I recently had a pleasant encounter with Paolo Gallo, a fellow-microstocker and author, also based in Milan. Over a pizza (of course), we exchanged ideas on everything from the future of the industry, including which agencies are going to bring in the most money and which be cannibalised, to Print on Demand and finally, our mutual love of Fine Art.
Suffice to say that I have a LOT of work to do in the next few months!
At one point we discussed how Italy is so colourful. However, I shared my frustration that my colourful Italian architecture pics are not huge sellers, which he concurred about his own sales. Then came the lesson…
“Shoot at night to earn more”
At first it didn’t register. I mean, why not shoot in the best light which is golden hour and blue hour? He then elaborated – shoot at night! “Not golden hour, not blue hour, shoot black hour!” Wtf was this crazy Italian going on about?
Then it hit me! There are considerably fewer night city images for sale, compared to day/sunset shots, for the following now-obvious-reasons:
- Tourists that go on city-breaks rather shoot during the day and relax at night, especially if they’re not travelling solo;
- Increased element of danger if you’re not familiar with the city (related to above);
- Having to carry that tripod around and babysit during long exposures;
- In your town, general personal inconvenience if you have a family and full-time job, live far from centre, etc.
Less Competition with (Long-Exposure) Night Shots
Now, it’s not because night images are necessarily prettier, it’s all about the competition.
If everybody is shooting similar subjects at golden hour, you’re going to struggle if you decide to shoot the same subject, unless you do something extraordinary like use a model.
In addition, clients sometimes want variety, which means offering them different choices such as breaking rules and shooting in the harsh noon sun during the height of the summer!
Checking out whether this theory is true
I did a quick search on Shutterstock for pictures of Milan during golden hour (“Milan” + “golden hour”) and the result came up with 4,408 images.
Another search (“Milan” + “night” + “long exposure”) yielded just 82 hits.
Key takeaways from shooting at night
If you do decide to follow my advice, here’s some tips:
- First and foremost, stay safe. Some parts of town are best avoided, even during the day. If you do decide to risk it, take pepper spray with you (just in case);
- Use a high-quality tripod – this is obvious. I recommend Manfrotto;
- Wide angle lenses work best in the range of between 10mm and 24mm;
- A lens hood will help to reduce lens flares;
- Capture movement from people, cars, if possible, to introduce impressive light streaks to make your image pop. Reduce your ISO and close that aperture to reduce the shutter speed. Since you’d be shooting after blue hour there’s less light around which means you can achieve longer exposures;
- Submit those images with proper caption and keyword to maximise your chance of success.
Having said the above, I’ll be venturing out more often at night and will let you know how I get on soon.
See you around!
P.s Thanks Ian (Shutterstock portfolio link here) for your comment below and sending me over the pic you took of the Battersea Power Station and new US Embassy. The latter makes for great editorials, especially if you can get a closeup clean shot and with that sky…wow! Must have been a cold night too so great job for the effort standing around in the cold.