3 Mistakes Professional Photographers Make That Could Ruin Their Career

3 Mistakes Professional Photographers Make That Could Ruin Their Career

Photographer Destin Sparks writes about these issues in his article over at Light Stalking.

This first one is something I used to do a lot. I’ve agreed to do work that I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about, and I’ve also worked with extremely challenging clients (and I don’t mean that in a very positive way) even though I had a feeling I should decline their request in the first place. Had I continued making the same mistake over and over again, I probably would have lost interest in photography sooner or later.

1. Professionals Develop A Habit Of Saying “Yes” To Everyone And Everything.

When your endeavors are first building momentum, it’s exciting to see client requests pouring in by the boatload. It’s exhilarating to find yourself telling people all about how busy you are now and realize you’re not exaggerating.

However, it’s also important to know when to say when “no”. Decide where you’re going to draw the line now before things get out of control.

Obviously, you want to avoid overfilling your schedule, but you also want to avoid saying “yes” to projects that really don’t interest you.

Don’t like photographing birthday parties or weddings?

It’s perfectly fine to say that you don’t do that sort of work. Don’t feel like a particular client is a good fit for you? Politely decline their request to work together.

2. Professionals Stop Believing There’s Room For Improvement.

At the end of the day, your photography career could eventually reach heights you can’t even imagine right now. You could be working on projects attached to multi-million dollar budgets. You could be working with celebrities. You could be world famous by even the most discriminating critic’s standards… and there will still be room for improvement.

This is the case whether or not you think so at the time.

While there’s something to be said for being proud of what you’ve accomplished and being confident in your abilities, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Never stop looking for ways to improve your skills, learn new techniques, and learn from others in the business.

3. Professionals Approach Their Photography The Way They Would Any Other Job.

Over the years, we’re trained to approach the act of earning a living a certain way:

  • We get used to having a boss and to having to do things exactly the way that boss wants.
  • We get used to living according to his schedule and prioritizing his standards, as opposed to ours.
  • When we break into professional photography, it seems natural and normal to view our clients as alternative bosses and some photographers never learn how to stop.This is a grave mistake.

Avoid giving your clients the same absolute control over your projects that a boss would expect.

Yes, they should be involved.
Yes, their input, suggestions, and preferences should be taken into consideration.
Yes, they should be handled with respect and care.
No, you aren’t obligated to indulge their every whim. That may be a great way to do business in other industries, but it’s backward when it comes to the creative arts.


these are all good insights. interestingly, though, when I first saw the headline, I thought, “here’s some techinical stuff I should know about.” That just speaks to how we all can sometimes focus on the technical when downplaing the business of photogrpahy.

Once a new photographer begins to have confidence in their work, and in themselves, they can and will start to respect their own judgement and be able to stand firm against a client, say no to jobs they don’t (won’t) enjoy, and yes, even continue to learn and improve.

Just shoot! Work is work. And of course, don’t accept it if you don’t want the work. If it doesn’t interest you, you should not be doing it. Even for the money. There are a lot of other businesses you can do to be in business. Photographing should lead you to more photographing. If it doesn’t? Then you don’t have a career. You have a hobby.

I have been studying photography for about 50 years and learn new things all the time. I started when I was about 7 years old with a brownie reflex and graduated to a Kodak Pony. I’ve sold equipment and trained photographers , I’ve even outfitted people to go on photo safari’s in Africa and to photograph solar eclipses. The most thrilling part for me is learning something new and then teaching it to someone else. When I took my first computer class in 1970, I asked my teacher how can I put a picture in a computer. He told me that wasn’t computers were for, they were for doing complicated math formulas. I wish I could send him a link.

I refused to do any more wedding work 30 yrs. ago When everybody’s uncles and in-laws were bringing their damn video cameras getting in front of me, just when I had the best church pose I could get! 15 people In the party, I just kept shooting because I new I would get easy candid shots at the reception, successfully! That, and everybody thinks the photographer needs to accept the multitudes of drinks they tell the barkeeps to get the photographer one “on me”! Woof.

My friend in D.C. makes the Bride and Groom to sign paperwork that somehow states that their family and friends will not be allowed to take pictures during the ceremony, as they have hired a professional to take the pictures. It is hard to shoot through Uncle Bob and Aunt Sandra when they are standing up in front of you with their iPad!

One thing many photographers do, both professional and amateur is, sooner or later, they veer away from their passion, and begin shooting things they are less passionate about. The results are always the same – substandard results – at least substandard compared to the photographs they are passionate about. The more passion one has for their work, the easier it is to sell it. One of the best things I have learned is never take a job I am less than passionate about. The other points in this article are noteworthy and should be forefront in the photography business mindset, but not overshadowing passion.

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