20 Myths About Becoming a Pro Photographer (And their solutions!)

Visiting on an iPhone?

Click here to subscribe to our FREE photo tips podcast in iTunes with one click. You'll get a weekly mp3 photo tips show downloaded to your iPhone so you can learn photography while you commute, exercise, or clean the house.

Hover over this image and click “Pin it” to put this on your pinterest board!

Starting out as a pro photographer is very exciting.  It's fun to realize that a photography hobby can also be a great way to earn a little extra money on the side.  Unfortunately, I have seen dozens and dozens of photographers start out with all the excitement in the world, but eventually fail as a pro photographer.  Oh, and I'd hardly exclude myself from this group.  The reason I'm writing these myths is because I've made nearly every mistake on this page.

Sometimes the failure means they simply don't find enough clients, sometimes that failure means getting sued, sometimes that failure means losing more than you gain, but most often…. that failure occurs when–one year into running the side business–the photographer realizes that it just isn't bringing in enough money to be worth her time.

It is my hope that this list will not discourage anyone from becoming a professional photographer, but I do hope that it will make you aware of the unbelievably common misconceptions that many photographers have about earning money with photography.

Before I begin the list, I have to point out that OBVIOUSLY these “myths” are not false in every circumstance.  Without any doubt, there are people who can pull off just about anything, but I think most competent pros would agree with 99% of what is on the list.  (Updated: Apparently some people skipped over this paragraph and decided to come out swinging in the comments.  Relax, people.  I like to keep things friendly on the site.  If you disagree, do so politely).

Myth #1: Being a pro photographer will allow me to work my own hours.

Yikes.  No way.   No chance.  Unless “your own hours” means you would like to work almost every weekend and evening, then you're setting yourself up for failure.  I used to shoot weddings, but when I realized that it meant missing every Saturday with my wife and kids, I decided it was time to make a change.

Once you realize that most wedding and portrait photography clients will want to do shoots on weekends and evenings, you may decide that this type of photography isn't for you.

Solution to problem #1: Many photographers recognize that shooting baby and kids photography is a great way to work better hours.  It is usually easier for children and baby photographers to schedule shoots during regular business hours since many parents are at home taking care of the kids during the day.

Myth #2: If I charge $75 for a 1-hour shoot, I'll be making $75 per hour!!!

You would be doing VERY well if you had enough clients to spend half of your work week actually shooting 1-hour sessions.  So, that means you're only earning $35 per hour now.  But wait!  You have to post-process your photos, which takes about 30 minutes for every 1-hour of shooting.  Now you're making $30 per hour.  Then, you realize that you have to spend time driving to and from the shoot location, which is another 30 minutes.  Now you're making only $25 per hour.  Oh, and you have to set up the shoot with the client, send proofs, and work on prints.  Oh, and remember that advertising thing?  It takes time, too.  You get the idea.

Quite honestly, it is the rare photographer that can charge $75 for a 1-hour shoot and make it work financially, unless you're getting the client to pay for individual prints or some other premium.  In my experience, photographers who only get $75 for a one-hour shoot will not end up surviving unless they have low overhead and are extremely efficient in completing other necessary tasks.

Solution to problem #2:  I always get asked how much to charge for portrait photography.  It is impossible to answer generally.  Sit down and figure out how much it costs you to be in business, and then how much you can add to that price without charging a price that is outside the ballpark.

Myth #3: Getting tons of compliments about your photography means you're ready to shoot professionally.

When your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors see your photos, they will almost always give positive feedback.  Why?  Because they are amazed that your photos look so much better than their snapshots.  Also, they like you and consequently like what you produce.

Photographer gives tips to a model during a studio shoot with lighting mods.

Working with clients–my least favorite part of photography

Unfortunately, clients don't compare your photos to their snapshots.  Clients compare your work to what they see in magazines and on television.  The know what professional-quality photos look like, and they know if you're not as good as the magazine photographers.

Solution to problem #3: Recognize that you aren't ready to go pro until people start offering to buy your work.  If people like your stuff so much that they want to pay for it, then you're probably ready good enough to make the leap.

Myth #4: Clients will love your photos if you take creative shots.

Nope.  Sorry.   Allow me to illustrate with a personal experience.  I got home from a shoot one day and I was ecstatic.  The shoot was phenomenal and I had captured some of the best portraits of my life.  I was totally proud when I submitted the proofs to the client.

Shocker.  What did the client think about the photos?  When she saw my favorite shot, she said, “Oh, my smile doesn't look good in that one.”  Upon seeing another fantastic shot, she said, “My hair is falling into my eye a bit.”  WHAT?!?!?  I couldn't believe it.  To me, it re-enforced something I've seen with many clients–they care what they look like a whole lot more than they care what the photo looks like.

Don't get me wrong.  The photo better be creative.  It better look “in style” and fashionable.  However, all of that will mean nothing to the client if she doesn't like the way she looks in the photo.  Get used to it.  That's why you let the client choose her own shots, rather than you choosing for her.

Solution to problem #4: (1) Allow the client to choose which pictures she wants to buy, (2) ask the client to send you four or five examples of the type of photo they are looking for before the shoot, (3) ask the client if they want any part of them Photoshopped, and (4) look at the client and decide what parts of her body she would want highlighted, and what she might be embarrassed about and want hidden from the photo.

Myth #5: Second shooters are optional for weddings–even high budget weddings.

What if you get sick and can't shoot the event?  What if your equipment breaks?  What if your memory card fails?  So many things can go wrong, and the unexpected mishaps could mean getting sued by an angry Bridezilla.

Solution to problem #5: Either explain the risks of only having one shooter to the client and charge a lesser rate, or quit being cheap and pay for a second shooter.  Personally, I have no problem with a photographer charging a reduced rate to only get one shooter; however, if you're going to be the only shooter at a wedding, you need to make it absolutely clear to the client that there is risk in equipment failure, sickness, and “missing the shot.”  If they are willing to take those risks in order to save a buck, then you're set.  Otherwise, pay to do it right.

Myth #6: Paying for a nice website will bring in clients.

As a former web designer, I can unequivocally promise that this is a myth.  In fact, if you put up a good gallery of images on a website and do nothing more, it is unlikely that even one person will find your website when searching for  a photographer.  Why? Because you haven't optimized your website for search engines.

When someone searches “Boise Idaho Photographer” in Google, they will receive search results that match those keywords.  What I see over and over again with non-tech-savvy photographers is that they have a website full of images with only a tiny bit of text.  Surprise,  Google will not be able to tell that you're a photographer in Boise Idaho from the fact that you have pictures on your site.

Solution to problem #6: If you are not tech savvy, it really is worth the money to hire someone to teach you how to optimize your website for search engines.  If you're a do-it-yourself type, then I highly recommend the SEO 101 podcast, which teaches how to improve your search engine optimization.  I have learned a TON from listening to it over the last few months.

Photography Portfolio Reviews - $39

Have the expert editors at Improve Photography review your photography portfolio in-depth and send you an audio feedback file for just $39

Check it out

Myth #7: You can earn as much by selling a CD of the images as you can by selling individual prints.

Ever notice the prices of a studio session at Walmart or J.C. Penney?  The sitting fee is often less than $10.  So how do these stores make a profit?  They sell the prints for an insane amount of money, and most customers don't realize that they will probably end up paying $100 or more to get all the prints they want.

I am NOT saying that it is bad business practice to give the CD.  All I am saying is that there are a lot of clients who don't realize that a $150 session with a CD is a lot cheaper than a $75 session with no CD.  Obviously, there are some clients that understand this already, but it seems that they are more of the exception than the rule.

Solution to problem #7: You simply need to spell things out for the client.  Explain on your pricing page how valuable the CD is if you're going to give it out.  Otherwise, the clients will not understand why your price has to be higher than the “other guy.”  Again, I don't have any problem with photographers giving digital copies of the photos to clients, but you need to recognize that clients may not understand how valuable the CD is unless you explain it to them clearly.

Myth #8: A second body is optional.

I thought backup gear was unnecessary until my 70-200mm lens suddenly started giving my camera error messages right in the middle of shooting a fancy black-tie event for a bunch of millionaires at a country club (not kidding).  When I looked down and saw ERR-99, blood poured out of every orifice on my body.

Solution to problem #8: If you absolutely cannot afford a backup body and lens, at least make some good photo buddies that could rush you some extra gear in an emergency.

Myth #9: Working on a handshake is good for business.

Since I am going to graduate law school soon, I am keenly aware of how uninformed some people are when it comes to the legal aspects of professional photography.  I refuse to take pictures of anyone for profit without getting a contract signed first.  All it takes is one lawsuit and your portrait photography business is sunk.  Whether you win the lawsuit or not, the legal bills will be so expensive that your business will be gonzo.

Solution to problem #9: Resolve today to never again take a picture of anyone for profit without getting a contract signed previously.  You simply cannot make exceptions.

