared:

– I checked into permission to take photos, since it took place inside the stadium. I sent an email to their media relations person, asking for permission using the text Shutterstock likes to see:

To whom it may concern,

I grant (photographer name) credentials to photograph (name of event) at

(location) on (date)

(Name, role)

(Organization)

(of course I had filled in as much as I could…) He replied with “The Youth Day is open to the public so we won’t have a credential for media.” I saved my email request and his reply with full organizational info as a PDF file and a JPG file to submit to stock websites so they’d know Michigan folks were OK with me taking photos.

– I looked over the UM football website to see that they had a roster of players with photos, so as long as I could see their jersey number I would be able to match up players to names, so I didn’t have to worry about that.

OK, off I went, went there early and they let us into the stadium, then got a cool behind-the-scenes photo of the team getting their team photo taken before the start of the event:

Football team photo

Then they let us in, and remembering that Shutterstock won’t accept editorial photos with identifiable children unless the child’s name is included and not wanting to deal with asking for kids’ names, I decided to focus on photos of the players only (see what I would differently below…).

The players were quite obliging, particularly if I caught them at a break between autograph seekers and asked them by their name and with a smile on my face, and wished them a good season afterwards, got lots of great close-ups of many players, including Sione Houma and Jake Ryan:

UM football Houma

UM football Jake Ryan

Since I started out on the field I stayed there and got shots of the freshman players, followed by a photo of coach Hoke, though not too thrilled with that one but there was a really long line so I didn’t dare ask him to pose for a photo, had to shoot between autographs…  I then started with the players closest to him going around the stadium, taking the time to get an overall shot:

UM football day long

I worked my way around the stadium, taking photos of each player in their position, but unfortunately didn’t make it all the way around before time was up, the hour and a half just flew by!   To review…

What I did right:

– Good prepwork, so I knew I had permission and that I didn’t have to waste time writing down everyone’s name.

– Asked the security folks for suggestions of strategies to take photos, they were most obliging with ideas, and treated all security folks with utmost politeness.

– Wore my cheerful “Michigan Happiness” t-shirt again, that seems to put people in a good mood.

– Kept checking photos and adjusting ISOs as needed as I went to different levels of shade, with a goal to keeping that 1/400 or 1/500 shutter speed to help ensure focus.

– Was mindful of backgrounds as much as possible. Just a few inches to one side or the other was enough to avoid having too many pop dispensers in the backgrounds.

– Focused and composed as the players were signing autographs so I knew I had the settings all good by the time I asked for their photo. I didn’t want to waste any of their time, and got most shots the first try.

– Took the time to get that shot looking down the stadium, I love the composition on that one.

What I would do differently:

– Worn more comfortable shoes, what was I thinking wearing flip flops?

– Skipped the field to start, gone with coach Hoke first then starting with the more popular players and working my way the opposite direction that I took. But then who knows, one of the freshmen I got photos of might just hit the big time and I’ll have his photo from back in the day and seem brilliant…

– Taken more photos of players “in action” signing autographs for grown-ups, thus avoiding my “no kids” rule and yet getting more action shots…

– Reminded myself of the numbers and names of the most popular players, to have a “must get” list…

You can see all the photos from University of Michigan Football Youth Day at my Shutterstock website. If you have any other suggestions for such events I invite you to share it as a comment, thanks!

Shooting stock photos – Outside major soccer game

Apologies for the delay in posting, I decided to change my process to post after I’ve heard from Shutterstock so that I can let you know in the same post how successful I was, then I had a bit of a carpal tunnel issue with my right hand, so I took it easy processing photos for a bit… But I’m back at the updates:

August 2 Manchester United played Real Madrid at the University of Michigan’s football stadium – Largest crowd to ever watch a soccer game!  I was not interested in watching the game itself, but figured I’d hang out before the game and see what stock photos I could get.

