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Words with your pictures


Of the hundreds of articles I have had published, only a handful were not illustrated with my pictures. Whether the words sold the pictures or the pictures sold the words is impossible to determine but it seems obvious that a package offered to an editor must make his or her job easier if they do not have to seek pictures to illustrate the words. There is, of course, the proviso that the subject of the article is what they want and the words and pictures are up to scratch.
If you are wanting to make some sort of cash return on the investment you have made in your photography, perhaps you should consider adding words to your pictures.

And, if you need help to get started, maybe my e-book will be helpful. It is available for tablet readers, including Kindle, or for reading on your computer at

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Shooting Generic Images



Success as a freelance photographer relies upon maximising our return for every minute that we invest in our business. This is true whether we are full or part-time freelances. We have to keep our cameras working so if you are ever at a loss for a subject during a wet and uninviting day, here is something that you can do at home with almost no special equipment.

You will have seen in magazines and newspapers the images that are used in such things as the financial column or on the food or computer pages. Often these images have no direct connection with the words, they are there just to draw our attention to the article and to get us to read it. They are generic images and it is these that you can shoot simply at home, the only limitation being your imagination. And, imagination is the key. You will be competing with many other photographers who have tapped into this market so innovation is as vital as technique.

The only essential items of equipment other than your camera are a tripod and, if one can be fitted to your camera, a cable release and, if you don’t have a macro lens, a set of extension tubes. You don’t even need special lighting or flash unless you are shooting at night. I usually get by with just window light and an occasional reflector — generally a piece of white card or aluminium foil. Keeping it simple is my philosophy.

While innovation is vital, if you have not been involved in shooting very close ups, experiment with some simple ideas to begin with so that when you do come to shoot your innovative set ups you don’t have to think about your technique and can concentrate on getting your pre-visualised ideas on to film or sensor.

What you are looking for as generic images are items that can be photographed so as to be recognisable without showing all their detail. With things like books, this can simply mean shooting so that their titles are not visible but with other items it may be necessary to have just a part of the subject sharply in focus. For instance if you want to show that it is a camera without showing its make, use a large aperture to reduce depth of field and focus on the shutter button or the side of the lens or anywhere where the name of the manufacturer doesn’t appear or can be thrown so out of focus that it is illegible. Or you can do the same with a credit card without giving away important details such as its number. Grab a pen and some paper and start listing your ideas for generic images. In quick time you will probably have up to twenty written down.

Generic images may not be the most exciting of pictures to shoot but they can be one way of keeping your camera active and earning its keep on days that are not conducive to much other photography. They can be one way of maximising our return from our freelance business.

To see my e-books on photography, go to

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Goals for 2015

As we wind down with the end of the year approaching fast — where has the year gone? — it is appropriate, indeed necessary, that we review our performance over the last twelve months and decide what our goals are for 2015.

My goals are not yet set. There are too many things to be considered in light of what has happened this year before I can make a sensible goal for next. The only goal I can set at the moment is that by the middle of January I have to have my 2015 goals settled.

I suspect that I am not alone in my quandary and that many of you will be joining me in using this holiday season to do some serious thinking.

I wish you well and remind you that whatever goal you set, it needs to be realistic and measurable. And actual performance needs to be checked against the goal regularly so that adjustments can be made if necessary.

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Freelancing — Confidence and Perseverance are Essential but What Else?

Perseverance and confidence are two of the attributes that freelances need but there is another that we all need in abundance if we are to survive this precarious existence that is freelancing. And that is enthusiasm.

It was Ralph Waldo Emerson, the nineteenth century American author, poet and philosopher who said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm” and that is a quote that is stuck to my office wall. When rejection after rejection of what we consider our best work is turning up day after day, the temptation to quit can rise and threaten to overwhelm us but, if we are truly enthusiastic about being a freelance, we will lift our drooping heads and start preparing the next submission. That is how a freelance succeeds.

Winston Churchill put it rather well when he said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” And, of all people, he should have known.

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Freelancing — Targets and How to Set Them

Whether you make your sales direct or through an agent or photo library, do you have a target to keep your mind focused on your output? And, if you do, is it measurable? It needs to be otherwise you cannot assess just how you are performing against your target. It can be as simple as the number of submissions/pitches sent out each month or the number of sales made, or the monetary amount of sales made, all of which are measurable. My targets began as the number of submissions made each month but I felt that that didn’t stretch me enough. Regular submissions are, of course, essential in this freelancing business but results are more important.

So, I amended my goals by setting myself an income-based goal for each month which encourages me to continue to send submissions out but will not let me feel satisfied just by the making of a submission. Now I won’t feel satisfied unless I can eat! Hopefully this approach will improve my selections and lead to more sales.

Don’t forget, that setting a target is not the end of it. There is no point in having a target that there is no chance of achieving just as there is no point in having a target that is too easily achieved. Setting targets that challenge is a fine balancing act so review your goals regularly. And don’t feel that you are cheating if you downgrade your targets if you find that you are not achieving them even though you have put a 100 per cent effort in. Of course, if the non-achievement is brought about by lack of application on your part, you know what to do.