Myth #10: You're perfectly capable of writing your own contract.

A while back, I saw a photo blog (which I shall leave unnamed to save the author the embarrassment), where the author included a link to his “sample photography contract.”  My jaw dropped as I read it.  I can see how he thought he had covered all the bases with the contract, but it was so full of holes that it more closely resembled swiss cheese than a legally binding instrument.

Solution to problem #10: If you need legal help to write a contract, consult an attorney (barrister for you folks in the U.K.) who is licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.  Can't afford an attorney?  This is a great reason to join a professional photography association, such as WPPI.  Most trade associations provide standard forms to members for no additional cost.  That is an incredible resource!

Myth #11: You can avoid learning lighting and buying flash gear by calling yourself a “natural light photographer.”

It always makes me smile and shake my head when I see a photographer's portfolio and they proudly advertise being a “natural light photographer.”  Whenever I read this phrase, it immediately gets processed in my brain to mean, “I'm either too cheap to buy lighting gear, or I haven't yet figured out how to do off-camera flash.

Let me be clear, there are some absolutely incredible natural light photographers in the world.  But honestly, that kind of photographer is one in a million.  I love shooting natural light portraits, but there is no way that I would go to a portrait photography session without some type of flash gear. Natural light photography can be beautiful, but don't let this be an excuse for not having the tools to get the shot.

Solution to problem #11: Start learning!  Make the leap!

Myth#12: If you don't have enough clients, you can do a giveaway on your Facebook page to get things rolling again.

Ugh!  I studied advertising in college, so poor advertising makes me cringe.  I have probably seen a dozen or more giveaways on Facebook pages for beginning pro photographers.  Not always, but most of the time, it ends up that your Uncle Mortimer, your neighbor Susan, and 10 of your friends are the only people who enter the contest.  Then, you're stuck doing portraits for your buddies and you never attract any new clients.

Giveaways and social media can be great tools, but don't think you'll get people pounding down your door just by tossing out a freebie.  Marketing photography takes skill, perseverance, and creativity.

Solution to problem #12: Use your brain!  Be creative and think of ways to get people talking about your business.  If you need some inspiration, then you ABSOLUTELY MUST read this book on inexpensive and creative marketing strategies.

Myth #13: You can become a destination wedding photographer by writing, “Available for travel” on your bio page.

The truth is that most clients choose a photographer at the location rather than paying for one to fly across the country or across the world to shoot their wedding.  Getting jobs like this does not come by simply wanting it.

Solution to problem #13: Most of the destination wedding photographers I know (I am NOT one of them…) get the job when they have been around for a while.  Once you have shot the client's family picture, senior pictures, and engagement photos, you're in the running for getting a destination gig if you do truly fantastic work.

The other way to get the destination wedding gigs is to cater to higher-end clients.  Ritzy clients are often willing to pay the premium for a photographer they know and trust to travel to the location.

So, either work your way into the high-end market, or take the time to cultivate relationships with families so they wouldn't dare let anyone else shoot their wedding.

Myth #14: Networking is optional.

Aside from the importance of networking to get photo buddies to help you in a pinch, networking with other people in the industry is vital to get jobs.

Solution to problem #14: One great tip for pro photographers is to take a few photos of the wedding location and send it to the owner, or take professional pictures of the wedding cake and send it to the cake decorator, etc.  Making friends with these people by giving them professional pictures of their work will make them like you.  When a bride goes to the flower shop or the cake decorator or the reception hall, they will often send referrals your way.

Myth #15: Nobody will notice that your portfolio consists of the same 5 people in every shot.

Yes, they will.  They definitely notice, and they will definitely not choose to pay the “new guy” the same as the photographer across town who has 20 years worth of photos in his portfolio.  You aren't going to pull the wool over their eyes.

Solution to problem #15:  Get out there and shoot!  It's obvious, but if you only have 5 shoots worth of photos to put in your portfolio, then I still need to explain this obvious point to you again.

Myth #16: Your portfolio will look great even if the models look average.

Let's face the facts.  Clients want to look good in their pictures and they simply can't see past your “average looking” models to tell that the pictures are great.  Having pictures of beautiful models in your portfolio can make a huge difference in how clients view you as a photographer.

Solution to problem #16: If your current portfolio could use some more beautiful people, then head on over to Model Mayhem and work with a few local models.  Generally, you can get a great local model to do a shoot for free if you offer them copies of the pictures.  Do a few of these shoots and your portfolio will look ten times better.

Myth #17: People are dying to read your blog.

False.  Ugh.  If all of your blog posts could be re-titled to say,  “Here are 10 pictures from my most recent shoot” then you seriously need some blogging help.  Only your mom wants to see your pictures of the random clients you shoot.  Nobody else cares.  Are you blogging for your mom, or for your clients?  Your clients have already seen your portfolio, so this type of post is useless to them.

Solution to problem #17: How about posts that are actually useful to your clients?  For example, “What not to wear to a portrait photography shoot”, or “How to get a totally boring senior portrait” or “The best places in Salt Lake City, Utah to hold a wedding reception.”  This type of post is much more likely to garner a readership, and will make you look like you know what you're doing.  Oh, and it's great for search engine optimization, too!

Myth #18: If you love photography, you'll love being a pro photographer.

Photography is incredibly fun when you are in charge of all things creative and you can shoot what you want when you want to shoot it.  Unfortunately, all of that changes when you're shooting for someone else.  Suddenly, you aren't trying to create something you like, you're trying to please the mother-of-the-bride.  Also, you'll have to deal with business stuff, selling your photos to clients, and paperwork.

Solution to problem #18: Before becoming a professional photographer, be sure to understand how it will change your hobby and make sure it is in fact what you want.  A great way to get your feet wet is to offer to be a second shooter for a local pro.  Doing this a few times and doing a job shadow in the studio may help you decide whether you love photography, or if you love professional photography.

Myth #19: Photography is a growing industry.

Yep, you're right.  Photography is certainly growing, but not in demand.  It's the supply of photographers that is growing.  Everyone with a camera (like you) thinks about making money with photography.

Solution to problem #19: You must differentiate yourself from the pack.  If you can't clearly answer what makes you better than any other photographer in town, then you have not yet established a brand.  Decide what your advantages are and spell it out to clients.  Why not create a “Top 10 Reasons to Choose Jim Harmer” page on your photography website?

Myth #20: You don't want to share this post on Facebook/Twitter/Google+.

I hope you gained value from reading this post.  Would you please pay it forward by clicking the Facebook/Twitter buttons at the top-right of this page to share this post of tips with your friends?  Thanks, and enjoy the daily photography tips at Improve Photography.  Oh, and I'd love to hear your thoughts in a comment below, but we have a 100% positive and uplifiting policy around here, so if you choose to disagree, please do so politely.

Also, if you LIKE Improve Photography on Facebook, you will receive my daily photography tips right in your Facebook feed each morning.  You can also follow me on Google+.


  1. Cool article. I like how blunt and to the point it is. Great networking tip also!

    The one thing I may not personally agree with is the thing about people paying for your work. I get a decent number of requests, sell prints etc, but would never call myself pro. Way to much to learn…

    TY for a very cool article.

  2. Great advice! For #4 I just want to add that editorial fashion work is often thought of as only the weirdly beautiful stuff that is high fashion, but actually some clients prefer the standard “stand up poses so we can see the dress” shots that might not be ‘creative’ enough for a photog. But the creative directive is the creative directive, and you have to follow it to the letter. Not everyone gets to create images with elephants. Just sayin’. Thanks for this post Jim.

    1. If you can and have the time then make the images the client wants first and then see if you can make images that stretch your creativity afterwards. One set is for the client, the second set is what goes in your portfolio.

  3. I think that another myth should be; ‘Just because you use Photo Shop on all of your photos, it does not make you a Pro.’ I’ve seen too many photographers that actually ruin the simplicity of photos by over processing it in Photo Shop- sticking their name in odd spots on the photo as a copy write or changing the photo so drastically that a novice can tell it’s been Photoshopped; you photo should sell your talents – straight out of the camera.

  4. I disagree with #16, at least for people who are trying to promote themselves as wedding photographers. If the photographer has a portfolio full of pictures of perfect looking people, potential clients will wonder if the photographer can take flattering pictures of people who don’t look like models and may assume that they can’t or aren’t interested in doing so.

  5. Awesome article. I wish I read this two years ago. I have been guilty of, not all, but more than I care to admit. Luckily I discovered the answer to #18 sooner than later. Photography, for me, is now back in its rightful place as a hobby before it was too late. Once I did that, I rediscovered how much I really enjoyed it all over again. lol

    Thanks for posting.

  6. I made almost ALL of the mistakes! Therefore I learned 3 things:

    a) You’re definitely right!
    b) I do not wanna be a wedding photographer anymore!
    c) I will have a half-time-job outside phototgraphy business to get back my muse and fun in photography.

