77 Life Rules for Photographers


If you're around the photography industry for any length of time, you start to develop a sense of the necessary, the desirable and the outright horrible. This is the code we came up with in no particular order. Add your own below.

Photo by Annie Spratt
  1. Always carry a camera
  2. It ain’t the camera, it’s the 12 inches behind it (Ansel Adams was right)
  3. Glass before bodies
  4. Learning before gear
  5. Nikon, Canon, Leica, Sony – Nobody who matters cares
  6. Don’t shoot for free
  7. Unless it’s your grandmother – jeesh, don’t be so cheap
  8. Don’t touch the model (seriously, don’t be that guy)
  9. Sleep in? Lol
  10. Shooting sunsets is a cliche
  11. If you don’t like sunset photos, you’re probably already dead
  12. Nobody cares that you only shoot prime
  13. Buying gear won’t make you a better photographer
  14. Except for an 85mm f1.4 – that is a sweet sweet lens
  15. On a full frame, 20mm for landscapes, 35mm for street, 85mm for portrait, >120 for action.
  16. Tips like that are a guideline, not a rule, so don’t lose your bananas about it
  17. Photography competition judges are rarely your potential clients
  18. Clients have very different tastes to photo competition judges
  19. Clients have very different tastes to professional photographers
  20. Get it right in camera
  21. Nobody gets it right in camera for everything
  22. When somebody tells you they always get it right in camera, look at their portfolio to see examples of photos that need post-production work
  23. Post-production is part of the photographic process – you either leave it to factory settings on your camera, or you control it yourself
  24. Go easy on Photoshop
  25. Competition? Photojournalist? Don’t remove objects from your photos
  26. Smoothing skin and making people skinny in Photoshop is a horrible reflection on society
  27. Literally, no client will ever complain if you skillfully smooth their skin or make them skinnier
  28. Converging verticals is a photography sin
  29. Converging verticals look cool as hell
  30. Regularly help other people learn
  31. Getting angry at cheaper/free photographers is a waste of time
  32. Figure out how to charge more, not less
  33. Regular event photographers need to be fit – you should be too
  34. When somebody asks for the unedited photos, the answer is no
  35. If they insist, and you really cannot get out of it, then the price is 10x
  36. University can teach you how to be an excellent photographer, but there are other ways too
  37. University probably won’t teach you how to be a good business person
  38. The second shooter gets paid regardless of whether you do
  39. When somebody invites you to an event, then casually mentions that you should bring your camera, tell them you are busy that night
  40. Learn how to shoot in manual
  41. Know that many pros shoot in aperture priority
  42. If you post it online, it WILL get stolen
  43. Photo thieves were probably never going to be a paying client anyway – but chase the ones who might have been
  44. It’s ok that your camera gear costs more than your car
  45. Some photographers are all about the technical, some are all about the artistic. There is room for everyone
  46. Every. Great. Photographer. In. History. Did. Post. Production.
  47. Look after your camera, but just remember, it’s a tool, not a priceless ancient artefact – it’s gonna get wear and tear
  48. Nobody knows where lens cloths disappear – carry lots
  49. Try film photography – you will probably love it
  50. Stop telling people you only shoot film – nobody cares
  51. If you ever find yourself using the phrase “real photographers” then give yourself an uppercut
  52. Everybody struggles to find their own style – it’s part of the journey
  53. Find your own style
  54. Own a Russian film camera once – you will love it
  55. If spending $500 upsets you, don’t enter a camera store
  56. If spending $5000 upsets you, consider moving to where there is no camera store
  57. Learn to take criticism gracefully
  58. Give criticism only when it’s asked for
  59. 2 Minute noodles can be skillfully prepared when you need to save for the holy trinity of lenses
  60. Read more
  61. Practice even more
  62. People don’t care why you couldn’t get the shot – they simply move on
  63. Want to shoot a photo you saw? Add your own twist – copying is boring
  64. Get closer
  65. Get closer
  66. Get closer
  67. If you know who made those previous three rules, you’re probably not a beginner anymore
  68. You will be somewhat unhappy with your shots from 3 years ago
  69. Photographing models to meet women is kind of creepy – again, don’t be that guy
  70. If you are standing on public property, you are almost certainly allowed to photograph anything you like – people, buildings, whatever
  71. Don’t be a douchebag about that
  72. Ask before photographing kids
  73. Preferably ask before photographing adults
  74. Smile
  75. Use your feet to zoom in
  76. There are no rules for photography, but there are laws for physics
  77. The only person who has to be satisfied with your photography is ultimately you

Got any more rules we should have covered? Add your own in the comments!

