Five Things New Photographers Need To Look Out For

Five Things New Photographers Need To Look Out For

Between the dawn of the digital age of photography and services like Instagram, more and more people are trying their hand at photography. Whether you’re looking to be the next Ansel Adams, or just looking to take a few nice photos of your kids and loved ones, there are a few things that you NEED to look out for when getting started in photography.

If you've been engulfed in photography for long enough, you've probably ran into a few of these problems before, and learned a very valuable lesson from it all. If you’re new to the photography scene, or have dodged the bullets so far, let these 5 tips be a precautionary tale to keep you thinking smart and not getting scammed.

Grey Market Sales

When you’re looking to buy a new camera body or lens, you’ll probably search all over the internet to find the cheapest price available. You’re going to find that Amazon, B&H Photo and other similar camera stores will largely have the same prices. Then you’re going to find a store with a name like SuperShopExpress that is selling the same exact product for 25% off the price of it's competitors. Resist the urge to clicking the buy button - as it may become nothing more than just a headache and phone calls to your credit card company.



What they are doing, is a classic bait and switch scam. They’ll have you buy the camera (without a warranty, mind you), then call you trying to up-sell you batteries, memory cards and everything else in between. If you don’t comply with these additional charges, they’ll casually inform you that they’re out of stock on the item. Not only will this slow down the process of getting your fancy new camera from a different seller, it’ll also leave a sour taste in your mouth. My advice is to stick to the reputable sources, and only buy cameras and accessories from stores that are authorized sellers of the product. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

[Authorized Dealers for Nikon | Canon | Sony | FujiFilm]

Rebranded Gear

Sadly, there are members of the community who exploit the naive nature of new photographers and sell gear that is re-branded, with a bit of a price hike. Last week, we touched base on one of these stories, where re-branded flash units were being sold for over $100 of their normal price. Nothing was different except for a sticker hiding the original brand. Sadly these stories are far too frequent. Be sure to do your research before buying gear online, cause you may find that it's not what you're looking for or need. When in doubt, find a photography forum or Facebook group to ask for help.


Gear Hoarding

When finding an interest in photography, it's easy blame your gear for your own limitations. You'll probably find yourself sitting at B&H Photo's website, building a wishlist of everything you "need", reaching figures into the tens of thousands. Stop that. A $2500 lens is only as good as the hands holding it, so there is no sense in upgrading to the best of the best until your photography is able to really show it off its advancements and features.

Master The 50mm

The general rule of thumb I tell photographers who are just getting started into photography, is to master the 50mm. Not only is the 50mm among the cheapest lenses you can buy for all systems, but it's also the same focal range as the human eye (roughly). By limiting yourself to this lens, you'll be able to craft the skills that a bunch of gear won't be able to teach you. Color, composition and other fundamentals of photography are best learned through limitations, not by hiding them behind gimmick styles and bags of equipment. Find your skills using a 50mm, and you'll be able to master all lenses and focal ranges much easier.

Having Proper Paperwork

When starting out, you won't even consider getting the paperwork needed to insure that you're protected and that you own the rights to the images you take. It may come to your surprise, but nothing will save you in this industry more than a correctly worded release form. Making sure everyone signs a model release form and making it a part of your system of workflow will save you from headaches, legal threats and angry clients in the future. I've gone ahead and provided you with my model release form attached here. While it's all branded up with my logo and information, it should at least give you a starting point on how to build a release form.  It is about as basic as they come, but has saved me from a lot of stress when I've gone ahead to put work in my portfolio.

Two years ago, everyone was focused on adding lightleaks to their images. Before that, everyone was in love with trying their hands on free lensing. We're currently coming out of the double exposure era and into everyone becoming a lifestyle photographer. While trends are important and interesting, and will help you when creating a portfolio that is both current and creative, it's important to not let trends define your work. Building a portfolio that is unique and part of who you are is not just important - it's essential. The downside with trends is that they're temporary - and will eventually feel stale and overdone. Three years ago, having a model in a bathtub full of milk was considered very creative - now you've probably seen a dozen different images mimicking the same concept. Build a portfolio built off of your own style and personality, and you'll attract the clients you want to work with.


Hopefully this article has provided you with some insight on what you watch out for when starting you creative adventure in photography. While starting off in photography can be an exciting and fun experience, it's important to approach it all with some objectivity. If you have some insight to provide on this topic, I encourage you to do so in the comments below.

Zach Sutton's picture

Zach Sutton is an award-winning and internationally published commercial and headshot photographer based out of Los Angeles, CA. His work highlights environmental portraiture, blending landscapes and scenes with portrait photography. Zach writes for various publications on the topic of photography and retouching.

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Great tips! Thank you Zach!

Great read, Zach. My biggest takeaway was the discussion on trends — even despite the slam on light leak, double exposure, freelensing, and lifestyle photography. :)

Hahah. We've all done one of the trends at one point or another. I even have some lightleak work in my portfolio today, and still enjoy those photos. I just think it's also really important to develop your own style with your photographs. I want people to look at one of my photos, and know I took it before even finding a watermark...

I always tell my students to master the "straight" photograph first. Otherwise, they are relying on the trends to make it an interesting shot.

A piece of my soul dies every time someone asks how to make an image "pop" in Photoshop.

As always Zach, keeping the inspiration rolling! I can't wait till my Sigma 50mm gets here (my Canon 50 1.4 died) I think I am going to just walk around with that for quite sometime.

"It’s also the same focal range as the human eye (roughly)", this is a well-perpetuated myth or distortion not really grounded in anything but an oversimplification of fact and the passing down of that "info" from photographer to photographer. First of all comparing any lens to the human eye will be hard since most of us see through both eyes, and one eye has more approximately the focal length of a 22mm lens on a full frame body, but since our eye can be "changed" by muscles, its field of view ranges from 120-200 degrees. Perhaps someone sometime thought that by adding 22+22mm (since we have two eyes) that would somehow equate 50mm? In reality a grown man has about 170-180 degrees field of view which compared to the ~60 degrees view of a 50mm lens is much, much wider, so it's hard to fathom how the 50mm lens would be similar in that regard. Perhaps it has to do with our "tunnel vision", ie. that we tend to focus on what is right in front of us, and our ability to selectively perceive details in what we see, and that the central field of view is about around 60 degrees? I suppose that "perception" could be viewed as a crop of human vision, but the comparison is so far-fetched that we may as well not compare it at all.

If you put the tip of your forefinger to your thumb and make a circle, put it to your eye (effectively cutting out your blurry peripheral vision), then close the other eye, you will find that the area you are seeing is about the same as you get on a 35mm sensor with a 45-50mm lens. Or about what you would get from a 30mm lens on a crop sensor. Also, distortion on prime lenses at in that range is minimal.

That is the reason those are called "normal" ranges or "the same as you would see with your eye".

Great explanation. Thank you Jim.

Lack of distortion can still be accomplished on multiple focal lengths, and not just only on 50mm. So that point is moot. As for the other explanation you gave, that of course seems more reasonable, but still requires quite the extension of the 'a 50mm lens is equivalent to what the eye can see', which it is not.

It has the SIMILAR (but not totally equivalent) distortion of the eye: background compression, perspective distortion, etc... But the field of view is different between the human eye and a 50mm, because cameras are incapable of accounting for peripheral vision.

I think that's what people mean when they say the two are equivalent.?

personally i feel 135mm feels the most realistic.In an episode of the film show they shot large format with a 135/f2 lens which is fairly wide-angle on that huge film and that looked hyper-realistic to me.

Edit: here's one frame they shot:

The main problem I see with the 50mm eye examples is that they only account for one eye. I analyse my compositions through stereoscopic vision, so the math should too. This is why I find ultra wide angle (rectilinear) to be the most 'realistic' glass. Just spend a day taking shots in really tight quarters and you'll realize how much more your eyes actually pick up.

Photographs are 2D representations of 3D depth. They approximate the experience of looking through a peephole with one eye open and one eye closed. If an image is a 3D representation of depth (like sculpture) then it would make sense to account for stereoscopic vision. But in that case, it's still only appropriate for mediums outside of still photography.

I'm well aware of what a photograph is Mike, but the simple fact of the matter is that people don't close one eye to look at photos either (of course not counting an EVF). Photographers constantly check their work using both eyes. Clients look at your portfolio with both eyes. When walking through an art gallery you don't see everyone with one hand over their eye either (although, that'd be rather humorous). I'm sure everyone would agree that if you close one eye, your vision becomes impaired--as in not normal. So when someone is trying to find a lens that most accurately represents human vision, that lens better have a FOV that accounts for our normal two eyed vision.

A 50mm lens in 135mm format is a mechanical representation of our "foveal" vision.

Some folks have way too much time on their hands to over analyze just a general, rule of thumb concept.

great article Zach, thanks for the time you take to share with us.

On your Model release form. page 1 last paragraph, you state that you retain all rights for 2 years. On final paragraph of last page you state that you retain rights for perpetuity... Is there something i misread or is this a mistake ?

Noope, you read it correctly.

Essentially, if they sign the top line only, I retain the rights for 2 years. If they sign the bottom one as well, I retain the rights forever.

Depending on the work I do, I will either have them sign the top line only, or both of the lines.

Why is the link to the "facebook group" the model release form? :)

My bad. Fixed.

Also check out

Very good article. I had a bad experience years back with one of those discount places. They were one of the few places that had a new 580EX -- the 580EX II had already been out for a while. They were cheaper by like $30 and so I jumped on it.
Lets just say it never arrived and it took over 2 weeks and a lot of phone calls to refund my money.

I think we've all fallen for that mess a time or two.

When I was first transitioning to a DSLR, I bought a Canon XTi from one of those websites. Was about a 2 week nightmare of getting my money back....all cause I wanted to save $150

The best way in my opinion to save money on cameras: buy refurbs from the manufactures. They typically carry the same 1yr warranty too!

Very cool featured image, Zach!


Very helpful. Tips

Zach, what about grey market or white box lenses on Amazon, are they risky?