What Is the Worst Photography Advice You've Ever Been Given?

There are a lot of fantastic resources for information on photography, but sometimes, there is some utterly useless advice offered. So, for a bit of light relief, I want to know what the worst photography advice you've ever been given is.

I've collected some fantastic advice over the years — advice that has served me well: "Always have a camera with you," "get it right in camera," and "salt water and electronics do not mix well." But among these fragments of wisdom I have gathered have been other pieces of advice that were better off forgotten.

So, share in the comments the worst advice you've received as a photographer, recent or way back when. Here are a few of mine:

1. 'You'll Never Get Anywhere Without a Photography Degree'

Earlier this year, I wrote a whole article on this advice, as it stayed with me for some time. The quote doesn't need almost any unpacking, but I'll give you some context. While I was at university studying philosophy, I went to a meet and greet evening and was introduced to a photography student by a friend, who introduced me as a photographer too. He hoped that the common ground would ignite a nice conversation; it didn't. She hit me with the quote above, and we argued for a while before parting ways.

2. 'You Should Be Shooting in Manual Mode'

This is a mixed bag. How the person who told me this meant their words is without question, terrible advice. He was unambiguously suggesting that professionals shoot in manual mode almost exclusively, and amateurs shoot in the priority modes or auto. That's incorrect! However, I lean on manual mode far more than I ever expected to, so if I'm generous, I could say it wasn't far off being useful advice. "Every photographer ought to be able to shoot in manual mode comfortably" would be much more useful advice.

3. Shoot Wide Open or at the Sweet Spot

I've not put this in quotation marks intentionally, as it isn't a direct quote from any one person. Rather, it's this unwritten wisdom that gets silently passed down from photographers. I wrote a complete article on this recently called "Why You Should Be Using the Forgotten Apertures Between Wide Open and Front-to-Back Focus" if you want a more thorough breakdown of this point, but I'll summarize it like this: Just because you have a fast lens with a good widest aperture doesn't mean you always have to use it at that extreme. For several years, I took portraits and dared not to venture north of f/2.8 at the absolute highest unless I needed everything in focus, then it was f/8. That is a limiting mindset!

4. 'Professional Photographers Use Full Frame'

This is a tricky one. The person who gave me this advice wasn't trying to mislead me, and it isn't quite as sloppy as it sounds, but I took it to heart. I was using an APS-C camera back when I first dipped a toe in photography's waters. However, when I started considering making some money in the industry, I was convinced that full frame cameras are necessary for several reasons. The truth is, while most professional photographers shoot with full frame or larger sensors, it isn't even close to a necessity. I upgraded to an older full frame camera at the first opportunity, and while I don't regret it per se, I do think my money would have been better allocated on lenses and education. Speaking of education...

5. 'Don't Waste Your Money on Photography Tutorials'

The end of this quote is: "because there is so much for free." This is both right and wrong, depending on the angle. It's right insofar as there is a wealth of good educational material available for free on YouTube and websites like us. It's also true that a lot of online education is behind paywalls and a great deal of it is not worth the price. But to lump all paid tutorials into the category of wasting your money is a mistake. The best educational material I've seen on photography has been paid. This isn't a snide way to plug our Fstoppers tutorials — see, I'm not even going to link to them — but they (and tutorials similar to them) are worth the money. They aren't just some photographer sitting in a room and talking for two hours. They're complex, deep, and long collections of videos and files by experts of genres. I've watched many paid tutorials, both ours and others, and they are well worth the money. In fact, high-quality education is nearly always a better investment than gear.

6. 'Don't Get Into Photography'

This one was given to me by Alex Cooke, but I think we've all heard a variation of it at one point or another. On occasion, it might be genuine and honest advice, but usually, it's somebody who hasn't done particularly well with photography. Or, in Cooke's case, it was a local photographer wanting to protect his patch. I was told that there's no money in photography, and it was implied I ought to not get into photography professionally for that reason. The truth is, not many people make good money from photography, but some do. That distinction is an important one.

7. 'You Should Shoot Weddings, They're Easy Money'

Nope. I've shot a fair few weddings in my time (despite never being a wedding photographer nor advertising for them), and I can tell you, though the fee you get looks high, it's anything but easy money. The stress, preparation, and workload on the day is almost unrivaled. The day I shot the wedding of an A-lister's brother, I didn't stop for 18 hours straight, and the pressure I put on myself was staggering. That's without the editing phase, which really eats into the hourly rate that seemingly large fee breaks down into. Honestly, wedding photography might be one of the hardest and most stressful ways of getting money as a photographer. It is rewarding, and I do enjoy it, but it's so far from easy that the person who told me this deserves a large fish to the face.

What's the Worst Photography Advice You've Been Given?

Over to you now. I want to hear the worst advice you've been given and why. Share it in the comments below.

Log in or register to post comments


Previous comments
Charles Haacker's picture

I'm a long-retired pro whose go-to is Aperture priority. I have heard more nonsense about manual mode only, somehow using any sort of automation is less "creative," you must this but you must never that, yada et cetera. I also have a degree in commercial photography which isn't worth a bus ride. You are doing it right, keeping your own counsel, and producing for your client. I learned long ago that I will never know everything.

Michelle Maani's picture

Use a wide aperture and a slow shutter speed when shooting the moon.

C D's picture

“Always shoot with a wide open aperture for a professional look”. Ironic because it’s mostly complete amateurs who say this

Charles Haacker's picture

That is just plain crazy talk! Doesn't everyone know that most lenses perform better stopped down at least one stop? And the corollary, most lenses don't perform well at their smallest aperture, either (diffraction). Where've they been?

Johan Rastenberger's picture

I never get advices.

paul aparycki's picture

If you are talking about advice to a wannabbee professional, the first and foremost advice that they need to listen to is never, ever, never, ever ever listen to any advice from a family member, be it mother, father, wife, husband, sister, brother, auntie, etc.

Each and every one will stroke your ego telling you about your wonderful talent, skills, etc . . . and each and every one has absolutely no idea about what they are talking about.

Michelle Maani's picture

Don't listen to wannabe photographers who only know a little bit more than you do. They'll give you terrible advice.

Don Risi's picture

"Find a niche . . ."

I've made more money after abandoning that idea and becoming a generalist than I ever made in any niche . ..

Mike Ditz's picture

I think that depends on the market or specialty.

Sergio Thor M's picture

saw reddit /r/photography thread about this, interesting

Alex Reiff's picture

Reddit is a great source for bad advice.