I was certain that today was the day. It was going to be my 50th post for DIY Photography. To prepare, I’d been putting together bits of advice, lessons learned, and general observations about photography and life. It was when I decided to go back and re-read all of my earlier posts, though, that I realized the numbers were off– I’d lost track of the dates. As it turns out, this is actually post #51. My milestone had come and gone. My initial thought was to simply trash the post and move on, but a milestone is a milestone, even if it’s a day late. So, instead of 50 observations, I offer 51– the 51st from a rather unlikely source. There is no particular order. There is no ranking. While they are all a matter of personal opinion, I think there’s a little something here for everyone. I hope that at least one or two of these are as helpful to you as they have been to me.
1. On time is late. Always get there early.
2. Treat every job/assignment as if it’s your biggest ever. Your client will. So should you.
3. Knowledge and creativity trump fancy gear. Every time.
4. Brides have an intelligence network rivaling the CIA. If you piss one off, they’ll ALL know about it.
5. Same goes for art directors.
6. Think about more than just the shoot when location scouting. Bathrooms and bars are important, too.
7. Gaffers tape will save your ass more times than you can count.
8. Preparation is key. Charge what needs charging. Clean was needs cleaning.
9. Set reasonable goals.
10. Invest in a good tripod.
11. Be part of a community.
12. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
13. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Embrace them.
14. Seek out honest critique– even if it’s harsh. Learn how to take it. You’ll grow.
15. Compose more, shoot less.
16. Let others influence you, but don’t copy them.
17. Learn classic lighting and posing. Even if you never use them.
18. Learn how to clean your own sensor.
19. Becoming a good photographer takes time. Lots and lots of time.
20. It’s okay to leave the camera at home once in a while.
21. Keep at least one backup of your entire catalog off-site.
22. Sometimes the better shot is behind you.
23. Check all four corners of the frame before you press the button.
24. Get dirty every once in a while.
25. Be good to the crew.
26. Read the manual. Then read it again
27. Own and use at least one film camera.
28. Save everything. Your opinions will change over time.
29. Your LCD can’t be trusted.
30. Have a professional photo editor help with your portfolio.
31. Calibrate your monitor.
32. Ignore the haters.
33. Listen to the ideas that won’t go away.
34. Avoid gimmicks– in shooting and in editing.
35. Always pack a snack.
36. It’s okay to break the rules…but make sure you learn them first.
37. Keep a journal.
38. Spend less time looking at other people’s work and more time shooting your own.
39. Never shoot outside at noon if you can avoid it.
40. Only show your best work.
41. Respect the gear. Take care of it, but don’t baby it.
42. A good photo speaks for itself. So does a bad one.
43. Prints make great gifts.
44. Learn how to read a histogram.
45. A bad photo is a bad photo– Photoshop won’t change that.
46. Natural light may be the best light, but you still need to learn flash and strobes.
47. More than three minutes on an image in Photoshop is almost always way too long.
48. Update your website.
49. Chimp less.
50. Find the light and make it your own.
51. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” — Wayne Gretzky
Like I said– these are all things that have worked for me. I am sure your own list will look very different from mine. Feel free to share some of your own words of wisdom in the comments. We learn best by sharing.