10 Things Photographers Should NOT Do

Don't Panic
Creative Commons License photo credit: quimby

[tweetmeme]We usually see photography tips on the things we should be doing, so I thought it would be interesting to turn it around and look at the things photographers should not be doing.

The items in my list are not comprehensive by any means, but I find them to be fairly important with regard to most photographers out there. And of course, these are only suggestions and opinions… so don’t get too twisted up about them.

I got the idea for this title and article from a post at Daily Blog Tips called “10 Things Bloggers Should NOT Do“. Also worth a read for my fellow bloggers.


Learning photography takes time — and that goes for the artistic and technical aspects. Sure, you might be artistically and/or technically inclined, but you probably won’t have galleries begging for your photos a month after you pick up your first camera. The process of learning photography and developing a personal style can take years (or even a lifetime). Just keep at it and you should start to notice improvements in your work as the months turn to years.

My latest accessory
Creative Commons License photo credit: n0r


New gear is exciting, isn’t it? Bigger better cameras, faster lenses, filters, tripods, flashes, bags, etc. Don’t get me wrong — it’s fine to get excited over this stuff. But don’t make it your life’s goal to constantly buy the next best thing on the market. My advice is to buy new gear when you need it rather than when you want it. You’ll know that you need something when you repeatedly find yourself missing opportunities (or even paying jobs) due to a lack of some feature or piece of equipment.


This one goes for anything in life — failure leads to success, improvement, and learning. You might screw up one or two shots from time to time, but you’ll remember those mistakes next time you head out (and hopefully you won’t make them again).

Creative Commons License photo credit: Zolfo


Whether it’s seemingly justified or not, nobody really likes a cocky bastard. So you sold a print, got into a gallery exhibit, got featured on some big website, etc — that’s great, but don’t let it go to your head. Don’t talk down to other photographers or put yourself on a pedestal. If you do, it’s only going to drive people away.


If you share your photos anywhere on the web, you’ve probably had unsolicited critiques. Of course, you’re more than welcome to ignore them, but it usually doesn’t hurt to read them and think about it. You might just learn something or improve a photo. But, keep in mind that not all advice is good advice.


Photography is relatively simple on the technical side. Too many times, I’ve seen new photographers get hung up worrying about modes and settings when they really don’t need to. As you continue to shoot and educate yourself, you’ll pick up the technical stuff quite easily. Besides, if you worry too much about the technical side, you’re more likely to miss shots entirely.

Discuss ideas, explore trends, find the new, be inspired
Creative Commons License photo credit: jonhoward


This goes for any form of creative expression. You see what I did at the top of this article? I gave credit where credit is due because I borrowed an idea and turned it into something of my own. Same thing for photos — if you borrow a concept from another photographer, make sure you give them credit. And look at it this way — if you inspired others to create new things, wouldn’t you like it if they gave you recognition for that?


Cameras and other photographic equipment can be delicate at times. With the cost of cameras and lenses today, it’s worthwhile to take care of them. Try not to bang it around on things, drop it, get it wet, etc. And keep your gear clean if you want it to last — lens elements and sensors in particular.


The rule of thirds, symmetry, leading lines, perspective, background, depth of field, framing, crop, and so on. You’ve probably come across some of the basic rules of photography either on the web or in a book. Then you also see advice out there saying “break the rules”. So what’s the answer? Follow them? Break them? Here’s the thing… there’s a major difference between breaking the rules on accident and breaking the rules on purpose. It’s called intent, and that’s what separates the good from the bad. So learn the rules, then learn how to break them.


Probably the worse thing a photographer (or any hobbyist/professional) can do is stop learning. There is a ton of stuff to learn about photography and art in general, and the flow of new information only increases as technology advances. So always be open to learning new things — even if you think you know it all!

What other things do you think photographers should not do? Are you guilty of any on my list?

25 thoughts on “10 Things Photographers Should NOT Do

  1. Flo

    These are great points we all will benefit from by keeping them in mind. BUT –

    How about we all learn to state “rules” and “principles” in a positive manner?

    For instance, instead of stating: “3. DON’T BE AFRAID TO FAIL” – how about stating, “LEARN FROM YOUR FAILURES”?

    All too often we language ourselves to do that which we really wanted to avoid. The most common example is to say: “Don’t FORGET to do such and such.”

    Turn this around and say: “REMEMBER to do such and such.” And is this way, we we’ll teach ourselves to remember.

  2. Brian Auer Post author

    Sure, any of these can be worded in a positive manner. But the article at Daily Blog Tips caught my attention mainly due to the wording in the title. I figured I would borrow the idea and run with it here.

