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5 Uncomfortable Truths About Photography

This is the reality of being a professional photographer today.

As professional photographers—and we’re talking about the business of the art, not the art itself—there are some elements of the industry we don’t always acknowledge. It’s easier to believe myths that help us sleep at night, rather than the truths that will ultimately propel our careers.

From understanding when to splurge on expensive camera equipment to acknowledging the importance of talent, some photographers are simply in denial. However, when you learn to embrace the uncomfortable truths about photography, you can use them to your advantage.

Here are five things you should know about being a photographer:

1. Equipment matters (at least a bit).

Gone are the days where we could get by using older versions of the best technology. With talent and practice, there were tricks you could employ to make even your lower-grade camera shoot quality images.

Now, the playing field has two teams: those who can afford the adequate equipment, and those who can afford the really nice equipment. While it’s true that a pro camera will mean nothing in the hands of someone who can’t use it, competing for clients with other talented photographers who have better equipment than you may be a losing battle.

This is especially, and unfortunately, true for photographers still in school or starting up a new business. In tight financial times, buying the best equipment isn’t always feasible. This can be frustrating, but don’t lie to yourself. Your old camera isn’t the same as a new one.

2. Photoshop isn’t always your friend.

While it’s true that Photoshop, and image editing in general, is a necessity in the photography field, it’s very easily misused or taken advantage of. When everyone’s images start to look the same—not to mention over-edited—we have a problem. It’s not acceptable in photojournalism, why should it be acceptable in photography of any kind?

3. Sometimes, it’s not about talent.

The internet and social media have made it possible for everyone to be an amateur photographer. When the camera on our iPhone 6 shoots photos that are (arguably) just as nice as those from a professional lens, many people are employing themselves or their friends to shoot their special days and occasions. To the untrained eye, these photos are good enough.

Many of these people will set up websites and companies and secure clients who don’t know any better. They’ll make no attempt to improve because the money will keep rolling in.

Unfortunately, in the photography business, it’s about what the client wants. Oftentimes, your clients won’t know high quality from low—especially in the case of wedding or portrait photography. Keep shooting your vision and creating the images you want for yourself, but know that this may not always be what your clients are looking for. You won’t always like what your client is looking for.

4. Photography is easier than you’d like to admit.

There are many excellent photographers out there who have been practicing their craft for years, honing their skills. They can make any dreamed up image or vision come true. They have both talent and skills.

Then again, the rapid advancement of technology means that almost anyone can learn everything there is to know about photography in a couple of months. How can the modern photographer set themselves apart in a seemingly endless pool of talent?

Be good. Really good. Practice, have great ideas, and never sell yourself short.

5. You need to embrace technology.

The rapid advancement of technology is especially obvious when it comes to cameras and equipment. Much like everything else in our consistently busy lives—our phones, computers, iPods—a newer, better, faster version comes out each year. While you can definitely get an extra couple years of life out of your old products, you need to be prepared to trade up, and maybe lose some money, as older equipment loses its resale value considerably, in order to improve results.

This industry is in constant motion. Equipment is only getting better, and we’re going to keep seeing innovation and excitement within the world of photography. We need to be willing to accept the changing face of photography if we want to stay ahead.

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