Other stories to shoot - II

   Yet what other stories do you shoot when the election’s over, no “money sport” is playing, and when nobody’s doing big protests?
   You can shoot photos for the doctor’s offices and other business places.  Whether they will be zoomed-in-tight photos of wild animals or birds - or macros of flowers in bloom - they can sell to the many doctors who decorate their offices with all kinds of things.
   A look on Facebook finds many shooters seeming to specialize in wildlife photos or floral macros.  The wildlife photos obviously are shot with telephoto lenses or telephoto zooms; the floral macros are shot with more-general zooms.
   Such photos offer the prospect of paid work when the financially troubled newspaper industry now has largely quit giving on-assignment work - even on big stories.

Azaleas, Burlington, N.C.  Shot with Canon 24-70 f/2.8 “L” USM


Scanner on the cheap?

   Fortunately, yes it’s pretty possible.  While it may not have all the “secret” frequencies of local police that you have on your full-size scanner that cost you hundreds of dollars new, scanner apps for your smartphone can deliver amazing results - either free for tempter versions or for about $3 for the unlimited version.
   Trying a couple different apps here in Burlington, N.C. found major differences between different scanner apps.  Briefly, 5-0 Scanner Police Radio is far and away the best; its audio is great - unlike others I tried - and sounds as good as the Bearcat full-size one in the next room.
   You may have to use listed scanners other than those specifically designated for your city or county - as here, where some local police departments actually are dispatched on the radio system of a neighboring county.  Your results will depend on volunteers sending the feed from their full-size scanners.
   Downside?  Scanner apps eat battery charge fast if the channels scanned are active.  A photojournalist in NYC says he keeps his turned off except when something’s going on - to save the battery.
   But it’s a lot less expensive than the cigarette-pack-size handheld scanners Icom sells - even used - and about $100 less than Bearcat’s cheapest handheld scanners.

Smartphone with 5-0 Scanner Police Radio installed.
Smaller than any scanner - and $100 or more less expensive.


Other stories to shoot - I

   The politicians aren’t in town - and you’re not into shooting seasonal sports.  So what other stories are there to cover - especially now in the spring?
   This is the season of bad weather in many areas.  Bad weather producing damage that distant big-city newspapers will want photos of.  And producing small-plane wrecks for pilots who apparently never heard the saying that “there are no old bold pilots!”
   A severe storm here in the Burlington, N.C. area several years ago produced memorable photos for me to shoot - rather than a large tree limb on somebody’s roof.  One of best news photos I ever shot was of the top quarter of a utility pole - snapped off by high wind and left hanging by attached wires (below).  Power poles snapped a quarter of the way from the top and supported by attached wires were common from that storm - and one of such a pole standing in a major street I only couldn’t get a great photo of due to poor background.
   But the sky made a great background for photos of the broken-off tops of poles hanging by attached wires.

Top quarter of utility pole hangs by attached wires after severe storm, Burlington, N.C.


Aftermarket batteries for your dSLR?

   Aftermarket batteries for dSLRs - much less expensive, but are they good?  The right ones work as well as Canon’s - but how do you pick the right ones?  The bad ones are a bummer.
   Here’s my experience; go to Adorama’s online store - and read what prior buyers say.  You’ll fast learn - as I did before buying batteries for my Canon 7D - which aftermarket batteries are as good as Canon’s, and which only cost less.  And the differences are stark in terms of what prior buyers say.
   Adorama’s online store has detailed ratings from prior buyers for aftermarket batteries - and for all sorts of products, whether those of a big-name camera maker or aftermarket.
   Don’t bet on one brand of aftermarket batteries to work equally well for all cameras; so check aftermarket battery ratings for your particular camera before buying.  
   One thing is for sure; you really can save a lot of money by buying aftermarket batteries - if they’re the best ones.


Battery grips - worth it

   Battery grips for dSLRs - are they worth it?  Having used them for years, I say yes.  There are - at least - four things they can do for you:

1) Allow you more battery capacity - as they take two batteries at a time.  However, this rarely is an issue - since typical-size cards run out long before the battery.

2) Allow you to use ordinary batteries.  They typically come with an adapter for “AA” batteries - or it can be bought inexpensively; this can be essential if your story is in some area without power.  Sure, some chargers will run off your car’s cigarette lighter - but charging that battery pack will take an hour.

3) Balance.  They really do help a lot balancing a long or heavy lens - and in keeping it still.  It’s a lot easier to hold a 70-200 f/2.8 “L” IS USM steady when the dSLR has a battery grip on it.

4) Vertical photos.  Most - if not all - battery grips have a second shutter release positioned to make shooting vertical-format photos easy.  They also make shooting vertical photos steady - unlike the camera’s own shutter release.

   My recommendation - based on experience - is to buy one that the camera manufacturer sells.  Sure, it costs more - but they are available used in excellent condition from the used division of Adorama.


