10 Things Photographers Need to Stop Doing in 2019

10 Things Photographers Need to Stop Doing in 2019

Here are 10 things to stop doing in the New Year if you want to be a better, happier photographer and maybe make more money to boot.

Stop Doubting Yourself

Creatives tend to be hit hard with things like imposter syndrome and often suffer crippling self-doubt. We constantly ask if our work is good enough and worry that our big ideas will turn out to be a joke. Creating something from nothing is hard, and sharing our creations with the world can be incredibly intimidating. Our brains try to save us from the potential emotional trauma of having our work torn apart or our efforts laughed at by making us afraid. It's time to recognize the fear for what it is, a self-protection mechanism, and ignore it. Stop doubting. You got into photography for a reason, and every time you let fear and doubt stop you from moving forward, you become one step further away from realizing your potential. Whether you have to bull your way through it, or talk yourself down, find a way to push past that self-doubt and create the work you want to make this year. Fate put a camera in your hands for a reason; don't let self-doubt stop you.

Stop Comparing Your Work to Other Photographers

In a culture bombarded by imagery, it's hard not to compare. How can you look at the work of your idols and other incredible photographers dozens of times a day and not see your own work with a critical eye? So, maybe your work isn't as honest as Lindberg's, not as fun as Sirota's, not as colorful as Woodman's, or as romantic as Kotak's; you are not them, and your work should not look like theirs. The only person who can use your voice is you, but if you stay silent or censor yourself because some other photographer has better work, you'll never grow into the photographer you need to be to say what only you can say. Let other photographers remind you of what is possible, let them inspire you, but don't let false comparisons intimidate or deter you. Stop worrying about what they're creating, and start making the things only you can make.

Stop Marketing Yourself to Other Photographers

It's natural for photographers to want to gather and speak to other photographers. We feel less alone when we can talk shop. And other photographers know what goes into making great photographs, so praise from them feels extra good. This can become a problem, though, when you inadvertently start spending your time and effort trying to reach other photographers instead of potential clients; blogs that are directed to other photographers explaining technique, rather than written to potential clients explaining how you can solve their problems; spending all your time in photography groups on Facebook rather than hanging out where your potential clients are; spending time on tutorials and reviews rather than networking with your next client. Unless you plan on making a good amount of your income teaching other photographers, start paying close attention to where you're spending your time and who you're talking to. The photography community is an important part of staying sane and finding your tribe, but if you are a business person and you spend too much time focusing on other photographers and not enough time marketing yourself to clients, it's going to hurt your bottom line. Stop it.

Model: LilyShae MUA: Jessica Worster Hair: Kimberly Clay

Stop Blaming Your Clients

It's not a bride's responsibility to choose a beautiful venue for your portfolio. It's not a mother's responsibility to understand that five minutes late could mean the difference between magical sunset light for her family portraits and no light at all. Your clients aren't photographers; that's why they hired you. Yes, sometimes, clients can be frustrating and can make our jobs more difficult, but that's what we get paid for, that's why we are the professionals. If you spent 2018 complaining about clients, it's time to tighten your suspenders and take personal responsibility, because that's literally the only way we can ever make change happen. If you shift blame to your client, you' ll never take the time to think about what you could do to ensure you still get the shot, or have the time, or have enough light. You won't think outside the box about what lens to use, what aperture to chose, or what angles you can work to hide or make the most of that awful reception hall. I'm not saying the clients are never in the wrong, I'm saying you can't change them, so it's best to look at every situation as if it was your fault, because that's the only way you can make positive change and still be worthy of a paycheck.

Stop Sitting so Much

I wrote an article about this, and it's worth a read if you want to guard your health. The simple fact of the matter is that being sedentary is incredibly bad for you in many ways, and photographers spend a lot of time with their butts in chairs in front of computers. We're editing, we're answering emails, we're creating albums, making ads, ordering prints, keeping the books, and a million other tasks that require us to be still in front of a screen, and we're risking our health to do it. Whether you outsource, set a timer to remind you to move, or get yourself a standup desk (I did this and it almost completely ended the muscle spasms in my neck) you need to stop sitting so much and move your body. An hour a day at the gym won't do it, either. You need to break up your day with movement. Not only does this help protect you against a whole host of issues including diabetes, heart disease, and musculoskeletal problems, it keeps your circulation in better order and gives you those endorphins that just make you a happier person.

