improving ur photography by AlawodeOlusegun


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Improve Your Photos 60 Seconds at a Time
If you are tired of reading long explanations and confused by tricky photo techniques, here you
can have it short and sweet. Arranged by topics, each subject takes less than 60 seconds to read.

Once you’ve read the ideas and tips, picture in your mind some photographs you have already
taken. Think of how they could have been improved by applying what you have learned here.
Visualize how you might have taken your photos differently. Already your photography is

Light | Landscaping | People | Color | Composition | Being Ready

Dancing with light

      Light from the side brings out shapes, textures and structures. That’s why early morning
       and evening are rich times to photograph.
      With the sun behind your subject, you get some of the most dramatic visual effects … but
       exposure could be tricky to get right. Try it anyway!
      When the sun is high and the light is hard, don’t fight it to try to get it all. Concentrate on
       exposing the bright parts properly and work with the shapes of shadows.
      For light and shadow effects you need the sun, of course, but colours are often more
       intense on half-sunny or overcast days.

The color of color
     Natural light is white, while artificial light is often shades of yellow, orange or green.
     Our eyes naturally adjust to colored or tinted light sources to make them appear white
      and so will your digital camera but only within certain limits
     If you want warm-colored pictures work earlier or later in the day when natural light
      tends to be more orange.
     This image shows warm light from an evening sun but bluish shadows from the cloudless

Mastering flash

     Balance the flash with day light for stunning results. Your camera may offer a ‘slow
      flash’ or ‘synchro flash’ or ‘daylight synchro’ setting.
     Direct flash on groups of people produces better-looking images than direct flash on a
      single person.
     The latest cameras allow you to set high ISO speeds e.g. ISO 800 which can help avoid
      using flash altogether.
     Avoid red-eye by turning up or providing more light in the room.
     If you use your camera’s red-eye reduction setting when taking flash photographs of
      people you avoid red-eye, but there’s a delay in taking the shot which may cause you to
      miss the moment.

Choosing your time
      Low or cross lighting at dawn or dusk produces wonderful lighting and colors.
      At dawn and dusk there are natural shadows to help give depth and form to your subject.
      For early evening shots, you will need longer shutter times i.e. longer exposure to make
       up for the low light. This makes it likely your photographs could be blurry due to camera
       shake, so lean your camera on something – anything steady – to keep still during
      Don’t be afraid to point the lens at a setting sun , but whatever you do avoid looking at
       the sun directly, especially through the viewfinder of your camera.

Landscaping your photos
Composition essentials

      It’s best to keep your horizons level in your photographs, otherwise your shots will
       appear crooked (unless that’s what you want!).
      Keep the main points of interest away from the centre, and from the extreme edges –
       better, still, try placing them in different parts of the image and see which works best.
      Don’t shoot everything from a standing position. Look for unusual angles by changing
       yours (and the camera’s position).
      Better to avoid completely empty space in your photos.

Framing the lines
      Don’t be afraid to use take portrait photographs – that is, with the camera on its side.
      Use natural features in the environment to create a frame for your subject or to lead the
       eye through the image.
      Zoom in to create a sense of intimacy. Remove from your shots elements like the sun or
       the sky, which give a feeling of open space.
      Experiment with framing. Try framing your shots with lots of foreground and very little
       sky, or lots of sky and very little land.

Zooming around

      Zooming-out allows you to capture more of the view.
      A wide-angle lens will keep everything in focus while helping to maximise the ‘depth of
       field’, or feeling of depth in your shots.
      Zooming-in will flatten the sense of perspective and make distant objects appear closer
      Zooming-in will also affect the amount of your picture that is in focus allowing you to
       isolate details against an out-of-focus foreground and/or background.
      Be careful to avoid camera shake when zoomed right in, as tiny movements in your hands
       become magnified.

Prospecting the perspective
     Create perspective by using the lines and shapes within the shot to draw the eye.
     Tall buildings can appear to ‘lean back’ when photographed. Getting something in the
      foreground of your shot helps balance this.
     Increase the sense of perspective by using a wide-angle lens and adding foreground
     A low viewpoint and wide-angle setting helps to contrast the size and shape of objects in
      interesting ways.


