Dont Do This! 39 Mistakes I Made as a Professional Photographer
The more your subject sees you as a person with a camera instead of just a camera with a stranger behind it , the easier it becomes to pull genuine emotion out of them. This is an extremely common mistake for newer flash photographers. Shutter speed does not affect how bright the flash appears in the photo—period! Adjusting your shutter speed when shooting with flash will only affect the ambient light in the scene, but will not affect the apparent brightness of the flash.
Learning to expose for flash photography takes work, but will eventually become automatic. We are almost all guilty of this. While new gear is nice to have and fun to use, most of the time it just isn't that important when it comes to producing fantastic photos. I was able to grow my business despite what most would say is sub-par equipment. I believe using equipment with severely limited low light capability compared to modern cameras made me a better photographer and forced me to be aware of how the light changes in a room. While it's important to be aware of the exposure, early on we are often too intently focused on what ISO, aperture and shutter speed we need.
When you're so busy worrying about the camera settings, you're not paying very close attention to what is in front of the camera. Not only does this take the fun out of shooting, but it generally produces images we aren't happy with. This severely hurts our creativity since we are so focused on the technical aspects of shooting.
There is no short way around this. Practice, practice and more practice is the only solution. You can easily practice at home by walking into different rooms, estimating the needed exposure settings, and then metering in your camera to see how close you were. This is also common with newer photographers who accept the lighting for what it is without working to change it. If you see a problem, fix it and don't pretend it doesn't exist. I know many people who have purchased a flash but never learned to shoot it off camera because it's new technology to them.
Fortunately for them and for all of us! Try new things and play. Experiment to see what happens if you really slow down your shutter and zoom in at the same time. This is photography, not rocket science! Make mistakes all day, and have fun. This is the biggest enemy for photographers who want to step into getting paid for their photography. It's easy to get in the mindset that you need to post hundreds of photos to look legitimate.
Learn to be a ruthless editor and only put forth your best work. Often, photographers showcase several images of the same scene instead of picking the absolute best one. If you shoot something interesting and it doesn't come out as you had hoped, don't post the best one of that group. Instead, write it off as a learning experience.
Nobody, and I mean nobody , makes a fantastic image every single time they press the shutter button. Also known as burst mode. There are some legitimate times where motor driving is warranted, so don't write it off as useless. However, motor driving when depended on to capture the first kiss, for example, takes away from developing one of the most important skills we can develop as photographers: If we are paying attention and in the moment, we can anticipate what is about to happen and select the exact moment we want to capture instead of motor driving and hoping the camera gets something we want.
An added bonus of not motor driving: Starting out in photography, we often zoom with the lens instead of our feet. Zooming and moving in closer accomplish two different things. While a zoom lens is great to have and very useful, remember that when you zoom in with the lens you are not just bringing the subject closer to the camera; you are also making the background apparently closer in the photo. At times this can make a space appear smaller or more crowded than it is.
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The opposite is true when zooming out — that's why real estate photographers use short focal lengths: It also helps us look for more interesting perspectives to shoot from since we are physically moving around the subject. Take a few minutes and think about your own photography. Far better to get out there and take photos for free or very little, get experience and build your reputation. Thanks so much for this great article, you have no idea how it motivates me and made me break all the business start-up fears. Thank you so much for writing this!
I was a photography student throughout high shcool and some college. I never imagined doing any kind of portrait work, my love was in landscapes and still life…Until my little girl was born. I started my business in after working with quite a few photographers and doing a lot of free portfolio work. I did ok in my first year but not what I expected. I always had a good understanding of how my camera works but oh my, I had no clue about the marketing side of it.
My husband is in the military and we have moved 3 times in the last year. Its been hard trying to start over all the time. We should be here in VA for at least 3 years so I would like to get re-established the right way this time around. I am so happy to have come across your site, I already see it is packed with great info.
It is nice to find a photographer who wants to help rather than point their nose down and someone for having questions!! Everything you say here is absolutely rock solid advice. The reason most photographers fail is because they want to be artists, not businessmen. If you are a sole proprietor, your business skills are even more important than your photography skills which are obviously essential as well. I recognized early in my career that the reason people chose me to take their portraits was not that my posing and lighting were better, but because I am really good with people, especially children.
I am able to make people feel comfortable in front of the camera and getting good expressions. Two ways of looking at the inputs mentioned above. If I had read them 4 years back, I would not have agreed with most of the points mentioned. But after having spent 3 years as a full-time photographer I simply agree with most of the inputs mentioned.
I feel that a photographer has to grow from clicking images to making images in the viewfinder and then processing it in a way so as to get that punch in the images especially the fall of light and color. That takes time but more than that requires one to focus , and get blended with the environment. Now thats a bit of asking a lot. Good read, There was only 13 26? Hello, My best friend dreams of being a professional photographer, and boy does he have talent! Thank you — well and truly bookmarked! Excellent list and definitely hits home. Also another risk with the big stationary order is moving.
Now all those cards and the letterhead are useless. Im trying to start my photography business and even though I know what I want to do, I have no idea how to start any of it. This has helped so much. I think persistence and marketing are the two things most people struggle with. I always say that people are desperate for a photography business in a monday morning but not so bothered on a Friday night. I am at that point where am debating whether or not to start my photography business. So you can imagine how helpful this advice has been. Thank you this has been an amazing reality check resource.
Do you have ANY advise about that?
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A little side story: Hope that 2 cents helps! For branding check out Design Aglow for inspiration. I am so glad that I found this, It really inspires me for my photography business. I recently decided to start my own photography business, and I purchased all this equipment. I wwish I had seen your article beforehand.
I decided tonight that I wanted more information about starting my own business before I invested anymore money. I am so glad that I ran across your article, it has been very informative. Yours articles are gonna be one of my fav references! Hey Lauren, Thanks for your valuable information,it was very helpful for me,and i need more guideline from you……….. I wish you a year filled with all kinds of blessings for all the help you had given. This article is more than inspiring.
Your article is very helpful and inspiring. Me and my boyfriend is interested to give it a shot. I started photography in 17 days from now. And learned things, which ar enough to boost mg confidence to step out. Thanks for the info. Thinking of starting a small photography business and this was very helpful.
Hey, I just wanted to know if you have some type of contract between you and your clients before you start to shoot for them. Great article btw VERY helpful. I really liked your post its very informative. I still have a couple questions. What equipment do i need?
I love reading your posts! This one I think will be especially helpful because I am in the process of starting my business at the moment. Some of these things I kind of already figured out like I started with a blog before anything else. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this article! I have been taking photographs for years just because I love it. I just upgraded to a camera that will now allow me to branch out into portraits and weddings as a side business. I have also found you on facebook. I just read this article and oh…my…goodness. I love hard work and I love to have fun!
There is definitely way more to do than just build a portfolio and open a website. Now I know that due to this good reading! My husband and I have been considering starting a photography business, and this article has a ton of great tips and ideas! You said you shot 30 weddings your first year.
How long were you in photography before you got your first gig? We had been shooting for about 2 years before we booked our first 30 wedding season.
1. Learn To Shoot In Manual Mode Right Away
The first two years we did odd photography jobs and photographed two weddings second year before shooting a wedding. I have a question. I have had my business for two years and every photo shoot I have done in every picture that has been bought and printed, and the CD that also has been bought has my signature in the pictures. She wants me to take out my signature and give her a hole new cd. I would like to keep my signature in my pictures not only cause its my hard work and I want to protect it but also I would like recognition.
Am I wrong in this situation? You mentioned so many different elements that are important. Today I decide I want to teach Kindergarten and on the side be a photographer I might want to be a photographer. Do you think this is a good camera? This is very inspiring it brought me to tears. I want to be bigger than what I think I could do right now. Thank you for writing this. My best advise is to learn to use a film camera first! Learn what light does. Shoot at night and day and odd light conditions. Take some photo classes at a Art school or local community college.