    At least – I am still here 🙂

  7. you speak the truth myth of being a professional photographer. It started so glamorous at the beginning and yet we have went through so much hardship to get to where we are. Thanks for sharing

  8. So much good information here. It’s almost all true too, like #15 which I fall victim too often.

    It’s easy to get bogged down and think of yourself as a failure because you’re not making great money, but if you keep your head in the game, you will be successful.

  9. RE #10: A solicitor represents the client’s interest in legal matters such as contracts; a barrister specializes in oral argument in the courts.

  10. Very VERY Helpful thank you for sharing your knowledge, I have allot to consider, change and learn after reading this.
    So thanks

  11. not sure i agreee with #5 beacause as #8 suggests, I have duplicate of all my gear and there is no single point of failure.

  12. Small correction. In the UK an attorney that usually deals with contracts is a “solicitor”. A “barrister” is an attorney that turns up to defend you in court.


  13. I’ve been in the professional photography business “off and on” for 29 years. I don’t find this article or the attitude of the author at all arrogant. He is realistic. You can quibble over whether “natural light photography” is a good or bad thing, but a REAL professional must handle all sorts of situations and must be infinitely creative and flexible. If the shoot calls for flash, you better have experience and ability with it. A successful professional photographer has all the war wounds to show for the many things that go right and wrong with shoots. It is difficult to make money in photography and it is a lifestyle that includes nights, weekends, all day long every day with time off only when things are slow. Except that SLOW is marketing and tooling up time, so it is never time to relax. Professional photography is exceedingly stressful, so you better be able to handle stress well. Thanks very much for your article! I understand every word of it.

  14. I totally disagree with David. I’ve been on a lot of wedding photo and video shoots. An assistant is quite valuable and sometimes gets the shot the primary photographer can’t get or just plain misses.
    Trendy means “aware of current trends.” I’ve seen a lot of stodgy “classical” photos that are made by people who aren’t that creative. You don’t have to be reality TV, but it helps if you realize that the latest equipment has features that do great things. If you aren’t growing forwards, you will be left behind.
    Also, so what if your 2nd shooter is learning the ropes. They deserve to have opportunities on real projects until they are ready to do it on their own.
    This article is a reality check for those who want to abandon all else and take up professional photography as a career. Real professionals who have paid serious dues will tell you that this is not a career for the faint of heart. Only the very strong will survive and make a living at it. It can’t be any plainer than that. I’ve done way over a million dollars worth of photography business and I appreciate what this author is trying to get across. Luckily, the author can go back and log into this site and correct any errors. David, how about some constructive criticism. In photo clubs the critiques start with what is good about a photo and then what the critiquer would have done differently. Acting mean isn’t a good way to gain supporters for your position. I dare say that most people can’t spell or write articles either.

  15. Great article. It made me giggle. I disagree with #5, though. I frequently shoot weddings on my own. I carry back up gear, stay healthy, and have a network of people I can call if I get sick the day before.

  16. Starting a small business is a good idea when your hobby is involved. You can express your own Idea and enjoy the work at the same time. You don’t have to worry about generating money out of your business because you will earn it fluently without even knowing it.

  17. I agree with what you are saying here, the point about lighting specifically! I don’t think a person should call themselves a “pro” unless they have a handle on some studio lighting, flash, etc.

  18. This is very helpful 🙂 Definitely have learned many of these on my own and I do photography as a hobby. I like how you add solutions, not everybody knows how to counteract. Thanks for this!

  19. Thanks so much for posting this great article. I’ve found that so many folks who love photography don’t really think about the ‘BUSINESS’ before trying to start one.

  20. Great tips! I particularly agree with three, I just can’t get my mother to understand the concept. But I do not necessarily agree with the blog comment. As a recent bride in the age range where many people are marrying/starting a family, I have found that photography blogs are exactly what I and my friends want to see. We want to see lots and lots of your shots. We want to see different locations, different faces, something that may say “Hey, that shot is very similar to what I want/where I’ll be/etc”. We want to see multiple shots of one shoot, rather than the one or two good shots that end up in your portfolio. Because if I go with you, I’ll be getting all of those shots. Can the whole shoot tell me a story? One picture can’t. I do not know anyone who calls/emails a photographer for a consult to see a portfolio if that photographer doesn’t have lots of examples on their website and a darn good blog.

  21. Thank you for writing this. 🙂 I have friends and family who tell me I ought to be a professional photographer because of my photos…uh, no. I am VERY flattered. And in fact I have had some photos (donated, to a charity I like) used in a professionally printed calendar. But myth #3 probably still applies, and myth #18 DEFINITELY applies a LOT.

  22. What does everyone say about number 11? I do agree that I need to learn more about off-camera flash; however I just LOVE the results of natural light (whether indoors or out), especially with babies and children.

  23. I agree with most of these but not sure I agree with #11. I have seen a lot of “photographers” who are natural light only and cannot always pull it off and end up with varying results but to say that an incredible natural light photographer is one in a million is a huge stretch IMO. I know a lot of incredible natural light photographers. I am a natural light photographer myself. And it’s not because I don’t want to learn about artificial lighting….I PREFER the results I get with natural light and I’ve never come across a situation where I could not work that natural light and produce beautiful images. Granted, I pretty much only shoot newborns and I could see how having artificial lighting would be very beneficial with weddings and other types of portrait sessions but I don’t think it’s a mistake to be a natural light only photographer IF you have the skill to pull that off and I know a lot of photographers who have that.

  24. Thankyou,

    A great read for those, like me, who have almost at a whim decided to pick up my camera and combine it with my other love of music. Plus my other self-justification was that I’m a bit of a hermit (so forcing myself to do 1-2) shoots a week gets me out and being social, plus it balances my studies in psychology. Do I call myself a pro photographer. Thanks for the brilliant advice. I look forward to more reads from you.

  25. Everyone should learn how to use artificial light. You may have a preference to use just what’s available, and most times I really do. I think if you can pull it off, that’s great. However, sometimes you need more than a reflector to get a less ‘contrasty’ light ratio for a portrait, or you need to fill darker parts of a room or, as I love, get that catchlight in their eyes! That last one is very important to me, even outdoors when I have great light out.

    Fill can make an important difference in a scene, and when you know what you’re doing, you can make it look like natural light. You’ll actually find many portraits outdoors that had artificial light included and you’d never think it, even from your best natural-light photographers.

    It can’t hurt to know more and choose to use less than struggle the other way around.

  26. I’d like to add an addendum to #16….
    If your free shots wouldn’t be useful to the models portfolio, PAY HIM/HER. Be realistic about your caliber of work. If he or she has a great portfolio and yours is obviously a beginner portfolio, trade for portfolio (TFP) probably isn’t going to work since most likely they will not be able to use it.

    1. I saw myself in almost every myth that you’ve discribed 🙂 thanks a lot for sharing your experience and advice!

      All the best from Austria (where you have to take a statal exam to be allowed to even call yourself a professional photographer- and only THEN you can start from there :-))

  27. I’ve been a working professional photographer for almost 30 years. This is the best, most concise thing I’ve ever read about the business.

  28. This was really interesting to read. I just realized I’m half way through, that my gut instincts were correct, but that there is work to be done still. Thanks!

  29. I have spent all morning reading your posts, and have learned more this morning to improve my skills and business then many of the classes I took at photography school! Thank you so much – and I am certainly going to pay it forward.

    Tracy Fowler
    Family Tree Photography

  30. I LOVE #11! I hate when people I know advertise this way and I know they have NO idea what they are doing! They think they can buy a $500 camera with no other equipment, have no experience or training and call themselves a “professional natural light photographer”. Makes me cringe at the fact that they are actually charging people money for their photos!

  31. I have loved my landscape and told to start my business and have not got far in two year and reading this is all the myth have meaning and just not me thanks

  32. Some really great advice. For me, I can not compete with high end photographers nor want too. I love taking photos and have a job I can fall back on. It is a bonus if I make money, and the road from hobby to business will be a slow one no doubt, but If I can tap into the mums and dads who want a lovely nice image of their child to share with grandma or granda, and they are paying me for my effort, then there is no harm in that. But I really enjoyed your advice and can see myself in some of them.

  33. I could not have found this article at a more perfect time! Amazing advice and some I have actually been told before by friends in the Photography Industry! I am a starting student at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh and in the process of getting my Bachelors degree for Photography! This is definitly I site I plan on coming back to multiple times to remind myself of just some of the tips and tricks of the business! Thank you so much for putting this out there!

  34. I love taking photos and have a job I can fall back on. It is a bonus if I make money, and the road from hobby to business will be a slow one no doubt.

  35. wow I loved it… isearched how to become a photographer and was impressed, just reaching out to all avenues was great stuff good luck in law school….

