Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
After almost 5 years of doing photography as a business, I have made many MANY mistakes. It’s ok to make mistakes because there is always something to learn. But it’s never fun making those mistakes.
So I have written down some of many mistakes from over the years so hopefully, you won’t have to learn the hard way as I did.
#1 Always check your camera before every session
This is a recent one, like literally two days ago! I’ve been experimenting with video on my main camera and had all of the settings completely scrambled to try to produce the best video. I didn’t give this much thought until I arrived at the session and took the first photo.
It was WAY over saturated and the colors were like a neon color! It took me 10 minutes of precious session time to get everything back to looking normal again. Had I simply turned the camera on and took a single photo before the session, I would have seen the issue instantly.
So lesson learned there, always check your camera before every session.
#2 Always bring backup
This one might seem obvious but I don’t mean just bring a backup camera, I mean bring a backup camera backup lens backup batteries and SD cards, and backup lens batteries and SD cards for your backup camera!
I’ve never lost a client’s photos and I’ve Never had a camera lens or SD card quit on me, but that does not mean that it never will. I’ve been lucky so far, but I NEVER want to be in a situation where suddenly I don’t have sufficient equipment to do the job.
Yes, I know it can be expensive having all of that extra equipment, but if you are charging for professional work you must be professional and always have a backup.
#3 Don’t let your lens get cold on a hot day
What??? Yep, you heard me right, don’t let your lens get cold on a hot day, especially a hot and humid day. Let me explain.
I’ve written an entire article on this one before. You can read it here.
If you are shooting in the dead of summer and it is hot and maybe humid outside and your session is outside, you will likely be driving there with the air conditioning on. If you arrive with a lens that is cold because of the air conditioning from your car and you suddenly take it out into the heat it will instantly fog over and could stay that way for a VERY long time!
This happened to me last year and it was the closest I have ever come to having to reschedule a session. I had all of my backups with me but guess what, they were all fogged over!
I had to think quick and decided to set my lenses down on the ground to get them to adapt to the environment as quickly as possible. Thankfully they did in about 10 minutes.
I had this happen once before and it took over an hour for the lens to adapt! Thankfully that wasn’t for a paying client.
#4 Always shoot in RAW
This one has never been an issue for me. Thankfully I figured this one out before I started shooting sessions for clients.
Get Full Access Now!
Take my FREE Photography Secrets Course! 2 hours 40 minutes and 24 bite size videos teaching you how to take professional photos using a cheap camera and a $30 lens. Sign up NOW!
When you shoot in RAW you have a HUGE amount of flexibility in the post-processing. This will save you in situations when you find yourself shooting to late and it starts to get too dark to shoot. I’ve saved a ton of underexposed images in post. Even if I don’t think I will need to post process an image, I still shoot in RAW. You can always convert a RAW file to .jpg but not the other way around.
#5 Never delete the original files
Obviously, I don’t keep every single image I have ever shot, but I do Lee the ones that don’t get culled. On a normal session, I might walk away with 500-1000 images and I might cull that down to 300-400. The client will then get to choose their favorite 20 for me to retouch with the option to buy as many more as they like. But I still keep all of those images even after the session is complete.
I’m not required to do this, but I do it anyway. There have been many times when a client has called me in desperation to see if there is any chance I still have their images. As I said, I’m not required to keep backups and I let my clients know that, but in this case, we had unusual flooding in the area and many of my clients had not only lost their photos but their entire home! I was absolutely delighted to let them know that I not only have backups of their photos but I will give them to them at no extra charge.
There are other reasons too. Like needing to face swap because someone was blinking in the most perfect photo. I’ve actually completely fabricated a family photo that was accidentally not on the list of group photos they wanted at a wedding. I was able to look back and find a decent image of each of the people from that group and build it in post.
#6 Learn your craft
This one is a no brainer but it is something we all need to do and it bothers me to my core when I see someone advertising their service as a professional photographer and their work is absolutely no good! Actually, I think this bothers my wife more than it bothers me.
If you are going to take someone photos and you are charging for it, you should want to do your absolute best at what you do! And that means learning your craft. Learn how to pose people, learn how to manipulate light by understanding and being able to shoot in manual, learn how to use different lenses, learn how to shoot in any environment, learn how to edit images in post. Some people think photographers show up to the session snap some photos and then go home and send the client the files. That could not be farther from the truth! Please, learn your craft! Your clients deserve it.
#7Communication goes a long way
I am naturally an introvert and have always had a hard time communicating with people. Getting into photography has made me realize how utterly important it is to stay in communication with your client. The more communication the better.
And I am not just talking about scheduling and setting up the session, I’m also talking about during the session. There’s nothing worse than a photographer showing up and just starting to snap photos without any instruction at all making the client very uncomfortable and uncertain. It is your job to hold their hand along the way, tell them exactly what you want them to do but also tell them that if they are uncomfortable with any of the poses or anything to not be afraid to speak up.
Keep the conversation going. Let them know they are doing great. Have fun and make it fun. They will talk about their experience with their friends and hey, guess who just realized they need their photos taken? 😉
#8 Always require a deposit
My first year of photography was the most discouraging. At least 50% of my sessions was a no show! They weren’t out anything if they backed out and the worst part was, they wouldn’t even tell me! I would just show up on the location and nothing.
I realized this couldn’t keep happening. I’m an introvert remember? It took some serious courage for me to even schedule a session and then get there nervous half to death and then for nothing!
It was hard for me to start charging money for this. There is this strange psychology that happens and makes you think you should be charging to do something you love. So to start charging a deposit scared me. I was afraid I would lose all of my sessions. But I did it anyway.
I started charging a 25% deposit and guess what? Not only did I not lose any sessions, but I competently eliminated the no shows! There are absolutely no regrets for charging a deposit. You should respect your clients time, they should also respect yours.
#9 Deliver client photos as soon as possible
This was never an issue for me, but I picked up a lot of clients because apparently, their last photographer took over 6 months to a year to deliver their photos, some of them never got their photos back! This shocked me! I fill bad if I haven’t started delivering images within 24 hours!
I have an extremely fast turn over rate, and that’s not to say that I rush them. I spend anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple of hours per image if it needs it. I have got many compliments on how quickly I have gotten the client their images back, and they tell their friends.
Always do more than you say you will. If you see your session only included 20 retouched images, deliver 22. If you specified a time limit during the session, stay a bit later if you need to. When I do weddings I’m sometimes one of the last people leaving. I want to make sure I get all of the shots the client wants. I’ve been paid extra because the client was impressed that I had stayed so late. Remember, your clients will talk to their friends about their experience. It’s up to you to make it a positive or a negative one.
Thank goodness we fail, because every failure is a learning experience. Making mistakes is the same way, but hopefully, this article will help you to avoid the pain of making those mistakes but at the same time still teaching you a lesson.
Have a great and creative rest of the week!
If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your photography friends!
Follow me on Social Media