I have been is business for 21 years. My work is Fine art and architectural , and portraits. When first starting as a photographer, shoot as much is you can. I learn as much about the biz, almost more that art school. I work for some famous photographers some where cool and some self inflated jerks!. Art director can be hard on photographers. A new beginner can go through the process of shooting, reviewing images and learning a lot quicker and cheaper using a digital camera and a computer. If people want to learn the hard way, like you did they can buy a DSLR, switching it to full manual and cover the screen on the back.
By the way, I started in the days of film, with a Nikon FM2. I can use a camera in full manual mode. Even if the light meter in the camera is broken I would get usable exposure in most situations, using the two light meters in my head and experience. Hi Peter, I think Scott still my have a point though. Using a film camera focuses the mind. Knowing you only have a certain number of shots, and a cost connected to that number, makes you think more about the shot.
Anyway, your question should always be answered with a question — buy a camera for shooting what? And if you want my advice, stay away from the old 35mm film cameras. Instead of spending money of film and getting it developed and printed, just buy an entry level DSLR and get going. View the images on a computer and learn to edit them. Hi, I am very interested in photography and as a mom of 3 beautiful girls, I am starting to feel my calling down this path that you began 6 years ago! I have found myself to you and have read and really enjoyed all the tips and advice… with that i would like to ask you a question that might come across as odd or actually quite silly!!
Do I have to purchase printers and such devices or send and order through an online service to get my prints? There are a couple of good ways to get photos to your client. Of course if your computer is powerful enough you can also email the photos to your client, although I find this method not very personal. Very amateur with a professional camera. How did you find the confidence to open a photography business?? My favorite are outdoor, natural vs weddings and poses.
Great article and a lot of helpful tips. A release form to use photos for advertising and such things. How would one go about setting that up? Time is the biggest dream killer. I started living the dream circa One year freelancing for a newspaper. Another year and a half doing about 30 weddings as a second shooter. Could not wait to hang my own shingle. Gear acquisition was the easy part because I had a full time job. It was the time editing, traveling, meeting, marketing, shooting for free for exposure that killed the dream. My skills eroded along with my desire.
Photography came first, my day job second, and sadly my spouse third. Something will have to give. My best piece of advice is to start by working for other professionals. Apprentice for a few years so that you can make informed gear purchases based on your style. Working under the wing of a pro allows you to help manage people, posing, etc in an efficient manner. Make sure the spouse is involved not just assuming of giving lip service.
Be careful what you wish for… the best day of my photography career was my last wedding. My gear was up for sale on Ebay the next day. Gave it up and shoot as a hobbyist and enjoy it more than ever because I have a life. Lauren, thanks for the tips, I see from the posts, your tips where posted back in This post has been aged, but the content serves generation….. Thanks A bunch for sharing this experiences for us to learn from…. Not necessary to have either.
Apart from giving REAL service your expenses are minimal. For backdrops you can always use a wall. Rather than spending large amounts of money of backdrops and studio lighting buy a good printer and give your clients their prints after the shoot. These two things make you YOUnique.
I had this saved in my bookmarks for months and i have only just had the time to read it! That way the location becomes like an extra character in the images. Hope that allays your fears. You missed the most important one: He advertised online, booked a few weddings and within a year ended up getting sued. Oh, and backups are key. Thank you guys for the great article! My wife and I are wanting to do what you guys are doing!
Thank you for posting your insights and lessons learned. Liked what you have written and just to let you know, I am commencing a business now. Your ideas will really help. Do you think this is a good choice? I would really appreciate your impute. The thing I would add is make time for personal work and experimentation. This is key to developing your photographic voice, vision, and style.
I am a website developer but am looking more and more into photography. I have been developing websites since amazon was still a book shop lol.. I got my first glymps at photography in primary school at about he age of 10 when our teacher who was also a photographer turned a store room into a dark room. We were given a project to take photos of interesting things we came across and to bring the film into school the next week. We developed the photos in black and white in the dark room. Photography has been on my mind ever since, im 36 now! I also recently got a portable studio with different color backdrops, stands for the backdrops, soxboxs and other lighting.
