Fstoppers Answers - If There Was One Piece of Advice You Could Give a New Photographer, What Would it Be?

Fstoppers Answers - If There Was One Piece of Advice You Could Give a New Photographer, What Would it Be?

Every week, Fstoppers turns to its writers with years in the professional photography industry to answer questions submitted from the public in a series called "Fstoppers Answers". This week, we answer "If there was one piece of advice you could give a new photographer, what would it be?"

Patrick HallFstoppers Co-Founder | Wedding Photographer It can be difficult to accept this, but in most cases a successful photographer is successful because of their business skills and not their actual photography. Most of the best photographers in the world really aren't that much better than your own peers, but they are brilliant when it comes to selling themselves and hyping up their name/brand. So dive into the techniques of photography your first few years, but also invest heavily in your marketing, business sense, and personal networks because those are the things that separate those who fail in their career and those who continue being sought by future clients.


Trevor DayleyStaff Writer | Wedding Photographer Learn every thing you can about your camera and your gear before moving onto the next investment. Far too often I see new photographers blame their "bad" photos on the camera. "If only I had the 5D Mark III or the Nikon D800?" The camera is only as good as its user. Learn everything you can about it. Learn how to shoot in all the modes, not just your favorite. Learn how to set up shortcuts in the camera, how to dial in your white balance, how to change focus settings and customize buttons. Once you know everything about your camera, and only then, should you consider even upgrading to something better. Oh, and when you are ready to upgrade save the money to buy it - don't do it on credit.


Sarah WilliamsStaff Writer | Wedding Photographer The one piece of advice I would give new photographers is to stop looking. Stop looking at what everyone else is doing. Stop looking at pages on Facebook, don't buy actions because you see people promoting them. Shoot every type of photography you want and wait to see what you fall in love with. It doesn't matter what you see other people doing and think you like. It matters what you fall in love with shooting.


Peter HouseStaff Writer | Commercial Photographer Learn to trust your gut. New photographers in particular lack the confidence in their abilities that comes from practice and experience. Due to this they will often question themselves and their concepts. It can be tempting to follow trends and draw inspiration from other work, and we all do to some extent, but each of us also has a little voice inside us that is trying to scream out the direction we should be headed in. Don't doubt this voice, it's your creativity speaking, and if you learn to listen to it you might find that you will soon be a trend setter yourself.


David BickleyStaff Writer | Fitness Photographer Never stop shooting! Take as many pictures as you possibly can. Take photos from every angle you can think of, and then the ones you can't. Play. Experiment. Have fun! There are no limitations. If you don't have a model and you want to learn to light people…do what I did and light some action figures until you can use a real person. There is no magic trick or photoshop action that's going to make you a better photographer. The only way to get better is to dive in headfirst and take a crap-ton of photos.


Jaron SchneiderFeatures Editor | Commercial Photographer I think the hardest thing for new photographers to grasp, even the ones who are really really good right out of the gate, is that without a potent portfolio, you're going to have to deal with perhaps not getting paid what you were hoping. For the first few paid gigs, odds are you might have to do them for a lot less than what some of your contemporaries are getting paid. Don't focus on the money, but rather on the relationships. The best projects I've been a part of weren't the ones that paid the most initially. For me, I was investing in the future by planting the seeds of strong relationships.


Dave GeffinStaff Writer | Professional Photographer Shoot what you deep down love to shoot, not what you think you should be shooting. Everything stems from this. Your intrinsic satisfaction and enjoyment with what you do, your passion and commitment, the people you connected with and the networks you build. When you shoot what you love, it's rarely a chore, mainly a joy and you'll find your self expression (and style) should flourish. Financial success may come down the road or not, but if you love what you are shooting, you won't have many unhappy days ahead.


Zach SuttonAssociate Editor | Headshot Photographer Be humble. You'll reach a point where you take a great photograph, and you'll think you've mastered the art. You haven't. Take advice from others, and understand that you haven't taken your best photograph yet, and that you do not understand everything there is to know about photography. On the surface, photography may seem like a trade skill that isn't too hard to master, it's not. Look back at your work annually, and you'll see how far you've actually came.

As always, if you have a question you'd like to have answered, please feel free to post it in the comments section below.