     Foreground is the area that is closest to the camera: the stronger it is, the stronger the rest
      of the image.
     An object in the foreground first invites the eye, then lead the viewer deeper into the
     Include foreground objects to add a sense of scale and perspective
     Experiment with allowing the foreground to totally dominate the photo

Cool proportions

     The central part of your scene usually draws the camera like a magnet so it ends up in the
      centre – try resisting that tendency
      Place the main point of interest towards the sides of your photographs for more dynamic
      Place your horizon near the top or bottom of your shots to add emphasis to the ground or
       to the sky
      In this picture you can see there is a smallish amount of sky while the rocks have been
       placed high in the image to allow the silhouette of the trees to be significant.

People with you
Lighting faces

      The soft light you get on overcast days is especially good for photographing people, as it
       delivers the best skin tones
      Side or ‘cross’ lighting is more interesting because it gives depth and form to your
       portrait sitter
      Keep backgrounds and other distractions to the minimum so that the viewer can
       concentrate on the face
      In this picture, soft light from a window lights the faces of the girls from the side, while a
       zoomed-in setting throws the foreground face out of focus.

Depth of feeling

      Use your zoom lens to shorten the ‘depth of field’ (depth sharpness) in your photograph,
       and throw the background out of focus. This adds emphasis to your subject.
      Use your zoom lens to fill your photograph, rather than leaving your main point of
       interest floating in space.
      Zooming in will flatten perspective, which generally produces a more flattering shot of
       your subject.
      In this picture, a zoomed-in setting focuses on the girl, throwing the foreground objects
       out of focus.

Natural frames

      Use a person’s surroundings to be a natural picture frame the photo
      People will often smile and pose stiffly for their portrait: if you don’t want a smile take
       two or more pictures – a second or two after a smile, the pose relaxes and you have a
       more natural shot.
      Look for the natural junctions of the human body (where it seems natural to ‘cut-off’) if
       you are not including the whole person in the shot.
      Soft light is easiest to work with: try sitting your subject near a window.

Childish tricks

      Get the children used to you and the camera by firing off lots of shots first.
      For small children , pre-focus the camera. This is done on most digital cameras by
       pressing down halfway on the shutter button. Then move yourself backwards and
       forwards with the child to keep the shot in focus.
      Get down on your hands and knees to stay level with your subject and appear less
      Use something to draw the child’s attention away from the fact that they are having their
       photograph taken.

Coloring the essentials
Bolder colors
      Redder colors will create a warmer feel for your shots than blues or greens.
      color affects the way we look at pictures, so try to use color creatively in your shots.
      Look for images that contain contrasting colors, such as red and green or yellow and
       purple, to add tension or drama.
      Using shades of the same colors will create a sense of harmony.

The best light is free

      Bright sunlight gives colors a more intense or ‘saturated’ feel.
      Midday light has a bluer quality, which can give photos a harsher feel.
      Try to place strong colors against large areas of even tone or color – this helps bring out
       their intensity
      Look for color contrasts – red with blues and greens, for example.
      Photographs taken at the beginning or end of the day will have a warmer tone due to the
       natural orangeness of the light.

Emotional colors

      Different dominant colors lead your viewer towards different emotions which impacts on
       the way your shot is experienced
      Yellow is associated with happiness, but orange may moves us toward concern – hence
       the use of amber as a warning light.
      Red is the universal color of warning. Use it with caution – a little bit of red in your shot
       goes a long way!
      Greens and blues usually have a calming effect, hence their association with landscape
      The many colors in this shot are held together by the large areas of yellows, giving it an
       unmistakeable sunny Mediterranean mood.

Lines of force

      You can create a sense of direction using naturally occurring lines.
      Slanting or ‘oblique’ lines imply movement, action and change.
      Curved lines or S-shaped lines imply quiet, calm and sensual feelings.
      Lines that converge imply depth, scale and distance, for example, the outer edges of a
       road converge as it disappears into the distance, giving a two-dimension image three-
       dimensional depth.
      Repetitive elements create a sense of rhythm, which is often more interesting if the
       rhythm is broken by a missed element.


      Imagine two horizontal and two vertical lines equally dividing your shot, then place
       subjects on the lines or where they intersect with each other: this can be a help in
       deciding on compositions
      Place your horizon on the top or bottom line to add emphasis to the ground or to the sky
     In this picture, the composition combines color contrasts with proportions closer to
      another principle, the Golden Section, which gives pleasing proportions.
     Just pushing your composition slightly to one side so it feels a little uncomfortable can
      give your photos a dynamic it wouldn’t otherwise have.