So, thats where I am now, pretty much ready to get out and start shooting something.. I like to shoot landscape shots, and this is where I also want to try and make some income from photo marketplaces, adding my photos for sale on these marketplaces could bring in some small income but it takes a lot of work to keep producing new photos in the categories they need new photos for. Anyway, this post has given me a bit more insight into what I still need to do, and hopefully I can figure out what main areas of photography I want to dig in to.
I will add one more point to your post, and that to always have a camera at hand… mine goes everywhere with me, just in case I see something worth shooting while out and about. I wanted to just say this site is one of the most beneficial sites I have seen thus far on my journey to starting my own photography business. I am finally getting the opportunity to do something I have loved doing since I was a little girl. I would much rather get real-life knowledge than hit the books. I did that once in high school, but, at the end of the day the real life experience is what gets you to where you want to be.
Thank you so much for all of this great info. Hi, Thanks for the wonderful information. For past 3 years i have been planning to enter the photography industry but couldnt gather enough courage confused wether the photos clicked by me are worth to be accepted and appreciated by the industry.
This is my second post in almost six months. The images turned out great and she mentioned we should offer portraits as a side line business. The parents furnished hair and makeup artist. It got the juices flowing again and we may try something high end. Looking at my local competition, I counted wedding and portrait photographers. An equally talented photographer struggles doing shoot and burn sessions, cheapening her brand just to pay the rent.
One photographer that had been in business for nearly two decades and had a large beach portrait business was shutting her doors. She could not make money anymore because she could not sell prints. The market place has changed and in some respects digital has led to a race to the bottom. My advice after trying this from is simple.
Work two years under a pro. Become an associate photographer if possible. Understand both studio and off camera flash to set yourself apart from the competition. I would rather photograph my cat or a flower in my back yard than ever shoot for free. Determine what you need to live on and price each job accordingly. Never, never, never, never show an image in social media or a website that you cannot sell. Shoot to burn is a recipe for burnout.
The fake it until you make it approach is for losers. A business degree is more preferable than a photography degree. These are hard lessons I learned along the way. Thank you for this great post. I noticed it is from a while ago. Is the Canon 6 model still what you recommend? I have been thinking of starting up a photography business but have a million questions would you please email me privately so I may ask a few?? I am SO glad I found your site!!! I feel even better about that decision now! Stand for something different, then let everyone know about it. Also, I think 2 above is really interesting.
I wonder how many photographers have been tempted to throw in the towel or have actually given up because they spend so much time mired in the business of photography, as opposed to actually taking photos… Food for thought. The thing is, I love my job, my business, being a photographer, challenging myself everyday, learning new things like marketing, accounting, outsourcing and all the other skills you have to learn to successfully run a business.
Stressful in a good way! My main tip would be to make sure you schedule in some time just for yourself, right from the very start. Remember, building a sustainable business is a marathon, not a sprint: Thank you for the awesome tips! I am a newbie at even owning a camera so your website is much appreciated: I am getting lots of compliments on the photos I have taken with it, would you say this type of camera is ok to start out with or move up to a full frame to start?
I most definitely needed to read this. I want to launch a photography business, and deeply need some inspiration. Thank you for the writing. Hi, I have limited experience as a photographer and I love photography… I want to start an open-air, event oriented photo booth business, Can you reccomend a good quality starting package that includes everything I need to get started in the business? Hi dear friend, i would like to start a photo business. Do I need I printer? Which paper, which printer.. This is more important. You can check out our recommended printers on our recommended equipment page here.
Thank you sooo much….!! It will really help me in future. Brilliant advice thank you so much! I visit this website every single day even reading posts I read the other day. Very thankful for you sharing your mistakes. I am a beginner in the wonderful world of photography who inspires to make this a business. Thank you for sharing! Where did those clients come from? Ton of marketing capital? Find this hard to believe that you started a photography business and pulled in 30 clients in with no experience in the industry.
We actually managed to do it by spending a couple hundred bucks on beautifully designed posters and putting them up at our local university which we were attending as students at the time. For more tips on marketing your wedding photography business you can checkout our free guide here: I love Photography since very young… 11,12 years old , but life push me to other road and because of my family mum, wife and Kids and professional pressure at the time, I finish my degree in Marketing Management, but I never run for my dream.
