44 Random Pro Tips Every Photographer Should Know

I’ve been a photographer for 20 years and looking back, here are 44 pro tips I wish I had known.

  1. Get it in-camera whenever you can. Photoshop time is expensive and can cause a drain on your resources.
  2. Digital is way more forgiving in color balance than film. It can also screw you up if you don’t have a grey card shot to judge from.
  3. Use a sturdy tripod with a head capable of supporting twice your camera’s weight.
  4. Join ASMP
  5. When working with art directors and/or a strict layout, ask for hand-drawn comps or storyboards of what they envision the shot to be. It will save you hours of frustration in-camera and on set.
  6. Draw diagrams of your shooting style. It’s great to learn where you succeeded and failed.
  7. Watch out for lens flare from backlit sources.
  8. Convert RAW Files to DNG, work in 16bit PSD, save finals as flattened 8bit Tiff with no output sharpening applied.
  9. Add basic metadata to everything. Include at least name, website, ©year, and client name or subject name.
  10. Use a standard file naming scheme for your files. Mine is INNITIALS_YYMMDD_4#SEQUENCE (i.e. LRB_070515_1234.tif).
  11. Delete unusable shots from a shoot.
  12. Buy gear only when you need it for the assignment.
  13. Learn basic CSS and HTML.
  14. Mirror lock anything slower than 1/15th of a second.
  15. Watch movies for lighting inspiration. Watch commercials for stock photo ideas.
  16. Don’t promise anything you can’t come through on.
  17. Spend one hour a day on sales & marketing when your busy. Four hours a day when your slow.
  18. Don’t let work overtake your personal life. Make time for loved ones, friends, and exercise every day.
  19. Put 25% of every payment you receive into a savings account to pay for taxes. At the end of the year, whatever is left over after paying taxes, put into retirement or back into the business.
  20. Pay yourself a salary every week. Give yourself a bonus for beating sales goals.
  21. Set sales and marketing goals.
  22. Calculate your CODB every year.
  23. Hiring an assistant will allow you to work faster, be more creative, and less tired at the end of the day.
  24. Be yourself, unless you’re a jerk. In that case, learn to keep your mouth shut.
  25. Commercial photography is not about you. It’s a collaborative process and you are one part of a creative machine built to get results in a timely and profitable way. Don’t throw a wrench (ego, doubt, fear, miscommunication, etc.) into the gears and you’ll do well.
  26. Always meet your client’s expectations, but strive to go above and beyond that.
  27. Never settle for good enough.
  28. Always be open and upfront with your clients about costs.
  29. Estimating is an art and is something you’ll spend your life perfecting.
  30. Shoot personally and keep it personal. Free your mind of the confines of commerce once in a while.
  31. Be excited about your work and show enthusiasm for what you do. Be confident.
  32. Show interest in your client’s project and get invested with them. Stay away from the “us versus them” mentality.
  33. Build relationships with your clients, but keep a professional distance.
  34. The photography business is cyclical. Protect yourself from slow times by building a 3 to 6 month operating expenses cushion.
  35. Keep up with your bookkeeping and make sure to use accounting software.
  36. If you do it for work, you can write it off. But you can’t write off your own labor (so when someone asks you to shoot for free as a write-off, know that you won’t be able to write it off).
  37. Your friends and family will have a big influence on you directly and indirectly. Make sure you listen carefully to the advice they give you. It may be beneficial or it may lead you off track. Weigh any opinions carefully.
  38. Negative thoughts, emotions, and actions will spread through your success like a virus. Be mindful of the company you keep and what you say to yourself.
  39. Do what you love and the money will follow.
  40. Live below your means.
  41. Don’t buy anything for your business on credit.
  42. Know yourself and be yourself.
  43. Enjoy and celebrate food. Especially if you’re on the road, seek out a good place to eat rather than settle for chain restaurants and fast food.
  44. Hire a coach to excelerate your photography business.