Another essential part of your kit

   In the below photo, notice that the Greensboro News & Record shooter covering an April 2012 Tea Party rally in Greensboro, N.C. is wearing glasses - whether needed for vision or sunglasses or whatever - and they are held on his head by a piece of rubber tubing.  I used a thing from Wal-Mart’s fishing department to hold my glasses on my head - and it’s inexpensive and floats.
   Stories you will shoot will have you dealing with real live idiots - even if only drunk guests at a wedding!  Rallies may degenerate into riots without notice - regardless of the ideological orientation of the rally; one counterdemonstrator throwing something may - if by accident - hit you in the face.
   So - even if you wear contact lenses or don’t need glasses - get real glasses or sunglasses made by a local eyewear place, with large thick lenses (unlike the shooter in the photo) to maximize protection.  The lenses should be polycarbonate - the eye-doctor industry’s name for the Lexan used in bullet-resisting shields - so it won’t break into little pieces that end up in your eye.  Major benefit: such eyewear can keep you shooting that story even if your eyes wouldn’t have been injured at all.

Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record shooter covers Tea Party rally, April 14, 2012, Greensboro.
Note eyeglasses and tubing holding them
on his head.


What do you shoot when nothing’s happening?

   What do you shoot when nothing’s happening?  When nobody’s protesting or rioting, when no politician’s campaigning or making an appearance, nobody’s having a formal wedding they want you to shoot, and no promising athlete is playing?
   My answer is everything and anything - as in the bewildering assortment of logos; yes, such photos do sell.  Companies later make news - if not at the time - when one buys out another; I sold a photo of the stylized front of a major area supermarket chain (below) when it later was bought out by a national chain.  Carmakers may later make news - for all the wrong reasons, such as their make being discontinued in the U.S. market.  Photos of spinoff products based on TV series people may sell - as one based on “Duck Dynasty” did for me when that show made news for its characters’ views on gays and lesbians.
   Ideally, you place such photos with an agency - but, if the agency you used goes out of business, you will have to find another or market the images yourself.


A photo of this major supermarket chain’s stylized decor sold when the chain sold


Why you should change your return-address stamp

   I just changed the pre-inked stamp I use for return addresses on outgoing mail - and so should you.
   I got the idea from a sort-of-related suggestion in John Harrington’s book Best Business Practices for Photographers - which I strongly recommend you study, along with its sequel More Best Business Practices for Photographers.  In the first book, he suggested a rubber stamp for use on back of prints sent clients - to emphasize that the shooter owned rights to the image and that the client didn’t.
   You may be a great shooter - but believe me you can learn a lot about the business side of photography of any kind from those two books.
   Right after moving here - and knowing that stick-on return address labels wouldn’t come for some time - I had a local print shop make me a pre-inked return-address stamp.  But Harrington’s books gave me an idea for a big improvement: including the Web address of my portfolio as the stamp’s last line.  That way, everyone who reads any envelope I mail will see it - and be tempted to check it out, without my including a business card.


My first really good camera

   I’d had a camera of my own before - for a short while: a bottom-model Instamatic a paper-towel company (and likely also Kodak) was giving away for proof-of-purchase seals from rolls of paper towels plus a nominal postage fee.  But I very soon moved up to a really-good rangefinder 35mm camera as my parents’ incentive for placing near the top in a Scout troop’s competition.
   I’d had my eyes on a mid-range Instamatic with auto-winding and also having photocell like my mother’s that she still occasionally used instead of her SLR -but they were more practical.  They “suggested” me towards a rangefinder 35mm - either Konica like her SLRor (when the Konica had to be returned due to malfunctions) a Minolta Hi-Matic 7S.
   They saw a need for even hobbies that would eventually potentially pay - as opportunity even then in the early 1970s was vanishing, and my father had just been dumped as a professor, despite teaching a field short of faculty and his having three graduate degrees in three math-oriented areas few studied.  So my reward would be that camera - not the typical kid stuff like go-karts or minibikes.
   That camera was light-years above the giveaway Instamatic - with a fast f/1.8 lens, a photocell, and settable for any film speed from 25 to 800.  Readout in viewfinder told EVnumber - then settable on lens with calculator scale built in - a huge step up from any Instamatic.  Shutter speed was up to 1/500.  Sure, the lens was fixed and wide-angle at 45mm - but took filters easily, and I came to keep an UV filter screwed in for protection at all times.
   I quickly graduated to developing black and white film myself in various home darkrooms - and then enlarging the negatives.
   That’s the camera I shot the first news photo I sold with - a wrecked small plane at the tiny local airport, I heard it on scanner, went, shot photos - sold the film to area daily.  Area daily ran it next day with credit.  Plane sustained $250,000 damage; I got paid $30.  I was in college then - and hooked on photojournalism.


Online portfolios - which one?

   There are various templates for online portfolios - and I can suggest two, both of which I’ve used.
   One is the National Press Photographers Association - through its membership.  NPPA has improved it a lot since first offering it to members; each  thumbnail lets viewers click for a caption.  And the easy advantage of NPPA’s portfolio - as a benefit of membership - is that NPPA’s members are easily searched by state, which is how I got my first on-assignment work.
   But nothing beats Format - previously 4ormat - for professional-looking Web portfolios that your name or business is the Web address of.  A Format portfolio is very easy to build - and very versatile, allowing blogs like mine here; see my Format portfolio at Matt-Maggio.com.  
   Any Format portolio is easily tagged with tags such as your state, your city, what kind of photo work you do.
   Of course, you can always put together a redirect to take your choice of Web address to a NPPA portfolio you have.