I feel empty until now. I decided that in I want to made my dream come true, and think now more in my self. I have skills feedback of friends and others just with a normal Nikon Coolpix P and with a Minolta ST SI, imagine with a better professional camera? So , I want to be a Professional Freelancer Photographer, and fight with all my straight for that… I want to be happy and finish my life as a Photographer….
Thanks for the tips. I swear, if I had a time machine, I would go back and tell my younger self to not buy this or that and not go this route or that route when I started my photography business. I want to be able to take my own shots of products and edit them. I have registered for photoshop course. What would be the best camera type to buy?
I see so many in the market and I am confused!! HI my name is Reyna and thinking about becoming a photographer.
2. You Are Not Just A Photographer
My major will be in business and minors in Wedding planner and photographer. Thank you so much Lauren. Many blessings to you: I just read this as I was searching for helpful information in starting my own photography business. Ive always had a passion for photography from a young age and I just felt like I needed a typical 9 to 5 career to support my family.
After 12 years of that, Im ready for a change!!! Thanks for the helpful tips and do you have any quick recommendations for starter equipement that is affordable? Thank you for taking the time to write it!! I really want to post a blog on my website about a trip me and my husband took to the smokey mountains to show off the amazing pictures but my question is… it will be my first blog!! I have had a few small family and baby shoots here and there and even people considering me for their weddings in the fall but nothing for sure yet… so what should my first blog be about? I was thinking about sharing the adventure to the mountains and getting to know my camera and maybe telling my goals for my business?!
That all sounds great, Nicole! I work as a marketing manager part-time and have done a few photography gigs on the side. This has been helpful as I continue to think about revamping my efforts to sell my photography services to fill up the rest of my work week.
The biggest advice was not to buy too much equipment or print materials! My mind was wandering in that direction…. Very good advice for those who are just starting out in this wonderful world of photography. How do you get the images to the customer? If you print do you have your own equipment or use a service? Thanks in advance for your help. I am an one eyed person lost one eye in my sleep , I am a student and also a school teacher.
For years i dreamt about photographing but was unable to manage a camera for its budget. Finally this year 17 days ago , i was able to afford a camera, so I asked a person lives next door who is in this phtographing business about which camera to buy. Now, as I bought 6D, he doesnt even talk to me because it has only 11AF. Lim, how do I get my own business, atleast getting it to a start.
How do I motivate myself from such people who helps to give a dream and then throws it away. I live in Bangladesh a small country in asia , where people are making money with photography. But they all started with friends. Can I dream big nd turn it to reality? I am just starting out and am looking for advice on backdrops and lighting. Any information would be extremely helpful! Thank you so much! Love your post even though it was posted a few years ago lol it is still helpful. Do I set up a domain name or does that come later? Or do I do both? Thanks so much for reading my essay lol!
Reading this has made me realise how much I still would love to do it but how much more effort is needed than originally thought would love to hear from you to see your opinions on my photos and anything you could suggest. Thanks so much for you time to share everything you have learned since you started photography. This is what I was looking for. After a series of discouragement with the way my business is going I felt I needed something to give a true insight of what I need to turn things around.
Now after reading your article, I feel I can truly do this. With a new perspective and understanding on what I need to do. Am in Kenya and I cover weddings in Kenya. Thank you so much. I absolutely loved your story and it was very helpful in what i am trying to with my startup. Thank you so much for sharing your story Lauren! I am now following you on Facebook too! Keep up the good work! I started this journey 12years back with working in a firm at a studio.. Today I am planing to start my own studio but ur story made me wait n think that I must make my client of my own than to open a studio.
Thanks a ton to u. I am a photographer in my first year of business. I agree with most of this article. Patience has been the most important part for me. Photography is not something you can push too hard. Many potential clients are just kicking tites. Thanks for this great article Lauren. This article cleared all the doubts about starting venture.. But I would still consider those as places my work has been featured.
Hi Lauren, thanks for the post. Your list is spot on but I would also like to add that managing the finances is important as well especially at the beginning so having a good budgeting process is as important! Thanks again for this great post.
