On Being A Postcard Photographer
Part 3 of A Conversation with
What do you photograph with?
I used to shoot mainly medium-format. Distributors loved the big images. But now most companies only want. So I have a Nikon D200 (10.2 megapixels). I have 200,000 transparencies on file here, my house looks like a library, but very few clients look at film anymore so I’ll have to get them scanned.
Is there a “trick” to postcard photography?
Good weather. I choose the days to shoot very carefully. I only photograph when the air is clear and the skies are a bright blue, preferably with white, fluffy clouds.
How do you do that?
I wait! When I’m traveling, I spend more time sitting around in my motel room than shooting, waiting for the perfect day. Storms are best. Right afterwards the air is fresh and clear. Photographers may enjoy “moody” gray skies but postcard companies only buy bright and colorful shots.
Where do you shoot?
All over California, plus Utah, Florida, Arizona, Hawaii, anywhere that’s warm. In the winter, when the air is clear, I photograph San Diego. In the fall, I photograph Vermont and New Hampshire. I have postcards in all 50 states except one — Alaska, It’s too cold — plus parts of Canada.
Is any place harder to photograph?
New England is my favorite place, but It’s also one of the hardest. In the fall, the skies are often overcast and it rains a lot. I can be there a week before the there’s a day of sunny weather.
What’s your favorite place to photograph?
My favorite region is New England. In the fall the colors are terrific and the place is a joy to travel around. My favorite city is San Diego, as there are so many different views.
I notice you have a lot of aerial shots
I’ve been photographing aerials since 1983, when a client asked me to shoot the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Aerials are about a third of my postcard sales and one fifth of my sales to other media.
What do you use for aerials?
Helicopters are best, they can fly lower and hover in one spot, so I can bracket the shots and get different views. If I can’t get a “chopper” I’ll take a Cessna. They have a high wing so I can shoot beneath it.
Do you have any career highlights you’d like to share?
I arrived at one distributor and he gave me a check for $500. I said, “I haven’t shot anything yet.” He replied, “That’s not for photography, that’s just for showing up.” He was very appreciative. Every year, he let me stay at his beautiful house by a lake. He’d leave the house unlocked for me, fully stocked with wine and food, and I’d stay there for a week.
In 1987, I got a herniated disc and I couldn’t carry equipment, so I called my St. Louis client to cancel a trip. Instead he said, “Come out and I will do everything for you.” Sure enough, he picked me up at the airport, carried my bags, drove the car everywhere, set up the tripod, got me food. Another time, all my equipment got stolen so the next day he took me out and bought me a new camera, lenses, the lot.
My work appeared with that of David Muench in a book called “Beautiful Colorado.” (1979, no longer available). The publisher put my name first, as he did it alphabetically. To do a book with a photographer I had always considered the finest color landscape photographer in the country was a real honor and certainly one of the highlights of my career.
What advice would you have for people starting out as postcard photographers?
Be bold and call companies. Tell them what you’ve got and build yourself up, have confidence. Start small and branch out.
Thank you for your time and advice
Thank you for your interest in what I do, and good luck to your readers.
Copyright 2006 Andrew Hudson for Photo Tour Books, Inc. Written for PhotoSecrets. You may reproduce this article for personal, educational, non-commercial and non-Internet use, such as in a local photo club newsletter or school project. No Internet publishing is permitted. For commercial use, please email Andrew Hudson for permission.