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Adam T's picture

get an accountant

Lee Christiansen's picture

Or learn to do your own accounts... I don't know about outside the UK but here it's positively easy to do your own books and submit a return. Maybe get an accountant for the first year but get them to show you how to do your own cash books. After that you'll be well placed to do it all yourself and save £££

Don't be talked into setting up a Ltd Company (in the UK at least,) unless you are earning quite a bit (in excess of £50K taxable profit...) because it opens up a world of complexity you might not want just yet.

In the UK, look seriously at the VAT "Flat Rate Scheme" if you are working mainly for corporates. It's so much better than the standard VAT scheme.

Collect EVERY receipt (think of them as a type of currency,) - but don't try and claim for non-business things. (Food and meals don't count for UK tax purposes for sole traders).

Oh, and set aside something for a pension. Too many self employed people leave things too late and you'd be surprised how heavy that camera kit gets when you're 67 and still lugging it all around.... (Early retirement for me... ha...)

And it doesn't matter how broke you are - insure for kit and public liability...!

Oops... more than one piece of advice... Sorry...

Adam T's picture

no it can be a big pain in here. It's fed. then state by state town by town depending on where you live. To do it right first inc. under LLC or LTD, then set up quarterlies, then deduction then state and town, permits, write off and hopefully your not double or triple taxed when you pay yourself. It's a lot easier to pay a guy about a 1k to set it up and 600 a year.

Lee Christiansen's picture

Sounds horrible. Our tax system is a bit messed up at times here in the UK, but at least it is relatively straightforward for what we'd term "sole traders." If you are a Ltd company it gets a bit more complex but it's not compulsory to go that way.

You have my sympathy in the US. But to those of us lucky souls in the UK, get out your cash books and learn the system...

Patrick Hall's picture

Also an accountant who knows their stuff can also give you tips that can either 1) make your life easier or 2) make your money go further. There are some crazy deductions that you may never know about on your own, and ways to file your taxes as different entities than what you may think (corporate vs LLC). It's really really complicated if you have a tax system like the US but it's also something you may not need to invest in until year 3 or 4. My suggestion is to write off everything you can those first couple years even to the point of losing money on your business and then by year 3 start making a profit. Good advice on getting a CPA though for sure.

If you're in the UK, I recommend FreeAgent. Most accountants working with freelancers recommend it too. Deals with invoicing, accounting, linking with bank accounts, credit cards and Paypal, you can scan receipts directly in using apps, and even prepares your tax returns in HMRC's format. I happen to know a thing or two about accounting myself but even if I didn't it would be dead simple to manage this side of the business. Maybe in the first year it might help to get an accountant cast an eye on things just before filing returns so that you can be sure of not having overstepped any guidelines on what expenses are tax deductible. The UK is a very small-business-friendly environment so read up on the rules - but don't get too excited about the generous depreciation allowances! I.e. don't start buying more gear instead of focussing on marketing :)

I also second the advice about avoiding being setup as a Ltd co.

Big pill to swallow, but I know it's good for me.

olivier borgognon's picture

On the photography part... maybe returning back to some basics with a 1Gb card to get 36 shots, sticking gaff tape on the screen and not deleting helps mess around and grasp the aspects of the camera faster than chimping ever will.

On the business point of view I think trust yourself, and meet people, go places, do what you love and so much agree with the business part. The best inventor sucks if he can't sell, same goes for any business.

That quote going like : This person can sell a freezer to an eskimo in an igloo... And i believe this is part of the essentials, but the most important thing to me is, don't force a sale to make quick cash... nurture the long-term.

Fill the frame.

Dont worry about the photography part, that's the easiest bit. Go on a marketing and business course, that's the bit you really need.

Robert Herrera's picture

Don't know about the industry in general, but it seems that in the region that I live in it's all about who you know rather than what you know. I do not consider myself a pro, but I do believe my work is at a higher quality that most in the place I live. And yet, the guy down the street with a Kodak is getting more jobs than I am all because he's friends with all the right people.

Don't quit your day job.

My advice to anyone who is starting out is to learn business. Sales, Marketing, administration, tax, accounting are all crucial.

like they say, you can have the best piece of art in the world, but unless you have the skills to show it to the right people, it is worthless.

Learn the lights.

Learn the light..

My advice would be do what YOU want to do. Don't let whats popular whats cool or whats hip right now shape what you want to achieve with your art. Focus on your art and not your equipment.

You guys seem way too focused on the money aspect which is really REALLY sad.