I headed down by the stadium and walked around, took some photos of people who were already posing, making sure I got some of the location-specific clues, like the stadium fence:

Man United fans

 

Then I realized that Fox Soccer had a booth outside the stadium, so I went over and got this photo of sports analysts Warren Barton and Eric Wynalda:

fox guys

Eric was amazingly generous with fans, taking photos with many of them, as Warren was somewhat.  I hung out and took more photos of them, aiming for head shots, and even got one of Rob Stone, though he was more private so I had to wait a while to catch him… I think Eric was starting to think I was a bit creepy after a while…

Then I went to where rivers of fans were walking toward the stadium and took some photos of interesting folks as they walked by:

ManUnited white red

Also feeling more comfortable just nicely asking people if I can take this picture, like this other fan, who was happy to oblige:

ManUnited black red

This is where it’s nice to have my business cards, so if people ask what’s going to happen to the photos I can give them a card and they can look in Shutterstock to see if it got in, or email me for their photos. This time no one asked, so I just kept shooting…

Then there are the people who notice you are taking photos and just pose for you, like these guys:

ManUnited lads

My sons think that being a middle aged mom helps here because no one feels threatened by me. I can see that…

What I did right:

– Wore my “Michigan Happiness” shirt, to look even less threatening.

– Wore comfortable shoes, I was walking around a lot…

– Smiled at everyone, asked nicely, gave people thumbs up after I got their picture.

– As always, went with the 1/400 shutter speed to be sure to be in focus, played with ISOs (mostly 200) as the weather changed.

– Used my 18-105 lens on my 16 MP camera. It worked great for the walking around shots, most at around 50 mm and for the Fox guys I could use 100 mm and crop it and still get above the 4 MP required for many stock agencies. I’m glad I left the zoom lens home, didn’t really need it and it would have just been a hassle changing lenses.

What I would do differently:

– When I got the shot of one of the team buses I should have run over to where I knew the players would be dropped off to get shots of the players going into the stadium. I figured it would take too long for me to get there, but later as I was walking around they were just finishing dropping them off.  Probably should have gone over there first and talked to the security people and try to find out their expected arrival time.

To see all the shots that Shutterstock accepted check here.

What tips do you have for shooting crowds at events?

From Shutterstock – Protecting Your Content

Shutterstock has just published an excellent guide to protecting your intellectual content. They address:

Copyright
Licensing
Trademarks
Releases
Editorial images

A great way to quickly get up to speed on these terms and protect your intellectual content. Download your copy here

Shooting stock photos – around Ann Arbor

This week I had some time to take a few stock photos around Ann Arbor. I have a long list of possible photos I think would be good to take, so when I have some time I can check my list and see what I feel like taking. This week I focused on some companies headquartered in Ann Arbor, the Ford Presidential Library, and people getting off the bus at a commuter lot nearby.

What I did right:

– Had the list of potential photos in the first place, so I could quickly get a set to focus on. Ford library has been on my list for over a year, I knew I wanted the sun on the front of the library, but not too bright or the contrast would be too much. That afternoon was pretty good for that.

Ford Library
– Looked for other opportunities as they came up keeping national issues in mind, such as the traffic jam that I could see as I waited at the commuter lot.

Highway traffic
I again started with making sure my ISO was at 100, since I was outside on a nice day, set the white balance to sunny (with change to cloudy as needed), and used shutter speed priority with 1/250 or higher. As I took the shots I checked whether I had to make adjustments to the exposure to span the full histogram and not cut out darks or bright whites.

What I should have done differently:

– Looked up the bus schedules, so I didn’t waste time waiting for buses that didn’t arrive… Didn’t even think to go inside the bus shelter, where the schedule was displayed. I found that out the second afternoon I went, having just missed the busiest bus the first afternoon…

In cleaning up the photos there is not much to do since I had good settings to start with, so mostly focused on a good caption and good keywords. I have submitted them, we’ll see how they do…

PS Update – Shutterstock took some of them, not all, but I liked them enough to submit to others, you can see Dreamstime took the highway one.

Shooting stock photos – Roller Derby game!

Last Friday I attended an event I’ve wanted to attend for a long time, Roller Derby! The Ann Arbor Derby Dimes are a terrific organization that fields three roller derby teams. Last Friday they had a meet with two matches.

Here’s what I did to prepare for the event:

– Read the organization website to learn more about them
– Read the rules of roller derby so I’d have a better sense of how the game works. You can get a quick sense of it in this YouTube video .
– Contacted the team to ask for permission to take photos. I didn’t hear back from them and as it is I had a conflict that first night I planned to attend, so I ended up just showing up at their next event, last Friday.
– Did a search on photographing roller derby events to get some tips. The ones that stood out included:
– Use very high ISO for the terrible light conditions
– Use very quick shutter speeds to freeze motion
– Try focusing on a place on the ground and shoot when
the pack gets to that spot so you don’t lose time focusing.
– Don’t take photos of anyone who get seriously hurt
– Take photos of everyone, rather than focus on just the jammer.

