5 Secrets Professional Photographers Will Never Tell You

I remember when we first started out in photography, we would look at the professionals who had “made it” within the industry and somehow think they were different then us. They had a fan base stretched out around the world. They traveled to exotic locations to photograph their clients. They were featured in magazines and talked on stages in front of hundreds of people.

They were real photographers. And deep down we questioned all the time whether we had what it takes to make it to that level.

But as we worked more on our photography, we quickly realized that perception doesn’t always match up with reality. Photographers at all levels have the same struggles as you and me. They just handle it a bit differently. Here are five things every photographer faces at some point every year.

Secret #1 – Photography is Difficult

“I have often thought that if photography were difficult in the true sense of the term — meaning that the creation of a simple photograph would entail as much time and effort as the production of a good watercolor or etching — there would be a vast improvement in total output. The sheer ease with which we can produce a superficial image often leads to creative disaster.” ~Ansel Adams

Anyone can pick up a camera and snap a picture. Even an amateur who shoots occasionally is going to get lucky once in a while and capture a great image. Yet when you get to the professional level, you expect every image to come out perfect every time.

It doesn’t always happen.

As professionals, we’ve trained ourselves to be ready for the unexpected, think ahead to what is going to happen so you can be there when it does, and be patient. Yet its easy to “kick” ourselves when you find the perfect shot – and your camera is at home. Or you see the action and you’re across the room.

And that’s okay – as long as you capture the majority of what is truly important.

Secret #2 We All Struggle With Procrastination

“Our attention span is shot. We’ve all got Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD or OCD or one of these disorders with three letters because we don’t have the time or patience to pronounce the entire disorder. That should be a disorder right there, TBD – Too Busy Disorder.” ~ Ellen DeGeneres

Yep, everyone has this at some time or another. You have the client you aren’t really into – so you put off the work until the last minute.

You know you need to get the images ready for your new brochure – but you just can’t seem to quit watching those YouTube videos.

Procrastination usually comes in one of two forms.

You do anything to avoid the little stuff. You work on large plans for the future, without taking the small steps to put it into place. It’s the dream instead of the action.

You do only the little stuff to avoid taking a really big step. You check email, run to the post office, create a new filing system – anything but create the new promotion you’ve been thinking about.

The only way around it, no matter who you are or what you do, is to take a good hard look at your daily life and decide how to change it to get exactly what you want.

Secret #3 We Fall Into Habit Mode

“A habit is something you can do without thinking – which is why most of us have so many of them.”  ~Frank A. Clark

When something works, you do it over and over again simple because it works.

It doesn’t mean it’s the best way to to do. Or the easiest way. Or even the most logical way.

I see it all the time when I train people on using online tools. I’m amazed at the number of people that head into a browser, visit the website we are talking about, then shut down the entire browser when they are finished. Their day is a constant action of opening and closing an entire system instead of simply opening up new tabs.

It’s a habit. Efficient or not, its just something people fall into.

The same goes with photography. Even a seasoned professional may snap an image wide, knowing they will crop in Photoshop instead of taking an extra second or two to focus in on the true subject matter.

Or deal with an amazingly inefficient filing system because that’s the way its always been – even though a few minor adjustments could save hours of time every week.

The only way to change habits is to recognize them first; then work to adjust the pattern to make your life more efficient.

Secret #4 Each Photograph is Never “Finished”

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

When was the last time you snapped an image with the feeling of being finished?

Neither has a professional.

Every photographer looks at his or her work and thinks, “I could change that…” or “I could do that…”. You can always crop in a different way. Or change the color of the final image. Blow it up and frame it in a certain way. Put it together with other images to tell a story.

Secret #5 We Look For Perfection

“Passion is a positive obsession. Obsession is a negative passion.” ~ Paul Carvel

We are all visual, yet most aren’t photographers. Have you seen ads in magazines or newspapers where companies spend thousands of dollars on the ad – them use the most horrible picture on earth? (I can’t say photograph because they really are that bad.) They stretch it to fit the ad layout, or crop out just the pieces they want to use.

A true professional never feels the image is “perfect”. We’re obsessed about finding the perfect location or the softening the light “just a little”.

We’re the ones who take a camera along “just in case” and photograph no matter where we go “just for fun”.

It doesn’t change if you’re an amateur or a professional, have just received your first camera or have been in the business for 30 years. Passion is passion.

When you love something like photography, you can’t imagine your life doing anything but photography. So why not strive for perfection?

9 thoughts on “5 Secrets Professional Photographers Will Never Tell You”

  1. I totally agree with you, procrastination, habits, routine, that seams to be the way we go through life no matter what we do for a living!
    That’s why some of us have a secretary, an assistent, a wife and so on:)
    We never like to put the word end to a photograph…insecurity?
    And to top it up…you strive on an assignment to produce the best images yet and what they choose? ……….

  2. 6. It’s actually a job. Might look glamourous and rewarding from the outside, but there are all the gory minutiae of details one has to deal with day to day. You need to find clients, you need to service all their demands and make a living in the process. One should try to make photography his only means of an income to understand all that.
    Just my two cents…. it’s all I have to spare…

  3. Art is never finished…

    I was just telling a model whose images I owed her a few days ago that I was STILL working on them. For the very reasons enumerated here… I was being a perfectionist with her photos.. I think she understood. Afterall, she said they were worth the wait 🙂

  4. But is that what really makes the difference between the superstar photographers and the wannabees? So I have to stop procrastinating, identify and change my habits, call photos at a reasonable stage, and know that photography is difficult?? Hmmm, ok, I’ll give it a try. Now what am I going to do to make $500 today…. that was on a different blog!

  5. I’m still in school like high school I’m only a sophomore and i already want to be a photographer and well it isn’t easy at all sometimes i feel like changing my mind about being one but i think again and just see if i could reach this goal cause i don’t wanna to quite already and give up i just need more experiences and yea. . .

    • Bluelou – Just keep at it. If you really love it, you’ll find a way to fit it into your life. There are many ways to get involved. We hired an assistant as a junior in high school, and she worked with us through college in the summers. She’s married and does other things now, but she loved her time in photography. Look around – you may be able to do things now.


  6. I agree that photography is not easy, we are never satisfied with the “final” image (but probably shouldn’t keep working on it :), and perfection is the goal (although it’s rarely reached). I don’t usually procrastinate so I can’t comment on that one, although I should be working on some wedding images right now. Ok, gotta go!

  7. Number #4 rings true to me, a piece of art is never finished. there is always that one little change you can make or blemish to fix


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