I’ve been a commercial photographer for over 20 years and looking back, here are 44 pro tips I wish I had known along the way.
- Get it "in camera" whenever you can. Photoshop time is expensive and can cause a drain on your resources.
- Use a grey card in every shot set up so you can keep your color consistent job to job.
- Use a sturdy tripod with a head capable of supporting twice your camera’s weight.
- Join ASMP and learn the best business practices for commercial photography.
working with art directors and/or a strict layout, ask for hand-drawn
comps or storyboards of what they envision the shot to be. It will save
you hours of frustration in-camera and on set.
- Draw diagrams of your shooting style. It’s great to learn where you succeeded and failed.
- Watch out for lens flare from backlit sources.
- Convert RAW Files to DNG, work in 16-bit PSD, and save finals as flattened 8-bit Tiff with no output sharpening applied.
- Add basic metadata to everything. Include at least name, website, ©year, and client name or subject name.
- Use a standard file naming scheme for your files. Mine is INNITIALS_YYMMDD_4#SEQUENCE (i.e. LRB_070515_1234.tif).
- Delete unusable shots from a shoot.
- Buy gear only when you need it for the assignment.
- Learn basic CSS and HTML.
- Mirror lock anything slower than 1/15th of a second.
- Watch movies for lighting inspiration. Watch commercials for stock photo ideas.
- Don’t promise anything you can’t come through on.
- Spend one hour a day on sales & marketing when you're busy. Four hours a day when you're slow.
- Don’t let work overtake your personal life. Make time for loved ones and friends. And exercise every day.
25% of every payment you receive into a savings account to pay your taxes. At the end of the year, whatever is left over after paying taxes, put into retirement or back into the business.
- Pay yourself a salary every week. Give yourself a bonus for beating sales goals.
- Set sales and marketing goals.
- Calculate your CODB every year.
- Hiring an assistant will allow you to work faster, be more creative, and be less tired at the end of the day.
- Be yourself, unless you’re a jerk. In that case, learn to keep your mouth shut.
photography is not about you. It’s a collaborative process and you are
one part of a creative machine built to get results in a timely and
profitable way. Don’t throw a wrench (ego, doubt, fear,
miscommunication, etc.) into the gears and you’ll do well.
- Always meet your client’s expectations, but strive to go above and beyond that.
- Never settle for good enough.
- Always be open and upfront with your clients about costs.
- Estimating is an art and is something you’ll spend your life perfecting.
- Shoot personally and keep it personal. Free your mind of the confines of commerce once in a while.
- Be excited about your work and show enthusiasm for what you do. Be confident.
- Show interest in your client’s project and get invested with them. Stay away from the “us versus them” mentality.
- Build relationships with your clients, but keep a professional distance.
- The photography business is cyclical. Protect yourself from slow times by building a 3 to 6-month operating expenses cushion.
- Keep up with your bookkeeping and make sure to use accounting software.
you do it for work, you can write it off. But you can’t write off your
own labor (so when someone asks you to shoot for free as a write-off,
know that you won’t be able to write it off).
- Your friends
and family will have a big influence on you directly and indirectly.
Make sure you listen carefully to the advice they give you. It may be
beneficial or it may lead you off track. Weigh any opinions carefully.
thoughts, emotions, and actions will spread through your success like a
virus. Be mindful of the company you keep and what you say to yourself.
- Do what you love and the money will follow.
- Live below your means.
- Don’t buy anything for your business on credit.
- Know yourself and be yourself.
and celebrate food. Especially if you’re on the road, seek out a good
place to eat rather than settle for chain restaurants and fast food.
- Hire a coach to accelerate your photography business.