OK, then I was ready to go. I went to the site, paid for my ticket, and explained that I was a stock photographer and was interested in taking photos, and shared my policy: I send them the photos first, and only submit them to stock agencies if I get their permission in writing after they see the photos. I also assured them that I would not use any photos that would be disrespectful.

The team members couldn’t have been more welcoming! They seemed very pleased at the attention. They even said I could eat from the volunteer refreshments table if I wanted to, though I didn’t take them up on that offer, I didn’t want to make the players uncomfortable during their breaks, and I wasn’t sure if the photos would turn out OK…

Then the game started, and what a great display of athleticism and sportsmanship! Here’s what I did right:

– Brought my business cards, which gave me greater credibility as a professional.
– Checked my photos frequently and adjusted ISO, shutter speed, and exposure as needed. This is called “chimping” by the way…
– Wasn’t afraid to go to high ISOs
– Took photos of more than just the players, to include many of the volunteers
– Agreed to take photos of the entertainment, Devil Elvis when the lead singer asked for photos for their website.
– Used the “continuous slow” setting to get many photos of the action, but not so many that my card fills up too quickly.
– Respected all rules and stayed out of the way of everyone.
– During pauses in the action I erased photos that I could tell were terrible. Even with that I ended up with over 800 photos…
– Let the photos sit for a couple days because when I first looked at them all I could see were the mistakes. Going back after a few days more objectively I could see that there were some good shots in there…
– Edited down photos like a mad woman to get to the money shots.
– Use the noise filter in Photoshop to remove some of the noise that invariably was there with such high ISOs…

What I would do differently next time:

– Clear out my photo cards before the event. I had photos still in there from another event, should have cleared them to my laptop and erased them so I didn’t have to worry about limits on memory…
– Move to the other side of the track for the second game. The first game I aimed at the wall at one end because all three other sides were open and light was very bright, which would lead to blowouts. However, after the sun set the area near that wall was very dark, which made for some very dark backgrounds for those photos… Have to be more mindful of changing photo conditions throughout the event.
– Asked some of the other photographers what settings they were using. I was too shy to do it, and likely would have learned a lot by taking to them, lost opportunity…

Here are some of the first photos I have processed:

Ann Arbor Roller Derby, defensive preparation - Shutter speed priority, ISO 3200, 1/500 sec
Ann Arbor Roller Derby, defensive preparation – Shutter speed priority, ISO 3200, 1/500 sec
Ann Arbor Roller Derby -  Jammer super move - Shutter speed priority, ISO 3200, 1/500 sec
Ann Arbor Roller Derby – Jammer super move – Shutter speed priority, ISO 3200, 1/500 sec

 

Devil Elvis, half-time entertainment
Devil Elvis, half-time entertainment

 

I was so very impressed by these athletes, what a terrific evening! I’ve sent them some sample game photos, I’ll post an update after I hear from them and (I hope) get to post some on stock photo websites.

July 16 update – Heard back from the team, they loved the photos, are going to use them in their advertisements, and they have invited me back as a guest to their next match, I’m thrilled! Still waiting on official permission to take the shots, so not submitting anything to the stock agencies yet.

August 28 update – Permissions all ironed out and approved by Shutterstock, photos submitted and approved so far are here .

Shooting stock photos – Detroit solo photo day

Had a great day in Detroit Sunday, spent much of the afternoon taking photos. Here’s what I did:

To prepare I saw what photos already existed, looked through Things To Do in Detroit, and through FourSquare found this great list of Historic Areas of Detroit. I also looked up companies with headquarters in Detroit and noted their addresses.

Then, with a general sense of what I wanted to get, I set off, stopped at the Uniroyal tower on the highway and took some shots of the abandoned Detroit Central Depot, walking around trying different angles, etc. until I got one that worked:

Central Depot Shutterstock

It was great to be flying solo today so I could take as much time as I wanted and try different angles.