Stop Working Without Building Systems First

If you've never taken the time to build yourself systems for the tasks your commonly complete at work, then stop what you're doing and take that time now. Having systems in place means that you complete the same tasks the same way every time. It means that every client gets the same service in the same amount of time. It means that if you need to have someone take over for you because of injury or illness, you have a system they can follow to ensure your clients are taken care of at the same standard they would have been if you were there. It means you can outsource. It means you have to spend less time thinking, you won't get distracted and leave a task half-finished, and you'll have a measure to use when deciding if a system is effective or could be improved. This won't work the same way for every photographer, because some photographers run a business and some photographers are their business, but it's worth systematizing everything you possibly can. Check out this article for a bit more info on how to do it.

Stop Using Someone Else's Measure of Success

We aren't all photographers for the same reason: some of us want to photograph celebrities, some of us want to create conceptual works of art, some of us want to record landscapes before they're destroyed, and some of us want to capture memories. Just like our reasons for picking up a camera are different, our measures of success are different. If you started a part-time business to bring in a bit of extra income, your measure for success is different that someone who is aiming for $100,000 a year. The worst thing you can do for your own piece of mind is aim for someone else's goal. Figure out what success means to you, and ignore what other people are doing. You don't need to match their follower count on Instagram to be successful. You don't need to have your own fan group or earn as much as they earn. You are not them, your reasons for being a photographer aren't their reasons, and if you measure your success by whether or not you're living up to their standards, you're going to feel empty and disappointed when you achieve their standard and realize that it was never what you wanted in the first place.

Model: LilyShae MUA: Jessica Worster Hair: Kimberly Clay

Stop Imitating Other Photographers All the Time

Imitation is a great way to learn: it helps you try out techniques and figure out what you like and what you don't like. Imitating a highly recognizable style can even make you a lot of money. But, if you never grow beyond that, if you never take those techniques and shape them to fit your own vision, then you'll never be anything but a poor imitation of the original. Growing your own style is hard: it requires bravery and vulnerability and lots of failures, but having a style that represents who you are and how you see the world is worth it. If you're a photographer for nothing but the money and you're happy parroting someone else's style for your clients benefits, disregard this piece of advice. But if you became a photographer to make things, to speak through a lens, then stop trying to do it with someone else's voice. 

Stop Listening to Your Ego and Learn Something

Yes, strobes are amazing. Yes, natural light is amazing. Yes, shooting on a backdrop is amazing. Yes, using a light meter is amazing. And yes, the photos you make with those setups are amazing. But, if you never step outside your comfort zone, if you never admit that there is still something out there for you to learn, then you'll only ever be capable of what you're making now. I don't know about you, but the last thing I want to do as an artist is stagnate. I want to learn all there is to learn, so I have every tool available at my command. You might be a wonderful natural light photographer, but just imagine how much you could learn by playing with a flash every now and then. You might be a master strobist, but just imagine how you would force yourself to grow and think creatively if all you have to work with is what mother nature gives you. Stop assuming that you've reached the pinnacle of image making, and start learning as much as you can.

Stop doing the same old thing

A comfort zone is a lovely place, but nothing ever grows there. I'm not saying you need to completely change your style, especially if it's something your clients have come to expect from you, but I am saying that there is value in stepping outside your comfort zone and trying something new. If you're used to shooting models, try giving regular folks a try. If you've never shot boudoir, or played with a scrim, or shot outdoors, give it a try this year! You never know what you might learn, how you might grow, or what you might fall in love with. This life is too short not to try new things, and you've got a whole year to experiment.

Model: LilyShae MUA: Jessica Worster Hair: Kimberly Clay

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71 Comments

Rob Mitchell's picture

Sitting down is my only one on that list.
Mind you, I have to sit down a lot to deal with the number of photographers that are trying to punt themselves to me though the various social media channels. Annoying, doesn't cover it.

You're so great, Rob.

Nicole York's picture

I was honestly amazed how bad it was, and getting myself a standing desk has made a huge difference for me.

Well you will have to sit with your big fat head so your screwed then aren't you? Your pictures suck so you should probably work on that don't you think? Can you do that sitting down?

Rob Mitchell's picture

Did you type that all by you're self?

“Yourself,” “you’re self” means “you are self” and is essentially meaningless in the context.

Rob Mitchell's picture

Totally, just like the edited mistake in the pointless comment I was replying to, except I didn't edit mine to correct it. Which of course, you've missed, so my deliberate error is, meaningless in the context ;)

Why the unkind comments?

Bibi Haribi's picture

...or maybe: 'Stop Listening to Your Ego and Learn Something' :-)

Jorge Velez's picture

Great Post... I agree with all 10 things

Andy Day's picture

Solid advice. Thanks Nicole!