  3. Richard Cave

    Rule of attraction

    normally this happens in a public place, a gifted non working photographer spots me working and comes over to chat.

    this is my biggy as a working pro, please dont interupt me when I am working with inane questions about kit and stuff. If I am obviously on a break and camera is down then please approach and talk to me. Please dont take offence when I say sorry I am working. I am trying to earn a living, on a time card and I might miss the shot, and coming back another day is not on.

    As a press photographer I might be waiting for a VIP to turn up i cannot afford to be distracted. If I am doing background plate/reference photography for a film the time of day the shot is taken is very important as I have to match a reference provided by the director. If I am doing an event or wedding it is extremely distracting/annoying and just plain rude to shoot over my shoulder. If I am doing reportage photography your prescence might blow the covert nature of the shot I am trying to take. If I am with my students please back off, my time with them is precious.

    I am trying to make a living in a increasinly difficult market, please respect the professional space of other photographers especially when they need to make the mortgage for that month.

    This has come about on the last four jobs I have been interrupted whilst working, you wouldnt as a inspiring brain surgeon just casually stroll into theatre and ask questions of the brain surgeon, would ya,

    ” ah excuse me is that a number 4 swann morton scalpel you are using there as my xacto blade that I use is cheaper but …………..”

    see where I am coming from, great post BTW,


  4. Devansh

    @ Richard Cave,

    There sure are a lot of “I”s and “ME”s in your post above.

    May I suggest, you read, (once again) point no. 4, in the above article.

  5. Richard Cave


    thank you for your reply, behind those me and I is my family, whom need to be fed, housed and nurtured. I am extremely fed up that those of us that have learnt our craft, through many years of study, hard graft and like myself through a apprenticeship, are viewed as accessible and just the same as gifted photographers (I hate the word amateur).

    Though I am tolerant, and understand for some it is a hobby, and others see it as a future career, my one and only time where I (and others in the trade) will snap is when the Rule of attraction is broken.

    We have the right to work, and I am not placing myself on a pedestal nor am I cocky, my clients know what my capabilities are and if myself and others that work for me fail to achieve them we dont get paid.

    All I am saying is know when you see a pro working is have the courtesy to back off.

    thank you


  6. Brian Auer Post author

    I would tend to side with Richard and his views on this. It’s not a matter of being self centered or cocky, but a matter of being able to do his job as a professional. When I see a photographer on the job, I usually just stay away entirely so I don’t interfere and waste their time/money. I guess I would look at it the same way as an on-location movie set. I wouldn’t walk up to the actors while they’re filming and ask for an autograph.

  7. Coy

    Another “don’t” is don’t be a pervert..I’ve heard of so many stories about amature to professional photogs making the model feel uncomfortable either during the shoot or after.

    Work is work, not a place to score a date or get laid.

    It makes it hard for real photographers who actually care about art.

  8. milo

    @Richard Cave – perhaps wouldn’t happen the work was confined to brain surgery – I’ve never heard photgraphy compared to brain surgery ; that must be a first. But the serious point is how the comment fits with the thread “what photographer’s shouldn’t do” , is it that ” amateur photographers shouldn’t talk to professional photographers when they are on the job” – or ” amateur photographers should recognise who are professional photographers (and not disturb them when they are on the job) “? . . . . . . and I was wondering if Richard’s view would be the same if it were say, Halle Berry or John Barrowman or Nelson Mandela or Mario Testino , (take your pick) who was interrupting him ?

  9. Richard Cave


    Good afternoon, no just good manners, I only notice this with pros, is that we can see straight away by the handling of the camera, the body language, what the person is looking at, the lack of chimping, movement straight onto next shot, the way the camera suddenly appears at chin level primed to take a shot. The way they act professionally with a model/subject. We as pros have a sixth sense what the other person is up to.

    Those who dont possess spider senses, just ask politely is all I am asking when you approach someone.

    As for John Barrowman extremely nice bloke to shoot, Halle Berry automatically poses for the camera and even makes sure she has a clean background for you, if she recognises you you get a little wave which is nice. Nelson Mandela is a pain in the arse to shoot as he has really bad cattaracts so his team ask you not to use flash, problem is he squints giving you raccoon eyes. Nelson Mandela does not take direction and is difficult to work with. As for Mario Testino, on all accounts a pro to work with. Don Mcullen actually waited for me to finish what I was doing whilst we were talking.

    I could name drop some more, all I am asking for is professional respect, which is let us pros work without interrupting.

  10. Devansh

    @ Richard Cave

    First you say-
    “I am not placing myself on a pedestal nor am I cocky.

    Then you say–

    John Barrowman extremely nice bloke to shoot……..
    Halle Berry automatically poses for the camera……you get a little wave which is nice
    Nelson Mandela is a pain in the arse to shoot…..does not take direction and is difficult to work with
    I could name drop some more. all I am asking for is professional respect

    Does “Name dropping”, not fall in the purview of the definition of “Cocky”???

