4 Truths About Photography Every Serious Photographer Should Know

When starting out, photography looks like a fun thing to do. In the beginning, you have the mindset that after a little practice, you will be able to make excellent photos all the time. Well I’m sorry to be the one to ruin the fairy tale, but that is just not true. Yes, photography is fun, motivating, inspiring and fulfilling most of the time, but often can be frustrating. This is due to the fact that no matter how good you are, there are many things that are out of your control. For one, you can’t control the weather, nor you can do much about it if it goes bad. But this is just an example.

Photo by Yashna M

It Doesn't Always Happen The Way You Want It

That is the part of the game, and you’ll have to live with it. Even if you have all the conditions perfect, you might shoot about 500 shots in order to use 5 of them. Most of them will be decent photos, but only a handful will have the wow factor that you aim for. If you are lucky enough, that is. Many photographers (including me) have gone through photoshoots without any shot that pleases clients. There will be photos that will be good enough for the editor maybe, but you know that you can do better and it will frustrate you because you didn't, in the first place.

It Takes More Practice Than You Think

While you are at the learning phase, you probably thought that if you are talented enough you’ll master the basic concepts that you need to start off in a workshop or two. Well, not really. It will take a whole lot more. Photography, just as any other art form, requires practice. It requires probably the equal amount of practice as you would need in order to be able to draw a perfect portrait of anybody in the world. It is a tough process and you will never be at the point that you don’t have anything else to learn.

A photographer friend of mine, who has more than 20 years of experience in the field, once told me that I need to shoot at least 10,000 photos before I learn how to hold the camera properly. To be honest, he was spot on. Took me 20,000 photos in order to learn to use my body to stabilize myself, hand, arm, and hips position in order to avoid most of the handshake and so on. I did learn composition, light, and tons of other stuff in the meantime, since you practice photography with every picture you take, but still, 10 to 20 thousand photos is a long way to go. A long and frustrating way with a great reward at the end.

Photo by greg westfall.

Photography is About Consistency

You can’t have it as a weekend hobby. You either are a photographer 24/7 or you aren’t a photographer at all. I mean this literally. Even if I don’t have the camera in my hands, when I walk down the streets I look at the light and anticipate how it would fall upon a model by using the bystanders as reference and so on.

Making Money From Photography Isn't Easy

There will be a point in time when you would want to monetize your skill. And you’ll find that it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Fact is that most of us photographers aren’t good businessmen, nor we are good at marketing. And don’t feel bad about it. You were focused in photography the whole time, what did you expect? Now you have two options: invest even more time and educate yourself into business and/or marketing, or ask for help in that matter. Learning business and marketing by yourself is another field that you will need to venture in. It is not as tough as photography, so it will probably be enough to grab a course or two about it. It is not as hard since you need it only to manage your own business and you will be able to learn as you go.

Photo by diana_robinson

So photography isn't as easy as it sounds, nor it is easy thing to master. Nonetheless, there is nothing else in the world that I would do. I simply love it with all the challenges and falls it has, and I’m sure that most of you that read this feel the same. The point was to warn you about the harsh sides of photography in order for you not to give up.


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About the author

Dzvonko Petrovski

Photographer who loves challenging and experimental photography and is not afraid to share the knowledge about it.

  • maz says:

    Good article, photography is about training your brain in photography science and arts. Irrelevant to gear. Anyone with the passion will survive the road in photography with joy.

    Tends to disagree consistency is needed to be photographers, it is true for professional (making a living) photographers. For serious casual ones, once mastered the science, it is more important to spend more time to think, train your eyes than pressing shutter.
    Same to other art forma, photographer will arrive bottleneck of creativity, it could be a better idea to pause taking photo for a while.

    • I don’t agree on pausing, it tends to dull your sense and feel. Try somethning different than your usual routine however is a much better idea. Or at least seek for some inspiration at some other art forms: famous paintings, famous sculptures and such.

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      • Ashutosh says:

        I agree with this. We don’t need to carry camera 24/7. IT’s the mind that train and aesthetics comes within. We should love all art fields. Mix and combine them. We can learn many things just by observing sitting idle and watching things we love or hate. Every expression teach us.

  • Abhishek says:

    excellent article. Thank you so much.

