Postcard Photography

Photo Tips from
America’s Most Prolific
Postcard Photographer

By James Blank

Part 2 of 2

(Part 1 here)

St. Louis

This photo should never have been taken. My St. Louis client and I took pictures of this view the night before, but there were no clouds and the sky was static.

Then we were robbed. All my film was stolen, as well as my cameras, lenses and plane ticket.

The next day, my client bought me all new equipment. We returned to the spot to be greeted by a fantastic sunset. This photo has turned out to be one of my best sellers ever, so you just never know!

Photo © 2006 James Blank.


Postcard photography is often about combining landmarks, usually from a high viewpoint.

In Seattle, the two most recognized icons are the Space Needle and Mount Rainier. The 456-foot-high Queen Anne Hill provides a great view of both.

In this shot, the late afternoon sun brings a warm, orange glow to the buildings, contrasting nicely with the blue sky.

Photo © 2006 James Blank.

About James Blank

With over 8,000 images on postcards, James Blank is the country’s most prolific postcard photographer. He has been photographing North America since 1970 and travels constantly, re-shooting each view to keep his images current.

Blank’s work has been used by Travel and Leisure, Travel-Holiday, Marriott, Hallmark, AAA, and Eastman Kodak. Over 4,600 of his images appear in calendars

Originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Blank is now based in Chula Vista (San Diego). With his wife Marian and daughter Natasha, he operates a stock photography house called ’scenics of America.’ His office is packed with over 200,000 images of U.S. and Canadian cities and scenic areas. He is represented by Corbis, Getty, Imagestate, and RobertStock.

Visit his Web site at

Images That Sell

I usually shoot every good scene in both horizontal and vertical formats. When I first started out, I shot mostly horizontals, and I lost out on a lot of vertical sales. The initial cost of the extra shot is more than offset by the increased sales.

Calendar company buyers appreciate photographers who have images representing all four seasons. In putting together their calendars each year, they like to deal with as few photographers as possible.

All the stock agencies that I deal with only want images submitted.

I shoot now with a Nikon D200 camera, and my library of over 200,000 transparencies awaits to be scanned.

Most clients now want to see only images. I still sell a lot of film to my clients even though It’s been less and less over the past five years. So there is still some film buyers out there and probably will be for the near future. I used to shoot with medium-format as, it turned out, size does matter! I still shoot film with my Nikon F5 and Hasselblad X-Pan.


I’ve been asked many times by beginning pros If it’s necessary to buy expensive (i.e. ‘fast’) lenses. In the case of landscape photography, I don’t think so. Most of your pictures will be taken on a tripod, so a fast lens is not needed. Most of my landscapes are taken at F16, F22, or F32. The only exception is aerial photography where one or two fast lenses can come in handy.

One of the most important items in a Photographer’s equipment is a tripod. The larger and heavier the camera, the more a tripod is needed. To get great depth-of-field, which is important for landscape photography, a tripod is a “must.”

As far as filters go, I use only one — a polarizer. This is really a great filter and, when used properly, increases the color saturation of all the hues in a scene (not just the blue in the sky, as some people think). I have polarizers for all my lenses and take them off only when they aren’t needed.

Favorite Cities

San Diego is my favorite city to photograph. I find the beauty of the landscape to be mind-boggling, offering so many beautiful and varied places to photograph.

My other favorite cities to photograph are San Francisco, Boston, New Orleans, New York, Chicago, Montreal, and Vancouver. Along with San Diego, each of these areas has an ambiance that makes it unique. I have shot these cities over and over again and still look forward to going back and doing it another time.

I hope this article will help my fellow photographers get some great pictures. Good shooting!

Read part 1

Learn more with:
How To Become A Postcard Photographer: A Conversation with James Blank

How To Sell Your Photo As A Postcard

Links to Postcard Companies

Written by James Blank for PhotoSecrets. Copyright 1999–2007 Andrew Hudson for Photo Tour Books, Inc. This article first appeared in PhotoSecrets San Diego. 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.


Reply by Anonymous

June 22, 2015

Hello! So how would one get started if one wanted to try this? I’d love to know exactly how to approach companies and maybe where I can find a list of them. Thank you!

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 6, 2016

Hi. Please read my article how to sell your photos as postcards.

Reply by Frank Ewing

May 16, 2013

Hello, Just a quick question. Where would you suggest one start over at nearly 62?! By that I mean I worked at Bachrach in NYC (see, was published in the New York Times and more, years ago. Today I am told I have so many beautiful works I should publish them! Any thoughts or ideas? Appreciate your input!....Nice work you have!


Frank Ewing, Key West, FL

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