    May I suggest, you read, (once again) (once again), point no. 4, in the above article.

    To you Sir, I extend my highest professional respect.

  11. Richard Cave


    they are not name drops but clients, and all they are is people and they are just as important to me as Joe and Margaret from Swansea on a little wedding. If I was cocky I would not be on Brians site and would probably have my head in the clouds somewhere. I have read point four.

    If I was cocky, my turnout would be scruffy and poor, my camera bag and equipment not maintained, I would arrive late for clients, completely bully the stylist, not carry research out on the subject, shoot in P mode, and shoot of early, hand in work late to clients, not speak to the other members of press, walk up to the front door of a grieving widow asking for a shot. Hang around peoples houses and stalk celebrities. check my images before leaving a shoot, Fake model release forms, Turn up to airports without CAA/TSA clearance, shoot on private property without permission. Chat up the talent, not help out other pro photographers whose kit has broke

    My clients are all ordinary people, no matter what the profession they are in, I completely and honestly dont get starstruck.

    On one job in particular a fellow tog was meant shoot for his paper a broadsheet, his camera had a major electronic malfunction. His picture editor was on his mobile asking for the images of this event. He did not get the shot afterwards all the press phots gathered together and took a compact flash of him, we gave him a couple of images each from our laptops, if we didnt he would have been fired.

    Us pros are not that cocky, its only the paparazzi scum that denigrate our profession.

    Please dont call me sir, call me friend and we shall leave the matter closed, agreed?

  12. Devansh

    Agreed, matter closed. Dear Friend.

    P.S.— I also agree “its only the paparazzi scum that denigrate our profession”

  13. PhilB

    #9 “learn the rules, then learn how to break them.” Excellent point, the rules you mentioned are fundamental to success. As you become more experienced, you learn how to tweak the rules to improve on success.

  14. Anna Patrick

    I would add: Don’t run only for incredible interesting photo subjects. With talent and great skills, what others consider insignificant might turn into a fantastic picture.

  15. AMMI

    My late mother studied photography in New Haven in the late 40’s. She was a B&W photographer, we had a dark room in the basement. . .and I was raised to revere and care for negatives. It took me a while to trust digital. . .honestly. But the thing I would get snide comments about is the fact I use the view finder, I can ‘see’ the photo by looking at a screen at arms distance. I’ve tried and it just doesn’t work. As a poet, I revise, I’ve come to love how I can revise digital work without all the chemicals yet it’s the same techniques I learned in the basement with my mom: contrast, crop, dodge, sharpen, light. . .same art.

  16. SeanF


    I hear what you are saying about talking lens but depending on the nature of the shot it is nice to know what type lens they used. There are some macro or landscape photo’s and I am curious about the lens that they used. I also like to talk the creative but it helps to know if they were using a major zoom lens so if you are looking to do a similar shot you know what you may want to use.

  17. Nicole

    Great tips, I claim being guilty on the gear part.
    But I have an excuse.
    Try to find a Nikon dealer in Hungary and Sinai πŸ˜‰
    (Bad excuse, I know)

    I can hear you. Maybe you should get a Tee that says ‘Don’t approach’ – hoping that the person in question can read that is,….

  18. David Zimagery

    Some great rules to keep in mind. They are common sense concepts, but it’s good to put them into words for emphasis. Just for the sake of conversation, I’ve got another that I know but have ignored:
    Don’t neglect making some record of where the image was taken. GPS is great, the back of an envelope just fine, a photo of a nearby street sign works in a pinch. I’ve taken a few scenes that I’d like to go back to, but didn’t geotag them in some way. Now I either have to expend vehicle fuel searching, pour over satellite maps, or forget about following up on the original image.

  19. jim gray

    great article! something I learn each and every day from the bald eagles I photograph…..don’t be in a hurry! these birds are NEVER in a hurry, unless immediate action is required. you may “capture” a few more events, but whether or not the images will be “salvageable” may depend on that item or two in your mental checklist that being in a hurry causes you to miss.

  20. James R Dutta Roy

    Very nice read. I love the last point (10) but just dont seem to get enough of it. Personally, I am one of the worlds worst ‘ungifted’ photographers, and while my eyes see much, I just dont seem capable of taming my camera to see it the same way.
    I am obviously amongst the best, and wouldnt have much to offer to throw light on the discussions in the technical vein, but I do tend to agree with Mr Richard Cave. I have all the time to discuss my art when i am not working on it, but when I am concentrating I find small talk extremely distracting. Leave photography alone, I hate being spoken to when I am cooking a fancy meal, as I tend to mess up. I guess it has to do with most of us males not being good at multi tasking.

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