Focusing away

     The human eye is drawn to elements that are in focus, and this will influence how your
      photo is seen.
     Auto-focus (standard on most digital cameras) will focus on what is in the centre of the
      frame. Use pre-focus to move your subject away from the centre of the frame. (This is
      done on most digital cameras by pressing down halfway on the shutter button.)
     Use your zoom lens to reduce the ‘depth of field’ (sense of depth) and throw the
      background out of focus. This will emphasise any in-focus element in the foreground.
      Photo © Wendy Ang

Being ready
Drive your motor

     Take lots of pictures. With digital cameras shots cost you hardly anything at all.
     Move around as you photograph to experiment and give yourself plenty of choice later.
     Stay alert for that chance-of-a-lifetime shot: keep your camera turned ON, keep your
      mind switched to ON.
     In this picture, the golden eagle put its wing on the falconer for only a few very short
      seconds, and the falconer grinned for even less time!

Vantage points
      It is almost always worth clambering up a wall or steps to get a little higher – but don’t
       get yourself into trouble with authorities.
      You may also have to wait for the best light.
      And you might have to wait for a composition of passing people to arrange itself
      The best position may depend on the zoom setting that you choose.
      In this picture, I had to wait nearly thirty minutes for everyone to get themselves into

Shutter lag

      Shutter lag is the time a digital camera needs to capture a picture after you have pressed
       the shutter button.
      Reduce shutter lag by focusing beforehand, hold the shutter button down half-way or
       half-pressure and wait for the moment.
      Reduce shutter lag by turning off any unnecessary automatic features such as red-eye
      In this picture, the only way to catch the air force jets at the right instant was to release
       the shutter just before they reached their ideal positions.

Always ready
       If you see a good picture you may be early: an even better one may come in a few
       Get your exposure and focusing and framing set up while you wait for the perfect shot
       Hold the camera to your eye all the time; in the half-second it takes lift the camera you
        could miss the shot
       In this picture, I spotted the shepherd from a car, screeched/skidded to a halt, got the car
        to disappear and waited for the flock to approach me – using the time to work out the best
        viewpoint to meet them.

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October 5, 2007 · Filed under Featured, Photography Basics
Tags:color, composition, landscapes, light, people, techniques

Photos in the Mist: Getting Great Shots in Bad Weather »

           (98 votes, average: 4.63 out of 5)


What is?

October 4, 2007 @ 3:09 am

Nice tutorial. I’ve saved it to my harddrive to go back over. You just won yourself a new regular



September 24, 2007 @ 6:31 am
For a standard camera user like me it is very good advice. thanks



November 5, 2007 @ 1:55 pm

Great tips. Images indeed look more attractable when the main "object" is not in the middle of
the picture.


David Jennings

September 22, 2007 @ 1:37 am

lol, think they mean 60 second jobs at the time of taking a photo. Great article, thanks.



September 22, 2007 @ 12:03 am

taking pictures in daylight is fine, it’s way more difficult in a dark enviroment with lots of
moving objects like on parties, a cafe or disco.
i have a canon powershot a710is (european version). photos i take in those circomstances have
the following problems:
- grainy pics above iso400
- too dark without flash
- too bright with flash, even on the lowest setting
- blurred image of moving objects
- difficult/impossible AutoFocus (shaking)
does anyone have tips for me on how to get better pictures? (with this compact, buying and
carrying around a digitalreflexcam is no option at this moment)


Damien Robinson

October 5, 2007 @ 7:14 am

Mate, this is an excellent site.

I subscribe to your RSS feeds and have a read during my very busy working day.

Love it and keep up the good work.




October 5, 2007 @ 12:26 am

This article was wonderful. I am not a novice photographer, I come from a family of remarkable
photographers. With that, the information in this article is spot-on for those who are learning and
a wonderful reminder for the rest of us who always need reminding. Thank you!



November 24, 2007 @ 10:49 pm

That’s all true tips!
Only…. this is an "60-second" post?


September 23, 2007 @ 6:23 am

Thanks for all those explanations ! I’ve just bought a Canon XTi camera and I’m learning as I’m
still a newbie ! So many interesting points in your post ! Thank you very much ! In my favorite
bookmarks !!



July 29, 2008 @ 5:04 pm

That’s is a great simple tips! Bravo!



September 21, 2007 @ 6:14 pm

Found this article linked from All of these points are so obvious —
as I read this, I thought, "Well, of course it is, and yeah, everybody knows that…". Except I
never think about any of these things when I’m actually taking pictures. If I hang on to this list,
maybe I’ll start. Good job. Thanks.


Dave Kaufman - Techlife

October 4, 2007 @ 8:24 am
This is a great article. I just wrote you up in my syndicated column and blog. I added that I like
to think of cropping as a powerful way to improve photos too. I often use that tool when I was
not the original photographer. Great gems in this article.



