By Frank Irwin
I don’t make that many sales, one here and one there and given my age of 75 the income is not important to me but, of late within the space of a few weeks I managed to make several sales.
A lot of you will know of course that Photo4Me aims for the wall decorative market, which is becoming more popular by the minute. The requirements for printing must be pictures which people are able to live with on the walls of their homes and offices without getting tired of them. Pictures uploaded for sale on the site must also be of sufficient resolution that they will not pixelate at the sizes to be ordered. Historically Photo4me requires them to be uploaded as a JPEG 3000 to 4000 x 5000 to 6000 pixels range and in sRGB.
Editors note: Example - If you send us an image 4,000 pixels by 3,000 pixels the biggest that will print before pixelation starts to become unacceptable is 30 by 40 inches. If you send a file for a square image that is 2,500 X 2,500 then 25 inches square would be as large as we go before pixelation. So in short - the more pixels you can send us the better however it has been best when one side of the image has been between 3000 to 4000 pixels.
Now then in order to fulfil the market requirements on Photo4Me, in my opinion it is essential that the photographer knows what he is doing as far as equipment is concerned. I certainly feel that as far as new photographers are concerned, a course on basic photography is a wise investment - where camera owners at a similar knowledge level, study together, the aspects of lighting, apertures, shutter speeds and of course ISO values to be able to understand the relationships between these aspects and how they work together. Leaving a camera set at “Automatic” will not help in this regard and indeed although it may well work for a lot of photograph taking, it will never work all the time. I would highlight as a good example, “contre-jour” work where some exposure compensation will be always be required.
Composition is a crucial factor when taking photographs for the Wall Art market. There are rules of composition, which will stand the photographer in good stead as a starting point, in particular the “rule of thirds.” Notice how the lighthouse is right on the 3rd line, also the horizon is on a line of thirds.
People will always say “Rules are made to be broken” but it is my belief that before knowing when to break the rules one needs to fully understand the basics otherwise one will never know when the time is right to break them. One of the most important rules is to ensure a level horizon. Remember the sea runs neither up nor downhill! One thing that will definitely greatly decrease a photographer’s chance of a sale is when the sea and the horizon are prominent within a picture but the horizon is not level. If there is no horizon to level off of, use an object that should be vertical.
Levelling can be achieved either within the camera using viewfinder grid lines, live view on DSLRs or a spirit level on the tripod, but a final check and correction if necessary within software, is essential. If you’re having problems with levelling the tripod on sand or an un-even surface, a great suggestion was given recently by John Farnan is to use 3 plastic flowerpots which hold the tripod steady and prevent it from moving or sinking into sand.
Generally, these photographic rules make a picture look better and far more natural, with leading in lines and the attitude and direction of the subject matter being very important. It is these rules that creates the ‘balance’ of a picture which could well be what attracts a person to want to own the image after the location or subject matter has first led the purchaser to the search for it, making tagging essential.
See the tips in the Photo4me FAQ section: https://photo4me.desk.com/customer/en/portal/articles/652115-wording-master-class
After a short while, inexperienced amateur photographers will have to learn to process the pictures on their memory cards, therefore some software will be required and I would recommend something cheap and cheerful at first. It will soon become obvious when the time is right to invest in better software like Adobe Lightroom to be introduced including the ability to also process RAW files. Basically, RAW files are needed when a picture contains a high range of light and dark, which is too great for the camera to handle. A typical subject would be a wedding on a sunny day when the dress is brilliant white and the groom’s suit is black.
At this time I do believe the photographer just now needs experience. This cannot be taught but comes with time - as long as the learning curve has not come to an end. There is a lot more information to be gleaned, lots of tips to be squeezed out of old photographers. Perhaps one answer is to buy a subscription to a good Photo Magazine. A few should be sampled as they differ in content so the final purchase should be one that the photographer is comfortable with and which helps the level of photography achieved to be constantly improved.