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January, 2008

Greek Ghosts

Photos Increase Sales
Just click it
By  Helen Dunn Frame

Over the years I've sold more articles with photos than without. With each shot you can count an extra 1,000 words (if the saying is to be believed) over the required length. At least, you can be sure that pictures underline the article's content and attract readers.

This was true years ago when I submitted black and white photos of convenience stores and other such exciting topics because they helped to tell the story. Today, if you want to submit travel articles to websites like the British, be sure that in addition to strictly following the template for submissions to include photos. Without them, your words of wisdom will not be accepted.

Even if you are not even a semi-professional photographer, you can learn a few techniques that will help you take acceptable photos. Begin by investing in a decent digital camera. Mine can take shots with up to seven pixels but generally I use three because I don't intend to blow up the photos to poster size. With a media stick reader putting photos on your computer – using a free program like Picasa2 from Google – occurs in a New York minute. It enables you to eliminate uploading duplicates in case you failed to delete a previous batch from the stick. Not only does it let you easily edit your creations, Picasa will e-mail them using one of your existing accounts without the need to resize the photos first.

The program also facilitates setting up file folders; if you are selecting a few shots to go with a story, simply copy and paste them into a separate file, or group them all together in the current file. Click on the first one. Then go to the last one you want to send, and hold down the Shift key while you click that last photo with the mouse. Like magic, Picasa selects all your choices and puts them in your e-mail!

To pick up some techniques for taking photos, sign up for Sony 101 Courses. Although I know a lot about composition, depth of field, and so on, I take a course now and again to add pointers to my knowledge. Cameras have so many capabilities these days, even if you read the manual that comes with your camera as I did, learning more about the buttons' functions, for example, helps.

Sony doesn't permit saving their lessons to your computer but you can print them out. Simply open up a lesson into one file and print it out for future reference. Depending on the illustrations, I use either a black and white or color printer. If you have time, a search on the Internet should result in technique overload.

In the meantime, using some of my cardinal rules will put you on the right track, assuming you haven't studied photography, or jog your memory otherwise. Take close-ups of people; leave the photo of the Eiffel tower for a separate shot. Place Mom in an area in front of the tower, for example, which is easily identified and she will escape looking like a bug on fly paper. If you are taking a craftsman making something, get up close and personal. Keep in mind that what he is doing, like carving a wooden animal, tells the story.

Remember the theory of thirds. Don't put your object in the middle of the frame; move to the left or the right depending on the direction the subject faces. You can always crop later if you goof. For landscapes, find something in the foreground that will let the viewer readily determine just how far the volcano is from where you're standing. It can be as simple as a part of a tree branch.

Years ago, I read that National Geographic photographers took as many as a 1,000 shots to get the great one that was published. With today's cameras, that may not be necessary, but don't be afraid to take several shots. We used to recommend bracketing (taking the same view at three different exposures), quipping that "film is cheap," but now with memory sticks, bad photos never need to see the light of day. Just love that delete button!

Finally, when taking a group shot, I eschew saying "cheese," and ask them to "think of something they like to do." You'll be surprised how everyone relaxes and you wind up with a great photo for whatever your purpose. It could be just the one that increases your sales.
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Helen Dunn Frame. A Syracuse University journalism school graduate, published in major newspapers, magazines and trade publications in the United States, England, and Germany. Her writing skills and love of travel led her to write her mystery novel Greek Ghosts. Email: Website:

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