First, before we get to today’s post, I wanted to thank everybody who joined us for ‘The Landscape Conference” this week. What a wonderful, gracious, fun crowd to present to (over 1,400+ photographers attended live), and it was such a blast. My humble thanks to spending a few days with us — we’re very grateful and hope you all learned a lot!
This question — what makes a particular photo a landscape photo versus a travel photo? — came up during my pre-conference session called “What Makes a Great Landscape Photo.” The question came from a participant who mentioned that he shoots islands in the Caribbean and Hawaii, and shooting those at dawn or dusk (like you normally would for landscape photos), doesn’t look good because without the direct sun, you don’t have that beautiful turquoise water. I mentioned during my session that I thought in this case that breaking the dawn/dusk shooting rule was totally fine because this sounds like more of a travel type photo. Later, in our closing Q&A session, he asked me to elaborate on why I felt it was a travel photo, rather than a landscape photo.
There is no official ruling body on this, so all I can give is my opinion on it, and here it is:
“When I look at an image like the island with palm trees surrounded by clear turquoise water, my first thought is, ‘I want to be there on vacation; on the beach, under an umbrella, with a piña colada, and a good book looking out at that scene.’ I’m thinking vacation, so I’m thinking travel photo. When I see a lake with a still water reflection with snow-capped mountains in the background, or a shot from Monument Valley or Yosemite, I’m thinking landscape. In short: I think the emotion or feeling a person has when viewing the image helps to determine to the viewer if it’s a landscape or a travel photo. I think of Norway as a landscape country, but at the same time, you can make wonderful travel photos there, but I leave it up to the viewer to decide which one a particular photo is.”
In the end, though — does it even matter? It’s not a negative thing if someone feels your landscape photo is a travel photo (or vice versa). What’s important is that they enjoy viewing the photo, and you enjoyed shooting it; not which category it falls into.
Hope that helps.
Thanks again to everybody who make the conference such a special event. I’m very grateful for the wonderful turnout, and for the honor of being in the company of such great instructors. It was a blast!
Have safe, happy, healthy weekend. #GoBucks, #GoTitans, and soon #rolltide!
I write this from the departure lounge of London Gatwick Airport – quite apt for #TravelTuesday with me, Dave Williams, on ScottKelby.com today and every Tuesday. I am a little apprehensive, though, because there’s a chance I may not be allowed entry to the country I’m flying to today. Keep an eye on my Instagram story or Facebook page to see where it is and whether I made it in!
(Clue: – the Aurora can shine bright!)
Today I want to talk to you all about luck. Luck is something a lot of us need during times like these. To keep our photography business or hobby going with strength during a global pandemic is just one of many problems we’re faced with right now. For me, it’s the cancellation after cancellation of trips, trade shows, and missions, causing a distinct lack of opportunity and content to shoot and write about. The thing is, it’s all too easy to take a back seat and go with the flow when we get beaten down as we’ve been. Perhaps models and clients are less available to you, or maybe locations to shoot are closed or limited. Whatever the problem is, it’s down to us to get lucky and find a solution.
The thing about luck is that it goes hand in hand with opportunity. When we’re presented an opportunity, we’re said to be lucky, and we should take it. So, is luck the opportunity? Do we wait to have an opportunity and, in turn, wait to be lucky?
No. The answer is no.
Luck can be described perfectly: Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. We are in control of our own luck. To a great extent, we control our destiny, our fate. If now is a time when you feel like you need a little luck, be prepared to take whatever opportunity you find or whatever opportunity you can create.
Two weeks ago, I lost the opportunity to go to Greece (and the money invested in that trip). Similarly, last week I lost the opportunity to go to Hungary. Iceland has also been lost, and Canada. For a travel photographer and writer, this is a huge blow, but it’s down to me and me alone to prepare, to create another opportunity, and to make myself lucky. It’s down to the luck that I created that I’m sitting and writing this post today from the wiped-clean, dishevelled, disgusting green seat of Gatwick airport’s departure lounge, waiting anxiously for my gate number to appear on the screen amongst only a handful of flights.
For me, I need to travel. It’s a necessity of the job that I d, although there are “workarounds” I can take to travel closer to home. More than that, it’s in my spirit. I am simply not me without travel. I need to be me, and this is how I need to do it. I’ve created my own luck exactly as I described – I prepared and made an opportunity. I’m being entirely complicit with all immigration requirements, hence the number of cancellations I’ve faced. But against the odds and in spite of the circumstances – I’m lucky.
Whatever it is you do, and whether it’s related to photography or just to your everyday life, remember that you are in control of your luck.
