If I were to go back in time to when I started my photography business, there’s a lot I would do different. There is also a lot that I would do the same, and there are a lot of things I see new photographers doing that make me shake my head. There are so many tips I could give, but I was inspired a moment ago to make a quick list of things that you should not ever do when becoming a photographer.
1. Selective coloring. If you don’t know what that is, you’re probably doing it without realizing how tacky it is. Selective coloring means that the photographer has used editing software to leave one part of the image in color, while turning the rest to black and white – this is done frequently with blue eyes. It’s bad. It’s really bad, and there’s no excuse for doing it. Please, just save yourself the trouble of being horrified a few years from now, and don’t do it.
2. Starting a Facebook page before you’ve learned to use your camera. In fact, you probably shouldn’t be doing much of anything before you’ve got your camera figured out. Digital cameras make things pretty easy now, but photography is both a science and an art, and ignoring the science aspect of it will greatly affect the art aspect. Shooting on Auto mode is a HUGE no if you’re going to be an actual professional photographer.
3. Posting hundreds of photos of your kids on your “portfolio”. This sends the message to potential clients that you are not very professional or serious. They will either pass over you, or try to hire you for almost no money. It’s better to do free sessions for friends and family members to build a portfolio than it is to use your personal photos as portfolio pieces.
4. Undercutting. Do you ever want to be able to make a living at this? Then charge real prices. Find out what actually goes into a photography session. And if it’s just a hobby for you, don’t charge for it. Charging too little is ignorant to the fact that photography is a lot of work and a big initial and ongoing investment.
5. Ignoring the sun. Where are the shadows? Many a good photograph is ruined by strange or harsh shadows on a person’s face. If you don’t know what shadows look good, then avoid them; shoot in the shade, or shoot with the sun or light source behind your subject. But wait – aren’t you supposed to avoid shooting into the sun?
6. Knowing the “rules” but not understanding them. “Don’t shoot into the sun” is probably at the top of your dad’s list of photographical rules, but do you know why people tell you not to shoot into the sun? It’s because your camera is probably set to evaluative metering, and if you have your camera on auto, backlit photos will be too dark. Expose for your subject, and you’re fine. Some of the other rules I have heard include:
- you should always use the rule of thirds
- you should not have too much head space
- shoot with the smallest aperture possible – everything should be in focus
- never place a horizon in the middle of your photograph
Breaking the rules is cool, as long as you understand why they are rules.
7. Shooting with a flash if you have no idea how to use it. That pop-up flash on your camera…don’t even think about using it. Drop shadow is ugly. You’re better off shooting with no flash at all (which will force you to find good ambient light) than shooting badly with a flash.
8. Boudoir that looks like amateur porn. Bad angles, dark photos, cluttered backgrounds, duck face, greenish skin tones, unnecessary glow, double chins, poor skin tones and cheap hotel rooms are all marks of bad boudoir. If your photos are blurring the line between classy and cheap, just leave boudoir to those who are good at it.
9. Excessive vignetting. Where did this come from?!? In what alternate universe do people think that using the auto-vignette function in their editing software makes a photo “professional”? It looks cheesy, so please please please don’t do it!
10. Taking your camera to a child’s birthday party. Children’s birthday parties are not photo ops. Other parents who see you taking photos for free at a child’s birthday party will not think of you as their new photographer – they will think of you as a not-for-profit photographer. NTM you look foolish. Leave the SLR at home for kids’ birthdays.