Drove toward downtown, spotted some casinos, and headquarters of DTE Energy:

DTE Energy Shutterstock

I then spotted Cass Tech high school and stopped there, where I met Burt, a homeless man who accepted my offer to take some photos of him in exchange for $5. We had a nice chat, I emailed him his photos – he mentioned he had not checked email in over a year…

Detroit Burt

Kept heading downtown and parked near Campus Martius park, found my bearings and decided on a walking path that would take me to Hart Plaza, the River Walk, Greektown, and back to Campus Martius. Lots of nice photos, though I wish there had been more people around to make it livelier…

I drove on to the Fox theater / Comerica park area, got some photos there. By then it was after 4 pm, but the game wasn’t until 8 pm, so not that many people around, had to wait a bit to get some folks in this photo:

Comerica Shutterstock

Then over to Ford Field, and while I was there a fellow asked me to take his photo – I obliged, he gave me his email address and I sent him the photos, why not?

Ford Field fellow 1

I was going past the Detroit Opera House when it was letting out a matinee performance, so got some shots there, then called it a day, I was tired from all the walking!

I took 216 shots altogether, resulting in 41 photos submitted to Shutterstock, and 39 acceptances! To see all the photos, visit  my Shutterstock site

What I did right:

– Good planning so I had some sense of what I wanted to catch, but left myself open to serendipity. A general check-list but no strict to-do list, since I live nearby and can drive in another day to catch remaining ones.

– Generally good camera settings. Again went with ISO 100 and shutter priority with 1/500 shutter speed, adapting as needed. I increased ISO in shady areas, changed exposure to make sure my histogram was squarely within the range and I wasn’t cutting off blacks or blowing out whites.

– Comfortable walking shoes, I was exhausted from all the walking…

– Was friendly and cordial, took photos of those who asked, chatted with people who asked questions, and if folks wanted me to send them photos I did. Some just asked to have their photos taken and then just walked on happy…

– Went early on a Sunday, so free parking was plentiful.

What I’ll do differently next time:

– For a different set of photos I’ll go at a busier time or to an event in Hart plaza, to catch it at a livelier time.

– Bring my water bottle with me. I filled it up and left it in the car…

Overall a wonderful day, just me and the camera and all the time in the world…

Susan

From Shutterstock – Things to keep in mind when shooting stock

Shutterstock’s blog has a great infographic of things to keep in mind when shooting photography for commercial purposes. They address copyright, trademark, editorial, releases, and credentials, and end with a checklist, and an option to download a guide to protecting your content.

Check it out here

Shooting stock photos – 4th of July parade

Shot stock photos at Ypsilanti’s 4th of July parade, I just love 4th of July parades, I get all sorts of emotional and patriotic…  Here’s what I did right and what I’ll do differently next time:

– I researched the parade route, figured out a good place to park, got there early, played with camera settings. Went with ISO 100 since it was a nice sunny day, shutter priority with my shutter speed at 1/500 to ensure good focus.

– I used my 70-300 mm zoom camera to get close-ups but when I look at my photos few went beyond 100 mm, and you’ll see I missed some good shots because I couldn’t zoom out enough.  Next time I’ll stick with my 18-105 mm lens.

– I wanted to get some shots with the iconic Ypsilanti water tower, so I placed myself on the right side of the road and I did get some nice shots with the tower:

Fire department truck at Ypsilanti 4th of July parade 2014
Fire department truck at Ypsilanti 4th of July parade 2014

but being on that side of the street also meant that I ended up with more commercial logos in the background than I wanted on the close-ups:

Save the bomber plant supporters at the Ypsilanti 4th of July  parade, 2014.
Save the bomber plant supporters at the Ypsilanti 4th of July parade, 2014.

Luckily I was able to catch them after the parade and got a nice photo with the water tower in the background:

Save the Bomber Plant supporters at the Ypsilanti 4th of July parade, 2014
Save the Bomber Plant supporters at the Ypsilanti 4th of July parade, 2014

I was very nice and smiled and waved to everyone, and they waved back and would pause to get their photo taken:

Omega Psi Phi group at Ypsilanti 4th of July parade, 2014.
Omega Psi Phi group at Ypsilanti 4th of July parade, 2014.

