Every job has its secrets, and that of a photographer is no different. Pros make a living by doing something they love, but the effort and hard work are usually known only to them. Like in other fields of work, maintaining a professional attitude in front of a client is crucial. Sometimes, an experienced and talented professional photographer might make things look easy, but in reality, it’s all entirely different. Here are 5 digital photography secrets to success that most professionals rarely reveal.
Most of Their Photos are Really Bad
Every now and then, you might come across a breathtaking portfolio that makes you feel a million miles away. While it is a testament to the photographer’s talent and skill, the real photography business secret is that most of the photos taken in amongst those few, amazing ones, were probably middling or even really, truly bad. It can sometimes take hundreds or even thousands of clicks to get that one, incredible image!
Some people think good images just happen, or that one or two clicks of the shutter are enough. Others think that the pros just have a knack for creating incredible images on the fly without much effort. It’s rarely the case and just because you don’t see the bulk of the work (no photographer want to show unedited, poor photographs) doesn’t mean it didn’t take a lot of bad pictures to get there.
What’s the takeaway, then? Keep at it! No matter how many photos you take that just aren’t up to snuff, getting that practice in and taking a lot of pictures can only help you further your knowledge and advance your skills. Any pro will tell you that one of their biggest secrets of photography is just how many photos they have to take to get “the one.”
The Fewer the Subjects in the Frame, the Better
Clutter is no friend of a photographer - it’s generally best to avoid overcrowding a frame with too many elements. Pros know this and often try to find the perfect balance between a primary subject that grabs the viewer’s eye and supporting details that support the main subject and add to the composition.
To the untrained eye, a crowded frame is just as good as balanced one. However, no pro will make this mistake, even when asked by a difficult client. Some call it minimalism. Some call it proper composition. Whatever name is used, the point is still the same - less is more!
If you want to learn how to simplify your compositions and use negative space, check out this video from The Art of Photography:
Post-Processing Can’t Fix Everything
Nobody likes to hear it, but it’s true. You can’t solve every problem with Photoshop, Lightroom, and other software, and that’s why it’s best to try to get as much right in camera as is possible. This isn’t to say that post-processing doesn’t have many benefits for the modern photographer because it certainly does. However, putting a bad or even an average photo through post-processing won’t necessarily make it a better photo; it’ll just make it stand out more, and usually not in a good way.
Sure, you can easily adjust color and contrast, lines and curves, and use layers to dodge, burn, and perform other advanced edits. In fact, for many professionals, these and other tasks are an integral part of their workflow. But post-processing can’t fix poor composition. Blown out highlights or blackened shadows are tough to fix too. Being purposeful in the field and striving to perfect the image in camera will help unlock the true power of post-processing. That’s a secret of photography you can count on!
There is Tons of Directing Involved
It probably seems like there are some photographers who are incredibly lucky. Their work is made of surreal frames, of things organized in an almost perfect way, as if the universe interfered to make it right every time. But the truth is it’s just a lot of careful planning and proper execution.
Here’s one of the best kept digital photography secrets: many of the fantastic photos you think are captured on a whim are actually made from scratch, with likely many hours of planning and adjusting along the way. What sets a pro’s photo apart from an amateur’s photo is that you and I cannot tell that the photo was staged.
It’s Not About the “Right” Tools
There seems to be a general misconception among many photography clients that they are paying for someone who has the right training to operate high-end equipment and…that’s about it. But for the discerning photography enthusiast, you know it takes a lot more than gear to produce quality photography. So much more, in fact, that professional gear is expandable. Of course, no client would want to see their photographer shoot the job with a smartphone, but when it comes down to it, it would be entirely possible to do so.
Why? It’s the photographer’s skill that’s the most important factor. A photographer can have a trunkload of top-end gear but still take terrible photos. On the other hand, a well-trained photographer that understands the fundamentals of exposure, composition, lighting, and so on, can take a stunning photo with any kind of camera, regardless of that camera’s quality.
So, it’s not about the tools or post-processing, nor is it about serendipity. The secrets to success as a photographer revolve around committing oneself to the time and effort it takes to learn the craft and learn it well. There’s no magic wand that makes the pros so good at what they do - like every other profession, it just takes practice to get good!