  36. You certainly make some very good points, and probably all listed are mistakes i’ve made! Not many people have the talent to tell you the truth about your failures and make you laugh at the same time 🙂

    Thank you…back to the drawing board for me i think 🙂

    ps. Would be grateful for some honest feedback if you ever feel the urge to look at one of your readers websites, would be a bonus if you can make me laugh about my mistakes! 🙂


  37. Very true. I remember photographing a children’s national Karate championship when I was just starting out – I’d been photographing the artistic elements of the event; but what actually sold were what I now call ‘preservation’ shots that could have been taken by a machine. As a professional, the most important lesson I’ve learned is to give the client what they want.

    Ben @ EnglishPhotographer.com

  38. Thank you for the article, I could apply almost every myth to myself. Greetings from Sweden and keep sharing those good advices 🙂 Ps. Shared on my fb page!

  39. Thank you for another great post. Where else could anybody get that kind of information in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such information.

  40. Thanks for taking the time and sharing.
    Very useful and to the point, I also like the style.
    These are issues to get straight BEFORE starting, not after.
    Regards from Italy

  41. Thanks so much for taking the time to write this article. It really opened my eyes to all that is involved with being a pro. Not sure if that’s what I want to do now. LOL LOVE your website and appreciate all the tips and great info!!

  42. Let me first say how much I love and appreciate this piece of writing. Very candid and real. I myself am a beginner and really enjoy this art form. I’ve only been doing it for about a year now and my wife is constantly hounding me to find a way to make money from this right now. I began this journey with the intent of branching out into the business world however I wanted to do it with integrity and honesty so as much as she keeps pushing me, I refuse to charge a single dime until I feel that I’m ready and past the compliments of friends and family. Before reading this article I too had the same standard of waiting until people tell me they would want to PAY for my work. Until that happens, I’m just the friend who will offer to take photos for free. I’ve started the process of renting a small studio and first getting the people I know to come in and shoot them as I know I don’t have to pay them and they know that I am practicing to improve my skills and knowledge base. As I improve I will be getting more selective as I agree that better looking models seriously improve a portfolio. Its simply more impressive and eye catching. So, I just wanted to express my thanks for the other WAKE UP calls. I feel I have a better idea of how to move forward and what to watch for.

    Taking my time to develop and just shooting like no tomorrow,
    Wyl Chang

  43. well done! thx for sharing!
    anyway guys, if you disagree with certain # upthere,
    most likely you havent yet fell into the accident yet,

  44. Great tips! A photography friend of mine pointed out one or two of these to me but one really stood out! I posted on facebook that I would do free sessions for people in a certain distance from me so I could build a portfolio. Not only did I get a phone call from my friend but I got zero responces. My friend told me everything good and bad about what I did, wait. He had zero good things on his list!!! It’s always great to hear things from more then one person! Thanks for taking the time to share your craft.

  45. Thank you Jim for all this great advise. I’m about to get my first semi-pro camera, and have been a beginner photographer for a few years. This really helped me evaluate my strengths and weaknesses. I look forward to reading more of your tips in the future.

  46. Hmmm, depressing, but I believe true. I will have to do some soul searching to see if its something I want to do professionally. I totally understand the concept of doing something professionally ruining your love of the actual craft as I’ve had that experience in a different field and that would be a huge shame. I might have to do semi-pro, or maybe just be a friend who shoots for friends and those who can’t afford it just because I love it, that might have to be enough for me. Thanks for your candor.

  47. Great article but if I could just make a slight correction? In the UK, a person who deals with contracts etc, is called a ‘solicitor’, not a ‘barrister’. A barrister is someone who defends you in a court of law, having been hired by your solicitor, is usually dressed in a wig and black gown whilst in court, and is often referred to as ‘counsel’.

  48. For an art project, my friend and I are going to do themed photography. One of the themes is masquerade. We are shooting out doors and indoors, but only in the early morning or late afternoon so that the sun won’t be too harsh. We are probably going to shoot in a lake nearby my house too. We are going to use a DSLR and I thought of getting a few boards from an art shop to use as reflectors and filters. Can someone please fully explain their uses ,which colors should they be and how to use them. I’ve also heard of people using white bed sheets. Can you please give me some tips on the photography? Here is something similar to what we are thinking of doing : search Wonderstruck commercial by Taylor swift on YouTube.
    Thanks alot 🙂

  49. Great advice.
    I have taught photography for 30 years, and have been full-time fo rthe last 12.
    All of the above applies here in New Zealand, so perhaps it is a universal truth.
    I have 3 camera bodies 2 on camera flashes, portable studio gearincluding scaffolding for 75 people, and a plethera of lenses.
    Most of my weddings are solo, and I shoot portraits, groups of up to 600 with names, schools, balls, architecture, babies, maternity, fashion, sport, dance, events and occasionally under water.
    I work up 7 days and up to 90 hours in a week, and I my earnings are not high.
    My web-site carries 700,000 images, and my company is the most Googled photographer in the region.
    If you have a solution to the points posed in the blog, and you have the passion, an understanding family, and plenty of support, it is there for the building as a career.
    Or you can just enjoy making great photos.
    David R

  50. Great advice! I will definitely be taking all of this into consideration!

  51. some interesting points, starting up as a photographer is never going to be easy but I suppose this is what filters out the good from the bad.

  52. I think I will keep my day time occupation. And stay an advanced photographer and just have fun taking pictures for everybody free of charge. Thanks for the very timely advise.

  53. i’m just starting out in photography, as in this fall i start photography classes at a near by community college
    i find this very helpful for the near future that im looking to get into
    i’m just wondering what would happen if i would take pics of people like band members, my boy friend is a drummer and i always take different pics of him while he is playing around with his kit, i was wondering if that would be a good thing to start out with or not

  54. I can agree with alot of what you have said. I started my business in 2007 and only in the last 18 months have I seen the amount of business needed for me to survive and prosper. It has taken ALOT of learning, not just about photography but everything that goes into running a modern business in a hugely competitive industry. Having said that, I am now in a comfortable position and am loving what I do.

  55. Thank you! great advice 🙂 I have always been interested in Photography, and love editing photos, and as a 25 year old with no family commitments I think photography as a weekend hobby is right up my alley.
    Thank you for the hints on legal contracts!

  56. This helped a lot. I’m only 17 now and I’m torn between taking a career in photography or cinematography (going to go to school) I have a passion to do this. This cleared a lot of things and made me think about what ill be getting into if I become a photographer. Thank you again.

  57. Thank you Jim for an incredible article! I have learned a lot and am eager to try some of your tips for improving my portfolio and expectations for my craft. Kudos!

  58. I do agree but I can’t share this because I am worried some of my friends will think I am trying to give them a critical hint, and I would be. Thanks for the read!

  59. This is absolutely useful message for beginner photographer as I am, all that ways I’m trying to proceed or did in the nearest past. I believe that some of the tips will help me in the future. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to write this. I shot weddings for 8 years and I can totally relate to your points! I have since stopped shooting weddings and now shoot mainly Boudoir photography (and newborns) in my studio… I actually came across your page because I have had a couple of instances where two friends came along and one thought it was totally ok to take photos with her own camera or phone of her friend (or baby) while i was shooting! I am ashamed to say I don’t have a policy that addresses that issue but I am going to sort one out ASAP! I would love to know how you respond to clients when this happens while still maintaining a good rapport with the client?

      Many thanks!

  60. Thanks for the tips. Been debating if I should keep on with my own personal photography or expand to the public, still undecided because I’ve seen friends and family fail for a few of the reasons you’ve listed. Definitely a lot to think about 🙂

  61. Great post. Thank you for your wonderful advice. It was eye-opening and made me re-think my choices.

  62. Great write up and it really makes you think and open your eyes to the big picture, i have learn’t a few things from reading this thank you.

  63. Harsh, but very true and helpful. Thank you for this fantastic article – it really makes you open your eyes and think.

    1. How about this… we take away all the other settings on the camera except the “M” button. Then when your photographer arrives at your wedding you know you have someone who knows how to work a camera…. =) The line is getting blurred out there and the over all quality of photography is dwindling. Clients need to know that when you say Professional, you are actually a Professional. I’m all for national testing haha =) Lawyers have to do it!!

  64. I absolutely love this. I’m only a beginner with DSLR’s, and i considered photography as a serious career, but he’s completely right. All of these points are true. Good eye opener.

  65. Sharing in my fellow photog groups and on my biz page. So guilty of more than a few, but I learned and am learning. I laughed my way through several of these, thanks for posting.

  66. Hi, thanks for the very interesting material that can be found on your site! But after reading this article I stumbled upon some harsh question – talking about ModelMayhem or some stuff like that, is it really possible to find a gorgeous model who is willing to work for free with a beginner in photography? I mean, if I am a beginner with a couple of shots in portfolio and I decide to enter ModelMayhem and ask some model to collaborate with me, she would be not glad to work for a newbie like me. She would stay waiting for a more experienced guy with a better portfolio. So, it must be hard for me to find anyone who is ready to model for my photoshoots. Or am I mistaken? Is it ever possible for a newcomer to find an experienced model on ModelMayhem?
    Thanks for your attention,

  67. Nice article Jim- agree with it all, and had a laugh at the blog one. I probably have a Facebook page that only a mother could love!

