Journalism is largely driven by opportunity, which is why you should always carry a camera. Your photographs may end up being the only documentation available for your story or for some random, newsworthy event that you may stumble upon while walking home. Everyone has taken a picture or two, but taking great photos can help make you a little more cash as a freelancer. Here are some tips to bring your photo skills to the next level:
1. Learn how to use your camera’s manual functions. The automatic settings are easily fooled by challenging conditions like backlighting. So knowing how to balance aperture, shutter speed and flash can help you produce salable photos even with a point-and-shoot. A faster shutter, for example, will freeze action but let in less light. A bigger aperture will let in more light but give you a shallower depth-of-field. At f2.8, your background will blur out, providing nice isolation of your portrait.
2. Your chances of selling a photo increases with quality. This means always shooting at the highest quality image setting you camera offers (RAW is best) and actually taking time to compose shots. Train yourself to look around and behind your subject to see if anything intrudes into frame like a pole coming out of the top your subjects head. Don’t center every shot or shoot everybody in front of a wall. Experiment with different angles.
3. Choose a camera with fully manual and semi-automatic settings like aperture priority or shutter priority. The two latter functions are probably what you’ll use most. They allow you to manually set either shutter or aperture and the camera will do the rest. You also want a camera with an optical viewfinder as opposed to focusing with the LCD. An optical viewfinder allows you to shoot on a bright day. A Canon G10, G11 or G12 is what many photojournalists carry around when not working since it’s a relatively simple camera with decent lens quality and a full manual mode. The new class of micro Four Thirds is even smaller and has interchangeable lens capability. Most Four Thirds don’t have optical viewfinders, though.
I use a Canon 5D digital SLR (single-lens reflex). It’s an amazing camera but pricey, an beast of a machine for any upcoming freelance writers. A more affordable option would be a used Canon 40D or a T2i with a good lens or two. It’s always better to buy good glass over an expensive camera body for anybody that can’t afford both. So if you already have an old Canon 20D, upgrade your lenses. You’ll be amazed at the quality you can get from a professional grade “L” lens. And if you don’t have one already, buy a 50mm 1.8. It’s the sharpest and fastest lens that you can buy for $110.