Top Ten, er.. Twenty, no, wait, Thirty Things New Photographers Should Know…

A friend who is making the foray into professional photography recently asked me, based on my experience, what she should and shouldn’t do as a *new* photographer.

I tried to think back… what had I done, what hadn’t I done, what did I wish I’d known, what people have asked me in the past….

Over a week I came up with this fairly random list which I added to when something occurred to me. It’s not perfect, it’s not exhaustive but it’s what I thought of.

Perhaps you can add to it for others?

  1. Get a good camera and learn it inside out.
  2. Know how to alter your camera exposure for the correct weather conditions.
  3. Work on your style.  YOUR style, not one you’ve borrowed from elsewhere.  Be AUTHENTIC!
  4. Learn how ISO, shutter speed and aperture work together.
  5. Don’t upgrade your old camera until you know what every bell and whistle on your present camera does.  EVERY. SINGLE. THING.
  6. Learn about light.  Without this, your photographs are nothing.
  7. Master the art of the black and white.  Your shot needs to have a good balance of highlights, lowlights, shadows etc.  You don’t want to ‘blow’ your lights out and conversely you don’t want to increase the blacks so such that you lose your subject.
  8. Don’t put ‘bad’ photographs on your portfolio just because you need to boost the amount of shots.  If you only have one brilliant photograph, use it.
  9. If you’re shooting portraits, always, always have the eyes in focus.
  10. Don’t use Photoshop, iPhoto or Lightroom to overly sharpen an out of focus shot.  If it’s not in focus, you can’t really rescue it.
  11. Just because you have bells and whistles doesn’t mean you have to use them!  When you review your photographs SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) and they’re good, LEAVE THEM ALONE!  You do not have to digitally edit your photograph just because you can… learn when to leave it alone.
  12. Don’t dodge and burn eyes until your child shots look like little glassy-eyed aliens.
  13. Don’t buy into fads… selective colouring, glassy-eyed alien children, big lollipops, babies in giant teacups, making hearts on a pregnant belly with partner’s fingers, many many more things that will make you shudder down the track.
  14. Conversely, if your client wants a big lollipop, baby in a giant teacup, hearts on his partner’s pregnant belly, or selective colour, give it to them.  Not supplying what your client really wants is an economic mistake… They’ll just find someone who WILL do it and you loose.
  15. Always have a Point of Interest in your photograph.  Try to have a ‘pathway’ to ‘lead’ the eye to that  POI, even better.
  16. Learn how to run a business.  This includes tax matters, accounting, marketing, etc.
  17. Stop looking at everyone else’s work and concentrate on your own.  Looking and admiring everyone else’s and fretting about your own will make you sad and you will lose focus.  Remember that your work is yours and it’s unique.  There is no ‘better’, just ‘different’.
  18. Look at everyone else’s work and make contact with other photographers… we’re generally a friendly sharing bunch.
  19. Stop using vignettes especially black ones on all of your work! (Pet hate!)
  20. Learn that LESS is MORE!
  21. Take risks.
  22. Understand and use the Rule of Thirds.
  23. Understand rules in composition.
  24. Break all the rules you’ve learned.
  25. If you can’t afford to buy new gear, rent it.
  26. Find out what white balance is.
  27. Shoot at the highest resolution you can.  Shoot RAW if you can.
  28. The higher the ISO, the more noise.  Shoot with the lowest ISO possible.
  29. If you’re shooting people, don’t be afraid to direct them to the pose you want.  You’re the boss.
  30. Relax and enjoy yourself.  Be natural.  Be happy.  Play.  Laugh.  And smile.

Got any more?