    If I can help answer Michael above- this blog was about the pitfalls of turning pro. If you’re at that nice beginners stage where everything is fresh and new I have to say I envy you! Remember the themes and ideas you have now because you’ll return to them later with more technical ability.

    If you are having trouble building that initial portfolio then remember- there are models who are just starting out too. Try modelmayhem and be honest about your level of skill- that might make a lesser experienced model feel less awkward about a first shoot. Also try Craigslist or gum tree or join an camera club. That we you can build up a styles to attract better models. So much of photography is about perseverance.

    Good luck and most of all enjoy!


  68. Thanks for sharing! A lot of great info.
    Question on #15 about having similar people in your portfolio and them choosing the more experienced photographer. I understand being able to get more shots of portraits using models and such, but what about weddings? I only have one wedding under my belt, but how am I going to get a second or third when people don’t see me as experienced? Thanks.

  69. Totally awesome and superb information. I am a fan.
    I am just starting out with photography, I travel a lot and take lots of scenery shots. Only taken portrait shots at a parade for a next door neighbor who was totally impressed. I wasn’t but he was. This article was an eye opener and will be lurking around your site’s.

  70. The one thing I’ve learned from the last five years of making my living off 100% professional photography is that as a photographer if your goal is to work with every day people (like those moms with babies that give you easy daytime shooting hours so you’re home for dinner) you can’t be calling people ugly!!! That’s some serious customer disrespect!

  71. Also thanks as I have realised that this is a great article to forward to all those people who contact me saying they would love to be a photographer and asking if I have any ‘tips’!

  72. Great article! Thanks for taking the time to put your experience and expertise out there for those of us that are just getting started.

  73. Boy, are you hitting the nail on the head! There is a great demand for photographers and the clients have been taught that they can have whatever they want for no money. After all, ” if I can just get my work out there…”
    We have been in business since 1965 and 2012 has been the worst year in our history. Why? Clients don’t want to spend money for prints, because so many photographers “give it away”. Facebook is the new “Album”. Quality doesn’t matter since you cannot see it anyway on the web and the “Art of Photography” is slipping into a dark corner. Sad really, but it is the sign of the times.

  74. When I shot for my college paper, I got to shoot our team at the championship round at the Women’s College World Series. I got the same ERR-99, but it was because the shutter on the camera was stuck (it spent a month at Canon getting fixed). The only think that saved me was that I’d thought to bring my personal gear as well. The camera was a bit noisy and had a cropped sensor, but with decent glass and skill, I managed to pull it off! I was thankful for the happy accident and never shoot without a backup body, extra lens, and my point and shoot for those REALLY bad emergencies.

  75. Wow! I’m completely new to photography as a hobby and I really appreciate all your solutions. I’m not really sure professional photography is the road for me, right now I’m just enjoying the process while still trying to be forward thinking. You’ve really given me some important things to consider. Thank you!

  76. Soon they will be like fruit vendors in the market. Same goes for video and audio….this is where you need some great marketing tools.



  78. Great advice!
    May I add this: WORK FOR FREE!!!!
    Any bussiness means you need to invest.
    Lucky for us wannabe photographers, digital era allows us to work for free at no expense. We only need to invest time but we need no waste on film or prints, just time. Work for free, don’t allow you ambition be bigger than your wisdom! Working for free wilo be a lot more fun, less pressure, you will learn and will make lots of mistakes with no consequences at all. I have donde that and has been a pleasure to work for free.

  79. Great tips, especially myth number 5. I shot a wedding for a friend and they tried their best to negotiate down what was an already a low rate to not have a second photographer. In the end I was able to convince them to spend the money. They may not have realized it, but having the extra photographer gave them photos that I would have missed, because I couldn’t be in two places at one time.

  80. I love articles like this because I can get another persons perspective. I think it’s important for anyone considering a pro photography career to be completely honest with themselves about their expectations. Defining what you want to achieve is critical. Then you can work on outlining a proper plan of how to reach your goal. No successful business ever got there without the owner having a good plan and the discipline to follow it.

  81. Myth #11 While I like many points you mentioned, I have to disagree with you on this one. I think that it is a matter of personal taste and choice. I really do not like shots that were taken with a flash. Whether they look nice or not, I really don’t care. I believe that a photograph should represent what was seen at the time of its taking, but not altering it (apart from contrast, sharpness and other basic editing). I can’t stand such photographs where it is obvious that an enormous amount of time was spent in setting up the shot. That isn’t called photography, but theatre. It might be that for indoor portrait photography using flash is a must, however your article does not address “portrait photography” only. Or do you view “portrait photographers” only as Professionals? I hope not.

  82. Wow. Professional photographer, business 101 taker and soon yo be lawyer. PLEASE tell us more! Entitled blogger perhaps??

  83. Thank you for helping me gain a better insight into this world I love so much…

  84. I’m with Ronald on Myth #11. I shoot documentary style and I NEVER use flash unless it’s for fill light for portraits outside and if I do, the on my camera is sufficient enough. .Also on Myth #15, obviously if someone is paying attention they will, but chances are many people are sifting through several websites and I doubt they will pay much attention to how many times so and so appeared in the portfolio unless it’s blatantly obvious.

  85. Hi, great article!! Thanks. I have been a videographer for about 10 years and making the shift over to photography, as I’m a bit over video and ready for a change. My style is very up close, in your face, portraits. I receive wonderful feedback from friends and clients, but still not sure I should go out and really push it yet.

    My question is, can I just operate with one style? It’s the style that I love to create, and it’s not a pretty, say cheese, kind of photo. Its very raw, natural and captures the person within. Would love to know your thoughts… I also love to work with a lot of B & W too…

  86. Hi Kylie. Keep doing what you love doing. People will hire you based on your portfolio. Stick with the style you like, and don’t be afraid to refuse jobs out of your expertise. Photography is like music. An opera soprano might not be as good at rapping. Happy shooting !

  87. Thanks Kyle, this is much helpful and inspirational to me. Photography is a learning experience, i cant believe i use to do some of this, it kinda make feel quirky now that i think back, but i came to pass it,I just look back and smile. Thanks

  88. Nevermind that Kyle name i didnt know where that came from lmao

  89. Hi Jim, Thank you very much for such an informative article 🙂 It was really useful and I appreciate you sharing it 🙂

  90. If you wish for to obtain a good deal from this article then
    you have to apply these techniques to your won weblog.

  91. An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who had been conducting a little homework on this.
    And he in fact bought me lunch due to the fact that I stumbled
    upon it for him… lol. So let me reword this….
    Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk
    about this subject here on your web page.

  92. i found this so informative it really did change my whole perspective on photography, i am a young photographer im only 16 and i love taking pictures i have already taken my best friends senior pictures, lots of senic photos and i did a horse show for my neighbors daughter but this shows me i still have alot to learn 🙂 i hope to start shadowing next summer after reading your article!!!

  93. hhhhhaaaaaaahaaaaaaa you are absolutely great
    and amazing i really enjoyed every single letter of your article bravoooooooo 🙂 now i need to consider allot of things before starting a business thanks allot 🙂

  94. Kudos! I love photography and have given thought to becoming pro, however i know i have much to learn and i am very eager to take courses, etc and will mainly have this on the side until i feel i can fully take on the responsibility of being a pro. This article has been totally helpful and has many points i did not even think about.
    thank you very much and i look forward to reading more of your blogs

  95. This was so well written and VERY informative. Photography is something I want to pursue as a career….now i’m thinking of it in a different light. Thank You!

  96. Great article, definitely an eye opener for aspiring pro-photgraphers. Gave me great input on where to start, what to focus on and the things that matter the most in this business… THANK YOU for sharing your ideas and experiences.

  97. One other “myth” I wish you would add to your list.

    I am a “corporate photographer”. I work in the aviation business for my employer – an Airline Company.

    I take pics of planes. Exotic planes like Boeing 777’s, and Learjets, and F16’s.

    My most recent video success was the arrival of a 747 onto a parking pad. I set up the shoot, filmed the taxi all the way from the runway until the plane pulled to a stop not 20′ from my lens. It was huge.

    Same thing for the arrival of one of our 777s. And Learjet photos for our company website.

    Troops arriving home from Afghanistan, and greeting families.

    VIPs pulling up in limos – like Travis Tritt (not his real name for privacy reasons). Ten feet from you.

    You get unprecedented access to all kinds of places people normally do not get to go. Building rooftops. Airport tarmacs. hangars. Firehouses.

    But here’s the tradeoff. All this wonderful scenery, that you would love to just stand and watch and “drink in”?….. You get to look at all of it through a 1 inch viewfinder.

