How to succeed in Picture Post

Every month we get a number of photographs of trucks submitted to Picture Post that have to be discarded for various reasons. Tom Cunningham’s brilliant Ed’s Choice picture sets don’t happen by accident, often taking an entire day until he’s happy, but we appreciate that you often only have a few PPshadowmoments to grab an opportunity. The rise of the camera phone means that while we get more entries than ever, even more get instantly discarded. However, just being aware of a few simple guidelines can make the difference between success and rejection. Here are our very basic tips to improving your chances of your picture being published.

File size
The most frustrating thing for us is when great pictures are send as files that are too small to publish. Use the biggest file size possible. We can always make images smaller, but we can’t make them larger without destroying the quality. Images smaller than 1Mb are unlikely to be used, while 2Mb or larger gives us more flexibility. T&D’s pictures are printed at 300dpi (dots per inch), so one of the more common standard files sizes, 1024 x 768 pixels, can be printed without compromising the quality at approximately 3.4” x 2.6”, which happens to be about the smallest PPcraneimage we’d use in Picture Post.
If you’re using an Apple device, iPhone or iPad, you need to be aware that by default, when e-mailing a photo, the file size is reduced. On some versions, you are offered the choice when you attach the file, while on others, the required file size is selected from the CC line at the top of your mssage. In either case, you should choose the actual original size.

Equipment
You certainly don’t need an expensive digital SLR camera to take acceptable pictures. It’s not unknown PPtowawayfor mobile phone pictures to appear in our news pages. Whatever your camera, take some time to learn how its various functions work. If you have an image quality setting, set it to the best quality available.

Content
We aim to publish a selection of pictures that between them appeal to most tastes, with a mix of old and new, familiar and obscure. Much as we admire Scanias, we could easily fill our two pages each month with them alone, but it would soon become a bit boring. Don’t use the shotgun approach, either. We’d rather see one of your best efforts than fifty or more “ordinary” shots. And make sure any pictures you submit are your own work or that you have the copyright owner’s permission to submit them. One of the worst things that can happen to a publishing company is to breach someone else’s copyright, even inadvertently, so if you get caught passing off another person’s work, expect to join the blacklist.

Lighting
You don’t always have a choice, of course, but in bright sunshine, it’s far better to position yourself with the sun behind you than in your eyes. Human subjects tend to squint but trucks don’t care. Beware of PPdarkshadows, though, usually from buildings, other trucks and especially yourself. Fortunately, in this country it’s more likely to be cloudy, so the difference between lit and shaded sides is less marked. Flash can help fill in shade in poor light, but it can also ruin a picture if it bounces off reflective surfaces such as number plates and safety markings.

Focus
It may sound obvious, but one of the most important elements of your picture is getting it in focus. If the truck is moving, learn to use a simple panning technique to move the camera in time with the subject. For typical front three-quarter shots, try to focus on the grille badge and learn to use the focus lock, usually by holding the shutter button half way down. The other enemy of a sharp picture is camera shake. You probably won’t have a tripod to hand, but keeping your feet well apart and your elbows in will help, as will leaning against a building or another truck.

Composition
For the purpose of Picture Post, the truck is the star, so ensure that it occupies the bulk of the picture PPfogwithout overflowing off the edges. Don’t be afraid to include some background where it adds to the story or provides an attractive backdrop, though. Whenever possible, frame your shot so that there is nothing to distract from the subject. Typical distractions include bits of nearby vehicles, unnecessary people and anything which dominates the picture without being relevant. If your camera has a date stamp facility, turn it off.

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