1.) You are not a professional photographer if you give your photos away for free.
And you are not helping yourself become a professional photographer. This undeniable fact, of course, does not apply if you are giving your work to friends, family, and worthwhile charities. A photographer becomes a professional when they actually make money from their photography. If people aren’t willing to buy your work, then you need to improve your work. When you add up all of the costs of making a photo and then give them away for free you are losing money no matter how little you spent making them. And that makes you an “unprofessional” photographer.
2.) When you tell a photographer you love their work and then ask what camera they use you are insulting them.
No one ever tells to a carpenter, “I love your work. What kind of hammer do you use?”
3.) Never believe kind comments from family or friends about your photography.
Friends and family will lie to your face about your photography every single time. The only people who are truthful about the quality of your work are those who buy photos. If they want to give you money for your photos, well, that’s the sincerest form of flattery in the world of photography. If no one is paying you for your work, then you need to improve.
4.) Never tell a professional photographer how to crop or compose their photograph.
Especially if you are going to quote overused, well-published “rule” of photography. If all you can do is cite a rule then you have absolutely no concept of art or what art sells at all.
5.) Quit carrying about gear and start making photos.
Some of the best photographs in my collection were made with a compact camera or an 8 megapixel camera I purchased over ten years ago. Yes, when you are a professional photographer good gear helps you make money, but as an amateur the more you focus on gear the less you are focused on making better photos.
6.) Ask a professional photographer what kind of compact camera to buy is like asking a farmer what kind of lawn mower to get.
Most photographers only shoot with one brand their entire careers, so they seldom know what kind of cameras other companies have to offer. What’s more, they usually only use one type of camera (i.e. digital SLR, mirrorless, medium format, etc.) and generally the type of camera they use the least (if at all) is a compact camera.
7.) Digital SLR cameras are not Polaroid cameras.
You should not reasonably expect a photographer to instantly or even quickly print a photograph right out of the camera. Though most photographers no longer use darkrooms to develop photographs, they still spend countless hours developing their photos in a digital darkroom. So please expect a finished product to take some time.
8.) Even a blind squirrel can find an acorn.
When you hire a photographer don’t hire one who only shows a collection of beautiful photographs they have taken on different days and in different places (especially if they are photos of flowers, pets, and sunsets). Have them show you photographs of the same subject on the same day in the same place and make sure they can tell a story with their camera.
9.) When you attend a wedding and whip out your smart phone or your compact camera and try to make your own photos of the event, you are ruining the moment.
By doing so you are only getting in the way of the photographer and the videographer who are getting paid good money by the bride and groom to photograph the event. You are unintentionally decreasing the quality of their work. You getting in the way, your flash always fires at the wrong time when the hired photographer is shooting, and you end up looking like a goof if you appear in the background of a shot. And unlike the professional photographer who was hired to photograph the event, you have the luxury of enjoying the moment. So please put your camera away and enjoy the day because the professional photographer can’t. He’s working for the bride and groom. And for a check. You are not.
10.) If you experience “creative ruts” as an amateur photographer you are not ready to be a professional photographer.
Professional photographers need to deliver at every shoot. They can’t afford “creative ruts.”
11.) A professional photographer does not have as glamorous a job as you might think.
Most of their time is spent editing photos, doing book work, trying to make sales, and many other time consuming and less-than-glamorous tasks. Relatively speaking, very little of their time is spent behind a camera. And when they are behind the camera, they are still working hard to get the shot. In other words, there is very little time to enjoy the moment.
12.) Not every talented photographer is a good wedding photographer.
Wedding photography is very difficult. And if you think you are doing yourself a favor by hiring someone who is talented in another realm of photography, but who is not necessarily a talented wedding photographer, let me tell you, you are doing yourself a disservice.
13.) When you plan your wedding or special event outdoors at high noon, don’t expect great photographs.
Colors are blanched when the sun is high in the sky. What’s more, you’re missing out on a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of beautiful light during the golden hours before sunset. What’s more, the later you schedule your wedding or special event in the day, the less money you will need to spend on an open bar. So it’s a win-win all around.
14.) Photoshop is a wonderful tool, but it cannot and will not fix everything.
The best policy is to get it right in the camera every time. But don’t assume a photographer can completely remake a scene or magically remove everything in an image. Because they can’t. It just doesn’t work that way.
15.) Most photographers don’t mind if you take a photo from their website or Facebook and use it for personal use.
But ask. Don’t assume it’s okay. If you assume it is okay, it is not okay. Especially if you are going to cover it with words for some stupid meme. And never, ever pretend someone else’s photograph is your own. Always give credit (preferably with a link to their website), especially if you are using it for free.
16.) If you are a business person don’t waste your time asking a professional photographer to use their photos for free.
And if you think offering them credit for using their photograph is somehow fair and equitable compensation then you’re an idiot. Just because you have a camera and think you can make the same photo doesn’t mean you actually can. Because you can’t. And you didn’t.
17.) If you are a business and use a photo without permission, be prepared to pay more than if you had licensed it up front.
I could wouldn’t have to work for two years if all I did was sue businesses who used my photographs without permission. I kid you not. And when I do seek damages, and I have, and I will, I usually get more money than if they had just called me and negotiated a fair fee for a license to use the image up front.
18.) Very few photographers ever make a lot of money.
The average salary for a professional photographer in the United States is $35,000 a year. And most professional photographers don’t stay in business very long. It’s a hard row to how. The successful ones survive only with blood, sweat, and tears…and because they love what they do. So please don’t take advantage of either fact.
19.) Never ask a photographer what settings or lens to use.
Why? Because every setting and every lens sculpts an image in a different way. Every setting and every lens tells a story in a different way. Also, settings change depending on the available light at the moment, the subject, the background, and so much more. If you ask a photographer what settings or lens to use and they tell you, they are either (1) answering you just so you go away, or (2) aren’t very smart because they should know there’s no perfect answer.
20.) Never trust a photographer with a crappy website.
Professional photographers are in the business or providing a visually beautiful product. If a photographer can’t spend the time to make a visually beautiful website or if they don’t know their website looks like hell, they probably aren’t a very good photographer.