Put in the hard work, take some leaps of faith, be positive, and improve your odds. I promise, it will all work out in the end.
If you need help or advice from myself, any of the other KelbyOne instructors, or like-minded friends, there’s plenty of us out there willing to push you in the right direction. A great community accessible to all is the Friends Of The Grid Facebook Group, or the KelbyOne Member Community to start with.
#TravelTuesday certainly does come around quick, even when there’s not so much travel involved! I’m Dave Williams, here today and every Tuesday on ScottKelby.com
Today, I’m sad. I’m sad because the world is a very uncertain place right now and we don’t know what’s coming next. As a travel photographer, it makes life hard, as it does for everyone in their own respects. Since last week, I’ve cancelled Greece (last week), Hungary (this week), Iceland (in two weeks), and Canada (October) because of transmission rates, as well as the previous cancellations I’ve had to make since March. I have a trip to Norway coming shortly, which hopefully, I’ll be able to make – keep an eye on my Instagram story to see whether I do!
The point, I guess, is this: travel photography isn’t necessarily about travel. We don’t have to travel to shoot travel photography. It’s more about the result. In our travel photography, we aren’t just showing where we are, but we’re inviting people to want to be there, too. It isn’t so much a genre as it is a result. Travel photography is the art and skill of giving somebody the feeling that they want to be there in your image, through your image, and at this time when travel isn’t an option for so many of us, it’s the ability to have people feel they’re living vicariously through our imagery – through our experiences.
We can all still do this right now – we can “do” travel photography without travelling. Take a look through old photos from trips away, or go somewhere locally and take some new photos, and get to work however you want on making someone want to be there in that photo, at that place, and live vicariously through it. It could be basic adjustments or full-on composite work, but whatever it is, it’s practice. It’s important that we all keep on top of our skills and our sanity right now and do things like this, which will maintain and develop our skill set, as well as provide focus and accomplishment. I went not too far away to get this shot on the south coast of the UK last week, just to stay “in the game.”
If you’re up for a bit of this, try finding places to shoot near you by searching your location on Instagram, Flickr, 500PX, or LocationScout to see what other people are shooting near you as a little source of inspiration. You really don’t have to travel to shoot travel photography.
Not long after the invention of photography came the first selfie. It’s #TravelTuesday and I, Dave Williams, am here as always with something from the world of travel, photography, and life. Today – selfies!
The person who first sat for a selfie was Robert Cornelius who, in 1839 in Philadelphia, sat for a little over a minute in front of his camera to capture the self-portrait that followed suit of so many painters before him. So many photographers have continued this self-portraiture tradition since the painters and our faces and bodies hold incredible storytelling ability, so it makes sense to do this.
It can be surprising how many photographers are reluctant to turn the lens on themselves, knowing that some of the world’s most famous photographers specialise in self-portraiture. If you’d like inspiration, look no further than Gilmar Smith, who takes amazing portraits and self-portraits alike.
Exactly what is it about turning the lens on themselves that stimulates photographers? For many famous self-portrait photographers, their body is a canvas on which they can layer ideas and delve into their inner psyche. For others, it can be a commentary on society. This genre of photography can also be a visual expression of inner emotions or even a photographic diary. In this age of the selfie, it’s easy to think “isn’t a self-portrait the same thing as a selfie?” Not exactly. A self-portrait is more considered than an off-the-cuff snap of the situation.
Using yourself as your own model doesn’t necessarily mean a seated portrait, but is more an excuse to experiment with poses, costumes, and artistry with the only model you’ll ever have who won’t complain—yourself.
What a self-portrait does for us, whether staged, environmental, or in action, is that it serves as a reminder to us of the activity, the emotion, and the situation we were in at the time we took it. It’s a reminder, as well as a piece of art, and with that little piece of enlightenment and explanation, I hope those who have never taken a self-portrait will give it a go.
Photography can be vague in terms of subjects and styles, but it’s fair to say that those who stand out are very specific with what they do. When it comes to hobbyist photographers the same is also true—people find their niche and tend to stick to it. Whether it be portraits, automotive, landscapes, macro, or any other subject, here’s how to find your specialty.
The beginning for a photographer is exciting. You’re taking pictures of everything and everyone, honing your new skills and working on techniques. This might be accompanied by a distant notion of wanting to turn it into a career or a side hustle, or it may remain a hobby, but you’re still at the diagnosis stage. There’s no need to rush into narrowing down your focus—stick with the exploratory surgery of your photography for as long as it takes. When you’re ready, ask yourself these questions: –
1) What Are You Drawn To?