  • Lemon says:

    Good article! Another truth about photography is that you can definitely always get what you want it if the shoot you are doing is well planned. Planing a shoot beforehand is much more important than pressing the shutter;)

    • Yes, plannimg, scouting, comunication, so many things are in play not just the shutter button. 🙂

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      • I have learned that no matter how well you plan, you cannot plan well enough. If you’re shooting kids, esp babies, plan on them being difficult and crying. And an infant, child or pet is going to do something u don’t want them to. I always plan on crying, squirming, running around for toddlers, etc. I deal with this by moving my camera to the “sports” setting and let them run. Those types of shots are nearly always my favorite. Embrace the unexpected. A gifted photographer can deal with whatever circumstances arise.

  • Ken Rawlinson says:

    What you are talking about is the Dunning–Kruger effect: Take a few photos, think they are pretty darn good, friends feed into it by complimenting you on your amazing skills – gosh, I’m a photographer, I could make a living doing this! You have made 4 excellent points and I totally agree with you because I’ve lived (living) them. Try telling it to a ‘new expert’ though and they will go into denial… but in time their tune will change 😉

  • Bob says:

    “I need to shoot at least 10,000 photos before I learn how to hold the camera properly”
    If your friend is going to quote or paraphrase Cartier-Bresson then credit should be given.
    The quote is “your first 10000 photographs are your worst.”
    I’d add that your statement about 20,000 is pretty accurate, especially for those who take 500 exposures in hope of getting 5 right.
    The message, though, that one needs to relentlessly practice is 70% correct. I say 70 because one also needs to be extremely critical of his/her own work and learn from it.

  • Being a great photographer will not make you rich or even enough to live on! its people skills, your network of contacts & direct marketing. The simplest thing to do is create a list of contacts, every time some one emails you or meets you get their email and put it in a spread sheet, once a month send your whole database an email asking if they have any work! also include some of your images from last month and even better educate them on some aspect of photography. my record is 3mins from sending the email to getting a $500 job! usually get $500-$2500 worth of work within 24hrs of sending the email (300 names on my list)

  • Shammy says:

    What about post-processing? I’ve recently switched to shooting in camera RAW, and now I find it takes as much time to process the images as it does to take them! What about the skills of shooting vs. list-processing? Or the order in which you should learn them? I’m amazed that no one discusses this.

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    • Think of it as a part of the process. Shooting RAW is utilizing the maximum sensor potential that your camera has. Post processing might take more time, but that isn’t always a bad thing. I’ve spent days post processing a single image.

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    • If processing RAW images takes significantly longer than it would to process JPEGs then you’re doing it wrong. You need to read up on batch processing with ACR and/or Lightroom.

      • Dennis Bater says:

        RAW images take longer to process than JPEG because you can get a lot more fro a RAW image than a JPEG. A photographer should shoot in RAW far more than JPEG. As a matter of face I never shoot JPEG, it doesn’t have the information of a RAW image.

  • A camera is like a piano. You can make some sort of music, however primitive, fairly quickly. Mastery is a life long endeavor.

  • Cheryl says:

    Excellent article! Thanks for taking the time to put into words what I’ve been working through in my own photography journey. 🙂

  • Ira Rosen says:

    While photography as a career has its challenges, it has many rewards. As a studio owner/working photographer for almost 30 years I can honestly say I still love the work. Ask your accountant how he feels after 30 years on the job…

  • Rune Overas says:

    Very nice article. 🙂
    One thought:
    Life is short, and precious! If you find yourself at the point that you are not having fun (most of the time) taking pictures, then you should pause….
    Find something else to do (when it comes to making money), and maybe after a while you decide to come back.
    Keep up the good work.

  • Ken Owen says:

    What I’ve learned over the years is early on in our journey we “play” with our cameras and manage to pull out a decent amount of really good photos. Enough so that friends and family say you need to do this professionally. However if you want to be humbled, put the pressure on. Take on a wedding or anything else where there is no time to fiddle with settings or lighting or posing. The pressure will tell you how well you know your craft. If you melt down because you can’t get repeatable results, well, you probably don’t know your craft as well as you think. You need to be able to confidently get desired results without having to spend time thinking about. It needs to be instinct. And the only way to get to this point is experience. It’s the taking of 10-20,000 photos to learn how to hold the camera.


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