5 Ways You Are Derailing Your Photography Career

5 Ways You Are Derailing Your Photography Career

The game has changed a lot in 2024. Being a successful photographer is no longer about technical ability but a lot more about aesthetics and vision. In this article, I will tell you the five things you need to stop doing to be a successful photographer in 2024.

A lot of photographers focus on all the wrong things. This can derail your career. Some will spend years being derailed and not progress as rapidly as they can. I honestly believe that anyone can be a photographer with the right knowledge, understanding, and taste. Read on to find out the things you need to stop doing to be a successful photographer.

1. Reading Gear Reviews

The first one applies to a large number of photographers who have just started out and who are focusing on getting the best technical image possible. Being a combination of aesthetics and precision, it is easy to fall into the precision part of being a photographer. There is a new camera every other month, and new gear released almost every week. Reviewers, such as myself, will jump on this gear and review it as it’s exciting to try out. That said, if you are familiar with my reviews, you might notice that I only review the things I use personally, and not every new tool available. This is down to me finding gear reviews pointless to some degree. For example, I can tell you what each light modifier does because it has a direct impact on my work, but I do not know the latest camera Canon released, let alone other brands. The information I would get by reading a review of the latest Sony would not make my work better, or be time well spent. I only dive into reviews and gear research when I need to buy a replacement for gear that does not fulfill the purpose it has in my workflow. As such, I won’t be trying out the global shutter in the new Sony, but you bet I know more than I need about Phase One because it’s the equipment I sometimes get to use for jobs.

2. Getting Feedback From Other Photographers

Another thing photographers are constantly doing wrong is asking for feedback from the wrong people. Such people are fellow photographers in most cases. Truth be told, some photographers really hate my work because it is technically wrong. The skin tones are blown out, backgrounds overexposed, or the image was shot with a head-on flash and nothing else. While photographers will not find these techniques exciting, the clients who are paying me do. I care a lot about the feedback I get from such people, as it allows me to progress and deliver better results to the people hiring me. A random person on Facebook who knows every lighting technique (in their opinion) will likely look at my work and find a ton of mistakes with it. Rightfully so. I am inevitably asked to do portfolio reviews and feedback for photographers. When doing so, I focus on things such as aesthetic and vision rather than technique. Trust me when I say I did paid jobs with nothing more than a camera and a head-on flash. Those jobs sometimes paid more than jobs for which I had ProHeads with a ton of modifiers. Your images should be in touch with what the current zeitgeist is, not with what camera and lighting brands are marketing to you. I can go ahead and come up with a 20-light setup if I want to, but it will be useless if the subject in front of my camera is not right. Ask for feedback from your clients, not fellow photographers.

3. Watching Photography YouTube for Hours

Another one is photography YouTube. While a great pastime, you can’t possibly be watching photography YouTube and then go ahead and claim you did productive work. I rarely watch photography YouTube for that exact reason. That’s not to say that I spend a little too much on documentaries and all that sort of jazz. I do. The difference is, by watching documentaries, I expand my horizons a little more than by watching a photographer go to Iceland and capture the same exact image that was captured time and time again. While I would not be a photographer had it not been for some people on YouTube, one of whom is in a Russian prison at the moment, but still. Photography YouTube is very focused on technique rather than aesthetic. This would be all well if, say, we were living in the 1990s where knowing how to place a softbox would land you in the top 10% immediately. These days, every kid with a phone can get a better image than some photographers. What most can’t do is focus on aesthetic and vision. As such, if you spend your time thinking outside of photography, you will inevitably end up bringing something new to the table which will make your work unique.

4. Copying Other Work

There are so many photographers who spend too much time trying to replicate famous images. Fashion photographers will often complain that they don’t have enough runway, studio, or black and white work. Then they go ahead, take those images, and they end up looking like a 2007 Bavarian fashion magazine. Another one would be nude work. The idea of a black and white nude shot, or an extreme close-up of water drops on someone’s body parts has been done to death. Landscape photographers will do the same thing with the Eiffel Tower or the Delicate Arch. Portrait photographers will go to extreme lengths to copy Annie Leibovitz. I honestly believe that the rise of Annie Leibovitz gave companies that make canvas backdrops a huge sales boost. Having an Oliphant backdrop was almost like an accolade for people shooting portraits. Instead of trying to have a portfolio similar to what other people have done, go ahead and try to photograph something that speaks to you. It must not be the same as everyone else’s. At the end of the day, when clients review your work, they want to remember you. Few of them care that you are able to do a splash shot or a black and white nude. It is expected that you can do most things.

5. Not Charging Enough

This one is harming the industry as a whole. I tried having a low-cost-airline business model for my portrait business for a bit, but it failed miserably. The rule of thumb I got from this experience was that the less the client is paying, the more problems they will have. Think back to all the times you’ve seen a passenger act up on an airplane. More often than not, it has been in economy. Now look at Emirates first class: the story is quite different. The point is, people paying a premium for your work, even if what you are doing is not worth anywhere near what you’re being paid, will be far nicer to deal with. When you don’t charge enough or price-cut, you are getting the cheap client who is not familiar with what you are doing and is already unhappy that they need to pay a fee for something they think they can do on a phone. By charging more, you will end up losing the lower-end clients, but you will gain the higher-end ones. The goal is to work less and charge more.

As such, here we have the five top things that you need to stop doing to be a successful photographer in 2024. I must point out that these apply to photographers working in the commercial sector more than anyone else. Nonetheless, I’m sure if you shoot in a different genre and client base, you will be able to apply some of them to your work and have a more profitable and successful year.

Over to you, what are some of the things that you are looking to stop doing in 2024? Share with us in the comments below!

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.
LIGHTING COURSE: https://illyaovchar.com/lighting-course-1

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Thanks for your tip. My main thing to stop doing is procrastinating. I need to start practicing and get a portfolio done, Get a website. I have all the equipment needed. All its needed is ME!

You forgot reading articles by Illya Ovchar.