Postcard Photography

Photo Tips from
America’s Most Prolific
Postcard Photographer

By James Blank

Part 1 of 2

(Part 2 here)


My Signature Shot

This is the classic postcard view of San Diego. For over thirty years, I have sold this shot more than any other.

The viewpoint is from Point Loma, a 400-foot-high peninsula overlooking San Diego Bay. Notice the fabulous grouping of multiple landmarks. In the foreground are palm trees and sailboats, in the center are the calming bay waters and high-rise buildings, and in the far background are hulking mountains.

The color comes from shooting at dusk.

Photo © 2006 James Blank.

Aerial View

Here’s another view of San Diego, this time with the sweeping Coronado Bay Bridge in the foreground.

Postcard photos are usually from a high viewpoint. When there’s no mountain or observation tower to help, I use a helicopter. It’s a big expense but the only way to get certain shots.

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.

(His web site used to be sandiegoscenics.com but that now goes to Above & Beyond Scenic Photography by John Bahu.

Thanks for reading this article. I’ve been a postcard photographer since 1969 and I love it. There’s no better way to enjoy the classic views of our great cities.

Postcard photography is the pursuit of the perfect scenic picture. Anyone can do it. I manage to make a living from this but It’s really just about being in the right place at the right time.

I’m happy to share my experiences with fellow enthusiasts of travel photography. Please enjoy and have fun with your camera.


How To Get Clear Pictures

I have been asked many times over the years how I get such deep blue skies and clarity in my pictures. The answer is simple: I only shoot on exceptionally clear days with great visibility.

For the clearest air, shoot in winter. The views are crisp and sharp and distant mountains are distinct. From February to May, I’m madly visiting all my favorite places, building a year’s worth of stock which I’ll sell during the rest of the year.

As soon as I arrive at a location, I always check the weather forecast for the next few days. I only shoot in good weather. Many times I have stayed in a hotel room for several days before the weather was right.

I spend part of my time on “bad weather” days looking at postcard racks, skimming picture books, and exploring the area. When the weather breaks, I’m ready to get working.

Amateur vs. Professional

The one big difference I’ve observed between an amateur photographer and a professional is this: when both stop and look at a beautiful scene, the amateur will take one picture and move on while the pro will take many pictures of the same scene at varying times and exposures before moving on.

Of course, the professional has more time available. But the pro knows he or she must get the perfect exposure because their job is riding on it. It’s really simple: if a pro doesn’t bring back good, usable photography, they won’t be asked to shoot again.

Research is key to getting the best shot. Look for a high viewpoint that combines several landmarks in a tight grouping. Plan on spending ample time at your viewpoint, to get the best exposure, light, and composition. Read part 2


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.

Comments

Comments


Reply by Anonymous

October 8, 2016

Hi James. I have a postcard with one of your pictures in New York the aerial of East River. Think the NY-377 has something to do with it...want to know when postcard was in distribution at stores??


Reply by Anonymous

April 29, 2015

I am trying to locate James Blank who photographed a church in Marlow NH that appeared on the cover of The Retired Officer magazine in 1985. I acquired a painting of that church and am seeking information on the name of that church in the photograph in hopes of making contact with them.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

May 19, 2015

JAMES BLANK

Hi,

Sorry, I’ve been unable to reach James myself (his old email address no longer works).


Reply by Veronica

October 18, 2014

Hi my name is Veronica I am a small town photographer. I love doing landscape pictures my friends say my pictures should be on post cards or puzzles but I can’t find any companies that do this. Can you help? I live in Byron, IL but travel around taking pictures and would love to get them published some where. Thank you :)


Reply by Veronica

October 18, 2014

How do I find a company that will buy my pictures? I am having no luck for that or puzzle companies to buy my pictures for puzzles. Can you help? Veronica


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

November 3, 2014

Hi Veronica,

Thanks for your comment. Puzzles! What a cool idea.

I don’t know about puzzle companies. I have a list of postcard publishers. You could also try the latest edition of Photographer’s Market. And/or sell your work generally on microstock sites.

Best wishes,

Andrew


Reply by Teresa Sharpe

September 23, 2012

Hello, your work is amazing!! I hope it’s ok to ask advice? I love taking pictures. I carry my camera everywhere because you never know when you’ll get that great pic for memories mostly. but i ask you.. what is a good camera that doesn’t cost lots of money that could at least help me take clearer and capture color better? as of now i use a kodak easy share c195??? i have no training nor do I have any knowledge on lighting and even the lingo..I just have people tell me what nice pictures i take and have..but honestly when i look at others’ photos I then realize how much I lack..I still want to be optimistic though and postcards have always been a consistent dream of mine..thanks for listening...take care


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

October 26, 2012

CAMERA

Hi Teresa:

Most brand-name cameras are terrific. Point-and-shoot cameras are convenient to carry around and generally cost less than DSLR cameras. But a DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) camera allows you more control over the lens to compose your shot. I like the Nikon D5100, but any camera with a good-quality lens would work well.

Andrew


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