September 23, 2007 @ 7:05 pm

Awesome compilation! I found you through Lifehacker. I tumbled this article, so I hope others
will be able to find your quick and easy tips as well. Keep up the great work, and the awesome



September 25, 2007 @ 10:49 am

some useful tips there, nice one.


Michael Cummings

October 21, 2008 @ 8:48 pm

Nice info man. This is great for people who need help with composition. I have been thinking
about writing a blog post like this last week for some people to see but now I can just point them
your way.


September 21, 2007 @ 5:28 pm

came here from lifehacker cool site man



September 21, 2007 @ 6:32 pm

Great tips, but definatly more than 60 seconds



September 27, 2008 @ 2:40 pm

Each SUBJECT is supposed to take 60 seconds. I loved all articles at the site!



September 22, 2007 @ 12:57 am

Lau maybe giving welcome constructive criticism, but I don’t agree with it. Each section has a
gem of advice in plain english. This is one of those pages I’ll be book marking to come back to
occasionally and polish up my photog eye.



September 23, 2007 @ 12:32 pm
Woah! Lotsa information here! Although a lot of it I didnt know about! Great post! I would now
be visiting your blog regularly for sure!


Kyle Byron

September 26, 2007 @ 8:52 am

Oone quibble: As far as the Rule of Thirds goes, you don’t want to imagine 3 vertical and
horizontal lines; that would split the screen into 4ths. Imagine 2 vertical and horizontal lines, and
you get thirds.



September 24, 2007 @ 11:50 pm

Yes, it’s so useful. Great!


guidmaster´s .NET blog

October 6, 2007 @ 4:23 am

Trackback from guidmaster´s .NET blog

links for 2007-10-19

Robin MacFarlane

September 25, 2007 @ 5:08 am

Great job, a really interesting article.



September 26, 2007 @ 7:54 am

I people are missing the point about the 60 second thing.

Improve your photos in 60 seconds.

Each mini article/tip can be read in less than 60 seconds.

Each article has new advice or a technique therefor improving your photo knowledge each time
you read one.

Good stuff, great read.



Tom Ang

September 29, 2007 @ 3:18 pm

Thank you all for the great feed-back and I’m glad so many are finding the tips helpful. And
special thanks to Kyle and Rich for reading the blog so carefully. We’ve corrected the error in
Rule of Thirds and am about to clear the entry for Dancing with Light.

After a decade of writing for what amounted to a wall of silence (i.e. books) it’s a blast of fresh
air to be in contact with readers, and WONDERFUL to be able to polish/correct/refine quickly in
response to your comments.
A couple of thoughts for cbu and your low-light problems, to share:
- if your point-and-shoot camera flash is too bright (usually only a problem at close-up distances)
get a white post-it or tape a piece of tissue over the flash to tone it down.
- search for software applications to reduce noise; they can be very helpful.
- sure you set aperture-priority AE and set the largest aperture to ensure shutter time is as short as
can be
- if there is good light on parts of your subject but it’s dark elsewhere, try setting under-exposure
of around 0.5 stop or 1 stop to get a shorter exposure and less motion blur.



October 6, 2007 @ 11:17 am

Very good article to know about how to take great photos.



September 16, 2007 @ 12:24 pm

Well, it’s a really looong story, covering almost all the basic things, but, for a 60 seconds job, it’s
too much. Maybe if you split things a bit. Otherwise, short clear explanations are welcome.


Jane Consumer

September 22, 2007 @ 7:43 am

Trackback from Jane Consumer

Be a better photographer in 60 seconds


October 7, 2007 @ 8:10 pm

Great tips here. Very useful. The single most effective piece of advice I ever got was "fill the
frame" with your subject. My images became far more interesting and my photography eye



September 26, 2007 @ 1:55 pm

Thank you for the feedback.
I added "… at a Time" to post title since that’s probably more accurate. We just meant to convey
the brevity of each lesson, which may have been confusing since the entire post is quite long.



September 27, 2007 @ 1:07 am

Great advice. Thanks.


Eiriks forfatterblogg

September 24, 2007 @ 12:52 pm

Trackback from Eiriks forfatterblogg

Bedre bilder på fem minutter


September 25, 2007 @ 4:58 am

Waarom is deze site niet in het nederlands.