About Author

Rob is the founder of Light Stalking. His love for photography started as a child with a Kodak Instamatic and pushed him into building this fantastic place all these years later, and you can get to know him better here.
Rob's Gear
Camera: Nikon D810
Lenses: Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8

I’ve been a serious semi-non-professional for 40 years and love your list! Consider adding “Experiment”. Some of my best shots were ones I had only a glimmer of hope would be cool.

Learning to use light to best advantage is as important as composition. Get out of bed while it’s still dark.

Rules can be constraining so don’t be afraid to bend or break them. Just be sure not to harm anyone, yourself included.

Your first expensive lenses will marry you to the brand.
Lightroom, Photoshop, Snapseed, and NIK Silver Efex are a must.
Leica has the best glass but the worst digital interface.
Take your time and center the histogram before pressing the shutter.
Tell a story with your photo. If you don’t have one forget it.
Get your ego out of the photoshoot.
Ego is why you photograph.
Strive for a technically perfect photo. You can’t focus in retrospect.

So right about the lenses. Justifying the massive expense of changing platforms is tough. 🙁

Agree with #1 and #2. But for me, every pic needs to tell a story. I’ve been shooting sunsets as an exercise for years. The more I shoot, the more I find that a sunset that tells a story is compelling. One that is just “colorful” or “pretty” or even “impressive” is just a picture. So every sunset that I publish, print, exhibit, or share now tells a story. Thanks for your post, though, because I had not even realized that this is what I had been doing. Or that this is the difference between what I have been doing in the last three years, or so, and what I had been doing in the years before that.

Nice list! I thought it was going to be difficult to come up with 77 items but yuo did easily.

I’ve got two additions. They may apply to me personally more than others becasue I’ve made these two mistakes more than any others.

1. Carry extra batteries.

2. Make sure you have your camera set up for the kind of photography you are going to do that day before you get to your destination. You don’t need to fool with your camera or any necessary gear once you get there. When I get out of my car I am ready to go. At least I hope so.

In the words of Captain Barbossa, Pirates of the Caribbean. “You must be a photographer for the photographer’s code to apply and your not. And, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules, Welcome aboard”. .. The only real rule I have is “*Always Have Fun*”.. if I’m not having fun, whats the point of doing it. Great list Rob. I may quote these in other places. ;))

There is a difference between post production and digital art. There is a line and once crossed; it is no longer a photograph.

– Plan, conceptualize, and then shoot what is actually in front of you when you get there.
– (Almost) no weather is bad photography weather
– If your knees aren’t dirty then their is still a better shot to be had
– ask more experienced photographers questions only when you are ready for their answers
– Learn, learn, learn and then be generous
– Moving from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm is the secret to success
– There are always many different ways to shoot the same subject – try as many as you can dream up

Always take extra batteries with you, ALWAYS!

Wait for the mood to gather within before taking the picture.

Always look behind you to see what you might have missed.

78. Don’t tell your spouse how much you spend on photography gear.

79.If your spouse finds out how much you spend on photography gear it will cost you double in what she wants, i.e. furniture, dresses, dinners – you get the idea.


1) When walking around with a camera, look like you were a camera. Look up, down, near and far. Crop with your mind. Art is all around you all the time if you are ready to see it.

2) When you are done with a shoot, reset your camera to whatever you consider your default settings. Then you don’t have to wonder how it’s set when you need to take a quick shot.

3) Walk around on automatic. Take your shot. Then go to manual and try to improve on it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *