7 mistakes of a professional photographer
I am not going to pretend that I have this all sorted. But, when I started out as a professional photographer I made a few really obvious mistakes. When you tell someone that you are a professional photographer, they assume you know what you are doing. Even though you may have only started your career very recently. Any profession is a constant learning curve. So here are 7 key mistakes I made, so you don’t have to.
Working for free
Working for free or cheap really hampered me at the start. The only exposure worth having comes from good paying clients. Most of the time, if someone wants something for free, it won’t have been well thought out nor interesting. If a client hasn’t put aside money for the photo shoot, be worried. Free work leads to more free work.
Not working for free
I know I am contradicting myself here, but hear me out. Once I realised working for free and for cheap was a waste of time, I completely stopped working on personal projects. Keeping a personal style is really important though; it’s what separates you from everyone else. The only way you can build this is by shooting personal work without a brief from a client. I now dedicate as much time to my personal work as I do to my professional work.
I shot the image below from a helicopter following a conversation at a bar with a helicopter pilot.
Worrying about the quality of the kit I owned
Every photographer I know at some point has had G.A.S (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). I was no exception. I went through a phase where I believed if it wasn’t a 1D Canon Camera with a high-end L Prime lens, it wasn’t going to be good enough for a professional job. Every field of photography has slightly different criteria, but in my speciality you can get the job done with any camera with a full frame sensor. It is all about finding the tools that allow you to create your vision. I have photographs in my portfolio taken with an iPhone, 450D, 5D, 5Dmk2 ,5Ds, Hassleblad P25, P40 and Mamiya RB67 cameras. The only thing that puts these photographs into some form of pecking order is the content. If you have an amazing portfolio shot on an iPhone and someone books you, rock up with your iPhone. They are paying for you, not your cameras.
The photo below was taken with a 1970s film camera.
Trying to cover every area of photography
We have all heard the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none”. When I started out, I was obviously low on clients and short of cash. I tried to do everything going. Weddings, parties, corporate events, videos, band shoots, headshots, portraits, adverts, food, interiors and architecture. Short to say, I received a few low-end jobs in a few fields. After a few beers one evening, I managed to pull myself together and delete everything apart from my food and portrait work. That isn’t to say that I don’t still shoot the odd event or interior. But I know my strengths, so I stick to them. I would say that this saw a 5 fold increase in my day rate within 3 months.
Being self-aware is really important when you work for yourself. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses is key to getting the right clients interested in you. Good clients want to book specialists.
Having ideas that were bigger than the budget
As creatives, we all want to produce our best work every single day. The fact of the matter is that good photoshoots often require large budgets. Trying to deliver way above the budget never ends well. It will either look cheap, completely tank or you will end up with a monstrous workload. Understanding the limitations of the budget and working within it is key to producing good work and keeping your clients happy.
Big elaborate images like the one below take time, planning and money
Worrying about social media stats
Your clients need to be able to find you. Having a website, some SEO in there and a landing page on the big three social media sites (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) is important. However, the size of your social media following has no bearing on you getting booked or not. I have a very modest social media following. For a while, I really worried about it. Some photographers had tens of thousands of followers, their images were getting thousands of likes and no one seemed to care about what I posted. I wasted a lot of time and effort looking at my stats, “likes” and followers. As I got busier with work, my engagement reduced whilst the number of bookings I received increased. I then realised that the creative director in a ad agency isn’t trolling facebook looking for their next photographer.
Taking yourself too seriously
We are all here to have a good time and to produce good work. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
You can see my full portrait portfolio at www.scottchoucino.com
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