Cool Photos

September 29, 2007 @ 9:55 pm

very long but it’s an awesome guide to bookmark, almost everything is covered, and with


Tan The Man

September 21, 2007 @ 5:43 pm



Pete Bony

November 25, 2007 @ 9:55 pm

I’ve been using an SLR for more years than I care to remember but reading this page I now
realise that a little more thought and a bit of "back to basics" like the tips that you have given are
likely to bring my photograohs a bit more impact. Thanks for reminding me about a little


September 23, 2007 @ 1:18 am

thank you for this post!!! I printed out and I’m going to check off every time I follow acomplete
set and then journal about it. It’s very simple and direct, thanks, clau



October 21, 2008 @ 8:49 pm

Great tips for taking photos! Thanks!


Fabio Ornellas

October 21, 2007 @ 3:04 pm

Very nice article!! Short and direct.

I miss some examples of "good" and "bad" for each of tips though. Would make it longer, but
visually better to get the point.

Keep writing the way it is! I loved all articles at the site!

Thank you!


Trip Hop Clan

September 17, 2007 @ 10:06 am
Trackback from Trip Hop Clan

Simple steps to take the best photos in any situation


Sebat's Weblog

September 30, 2007 @ 5:35 pm

Trackback from Sebat’s Weblog

Fototips in 60 Sekunden



October 2, 2007 @ 12:26 am

awesome stuff



September 23, 2007 @ 1:10 pm

wow, exhaustive summary! thank you.

but it certainly took me more that 60 seconds to read it


October 7, 2007 @ 1:40 pm

Thanks for those great tips. I will be waiting for more from you.



September 24, 2007 @ 6:23 pm

Waarom is deze site niet in het nederlands.

M.Vr.Gr. H.v.d.L.



September 25, 2007 @ 4:57 pm

A lot of fairly light material.

For flash, a good rule of thumb would be to turn it off and use it only if you absolutely positively
have to. Natural light is a million times lighter.

Also "but whatever you do avoid looking at the sun directly, especially through the viewfinder of
your camera." You forgot to add the bit about looking both ways when you cross the street and
making sure you eat vegetables with every meal…


Didiek Hariadi

October 27, 2007 @ 3:56 pm

a guidance that’s make me happy, and push me try many obyect



September 26, 2007 @ 7:00 pm

By far the biggest offense novice photographers make is taking a photo with the main light
source behind the subject. Unless black silhouettes are what you’re actually trying to create, the
resulting photo usually loses detail on the subject and has blown out highlights.



September 22, 2007 @ 2:09 am

Thanks for all those explanations ! I’ve just bought a Canon XTi camera and I’m learning as I’m
still a newbie ! So many interesting points in your post ! Thank you very much ! In my favorite
bookmarks !!



September 27, 2007 @ 12:04 pm

In "Dancing with light", you create some confusion. Is the 3rd bullet supposed to be about the
same topic as the first bullet & the accompanying photo?
– If so, it’s wrong. When "Facing the sun, with your subject in front of you", you are NOT
"standing between your light-source (for example the sun) and your subject".
– If not, then it belongs in a different tip.

This tip would be easier for you to describe and for others to understand, if you simplify by
describing it in terms of the position of the main light source. This tip seems to be about having
the sun mostly behind the subject, instead of its usual position mostly behind the photographer.
Forget about saying, "with your subject in front of you". (When was the last time your subject
was elsewhere?)


mokum von Amsterdam

September 25, 2007 @ 5:55 pm

Great list, nice examples and valuable information.

Thanks, this might even improve my images

mokum von Amsterdam


Yves Van den Meerssche

September 22, 2007 @ 2:24 am

Excellent list ! Thanks


Michelle Hysell

October 13, 2007 @ 1:44 am

This website is very useful- thanks! Each SUBJECT is supposed to take 60 seconds.

Mark Brouch

September 22, 2007 @ 8:09 pm

I liked it. Helped a newbie like me out alot. Thanks!



September 24, 2007 @ 12:10 am

Wow, the longest 60 seconds of my life.


Curso de fotografia: dicas para melhorar suas fotos em 1 minuto! | NetFrases

November 18, 2008 @ 10:14 am

[...] dicas para melhorar suas fotos em 1 minuto! No site iDigitalPhoto você encontra um curso
grátis de fotografia que está dividido por temas. Cada tema tem a duração de apenas 1 minuto.
Nada de explicações [...]



December 9, 2008 @ 5:29 pm

Very exhaustive list which covers a lot of basics. Thanks.