In my opinion and for the sake of your own well-being, your niche should not be decided by demand first, but rather that which you are naturally attracted to. For me, there were a few. I had and still have a love affair with aircraft, and despite not being very good at it, I like to shoot photos of people. What got me into photography in the first place was the realisation that photography was an expensive hobby and if I were to be able to afford the new gear, I needed to find a way to fund it. I started to shoot weddings and quickly developed interests elsewhere, moving on to shoot yoga and portraits. My interest developed further still and I moved to my passion in photography: travel. I was fascinated and wanted to learn how to photograph things and create my own style.
Try not to pigeonhole yourself too much at this stage. If you like portraiture and photographing animals, don’t immediately decide on only one. Make this decision when you’re really ready.
2) What Variations of This Genre Are There?
Firstly, there are more than you think. Secondly, there are more than you are even aware of. Sit down and write a list of every different way your favourite genres can be applied. If it’s portraiture, there are headshots, fine art, fashion, editorial, photojournalistic, and so on. Narrow down your niche within your niche.
3) How Can You Offer Value to This Genre?
So many of us—and I used to be terrible for it—look at the working world to see what they can get out of it. Instead, you need to look at what value you can add to any area you choose to enter. Why would anyone pay you to shoot this niche you’re discovering? What is it about you that makes someone want to book you rather than the next photographer? If you can’t immediately answer this question, don’t despair. Sometimes, even a niche requires further honing to find your angle, particularly if it’s a competitive field.
4) How Difficult is Entry to This Field?
Even if you instantly knew the genre you loved, found the right variation, and are confident you have a valuable service to offer, you are some way off of being set. The next step is finding someone to pay you to work within your niche, and this step varies in difficulty wildly due to a number of factors. How competitive an area is, and where the income can actually come from, are two big factors.
If the market is overpopulated and there are photographers left, right, and centre trying to dominate the niche, you might find it hard to outshine people or get any recognition. At the same time, it indicates that there is a good amount of demand and you just need to get your foot in a few doors. If there are very few photographers working in your desired niche, there’s a chance with the right work that you can be the leader in the field. However, you need to seriously investigate why there are so few? Perhaps I’m naive, but I believe you can make most areas work for you if you’re clever about it.
5) How Can You Secure Your First Job?
Now comes the step where there are as many pieces of advice as there are cameras. Some will tell you to do work for free, some will tell you to “fake it until you make it,” some will tell you to build a portfolio and get your name out there. Truth be told, no answer is demonstrably wrong or right. I took a path that weaves between and partially through all of these, and it’s one that seemed the most pragmatic to me. It went like this:
Create some images of your own volition so you have example work to show. This means creating your own shoots, booking your own locations and models if necessary.
Collect the details of small and start-up companies you’d like to work with, then reach out and build a connection so you can work together to help one another grow.
Work out a rate that doesn’t preclude people from taking a risk on you, but isn’t a waste of your time. It should work out that you make enough money and the client feels value.
Having secured the first job, use it as leverage to approach other companies, and add the killer shots to your portfolio.
Let’s unpack these points a little more. Creating a small portfolio of high-quality images to show companies is crucial. There’s taking a risk on a new photographer, and then there’s blind risk. Prove you can create work of a desirable standard on your own dime, and it will pay you back.
Searching for companies and small brands to approach couldn’t be simpler in the modern age. Use Google, use hashtags and location tags on social media, too. Instagram is a fantastically powerful tool for this sort of thing, and DMs aren’t unprofessional so feel free to use them too. Some may advise to “aim high” and approach the big companies. You’re welcome to do this, and I did, but to get past their gatekeepers took industry connections, persistence, and social proof, which all take time.
Working out a rate isn’t as difficult as people make out. Do your best to work out how much time it would take you to complete your desired job, and fly close to it to begin. If you’re charging more than even you think your work is worth, you’ll be found out sooner or later. You might pull in a good job or two, but it’s unlikely you’ll build a successful career.
The contact part is seemingly easy, but crucial to get right. If you ignore everything else I say, just heed the advice of this small paragraph. Tailor every single email, DM, or phone call to the company you’re approaching. Research their story, their products, their market, their aesthetic and discuss it. If you can’t be bothered to do this and you instead just copy and paste a message to every email address you can find, you won’t get anywhere and frankly you don’t deserve to. Be open and honest about being new to the area and wanting to establish yourself in the industry, and why you chose them. And address it to a specific person – find out the name of the person in charge of marketing, for example. FYI – pretending you’re an influencer is transparent and easily disproved by anybody.