    You rarely get to just stand back, in awe and wonder of the majesty and scenery before you and just EXPERIENCE it. No. You get to look at it with one eye, squinted against a 1″ peephole, and be distracted by framing, and lighting, motion, and blur-traps, and everything else.

    I wish I could have just stood there and watched that huge DC-10 on it’s fly-by on it’s way to retirement, and really experienced it and had a memory of it that would last. Instead, I was too busy peeping through my tiny view-hole, and handling the tripod to track the motion smoothly.

    As a photographer, I’ve experienced so much through so tiny an aperature, and so little with my eyes wide open to the scene before me.


  98. I agree with everything you wrote and to that THANK YOU! What a wonderful and honest perspective on the subject. It really gives you so much to think about.

  99. Any old joe blow can buy some lighting gear and learn how to use it. It takes an eye to FIND light in any location, weather, or time of day. Studio photographers have consistent light at their finger tips, day or night. Natural light photographers need a special skill. I photograph newborns. I could buy studio lighting. I’ve looked into it. I can afford it and I’m sure I could learn how to use it. But every time I look at a photographer who uses studio lighting, even the best ones, it’s just so obvious. It’s not bad, but it’s not my style. I don’t want to look into the catchlights of someone’s eyes and see giant white squares (soft boxes).

  100. Your article hits all the MAJOR points. “Want to be pros” need to heed your warnings and take your comments to the extreme level! I have been creating professional photography images for over 30 years. Mostly weddings some commercial. I live, breath and “WORK” photography. Its because I love creating that keeps me alive in this business and I was willing to do it without hesitation at any time, any day. Not great if your planning to have a traditional life style of 9 to 5 and weekends off.
    Great post!

  101. kirby Oct 31 post, so true.
    Erica Dec 29 post. It does takes true talent also in using artificial lighting [flash strobes]. I have seen so many self proclaimed pros bad work using flash in their ratios and exposures. Proper placement and balance of all types of light is an art.

  102. I read this and wanted to relay my experience in NOT going Pro. My wife’s sister-in law’s sister was having an inexpensive scaled down wedding and they asked me to photograph the reception. It would be my first paid gig. I think they saw some of my photos and liked them but I think that most likely they saw that I had what looked like professional equipment and thought they could do it cheap. (this was 10 years ago and I was shooting an EOS 10D with a 50mm MKI and a 430EX Flash with diffuser) I should have known something was up when they didn’t even want me to go to the ceremony at city hall just show up at the reception.

    I didn’t mind the 5 hours of shooting it too much. But the pressure of wondering whether you got the shots THEY wanted was overwhelming. The kids would do something cute and you’d whip around and think, “ah missed it”. I also didn’t realize that the reception was going to be in an old house, so the lighting was poor meaning flash reliance was key. It also wasn’t organized traditionally. There was no MC, no first dance, speeches, or cake cutting. It was just a a really nice party and I was meant to wander around and document it. More reporter than wedding photographer really.

    I thought I did a good job, but I did get one comment back which was something like “Funny how my Aunt never made it into very many pictures.”

    The post-processing was more than I expected and took me weeks. I hated it, and you couldn’t put it off like you can your travel pictures. On top of that I couldn’t figure out how far to take it. Do I remove the mole from the brides’s face in every picture? Do I fill in the missing back tooth from the father? Do I cover over the redness in the neck from the groom’s poor shaving? Tack sharp or soft vignette, or both? Color or B&W, or both?

    I ended up picking the best photos, creating a website for friends and family, mailed a CD, and did a slideshow DVD video. I did all this for $500 and I never received much feedback.

    I am glad I did it though, because it is the reason I stopped dreaming about being a professional portrait photographer. Even now when I dream about being an exotic travel or nature photographer I remind myself (and everyone else around me) how much time probably went into waiting for that shot. Or how long they spent in one location for a shot, or how they had to plan to be at a specific location at a specific time to get a shot. You don’t just roam around the country and stumble upon many great shots.

    Thanks for the great post.

  103. I loved this article and found it very helpful. [links removed as violation of IP Comment Policy]

  104. Jim – I can tell from your writing that you understand the business of photography too well. After a year striking out on my own, I can personally verify to all your statements. Thanks for the post, it was vindicating for me.

  105. Honestly the first article I read my whole life about photo business that actually didn’t write BS! Everything was extremly helpful and the solutions were bloody perfect! Thank you for this!!!

  106. I just started in May, and I’m so happy to have stumbled upon this website. I love that the articles are so much different from all of the other websites that seem to have the same exact ones, over and over again.

  107. Thanks, Jim, for the very informative and interesting article. Now, I am totally depressed (lol!). I did not realize how difficult it was to become a “photographer.” I want to do more children’s parties and offer a few other photo items with my package. I did believe a lot of the myths that you have listed here. I’m either going to have to step up my game or reconsider getting paid for taking pictures. I feel as if I don’t know where to begin to get the proper schooling in photography. Of course, I don’t have thousands of dollars to spend to do it! I LOVE taking pictures and as your myth # 3 states, everyone I give photos to tells me my pictures are great and that I should take photos professionally!!!! I am never without a camera when we go places and don’t want to miss any “Kodak Moments.” Looks like that is not enough! Thanks for opening my eyes. Look forward to reading more of your online articles.

  108. Wow! This is so dead on in my business of the microstock industry! I couldn’t agree more!

  109. Excellent Article.. I decided a while ago i dont want to do wedding photography for the reasons you outlined above… Ive explored most genres and i now incline myself to wall art and wildlife… Wildlife is a very difficult genre to get a name in though and i now just do that for fun.. Wall art is the way ime going in terms of making a living from photography… Thanks for the article Jim..:-}}

  110. Haha! Myth #11 – Guess I better go and get that flash…..

    Thanks for the great article. Well written, informative and definitely an eye opener… Thanks! 🙂

  111. very good post and tips but i guess that you forget the point of the higher and higher prices that it became to buy new equipment and such.

  112. I have to respectfully disagree with your 5th myth, where you say a second shooter is necessary.

    I shot my first wedding in 1982, and have probably shot thousands of them since. The second shooter, and the wildly inflated shot counts at weddings are nothing more than marketing ploys that developed with the advent of the digital camera.

    You need backups of all of your equipment, you don’t need a second photographer.

  113. This is such an amazing article. I wish more new photographers could read this. I was very fortunate to start in photography before the big boom when the thing to do was go to school and actually learn photography, business and marketing before you stated a business. I shot for close to three years before I had a website, and then it was mostly nature stuff because I wanted to learn how to shoot, wasn’t concerned with my subject matter and refused to shoot a person for a long time.

  114. Yep. The best thing to tell anyone who wants to go pro is to study dentistry or medicine.

    1. Why would it be a myth when it actually works? This is how my son built his portfolio. He advertised on model mayhem and got responses from models who were looking to get their photos out there also.

  115. Wow! What a great, informative post. You definitely pointed out a lot of new information I haven’t seen on any other website.
    I have experience working in a studio but would like to expand my education. I’m looking around for possible classes I could take to help me fully understand my camera and all that it has to offer. What do you suggest is the best route to do this? I have the artistic ability but feel I’m lacking the knowledge. What are your thoughts?

  116. Okay, now after checking out your website I feel embarrassed for not looking around before asking you questions. So here are new questions. Do you give any type of certification of completion after completing the classes? Do you even feel that’s important to have to show clients? After finishing the classes, are there other ways I can be a certified professional photographer or do I just jump right into the marketing side and get my new business known?

    1. Author

      @Ashley, We do provide a certificate of completion for the classes. You do NOT need to be a “certified pro” to be a professional photographer. When your skills are up and you feel ready, you can just go ahead and start marketing.

      1. While you don’t need a certification (or training) of any kind to start a photo business the PPA (Professional Photographers of America) do have a certification program and it is one way to set yourself apart from everybody else in the market place.

        Also if you want to be a professional photographer, membership in the PPofA, or the PPofC (Professional Photographers of Canada) is probably a pretty good idea. There are also local state and provincial associations.

        Do go to their conventions because there you will see examples of some of the best photography available.

  117. I am grateful for this advice! I am in the process of setting up a studio with lighting so I can play and experiment with portrait photography . Until now everything has been outdoors. This was definitely food for thought .

  118. Great article! I don’t wish to become a pro photographer but I’m always looking to learn to improve my “hobby”.
    Where do you suggest I go to learn more about off camera flash and lighting?

    1. Hey Ravit, I am the Hobbyist Editor here and am so glad to have you in the improvephotography.com community! You should check out the photo basics articles from Jim Harmer here:


      Then you should check out his beginning flash tips here:


      If after you go through that material and would like to get some better training then you can check out the 30 day courses that Jim and Darin offer at http://photoclasses.com. In my opinion they are very reasonably priced for the quality of the training.

      Finally, stay tuned here at improvephotography.com for more articles coming for hobbyist photographers that will help you on your journey toward going pro!