February 9, 2009 @ 10:53 pm

This covers a lot. I think it will help me


Free tool of the week: Tutorials on taking better photos « IMPACTMAX

April 22, 2009 @ 8:10 pm

[...] Then explore DPS’s 10 ways to take stunning portraits and idigitalphoto’s list of 60-second
lessons to improve your photography. [...]


How can my work improve?: - The Photo Forum - Photography Discussion

April 27, 2009 @ 2:41 pm

[...] rest of the article. Digital Photography Tips For Beginners Digital Photography Composition
Tips Improve Your Photos 60 Seconds At At Time You might want to try this…look for Flickr
groups that are about your P&S camera and see [...]


Mike Hann

May 20, 2009 @ 12:21 pm

Very good for a quick lesson. For most this would make them feel pro!

Was wondering if you could also write about the cameras – I mean, the choices and their relative
advantage for photography.


Ashley Adams : Postcard Printing

August 25, 2009 @ 9:19 am

Hey, this is nice that you have given all the basic points to take good pictures.. I really appreciate
your effort.. I think this will work as a wonderful guide for the amateurs.. you have made it long
but simple to understand.. I shall be waiting for more tips from you..



September 2, 2009 @ 5:08 am

Awesome Article, I have shared this link on some photography forums also


Mathias Belmore

October 9, 2009 @ 3:49 am

Well worded and quite aptly written.



December 1, 2009 @ 1:53 am
The article was excellent. It had the level of detail that is needed for a novice photographer like
me. I know that some may find it too easy or too detailed, but I think it was just right.


Peter Fabricius | Something to write home about – Stock photogaphy and travel
marketing: finding the balance

December 15, 2009 @ 4:08 am

[...] Improve Your Photos 60 Seconds at a Time [...]


David Hardwick Wedding Photography

March 21, 2010 @ 2:43 pm

Very nice of you to share your wisdom. This is a great collection of photographic tips. Thanks



March 23, 2010 @ 2:49 am

Like the author noted, get something that grabs their attention and takes their mind off of the fact
that they are getting their photo taken. Make it fun to smile for the camera. Have kids “watch the
birdie” with a toy from SmileForMeToys. Create positive first experiences with cameras and
kids for a lifetime of capturing memories on their own.


mokum von Amsterdam

April 12, 2010 @ 9:41 am
One of the very few photo sites I keep coming back to. 2,5 years ago and now again and I still
like & learn from it.



July 12, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

Great article and time doesnt matter at all while reading[learning] new things.
I have sony s2100 cam, Its point and shoot cam.
Can anyone please tell me,How can I click pictures with focused object in centre and blurred

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                                                                             dollar for your used
Wrong questions!                                                             gear.

I start off below with the practical realities of going professional.

If you last until the end I'll cover exactly what I did to make it work.

Professional Photography
Would you like to photograph anything you want, anywhere you want,
anytime you want, any way you want, with a great professional camera
system? Would you love to travel to luxury destinations and photograph
whatever, whenever you want?

The only way to do this is to keep your real job and do photography on
                                                                       I use Adorama,
your own time.                                                         Amazon, eBay, Ritz,
                                                                         B&H, Calumet, J&R
If you want to photograph professionally you'll make less money, have and ScanCafe. I can't
to shoot the boring stuff in crappy locations for which you're hired,    vouch for ads below.
shoot it the way the client wants, and probably have to shoot everything
as if it's some big emergency every time. You'll probably only be able
to afford beat up old gear that's "good enough."

Making a buck in photography is a lot tougher than keeping a real job. The photo jobs and
locations that pay the most are the most boring. Think you're going to have people hiring
you as a travel photographer? Guess again.

It's exactly like golf or surfing. Golf is fun, and it's almost impossible to get people to pay
you to do it. Only one guy in ten million makes lots of money in surfing, photography or
acting. Everyone else who makes the money does it in something allied to the field, like
making or selling product or the dream.

We all know the few actors who pull in $20 million per movie. Did you know the average
annual income of the many SAG (Screen Actors' Guild) members, the majority of whom
we've never heard, is something more like $20,000? The SAG website's FAQ page offers
this advice on how to become a performer: "Develop another career to supplement your
income." People pay photographers less than actors.

A person who studied stage lighting in college and worked in Hollywood discovered that
almost no one makes it in the fun job of lighting. The people who make more money more
regularly are those who become lighting salesmen.
Who makes more: an actor, or an agent who earns 10% from each of the 20 clients they

If you want to make money in photography, it's probably not by doing photography.