Nicole York's picture

Appreciate it!

Daniel Medley's picture

Very good.

These two stood out to me:

1. Stop Marketing Yourself to Other Photographers.

Trying to impress other photographers is mostly a giant waste of time. Granted, it's a kind of tightrope in that input from other photographers can indeed be useful, but often times that input is less than useful. Many people have a tendency to get stuck in their way of doing things and establish their rules and present their box to others as gospel. Unfortunately those people are oftentimes the loudest.

2. Stop Listening to Your Ego and Learn Something : "You might be a wonderful natural light photographer, but just imagine how much you could learn by playing with a flash every now and then. You might be a master strobist, but just imagine how you would force yourself to grow and think creatively if all you have to work with is what mother nature gives you. Stop assuming that you've reached the pinnacle of image making, and start learning as much as you can."

I've never understood the whole encampment mentality of "strobist" or "natural light." How is it possible that one can be "better" than the other? Answer, it's not. They are simply tools to utilize the foundational ingredient of photography; light. And at the end of the day, light is light.

Nicole York's picture

I agree with you! I'll use any tool in my arsenal to get what I want, and I don't particularly care where it comes from.

Studio 403's picture

I am on board with this thinking, Thanks Fstoppers

I have a few that could be useful as well:
-Stop marketing composites as if they're not (a certain Aussie photographer and his stupid moon will recognize himself)
-Stop telling everyone your camera is the best
-Stop running around for shots at sunset, instead get one right (that one is aimed at me...)
-Stop sharing your photos immediately and let them ferment a bit to see if they turn great, like blue cheese, or turn bad, like a potato forgotten in a plastic bag.

Rayann Elzein's picture

That thing about composites... Oh man if only more people were aware that the moon is NOT THAT BIG! And I guess I could use that same advice about sunset shots, oops... :)

Leigh Miller's picture

Nice Nicole

Michael Holst's picture

The one that stands out the most in my mind is "Stop marketing yourself to other photographers"

I think some people have a hard time defining the difference between networking and marketing. Some photographers in my area only seem to want to shoot with other photographers which is great but without clients they don't really make any money outside of instagram influencer posts. Getting peer recognition feel good and if that's all someone wants, then go for it. But ultimately someone with a mind to be a professional would be more worried about finding paying clients to work with.

I think another one to add would be to "Stop worrying about gear".

We sometimes forget that there are photos taken years ago on 12mp crop cameras that still look good today. Gear just defines limitations but if skill hasn't yet elevated to where those limitations start causing frustrations, then sticking with whatever potato you have and shooting more will be more beneficial.

Nicole York's picture

I agree with you, there!

Kirk Darling's picture

And if someone is "marketing to other photographers" just to get pats on the back instead of a serious critical review, then it's even worse.

Michael Holst's picture

Yeah people are pretty weird about that. More often than not, it's for a pat on the back but I think constructive critique should be done on a private channel rather than publicly because any public review can open a can of worms.

Stop clicking on Fstoppers articles that have titles that read like "Canon and Nikon Released the Worst Cameras of 2018"

Jeff McCollough's picture

Or "Why aren't there more photographers that are (insert any non white male descriptive term)."

user-216690's picture

"...some of us want to record landscapes before they're destroyed..."

*small sad nod*

William Howell's picture

Not to be a pissy Pete, but could we destroy anything? We are part of the Earth, no?

user-216690's picture

We have lost approximately 83% of mammal species.

Approximately 90% of fisheries are over exploited, fully exploited, or approaching fully exploited.

Global levels of phytoplankton have decreased by approximately 50%, and are rapidly crashing.

We have lost approximately 2/3 of all species.

Between 1970 and 2012 we lost approximately 81% of freshwater species.

Yes, we are *reliant upon* the global *habitat*. It supports our economies, our civilisations, and our populations.

The simple fact is that we are on the brink of a catastrophic collapse, which will precipitate a crash in the human population. The fact that the vast majority of people willfully ignore the catastrophic (potentially existential) nature of the situation does not alter it.

“Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad or an economist.”
~ Kenneth E Boulding.

Edit: approximately 2 billion people are reliant upon the oceans for survival.

Edit 2: the following was timely (I've read the article; however, I haven't read the actual paper yet):

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/salt-water-fish-extinction-seen-by-2048/

Needless to say, the issue is catastrophic well before the last fish is gone; indeed, it is fair to say that the situation is catastrophic now.

I don't want to human anymore.

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