It really does only take one. Someone will give you a shot sooner or later. I got very lucky and the first brand I spoke to hired me, and then so did many others. However, this won’t always be the case and you have to have patience. Because I spend the time to write personal messages that are well-informed to my prospect’s image and goals, few people ignore it. In fact, I very rarely get outright “no” to my contact. In fact, it’s only happened once – every other contact leads to communication that may eventually go to a “yes” or “no,” but that communication is the start.
Finding a niche can not only make all the difference to your business revenue, but to how fulfilling your career is. It’s great to be an expert in an area and for me and many other photographers I’ve discussed it with, the deeper in your niche you go, the more diversified you become. Counter-intuitive, but true.
I wish you the best of luck and if you have any questions, I’ll make sure to answer them on my social media – Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. If, however, you’ve developed your own niche, perhaps share your words of wisdom too!
Instagram is the main social media platform exclusively centred around imagery, but things have changed and video is becoming as important as still photography. What else do we need to know about the ever-changing Instagram in 2020? Well, it’s #TravelTuesday, I’m Dave Williams, and I’m about to share what I’ve learned so far this year. Let’s go!
Instagram remains a huge means of exposure and if we want to progress our photography, be it as a hobbyist or a pro, we need to be seen. It can be said that to be seen we need to take risks, and it can also be said that putting our images on Instagram is becoming a risk, owing to the recent judgments that Instagram posts may be shared without credit. That’s not what it’s all about, though. It’s not just a case of getting our images shared and “stolen” because of these judgments, but also about the potential rewards. When we have our images shared without credit it’s annoying, it’s an irritation, but it’s usually not benefitting the person sharing it. The difference is that it can benefit us. To get that exposure we need to “work” on Instagram. Here’s how: –
First, it’s not as easy as it used to be. There are algorithms in place which dictate our exposure, our audience, our limits, and if we work to the algorithm, we can take advantage of it rather than dwelling on the negative aspects. The “work” we need to put in involves one thing and one thing alone: engagement.
If we engage with others, it encourages and attracts reciprocated engagement. That engagement is noticed by the algorithm and offers us more exposure because the algorithm “sees” that we are doing well and are, therefore, worth showing to more accounts—more people.
The “post and forget” strategy simply doesn’t work. If we post a photo and just close the app, we aren’t going to get engagement and exposure. We need to genuinely and sincerely interact with other accounts, particularly those similar to ours. The reason is twofold: first, we’re interacting with the person who posted the photo we’re leaving a nice comment on, and second, we’re exposing ourselves to their followers who see our comment.
There are bots, automations, engines, whatever you want to call them, and we can pay for services to do this for us…BUT DON’T DO THIS! It simply doesn’t work. The comments are not real, the likes are spam, everything the bot does stands out to people, and, perhaps more importantly, to Instagram (who will suspend your account because of a breach of terms.) There are entire studies on this and it’s nothing more than a way for someone else to make some money—it will not grow your account.
When we post images (or videos) we need some kind of strategy. The account needs to have a focus so that people who follow us do so because they know what to expect. It could be that they see a certain editing style or a certain subject matter that attracts them to hit the Follow button, so we need to deliver this attractive element to an audience and encourage them to hit that button in the first place. A grid that looks cool is just as important as an image that looks cool.
Stepping it up, there’s a location field and a description field that we need to make the most of. Tagging a location is another way for our image to be found—people search locations and if our image doesn’t have a location, we negate this method for being discovered. The description also pulls people’s attention—if they are drawn to read our description (or caption) and like it, they are more likely to also hit the heart to like the photo or even drop a comment in. If this happens within the first hour or so of our image being posted, we’re far more likely to attract further attention or even end up in the Explore tab.
Hashtags are a hot topic, but there’s the potential that we can go very wrong with them, as well, so check this out: –
Instagram allows 30 hashtags per post, either in the caption or in the comments. Many, many people have noticed that rather than using all 30, a post performs better when 10–20 are used. When selecting hashtags we need to ensure they’re applicable to the image, and that our image will not get lost among a plethora of posts. If we use a popular hashtag, such as #landscape, we’ll have people post the same hashtag soon after us and our post will be pushed down the list very quickly, whereas if we use a less popular hashtag, such as #landscapephotographer, we’ll retain a position close to the top for longer, offering more exposure before our post is lost down the list.
Finally, take note of what else performs well on Instagram. Bear in mind that the most “liked” image is simply a stock photo of an egg! What we find to be technically and artistically the best images are not the ones that perform well. The truth is it’s the vivid, vibrant colours, scenes packed with action, adventure, and things people can relate to that actually do the best and attract the most attention. Also, cats!