You can become a super star photographer, but it's all in your self-promotion and luck. If
you want it hard enough you can do it. In America you can do anything you can imagine,
however if you want to make money and have fun making photos there are easier ways to

Professional Cameras
Everyone thinks selling photos gives them the green light to buy a fancy new camera.


If you' re doing this for money you can't afford expensive equipment unless it makes
business sense. See What Makes a Professional Camera.

Better cameras only make it easier for you to produce results. They don't make photos any
different from the camera you already own. See Why Your Camera Doesn't Matter.

Jobs in Photography
There are very few full time jobs in photography. The few out there are working at a photo
lab or running the portrait booth at Wal-Mart.

Your local paper might have one spot for a photo editor. Everyone else are stringers. Big
city papers may have a couple of photographers on staff. Great; that's five jobs in a city of a
million. Most newspapers get much of their photos from people paid by the shoot or the
shot, typically $100 to $150 per. Newspaper work is fun, but pays poorly.

Why Jobs in Photography Pay Poorly

According to Education Portal in 2002, the average annual salary of people employed as
photographers was $24,040.

Photography is not a profession. Anyone can call themselves a professional photographer.
There are no licenses and not even a college degree required. See my page on Why
Photography is Not a Profession.

More people do photography for fun than do it for money. Because it's fun, people looking
to hire photographers can always find someone to do it for less.

Jobs pay based on how badly the jobs are needed and how many qualified people are
available to fill them. If a job makes the employer money, he's going to pay more to fill the

There aren't millions of experienced, successful mutual fund managers out there. The few
that are out there can make hundreds of millions of dollars each year for the financial houses
which employ them. This is why the decent ones earn seven to eight figure incomes

There are tens of millions of photographers. Photographs don't usually earn a business much
money. Therefore there isn't much money there to employ photographers, and when there is,
there are so many photographers who often will work for free that employers don't need to
pay very much to fill the spot.

So much for getting a job making big bucks as a photographer. The positions may be out
there, but there are easier ways to earn a living.

Photography is self-taught. Ansel Adams' only formal education came from working one
summer in a San Francisco photo lab. I and everyone I know who does this for a living
taught themselves. I read books and practiced.

It's nice to have a degree from a photo school, but costs more in money and lost career time
than it's worth. If you have what it takes you can teach yourself faster. If you don't have the
eye, no schooling will teach it to you.

Far more important than learning photography, which is self-taught and not particularly
difficult, is to learn what you really need to know, which is to learn how to run your own
business in a very competitive world.

If you're serious about working as a photographer and attending NYIP or Brooks, I'd suggest
some serious guidance counseling. Don't listen to the school's admissions (sales) people.
These schools have lots of history, but it's a tough way to make a living and the schools
aren't much help careerwise.
Brooks Institute

I love Brooks Institute. It's the best school of which I know to learn everything about
photography. All of Santa Barbara is picturesque and has an infrastructure of labs and pro
camera stores to support the students, instructors and local professionals. The people who
work at Brooks form an incredible network of people who know and share everything about
photography. Because of Brooks there is more photography infrastructure and support in the
tiny resort town of Santa Barbara than there is in the metropolis of San Diego.

I've wanted to move to Santa Barbara since the 1980s. I still intend to wind up there. I'd love
to teach at Brooks and be associated with them in any way possible.

The dirty secret is that a degree from Brooks usually only gets you huge student loan debts.
It's not likely to land you a job, and certainly not one that can make enough money to pay
the bills you'll ring up.

Brooks has always struck me as a comfy place for the rich to send their kids to learn a
vanity hobby and get them out of the house. People who can afford Brooks can afford not to

It's very sad that Brooks has been busted for misrepresenting photography employment
opportunities. Brooks is not a public school like UCLA. Brooks is a part of a private
company run to make money off of students and their parents. Brooks was busted in a NY
Times article "The School That Skipped Ethics Class" on Sunday, July 24, 2005.

The Times reported that the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary & Vocational
Education sent an investigator to pose as a prospective student. She was told to expect a
starting salary of $50,000 to $150,000, or more, in the first year after graduation.

An examination of Brooks's records showed not a single 2003 graduate had even $50,000 of
earning potential. Brooks reported that 45 graduates employed full time earned an average
income of about $26,000. Let's see: average photographer earns $24,040, Brooks grad earns
$26,000. You can make $1,960 more a year if you go to Brooks. Of course the average debt
level of the people who got jobs and went to Brooks was $74,000 each. That means you
might break even in 40 years. But wait - there were only 45 grads employed full-time, and
Brooks runs about 300 students at a time and growing. Good luck!