  119. Thank you for writing this article. I am guilty of one of these Myths and look forward to your recommendations.

  120. Fantastic Article that has helped my perception of myself as a photographer and maybe even help give me the courage to leap into the world of professional photography.. Living in remote Australia on cattle stations and small towns it has been a mission to get any kind of small course let alone something thats accredited internationally. Tutorials and articles like this have been my only way to learn n grow for the past 5 years. This article has encouraged me that its ok to make mistakes, you don’t know what you don’t know! But thats ok to not be a Pro if you don’t want to, We all have different levels of interest in everything and its ok to not go pro, but if you want to, pull your finger out and GO FOR IT! No short cuts 🙂 cheers and happy snapping!

  121. Really good information. But what struck me more than anything was how many hats you have worn.

  122. Wow! really good information. So glad I cam across this articles. SOOOO many times, I’ve thought about several of the things that you mentioned above. So glad you touched on each point that you did. I’ve thought many times over that many of the above myths were true, but this post has truly opened my eyes.

  123. As a hobby, taking pictures makes me happy beyond reason. Being told, after years of ‘career’ failure, to do what I love makes me grateful for articles like these. I will be heading over to Facebook now to like this even more.

  124. Thank you for the wonderful tips about photography. I have always been interested in photography and find it very fun. My mother says I’m very creative and I would be a good photographer, but I still need help and tips, so thank you.

  125. Been there… done that. A fact of life I call the RULE 85.. . 15% of the top photographers are booking 85% of the mid-high end weddings. Photography is 15% camera and 85% everything else. The bottom line will be the quality of the images. The rest is sound management of time and money. I am starting over and the above myths are hard truths… but I am grateful for the skills acquired. For those starting, second shooting for a professional will advance you years ahead of what you can do alone. Gear is less important than you think, and second to lights/lighting skills…. I have started back on a fluke. A client of my wife wanted headshots for her teen beauty queen daughter. It’s not the gear, because I’m using my sixty year old Leica, north facing windows, Portra 400, and a reflector. I will hire hire beautiful models to build portfolio. It’s well worth the investment on top of friends and family.

  126. It was perfect timing for me because I have decided to be much more intentional with my photography and try to push myself further than I imagine possible. I got some great nuggets of information out of this. Thank you.

  127. Anyone from London who wants a model for his/her photo shootings? To be very clear, I am not a professional model, but a good looking student who would be willing to do this. I like taking photos, but since I moved to London I no longer have any friends who love to take pictures. I guess this could benefit both sides, and plus, it would be fun, I think. Let me know!

  128. Great information! Unfortunately, I read this a few hours too late. I am not a professional YET. I have been practicing and studying anything that I can find on photography for 2 years now. I shot a small intimate wedding recently and they insisted on paying me. Yes, they were friends and co-workers. I reluctantly accepted their pay, but explained that I didn’t feel comfortable just yet. I am my own worst critic when it comes to this. The night that I gave them their photos, I had two other people, who saw their photos, wanting me to do sessions with them. I do have plans to open a portrait business, outdoor to begin with. I did manage to find a store that has a huge selection of lighting supplies, and I can make a studio in my basement. Back to the few hours too late thing… My goal is to open this Summer. My set back? I have no photos to advertise that isn’t my family, and of course, the couple who’s wedding I shot. What did I do? I offered up for the first 10 people to comment on my facebook post, a free 1/2 hour shoot with 5 poses on a disc. My reasoning? I need more portraits of a variety of different people. Is this counter productive? Obviously, I am not quitting my day job. My business plan is to have virtually no overhead besides fuel, vehicle maintenance, tools, upkeep/replacement of tools, etc. I own my own home, with plenty of space to work out of. Photography will be a part time and on the weekend thing for me.

  129. Wow, great article and such an eye opener! Thank you so much for sharing. I am definitely seeing things under a different light now.

  130. So you are aphotographer, a webdesinger and a lawyer? Thesefields takes years to study! i was once a multimediaprofessional that didntmake itfullyin the industry… 3 years of study….plus working in the field…thecourse slone cost 20k dollars….lawyers, mycousinisone.thats over 100k over 5 years…photography? Well…most of us are self studues…and that take years to develop ourstyle…

    Other than thatthe rest of theinformation on this article for a wouldbe pro photographerlikd me..is informative and thank youfor the knowledge….something tobe aware of

  131. Solution to #9 and 10: Kill all the lawyers….follow up with all the politicians, finally, kill all the ‘uncle Fred’s’ at any wedding with a DSLR…but be sure to do so in front of everyone…so if anyone else has any ideas about stepping in front of you as you work….

  132. Hi, you always have helpful information and articles but your website makes them virtually unreadable! On a computer your banner is constantly almost third of the way down the web page, it takes up so much room and it stays with you when you scroll, ridiculous! Sorry it’s just I like the information you give out just the site design really bugs me and it bugs me that anyone would think it is a good site design.

  133. Hello, I’m a graphic designer looking to get into photography to merge along w/ my present design services. I have a passion for print design, advertising design and editorial work. I have a Canon T5i and an old Nikon in my possession but I have my eyes set on a Canon Eos 5D Mark III or a Nikon D800 to get me started. I guess I have it in my mind that no one will pay me for using starting cameras to shoot headshots or portrait work. I’ve spent some time with highly paid photographers who constantly gag about “Toy” cameras.

    In a nutshell, is it possible to grab a basic camera like T3i or a T5i to build a portfolio and get work?

  134. Becoming professional photographer is not so easy. Passion and hard working can make it happen. 20 MYTHS ABOUT BECOMING A PRO PHOTOGRAPHER is an excellent article. Really love this type of informative article.

  135. Thanks for the reality check. I definitely enjoy photography as a hobby and get out to do it as often as I can. My girlfriend and friends often compliment my photos and suggest I go pro. Though I appreciate the praise I try to explain that it’s not as easy as it sounds and as you explained the field is being expanded by a growing number of wannabe pros. Would I like to make money, maybe even a living as a pro photographer? Sure. Would I like to continue enjoying the photography I do as a serious amateur? Even more so. I wouldn’t mind making a buck here and there if an especially good pic gets published, but I’m not sure I’d want to take the chance of ruining the love I have for doing something on my own by trying to go pro. For right now I’d rather keep the passion for something I truly enjoy doing and my day job as well.

  136. Nice article, but it deals only with a very limited subset of photography. There are many more photographic subjects than Weddings and Portraits, and many more ways of earning money from photography than by getting fees from clients for producing the images that they want. If you want to shoot weddings, or to make images for businesses, then I recommend John Harrington’s book “Best Business Practices for Photographers”. It is aimed at the American photographer, but the USA-specific parts (law, business rules) are still a good guide to what to do in the rest of the world. On the other hand if you want to sell prints then read Alain Briot’s “Marketing Fine Art Photography”. There is also stock photography, but as so many good photographers do not seem to mind giving away their work for free that is probably the toughest way of all to make any money.

    1. Of course it only deals with a limited set of photographic work. Can you imagine an article that touches on EVERY SINGLE ASPECT of photography? That’d be impressive.

  137. Great post, I like how honest you are about your assessment of new pro photographers. It really sheds the light on how you have to do some grunt work to make yourself successful. I especially like myth number #13, YOU CAN BECOME A DESTINATION WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER BY WRITING, “AVAILABLE FOR TRAVEL” ON YOUR BIO PAGE. It’s really embodies the lazy behavior that leads people to fail, even if unintentional.

    [link removed as violation of comment policy]

  138. Nailed it on the head with every point. I’m embarrassed as I was reading that I’m guilty of many of the points that you make. Fantastic post. Thanks!

  139. I want to have photography as a possible full time career butI am afraid that if I go to school and get a degree in photography that I wont get a stable career that has good pay. I notice a lot of people feel this way and just use it as a hobby. I think that if I take this career seriously I may be able to make it, but I’m not sure. Any advice will be deeply appreciated

  140. Why would you get a degree in photography? On any photography website have you ever noticed anyone bragging about their degree? I have never in my life asked a photographer if they had a degree before they did my photos… I just look at their work. A 17 year old just photographed my wedding and it was perfect. With YouTube and pinterest and a creative mind and good eye, you can learn everything you need to be a photographer. Spend your money on a good camera and lenses and a degree that matters/can be a back up career and then go for it. Just be smart.

  141. Sincerely, you a great adviser. But please help me; I have passion for photography but I keep doubting if I can actually make a living in it. That’s number one. Number two; Kindly encourage on how to discover my talent, especially being creative in the field.

    Thank you.