Here’s where my zoom lens was a mistake, next time like I said, 18-105 mm…

Got some good shots of the Ypsi cheer team:

Ypsilanti High School cheer team at the Ypsilanti 4th of July parade 2014
Ypsilanti High School cheer team at the Ypsilanti 4th of July parade 2014

and of veterans:

Vietnam veteran at Ypsilanti 4th of July parade, 2014
Vietnam veteran at Ypsilanti 4th of July parade, 2014

Even this quite close-up one was only 70 mm, so I clearly didn’t need the zoom, should have switched back earlier…  Live and learn…

People will give you every chance to give you a nice photo. This was my 4th try at this guy, other participants kept getting in the way:

Parade participant at Ypsilanti 4th of July parade, 2014
Parade participant at Ypsilanti 4th of July parade, 2014

again, though, note the crowded background – next time, other side…

Having gained confidence from people wanting to have their photo taken, when I was not happy with my shots of Debbie Dingell, who is running for her husband’s position in the US Congress, I ran ahead and tried again and asked “Mrs. Dingell, can I have a photograph?” and she paused for me:

Debbie Dingell at the Ypsilanti 4th of July parade
Debbie Dingell at the Ypsilanti 4th of July parade

Note I was on the other side of the street with trees in the background… I’ll go with this angle next year…

So to recap:

– What I did right:  Good research, good camera settings (ISO 100, shutter priority at 1/500), good shots with iconic water tower, friendly attitude, nice close-ups.

– What I’ll do differently next year:  Alternate to other side of street for cleaner background, go with 18-105 mm lens.

That’s the thing with photography, always learning… I’ll process the photos tonight and will report back on Shutterstock results…

Susan
PS All the ones I submitted got accepted! You can find the collection here.

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.

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…

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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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.

Getting business cards

I have found having business cards to be very helpful as a stock photographer. My latest version has one of my photos as the background, the URL for this blog, my Shutterstock portfolio address, and my email address, which I’ve obscured in this photo:

business card - no email

They’re useful to have when I’m photographing an event, so I can reassure people that I’m a professional, and I explain that I’m taking photos for a stock photography site. I let them know I’d be happy to send them their photo if they choose to email me, and to look for their photo in the Shutterstock site. People have invariably been very happy to have their photos taken, such as this one at last year’s civil war remembrance in Greenfield Village:

Civil-war era reenactor working on a watercolor

Or this one at last year’s Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire:

Learning how to solder at the Ann Arbor mini Maker Faire

Now that I have this blog I’ll also be able to give it to people who ask me about stock photography.

I got them from Vistaprint, $20 for 250 nice quality cards. My earlier cards were double-sided, but I decided to have the back side blank on this new set so I can write notes on it.

Uploading your photos to stock photo websites

When you first get start you might not be comfortable with accessing your photography information, so you’ll probably upload your jpeg photo through the website’s photo loader and then enter the description, title, key words, etc. through the stock photo website itself – at least that’s how I started.

As I got more comfortable I started using a photo editor to include all the photo information within the photo file itself. Wish I’d done it sooner! It saved me loads of time because I don’t have to add all that information myself for each site, it’s part of the photo file and magically shows up when I upload the photo.

I also used to upload using the stock website’s uploaders, which sometimes can be somewhat tedious. Then I started getting more comfortable using FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to upload my photos in batches rather than individually, as you still have to do in some sites. I have found cyberduck to be a very easy to use FTP client that allows me to bookmark my sites’ FTP upload pages, including username and sometimes password, so uploading batches of photos is as easy as opening the bookmarked page and dragging the photos to the uploader.

Again, one step at a time, but trying to stay ahead of you to make your path a bit easier.

Best wishes!

Beware of copyrights and trademarks

When you shoot a non-editorial stock photo you have to be very careful to not have any copyrighted or trademarked objects in your photos. That means no logos on clothes, no easily identifiable copyrighted buildings.

I was going to write more about copyright but I noticed this great entry at Media Bakery Design that does a great job and includes a list of copyrighted work as well.

What this means in stock photography is that if there are any logos or other trademarked material in your photos you must edit them out before submission.

Note that if you plan to sell your photos for art (so NOT stock photography) that includes trademarked material that’s another story. To quote the World Intellectual Property Organization:

“Unlike copyright law, trademark law as such does not restrict the use of a trademark in a photograph. What it does forbid is the use of a trademark in a way that can cause confusion regarding the affiliation of the trademark owner to the image. If consumers are likely to mistakenly believe that the trademark owner sponsored a photograph, then there may be trademark infringement.”

Notice that this is just my understanding of it, and this is not intended to be legal advice, please do your own homework, laws do change…

Learning from stock photo websites’ recommendations for contributors

Another great way to get a better sense of the expectations of stock photography sites is to check their suggestions for contributions. In Stock Photo Submission and Tutorial Pages I have an entry for each stock photo site I’m on, and within each entry I have link to that website’s suggestions for contributors. Read them over, and you’ll have a much better sense of what’s expected in stock photography.