I Wish I Knew Earlier About These 5 Mistakes Every Photographer Makes

I Wish I Knew Earlier About These 5 Mistakes Every Photographer Makes

I do my very best to help out photographers who are starting out. There are some negative tendencies in just about any photographer's career; I had them myself. The only difference between me and you is that you will now find out what's wrong, while I had to figure it out by trial and error.

Listening to the Wrong Feedback

The first one is the one I still battle with to this day. I listen to the wrong feedback all the time. Even though it did get better, I still get slightly upset when someone comments something negative about my work, and overly excited when someone says something positive.

The right people to seek feedback from are your clients, not other photographers. Other photographers look at your work from a technical point of view and will always have something negative to say. This is just a fact. Facebook groups are notorious for this, as that's where the worst comments are often said.

A much better place to look for feedback would be things such as portfolio reviews or honest opinions of your past clients. More often than not, you will get relevant comments on what work is missing from your portfolio and what work you can add to it to make it better.

It really does not matter if you use the latest kit or not; the main thing should be that you reflect on the valid feedback and improve your body of work.

Not Trusting My Gut

While it can sometimes contradict the first point, it goes hand in hand if you actually listen to yourself. One of the things that can really slow down any creative process is lack of instinct and vision. This is the mistake that I made as I was taking on everything and shooting in a style that would work for the market. This led me to feel burnt out and just plain upset with my work. Burnout can be around the corner too.

Cover story, where I was allowed to do whatever I wanted

Listening to your gut when it comes to visual direction is a great way to become authentic and original with your work. At the end of the day, it is your gut feeling that makes your work great. The same goes for what you take on and what you don't. More often than not, I find my gut feeling to be the best decision-making tool both creatively and business-wise.

Not Networking Enough

We hate missing out on jobs, or being in a place where there are no jobs at all. Assuming you are in a market with high-end paid work, you can be sure that the jobs are out there. They exist. The way to getting them is, of course, by networking and getting your name out there the best you can. This is a great way to boost your income, better social skills, and then some.

Networking is the key to success when it comes to being a photographer. By being a social, likable, and in general a nice person, you will land jobs. It is a pity to see how many photographers are putting on the artist hat and being rude to their own clients. Moreover, it is not only limited to photographers; it is also the people doing makeup, styling, and everyone else in the creative industry. I met a number of people that put on the artist hat and become antisocial. They are stuck working in their small bubble.

Shooting Too Little

The only way you can really progress in photography is to shoot. I'm not talking once a month; I'm talking once a week at the minimum. Last year, I had months where I shot up to five or six test shoots a week just to practice and hone my skills. This allowed me to meet a ton of new people, build friendships, network, and most importantly have new work to share. As a photographer, you need to be active on social media and constantly keep on sharing new images to give off the impression that you are working. If you have just started out, keep on posting and keep on pushing. The more people are reminded of your name, the more they will want to hire you should they need to. This is not something that I do on a daily basis, but I try to be active on social media at least once a week if my schedule allows. It usually does.

Not Learning to Light

Ah, this is a big one. Learning to light not only by using a setup but by actually having the knowledge. Lighting knowledge goes far beyond knowing the inverse square law. You have to be familiar with how to light various surfaces, how to bring out detail in them, and so on. This is something that takes both practice and patience. Chances are, you might not get it on the first try. I don't, and I've done this for a few years. When I pre-light for a job, I come up with a few options, and then the client goes and tells me what they want more of. Each job is different, and you will get a reference image you will need to produce. This might not be an image that is either your style or your skill level. Knowing how to analyze a photo and then come up with a better way to do what the client wants is a key skill that will ensure you are never out of a job. You might say, why not hire a gaffer? Well, before getting to booking clients that can pay for a gaffer, you need to learn to do everything yourself. A gaffer's job is not to create your signature look; their job is to put lights up and make sure they don't fall down. Learning to light based on aesthetic and client demand is a key skill that you must have if you want to be a successful photographer in 2024.

Closing Thoughts

So there we have it, here are some five silly mistakes that are preventing you from being a successful photographer in 2024. Learning to light, shooting all the time, networking, trusting yourself, and ultimately taking in the right feedback are all things that I did wrong at one point or another. The sooner you realize what's going on, the sooner will you be able to get more bookings and jobs.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.
LIGHTING COURSE: https://illyaovchar.com/lighting-course-1

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1 Comment

I read it to the end even though a hobbyist. For positive feedback the title would be better with business in it. I watch the many pros on the tube or in person ask things for info but have no idea of the business and this a real eye opener. Bravo to you for staying with it while I just find whatever to capture. This all and many more info is great to not only for beginners but those still pushing the rocks around. I hope you find some quiet time, may I suggest some Milky Way time on a pleasant beach at low tide just another genre. No lights needed!