  142. I agree that I also have never heard of a photographer brag about their degree, but I also haven’t heard any professional in any industry brag about any schooling or degrees they may have earned either. Photography is like any other profession, some people are better than others. A good eye and good equipment certainly help, but that’s not all you need. Anyone can go drop four grand on a 5DSR and start snapping away just the same as anyone can read the same science and math books as Albert Einstein. Having a good camera and eye doesnt mean you know how to bracket and stack an HDR photo, remove a sun flare in PhotoShop, why you would need a tilt shift lens for certain effects, or why lightroom is essential. Yes, the internet is a wealth of information and you can probably come close to learning everything about being a professional photographer, however, a degree in photography is the same a degree aimed at any other professional goal. It will introduce new concepts and ideas and prepares you for actual experience that just having a camera and eye can’t possibly deliver. Even something that sounds as simple as making a black and white photo can be difficult when trying to make a good photo and not just desaturating it. Saying anyone with a good camera and lenses can make good pictures is simply ignorant, I would love to see your wedding photos. Your logic brings us to, “to be a good painter just buy expensive brushes.” Its so easy to rant forever in the wake of blatant thoughtlessness, but I decided I want to be a lawyer so I have to split before Barnes and noble closes, I have to get my hands on the thickest, most costly book.

  143. I like it…really very good article it must be helpful for those who are about to be a proffessional photographer….

  144. thanks for a great article. It has actually cemented my thoughts on doing this as a business. I have liked taking pictures of what I wanted – fun shots-my creativity. So far I have run into a lot of the issue where I love the shot and the client is not feeling “it.” So I think I am going to drop the portrait stuff for now – unless I am paying a model. I find myself churning out pictures for people who don’t appreciate the time it takes, esp in post processing. And these people have sought me out! Yeah done with it. They are ruining a hobby I used to enjoy.

  145. Hi, This is truly an informative and interesting article. I am very much helped from your post. I hope I could be able to do better photography with those tips. Thanks once again.

  146. Your Comment *am an upcoming photographer i have a camera & 2 lenses,i need assistance of a good professional photographer to teach me more though setting up a studio is my problem,or if i can get any magazine company i can be snapping for.i will be very greatful.my mobile no is 08060324783

  147. Helpful and most useful tips, thanks for sharing. This can help a lot to start up as well as experienced photography business.

  148. I thank you and appreciate your professional pointers regarding becoming a photographer.

    What are your thoughts on taking online class or recommendation for training?

  149. Timely piece , Apropos , if others requires to merge some PDF files , my business discovered a service here “http://www.altomerge.com/”

  150. Im not a phographer but it seems to me that doing phtography can be a lot of work. Taking the picture setting up putting it all away then post processing then finalizing and the whole buisiness end and being on your feet all day and if you have to work outside it could be physically just exhausting. im shure some make good money but being on your feet all day and you can never grow because you will always be the one who has to take that picture. How could you ever grow. Perks would be you get to meet all types of people and travel also. But if you are exhausted from hours of on your feet taking pictures at a wedding i cant see how you could be in a great mood to socialize or make a lot of friends if you are taking photos. I would rather do it as a hobby and collect pictures then sell the pictures. To me that would be better way of doing it. The way i do everything, more fluently as i please its with more finnese. And theres no money attatched to it.

  151. Great advice and I noticed that I’m doing everything right haha I guess it’s a natural thing for me.. maybe it’s my calling maybe you can check out some of my work and tell me what u think 😉

  152. Must admit i really did love reading this article , though for me , photography is still very much a hobby at this stage . Not really interested in shooting people , i much prefer shooting nature and architecture . If anybody knows anyway of me getting my pictures in magazines .. actually just getting my name out there ..i would be most definitely be grateful .

  153. Anything worthwhile ever come from the Facebook approach these years later?

  154. Thank you Mike for this very informative writings. It will be a big help for me as i am planning to create my blog. More power to you

  155. Anyone could tell me about pet photography. I’ve been trying to learn about the business but there’s not a lot of info
    Anything appreciated

  156. In response to Myth number 3….but if people start stealing your pics and reposting them in their travel blogs without giving you credit…-it might be time to consider learning how photo copyright works.
    I am DBA as a photographer LLC because my images were reposted without credit and I needed to protect myself. Not every pic I take is awesome but every now and then I get a good one worth a few bucks and being a “pro photographer” helps me get credit for those few decent pics 🙂

  157. You are right. I really enjoyed reading your tips, but I still find doing anything nina professional way can be depressive…
    Anyway, that’s the real world, and one has to be prepared for anything.

  158. Thank you Jim for the advice. I’m trying to sell more prints and get a larger client base. I don’t do much in the way of portraits and no weddings.

    Still a lot of helpful advice on avoiding the common pitfalls.

  159. This information was very helpful! Photography has always been something I enjoy immensely, but I have not gotten behind the camera in any meaningful way. Although I am nearing the twilight years (over 50!) I intend to to fulfill this dream I’ve had forever! Like you, I am educated, trilingual, and have traveled extensively in my life, so I have those blessings on my side. I am also tenacious, organized and ambitious.

    My focus is more in the fitness, sports and modeling areas. I am an avid gym go-er and attend bodybuilding competitions and such. I would appreciate any information and/or advice you can give me related to my focus or just in general. I am adamant about succeeding in this area. Thank you for all your help! I can see you are a kind and generous individual.

  160. Thank You Thank You Thank You. You touched on quite a few of my own concerns, if not all of them. But the most important piece of information I received from you, was that education is important. I have heard other photographers say “I never took a class, I just learned on my own” but I know that education is key. Never stop learning and learning how to use off camera lighting is first on my list of things to do.

  161. I originally read this article quite some time ago, most of it went over my head initially, but it did make me think and of course ask the question, ‘am I ready yet’. The answer at the time was definitely no!.

    I had honed my skills and while skills can always be improved, I decided that maybe I needed more time to ensure that I could do the job, almost with my eyes shut [as long as the lens cap was off at least]. I extended my studies on lighting, which helped me to understand that not all situations are the same, even in the studio.

    Your comments of offering freebies really hit home, yep, did that and yes, not only did I end up doing studio sessions for friends, or so called friends, but they also wanted me to foot the bill for printing and framing and never gave a thought to recommending my services to their friends when they passed comment on the great image hanging on their wall. It must have been great otherwise they wouldn’t have hung it on the wall.

    So, now I have read the article again, and I have asked myself ‘are you ready yet’ the answer is now yes, but I think reading this article in the first instant has contributed to that readiness.

    I bought a polystyrene model, to practice lighting techniques, talk about making life hard for myself, but it certainly paid dividends because photographing real skin is a lot easier and it taught me about positioning lights to ensure there is no glare, yes, even natural skin can give a photographer problems, but if you don’t know how to deal with it, it will always be a problems.

    I have set up a home studio, with no intention of doing weddings at this point in my venture; my photography tutor constantly said, ‘work smart, not hard’, weddings are definitely hard work and a big responsibility, so perhaps sometime in the future

    I have a spare camera body and lenses, although, I would like to increase my stock of lenses, when I can justify the budget. I have spare studio lights and spare flash units and you wouldn’t believe how many camera batteries I have. I have spare bulbs and fuses at the ready and, at this point in time at least, I restrict my activities to studio work to ensure I have as much control as I possibly can; I make exceptions for clients with disabilities.

    I encourage clients to make a story board of what they want and sit down with them to discuss the realities of some of their expectations.

    I am still struggling to achieve the right marketing strategy on a limited budget, but I am seeing some success by placing promotional material in beauty salons etc.

    Am I making money? of course not, it is still early days and I have yet to recover the costs of my equipment, only then will I start to make money. Do I anticipate making a fortune, absolutely not, but if I can generate sufficient revenue to cover expenses and facilitate more investment, I will be reasonably happy in the short term. In the long term, yes I would like to earn enough net income to say ‘I am a professional photographer’

    Thanks for this article, it certainly made me think and I have ideas for expanding my services in the long term, but for now, I am happy taking small steps so that I can grow my business with solid foundations.


  162. Thanks for this informative article. I am about to start a photographic business and spoke to a local professional photographer friend who has not had any work for the past 2 months. His recommendation is to forget the idea – hence me finding this article and looking critically at my skills and market pressures. With many younger photographers in the market, whose running costs are much lower than mine could ever be, like rent, food, fuel, upgrading equipment, I just can’t compete. So I will leave the “dream” job and save myself a lot of heartaches. Having read a number of articles like this today, the message is the same – BE VERY CAREFUL. I suppose as photographers we should focus before we shoot.

  163. A very informative article, many thanks!
    In 2017 one thing seems certain to me, teaching photography workshops is a sure means to earn some cash as a photographer, since there are so many folks out there enthusiastic to learn how to take better pictures. And the list keeps growing. The only catch is, you really need to have a lot of experience in the field and have a love for sharing it. If you do, this can be very rewarding (particularly for those old school guys). After shooting professionally for over 20 years, my satisfaction from paid photo jobs has diminished quite a bit. Too much of a rat race! It has always been the personal work that’s saved me and kept me going.

  164. I have certainly made a few of these mistakes myself (especially the facebook giveaway one)
    I liked the blogging idea, great tips!

Leave a Comment