5 Mistakes You Must Make in Order to Grow as a Top Photographer

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5 Mistakes You Must Make as a Top Photogher Dreamer

On my dream path to becoming a top photographer I’ve come to embrace the statement “mistakes are a part of learning” –but trust me it wasn’t always that way.

No one can make these mistakes for you, but I’ll  save you some time by offering you my favorite ones.  Start with these, and feel free to add your own.

Here are 5 mistakes you must make in order to grow as a Top Photographer

Mistake 1.  Undercharge for your services.

Does this sound familiar?  You charge little for your time, and give them a CD with images that they can print themselves.  FORGET IT.  Don’t settle in or get comfortable with “free” as your strategy.

Its natural when you first get started to feel like you have to compete on price, maybe even do things for free.  You feel like there are lots of other people doing what you do, and if you don’t sell it for cheap you’ll never get any work.  Shooting for family and friends feels like a natural discount / free opportunity too.  You need to find a way to manage your own expectations around that or you will be the low price leader for a long time time, and you may never be profitable as a business.

What you will learn by selling yourself short -  You start to believe your own story about being “novice” or “new” and it prevents you from pushing yourself or learning what you need to get to the next level with your photography.

Mistake 2.  Believe that you can control stuff, like the weather

Shoots that take place outside will always rely on the effects of mother nature.  Sure, you are planning for a Saturday in May, and an early summer storm may show up and wreck everything you had planned.  A client gets sick, your equipment fails,  or your second shooter shows up drunk to the event.  There are no guarantees when it comes to ‘successful events’.

What you will learn from the impact of the unknown – You will start to trust that there is always a solution to any situation if you spend time thinking it through.  If your event is ‘hard-scaped’ ( something like a wedding or graduation ceremony ) you will learn to think on your feet and work with what you have available to you.  If your event can be rescheduled (senior portrait or product shoots) you will learn how to manage your appointment calendar to leave room for the inevitable.

Mistake 3.  Use a friend’s camera for an important shoot

Nothing moves the settings faster to “automatic” than my blank stare and nervous knots with anything other than an Olympus in my hands.  This would be like taking your driver license test in a car you’ve never been in before.  It’s not impossible, but why would you do that?

What you will learn about what you don’t know – in-the-moment learning curves, especially on digital cameras, can be  steep.  If you are headed to a shoot with equipment that is not your own,  refer to the manual or the in camera menus as much as you need to before hand so that you are not guessing on the fly.

Mistake 4.  Believe that the client always knows best

I have to appreciate the clients who are willing to make suggestions about locations, props and poses during the shoot.   I’ve learned a lot about whats important to them by what they suggest.  But in the end, I have come to trust that shooting at high noon in the back yard near a pool facing the sun is not gonna produce a good shot, no matter how much the client wants to showcase the new landscaping.  Its just not.

What you will learn from ignoring the little voice – The little voice is usually always right, so pay attention to your instincts.  Period.  You don’t have to be mean about it, but find a way to manage client expectations or there will be lots of disappointment in the order taking session.

Mistake 5.  Spend a lot of time ‘shining turds’

How many times have you said to yourself during a shoot, “ah, I’ll fix that in post processing.”   It’s a lazy bad habit to get into to rely on the software to make your images look right.  If the image looks crappy in the field, no amount of time at the computer will make that completely right.

What you will learn from hours at the computer – You learn what you like more, photo sessions with clients or computer work.  I prefer taking photos vs editing photos, but also realize that I was the type of film photographer who hated the dark room, too.  If you are like me, learn what settings or features address the issues you are having, and fix it while you are shooting.  Period.

Common photography mistakes image by Remy Gervais

What common photography mistakes do you think are important to make on your path to becoming a top photographer?

Until next photo,


  • Heather Montgomery, Product Launch Dreams

    Rem – I’ve been on the “control the weather” and “client knows best” shoot! My favorite one that I cringe at is “sure I’ll give the client all the photos”. Not always the best solution – more isn’t always better!

    Thanks for the list – Heather

  • How about the “finger in the photo” mistake? Because I am famous for that one!

    • Heather Montgomery, Product Launch Dreams

      Ahhh Cath… that’s how I know the shot is yours :) Love it!

  • James

    nice shot! another common mistake is not understanding lighting and how it can mess with your photos. a photo taken in direct sunlight on a bright day can cause your subjects to look washed-out and creates harsh shadows.