Over the years of working as a photographer, I’ve developed a quite a list of a few things that really grind my gears. This list is by no means exhaustive, but here are my personal top 7 things that I wish people would just stop.
The colour splash
When you take an image, the composition is the real bread and butter; it directs the viewers’ eyes to where you want them to focus on. To do this, use your knowledge of composition and weave in techniques such as leading lines or the rule of odds or the golden ratio.
Many people use colour splashing (aka. selective colourisation, selective desaturation etc.) as a way to try to ‘fix’ a composition that isn’t quite working and say: ‘Hey! Look.. here… this is what I want you to focus on!’. If an image isn’t working, don’t try to use this technique to make it striking. Stop, think about what is going wrong, and play with your composition. A well-composed image will look far more striking and effective, than an image that is relying on an editing gimmick to make it work.
Working for free
This is a topic that’s very close to every professional photographer’s heart. When you’re trying to find your way, and even when you’ve reached a certain level of success, it always hurts to hear someone offer you work for ‘exposure’, or suggest that you should work for nothing because it’s ‘fun’.
You would not expect someone to do a bespoke painting for free, therefore you should not expect a photographer to work for free. By agreeing to work on these terms, you are justifying it as a suggestion. You create a scenario of: ‘but that person will do it for nothing – why should I pay for you to do it?’.
If you work for free, not only do you devalue your own skills and talent, but you also devalue the skills of photographers as a whole. You are helping to create a culture where it is justified to ask photographers to work for less than they’re worth.
Expecting work to fall from the sky
Photography is an extremely competitive market that contains lots of very talented people looking for work. You have to actively seek opportunities and put yourself out there. There will probably never come a point when you don’t have to try hard to find opportunities. You can’t expect opportunity to fall into your lap, keep working at it, constantly evolve your portfolio and skills, and stay resilient. Never let a ‘no’ knock you back. The worst thing you can do is sit and feel sorry for yourself about things not just appearing.
Similarly to our old friend, the colour splash, when an image is looking unremarkable, it’s because it’s an unremarkable image. Simply tilting your camera to make it a jaunty angle will just make it an unremarkable image that will give you a neck cramp.
Stop, reassess your frame, and find a way to rethink your composition to create a striking image, rather than trying to make your image striking by using a jaunty angle.
‘I’ve always done it this way’ is an extremely dangerous sentence. You should be constantly trying to look for ways to improve your work. Being complacent can make your work become stagnant and tired. You’re an artist after all, you should keep seeking to grow creatively.
If you’re working as a professional, never get complacent with your clients either. Keep striving to deliver top results, like every gig is your first gig. When you get complacent and stop scrutinising your work, it will start to get tired and the standard will consequently slip.
With so much editing software available nowadays, it’s very easy to go overboard with post-production. When it looks like you’ve edited too much, you’ve probably gone too far. Think of post-production like makeup; you want it to make you look great, but the impact is gone if it’s glaringly obvious from a distance.
Being a douchebag
Always treat everyone with respect and kindness. This may seem simple, but you will get so much further if you act professionally and respectfully at all times. Nobody will listen to that photographer that’s barking orders at them, or getting frustrated with members of the public. Remember to remain calm and professional, even if it’s with somebody telling you that you can’t take photos somewhere you can, or with a person wandering into your shot, or with a client who is being difficult.