Last Updated on February 18, 2023
A friend recently got in touch to ask for advice on how to crack into the world of being a professional photographer, which is a world I left about a year ago. I told my wife and her first reaction was ‘tell him not to bother’ but I decided that maybe there are a few helpful hints I could offer. So this list of ‘rules’ is inspired by the few years I spent being paid to take photographs (as a part of a far broader business I was running).
Golden rules of professional photography
- Getting good at photography is like learning any skill, just study what the folk at the top are doing and ignore any advice you don’t like!
- Less is more, seriously, get the photo correct, don’t push your luck.
- The clients probably a twat, but they are a twat prepared to give you money.
- Make three backups of everything.
- Never delete anything.
- Composition is everything, learn the rule of thirds and stick with it.
- Photography magazines are expensive, but the titles that are genuinely aimed at professionals are often a goldmine.
- If anyone tells you that you can’t take photos in public places they are wrong.
- Cameras are tools, not jewellery.
- Care for your gear but expect it to get damaged, broken, stolen and / wet. If your camera dies getting you the shot then it was worth it.
- Backup again.
- NEVER apologise, ever. I mean, don’t be a wanker about it, but you have no reason to apologise about or for anything. Unless you puke on the bride, in which case your time needs to be spent running, not apologising.
- Shoot in RAW, no other format matters AT ALL.
- Never show anyone bad photos, if you only have three photos from a shoot that you’re utterly proud of then you only have three photos to show the world, this is not a problem. The world is full of photographers who post 500 shit photos from every shoot they embark upon, saving the world from sifting through you mediocre crap makes your better photographer (at least in the eyes of the world.
- Never show anyone bad photos, seriously, if you ignore everything else on this lift remember only that when people you don’t know see your work for the first time you won’t be there to make excuses, if they see cack photos then you are a cack photographer, at least in their eyes.
- Breath at all times apart from when you hit the shutter button.
- Photoshop is useful, Lightroom is essential.
- If forced to make a choice always under-expose rather than over-expose; if you’re shooting in RAW then you can fix darkness, you can’t fix blown highlights.
- Google ‘blown highlights’.
- The manual setting on your camera is your best friend… In ideal situations, otherwise rock the aperture-priority function till it bleeds.
- Get into the habit of ‘resetting’ your camera before every shoot. You cards should be empty, your batteries new, your ISO as low as it can go, your exposure compensation at zero, your metering on centre-weighted, your flash on single, your bracketing off etc etc. Pro cameras tend to come with almost no fancy functions and a two button reset, there’s a very good reason for this, a reason you’ll find out the first time you complete a shoot only to find out that you’ve shot everything on ISO 6400.
Please use the comments box to add more rules of your own!