But at least now, I have prioritize them. Thank you so much and will read part 2 after y head stops spinning.. I am barely getting back into the game since raising two small ones so this was a little booster of confidence and reminder: Thanks for a positive article. Your article actually made me feel like my dream can become a reality! Im a portrait photographer new to the photography industry and just trying to find ways to get known.. Hi Lauren, How much money to you need to start a home photography business? Would you recommend a loan starting out or what would be best?
Thank you so much for such a great post, amazing and really useful tips. All the best to you, Lauren, and your family! Thank you for the clarification of some best practices. I thought I was alone with mistakes and attempting possible solutions. I do have a question for you, how did you start booking wedding clients?
I am having a hard time finding that audience with no experience or photos to show them. Any help would be appreciated! This has helped me out a ton. I was only doing photography as a hobby now i want to turn it into a career. I am greatful that i took the time out to read this it was very very helpful for me. I have been in the market for a new camera.
9 Photography Mistakes to Avoid
Do you guys have any input into which may be better suited for me? I saw on http: Thanks for any input. Great info- thanks for sharing. I was surprised myself when I opened my own photography business. I have had a very hard time with traffic and competing with the 40 or so so called photographers here in the area that are undercutting like crazy. So I have turned to other avenues to make additional income. I will be writing about them on my blog at https: Just more food for thought. I am looking to start a photography business. I have no clue where to begin!
I am looking to do wedding, engagement, and family photography. I am looking for advice on cameras, website etc Thank you! For other types of commercial photography, this would help: Thank you soooo much!! I have been teetering on pulling the trigger for almost two years. I really enjoyed this read. I have an interest on becoming a photographer but i will like to have an idea on how to become successful in the photography business line. Thank you so much for writing this article!
I was a film portrait photographer for 7 years and then life happened! Marriage, mortgage, kids, etc. When I realize how costly portrait photography could get wanting all the milestone photos of my children, I decided to get back into business. By that point, film had all but become obsolete. I purchased my first DSLR 4 years ago and boy was that a learning curve!!! I have since be operating my business as a sole owner out of my home. I am ready to take another big step, in less than days I will be signing a lease on my first studio! I came across your story here while doing some business research.
I sincerely wish you all the best with your business and in life!! Photography is one of those few professions where you really need to work on different skills to make it a primary source of income. You have to be good at taking shots, editing photos, building and maintaining a website, work on its optimization, be good with people and much more. Took some time and it was a time consuming task, but the day you start getting organic traffic is the day your photography business grows drastically.
We're The Photography Concentrate Team: Daniel, Kristal and Kaitlyn. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon. Additionally, we participate in other affiliate programs and sometimes get a commission through purchases made through our links. Photography Concentrate Learn Photography Faster! Blog Learn About Free Resources! We learned these lessons the hard way. Be Patient This is a lesson we still have to remind ourselves of constantly.
It takes time to get good at business organization… Basically, it takes time to get good at the dozens of things you need to be good at to run a wildly successful photography business. It all ended up collecting dust in our closet until we sold it for a serious loss. Try to find ways to print smaller runs, or print on demand. Get Outside Inspiration When we first got into professional photography, we were wedding shooters. They find ways to stand out! Referrals Are Essential Word of mouth referrals are the most powerful sources of bookings for photographers. Market Or Die Does this sound familiar?
And then nothing happens. And that, quite simply is what marketing is all about. So look at this way. Your List Is Crazy Valuable One of the most valuable marketing assets you can create is a newsletter list. Develop Off-Season Income For many years we struggled with this one. For the record, this is exactly how Photography Concentrate was born!! Is your mind spinning?? I know mine is.
What do you wish you knew before starting your photography journey? Share with us in the comments now!
26 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Starting My Photography Business // Part 1
Check out these next Simple Wedding Photography A complete guide to photographing every step of a wedding, beautifully. August 13, at 2: August 13, at 6: March 12, at 8: August 13, at 3: November 7, at 2: Hello, Can I share my opinion here? June 24, at Thanks for sharing Tyler! Man, do I wish we only had useless cards in our basement ; Figuring out what to send your list subscribers comes down to one question: