10 Photography Pet Hates – It’s All About Being Professional


This is a guest post by Phil Hill, a travel photographer from the UK based in Australia. You can see more of Phil’s great work at his travel photography blog or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

If you fancy yourself as a pro then you have got to raise your game, and raise it high. I have a few pet hates within the photography world, things that make you look plain un-professional and professionalism is paramount.

Purely my own opinion of course, some of my gripes have been properly executed by many (professionally) and readily create fantastic imagery, just steer clear from these clichés and already you will be a step ahead.

1.    Selective Colour
Is it color, or is it black and white? It’s both! Everyone will have seen a picture of a person holding a red rose, classic bad wedding photography. If the image doesn’t look good in either, it’s not going to be improved with selective colour.

2.    Overcooked HDR
A few photographers out there really rock the style of merged images; Ken Kaminesky and Trey Ratcliffe  shoot high dynamic range, and do it well. The basic principle is to take two or three different exposures of the same scene, usually a landscape, where the sky is much brighter than the foreground, then combine them into one image showing detail in both highlights and shadows. This process should be subtle, push it too far and you end up with weird halos and a posterization effect. It makes you look really bad at PhotoShop for a start and left with photographs which are an assault on the eyes.

‘It always surprises me when I keep seeing HDR like the top image, use the process sparingly'

3.    Photographers websites that play corny music, any music
If you run a photography website, let your images do the talking. I am coming from an editorial perspective here; I want editors, creatives, people in the business of commissioning photography to view my portfolio, nothing will turn those kind of professionals away faster than if I had music blasting out from my homepage. No one wants to have a sudden blast of song erupt in a quiet office space either. The other trouble of course is copyright, un-able to license something really cool to promote your work, all that’s left is the terrifyingly low rent tracks that make you look tacky.

4.    Hopes, dreams and moments photographers
Have a listen to ‘I’m qualified to satisfy you’ by Barry White, too many photographers out there are doing the ‘About me’ section equivalent, describing themselves as having the ability to ‘capture moments and memories’ it makes me cringe, be original, be honest. Listen to ‘Why don’t we do it in the road’ by the Beatles instead.

5.    ‘Artistic’ Photo titles
So, you’ve taken a really cracking image of a landscape. Please don’t ruin it with a name like ‘sunset moods’ or ‘sheer beauty’. Under no circumstances quote verse, song lyrics or poetry in the description. If you have successfully communicated ‘true love’ I will get it, 9 times out of ten a caption like that has been applied afterwards without no real foresight when it was created, the most effective way to shout amateur. Look at Cindy Sherman, she has made an entire career from ‘Untitled’ images.

6.    Non editors
Most photographers aren’t very good at editing their own, common knowledge amongst professionals, favoring the opinions of others to make a cut of images. It is never a good idea to litter a website or Flickr (big offender) with every conceivable shot of the football match, frame by painful frame, laid out like stills from a movie, viewers will tire quickly. Less is more.

7.    Kit envy
This should be on a photographer’s deadly sins list. Have you ever judged a fellow photographer’s ability by the camera around their neck? It happens constantly, next time you are out snapping watch the amount of other photographers eyeing up the number before your ‘D’, sizing you up as a lens-man. For every below-average pro-dslr user out there, I will give you 5 geniuses with entry-level cameras.

8.    Using words like ‘Nice Capture’
I shudder when I hear, or read, those words. It kind of implies that the image was nothing more than luck. There are certain ‘scenes’ and ‘trends’ in photography that people go along with, sometimes its better to abstain from such things. Incidentally if you uttered the word ‘Bokeh’ in a photographic context to a Japanese person they would wonder what you were on about.

9.    Wearing cameras to exhibitions, especially vintage ones.
This makes me laugh every time, a couple of months ago it was Fotofreo photography festival here in Perth, I managed to attend a couple really great exhibition openings and check out some amazing work. Every other person in the room was walking around with a camera and prime-lens attached over their shoulder like some uncontrollable need to let everyone know you are a photographer and an artist. I was even able to work out a hierarchy, the top of the pile firmly dominated by the Leica wearers (see number 7). If you decide to do the same and don’t have a press card, ask yourself, what do you intend to photograph? It looks ridiculous.

10. Digital attitude
Never fall into the ‘it can be fixed in PhotoShop’ trap, think how much better your photography could be if you achieved everything in-camera. Learn the business of photo making before even contemplating owning a copy of the software.

About Author

Freelance travel and editorial photographer originally from the UK but find myself in Western Australia, Based in the amazing Scarborough, Perth, WA.

This is great! My biggest flaw is an inability to edit well, but I definitely am conscious of the rest of them. . .

I surprisingly agree with most of these. I think selective colour can work at times though, but only rarely. And I’m guilty of artistic photo titles on sites like Flickr, 500px etc where it’s customary (or even mandatory) to have a title.

I don’t see the relevance here. This sorted stuff is great for a forum discussion so people can let off a bit of steam or be a bit sarcastic but I would have expected a bit more class from you, Phil and from LS to plaster it on the front page. Lowers the tone. I might suggest its just a whinging Pom but I wouldn’t dare.

Nothing wrong with a page 3 girl – or bloke. May it could be done in selective colour, HDR and show a bit of kit envy (oh, sorry, I thought that was tit envy)

HDR is my pet peeve. The amount of HDR photos that are so blown out amazes me. The final image is supposed to look real and natural.

Some of this is relevant, some of it is just scratching around to fulfill the 10.

“It’s about being professional”.. the guy’s rally car shots, well maybe he is an amateur hobby flickr user not a pro?

I see he’s disabled the image linked to, probably as a result of this blog post.

Tell me again about being professional…

Actually, I asked him to host it on Flickr and his account was already closed before this was ever published.

What if the girl on page 3 was packing a 600mm L on the 5dm2 kit envy? Would the guys be rude to her? Some male photographers still turn up nose at us. No matter what kit we have. After shooting for 40 years I still get that unprOfessional treatment. Be a pro. Be nice!

Please remember that most photographers do it for fun and are probably avid enthusiasts who scan websites such as lightstalking.com for hints and tips.

I would have preferred if this article didn’t mock us and was not so sarcastic.

Written differently this could have been a great article.

By the way one of my pet peeves is to go to a website and find the links don’t work Phil (check your about page – bottom 3 fly-out links on the left hand edge)

So many people were offended, lol… I happen to agree wholeheartedly with every item. And I admire the author for his courage in voicing what might be unpopular opinions.
I do overcrowd my Flickr but that’s because I use it as an archive I can access from anywhere, while I’m working on curating the very best work for my own personal gallery site, admittedly a daunting task. The artsy fartsy titles can be cool if you have true poetic flare and don’t go cliché, but it’s dangerous territory…

I’m not a pro, but I am passionate about photography. I’ve been at it for 3 year’s, and am self taught. I really do appreciate what you said.
Along with learning photography, I want to learn the what not to do things also.

I have only been at this a few years and consider myself an “advanced amateur” but I moved past these mistakes in about six months. Having said that — learning software is a MUST for digital photography!!! I have never found an “in camera” image from anywhere that did not need some levels/curves adjustment for contrast and shadow recovery is a must on most wildlife images even with “great exposure”. How can you control highlights and shadows with RAW files if you don’t edit??? So photography and editing are DUAL TRACKS for the learner!!! We all cannot afford to pay a professional PS guy on retainer! While I agree that PS cannot save a bad image, it is a must to get the most from a good image. #10 is wrong!!!

Maybe if we get good enough to make money at photography, we can get someone who specializes in PS to do our editing for us. Like Nat Geo photographers have!!! Even they don’t get it perfect “In Camera”!!!!

First time on your site and I have to say – I get it and totally agree.

I see some people thinks you go to far, in there opinion you have the right to do whatever you want. They are right but so are you.

I agree with a few of your pet hates.. But I cant help but feel that half this list is your intolerance of other people? Who cares if someone wears a vintage camera to an exhibition? I think you need to focus more on the output of photography, not things you find annoying about other photographers.

Some people seem quite offended by Phil Hill’s article, which is quite normal. I don’t think he was trying to insult anyone’s professionalism or the lack of it. If you read his introduction to the article, he clearly states that these are HIS OWN OPINIONS which in some ways have been shown to be true.

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