Equally, if you are achieving your targets fairly easily, do consider upgrading them.

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How to live with Rejections

Whether you are a freelance writer or photographer, rejection is a nasty word with all its implications of ‘failure’. But, it is a word that we as freelances have to get used to and accept it for what it really is, an indication of one editor’s opinion which could stem from a number of factors. He or she may not like our article or picture (which is their right), they may have another (in their mind) better article/picture to fill their space, they may have covered the subject recently, the article/picture doesn’t fit in with the magazine’s mission, and so on and so on. I am assuming, of course, that the article is grammatically correct with no spelling mistakes and the pictures are correctly exposed, clean, well composed and sharp.

Do remember that most judgments are subjective with opinions being formed taking into account the past history of the individual. I know of one photography judge who cannot abide pictures of pelicans. Why, I do not know. Maybe he was frightened by a pelican as a child, maybe he doesn’t like the long beak or the way they waddle when they walk but, more likely, he has seen too many pictures of these birds in the competitions he judges. Whatever the reason, a picture of a pelican will get short shrift from him. And, editors are only human and we have to accept that their judgment may have nothing to do with our writing or photography being poor.

So what do we do when our words and images are rejected or should I say, ‘not accepted on this occasion’?

What I do is to look carefully at the article to make sure that there are no mistakes that I should have picked up and, assuming all is in order and it doesn’t need re-writing to suit the style of the next publication on my list, I send it back out into the wide world. I do the same with my pictures. I check for blemishes and, when satisfied, they go off to the next editor on my list. That way, I have no time to sit and fret about my ‘failure’.

With reference to my previous Post, Monochrome from Digital Colour, you may be interested in the picture I posted to my Facebook photography page yesterday.

To go to my Facebook Photography page Click here

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Freelance Photography — should you specialise?

Do you specialise in your freelancing? I’ve been giving this subject a bit of thought lately as these days I seem to be specialising in landscapes. It wasn’t a deliberate choice; it has just happened. Admittedly, I do like it.

When I started freelancing I specialised in pictures of kids doing things but that was just because I had the subjects on hand and a camera always ready. I was fairly successful with black and white prints that were sold regularly to Nursery World and Child Education among others. I invited these magazines to hold prints on file if they wished and I often had pictures published some years after I had submitted them — I think the record was something like eight years. As a bonus, several pictures were used twice, several years apart with the added cheque out of the blue being very welcome. That sort of specialisation was, I suppose, specialisation of opportunity.

Most of us have these, whether they be at work or at home. If you have a craft hobby, you probably know others with a similar hobby who could provide photo opportunities and, as most hobbies have some sort of publication allied to them, there are market opportunities, too.

To read the full article Click here

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Freelance Photography — How to Keep Your Name Before an Editor

What do you do when you make a sale to a publisher? After the cheering has stopped, I mean. Do you immediately parcel up every image that you think might be of interest and rush it to the publisher or do you sit down quietly and analyse how your images were used and, just as importantly, how other people’s images were used? I recommend the latter approach as unless the images in your parcel are stunning and the editor is short of material, you are likely to get your submission back very quickly and that is a depressing result.

However, if you use your marketing skills and target your next submission tightly to the magazine’s requirements, then you could be starting a long and profitable relationship with that publication. But, do make the submission quickly so that your name is likely to jog the editor’s memory — editors do have a lot to think about and numerous names to recall so get in early.

One aid to jogging memories is the use of a good-looking and distinctive letterhead. A clean, clear design with, if possible, something unique to you is needed. I don’t claim that my stationery is brilliant but I have produced a simple logo based on my initials which appears on my letterhead and on my business card.

DB Logo lh

The letterhead is printed in a purple ink as is the logo on the card. Written like this it sounds a trifle garish but I don’t think it is in real life! It’s different. I also use a good paper for the letterhead which speaks of quality. Of course, the images have to live up to that but first impressions do count and if your letter is scrawled on a scruffy piece of paper then you are starting at a disadvantage.

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Normal Service Resumed

Woman walking her dog

Finally, I seem to have conquered Windows 7 which I have had to change to as my operating system with the demise of XP so, hopefully, normal service will now be resumed.

The image above has just been sold through Alamy and I think it is an appropriate picture to demonstrate that it is possible to sell very ordinary pictures if they happen to suit the needs of an art director. Which is why freelances should always be on the lookout for ordinary images as well as extraordinary ones.

To see the photographic e-books I have published including Images that Sell, go to Smashwords at

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F2 Freelance Photographer magazine

F2 3bfe7fb8-9a4a-11e3-8520-123139077938-large

Wheels do turn! Several years ago I was writing a regular column for this magazine but when Icon sold the title to another publisher all columns ceased. But, now Icon has bought back the magazine and I will be writing a Letter from Australia in each issue. The first issue is about to be released so go to and place your subscription. I do have a short item in this issue but my column doesn’t start until the next one.