See more about Brooks here.

I'm bummed by this. It's Brooks that makes Santa Barbara so desirable. If Brooks shrinks as
a result of penalties from this, that shoots a big hole in my genius future plans.

Hallmark seems to be a different sort of school. From what little I've heard from graduates,
the school and its instructors are quite honest about career and income prospects in
photography, and Hallmark also teaches the importance of, and how to run, your own

The best thing you can do to research Hallmark is to ask its graduates. They have their own
superb alumni website,, done by a successful graduate living in Las
Vegas.. By comparison, Brooks' Alumni site is a part of Brooks' main site and appears to be
PR for the sales department.

Your Own Small Business
Sorry folks, but here's the important reality: to make it as a photographer you must become
your own small business. You don't have the luxury of working for someone else: there are
almost no jobs in photography. As a small business you're in charge, which is great, but you
have almost no one to whom you can go for advice or direction. You're on your own in the

You will have no employer and no job. You, at best, are an independent contractor. You
have to provide your own health insurance, fund your own retirement and have no paid
vacation or sick leave. I don't even know what a weekend is! You have to find every one of
your own photo gigs. Most critically, you need to market and sell yourself. No one is
looking for you. Your skills at self-promotion are critical.

Your success depends almost entirely on your ability to run a successful small business.
Almost nothing depends on the quality of your photography.

It's sad to see people get laid off from an office job and think that they can just wander into
creating a small business. Some can, but only if they develop competitive survival and
differentiation skills. If they had those instincts they'd be the ones still working, not the ones
let go.

Eat or be eaten, although actually it's more like promote effectively or be forgotten.
Effective promotion is more different than simple promotion. Real estate people are in a
tough field, but at least they need licenses which photographers don't. All of us laugh at the
ridiculous attempts at self-promotion thrown on our lawns and in our mailboxes. Many of
those attempts make those people look stupid. Don't let it happen to you. Promotion is a
difficult skill. Real estate is a sales job, so those people already have the sales background
that photographers don't. Every photographer mails out promotional cards and emails every
month. How can you stand out as the go-to-guy for serious photography?

Haven't we all seen photos in magazines, posters and advertisements we could have done
better? Of course! Some other guy won the job because he had the promotional skill you
lacked. Photography skills are a very, very small part of the business. Anyone can do it. If
you think photo skills are more important than marketing, you'll fail.

Most small businesses spend only 15% of their time on the core of why they got into
business, and the other 85% of their time on critical side issues like marketing and
bookkeeping. You'll be too busy to spend much time on photography. You have to crank out
the results, not spend time experimenting.

You need to be able to keep books, figure out how to provide for your own retirement and
medical benefits, calculate taxes, and most importantly, be able to promote, market and sell

You and I appreciate fine photography. That's why we photograph. The people who pay us
don't. That's why they are out buying photography. As a business you need to put your
efforts into things appreciated by the people paying you. Learn to create great work, but not
on client's time.

You must be skilled at dealing with people and selling and promoting yourself. You need to
be able to differentiate yourself from the millions of other photographers also trying to make
a buck.

The Key to Business Success:
SCORE is the golden key to everything. My background was technical. I have a degree in
engineering. Luckily 10 - 15 years ago I veered off to the marketing and then the sales side
of the digital imaging industry, so I gained experience in both.

Marketing and sales are completely different. Marketing is promoting yourself to everyone
and determining what products and services to offer. Sales is finding and closing individual

I got good in these areas, but still had zero knowledge of everything else involved in
running a business. 15 years ago I took a class from the IRS about it, and it was so
complicated I never tried again.

I never took any business classes in college. I took classes in economics, but not business.

Then I recalled some public service ads about SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired
Executives. Supposedly they were retired guys who loved what they did in business so
much that they volunteered seasoned business advice free for the listening. A fast internet
search uncovered They work throughout the USA. I'm unfamiliar with the rest
of the world.

SCORE is your key to success! They are the real thing. They are incredible. If you ask via
their website, they will find someone experienced in any field and get you a real answer
from someone who knows. I was able to get advice from someone experienced in publishing
when I was contemplating writing a book.

I got real answers from people who had been there and done it, not from academics. God
bless teachers, but if they could cut it in the competitive business world they probably would
be doing it, instead of analyzing it in class for much, much less pay.

I took a one-day class taught by folks from my local SCORE chapter. In a one-day's
overview it covered what makes a successful business and what makes it fail. It laid out
exactly what you need to know, like business plans, taxation, getting loans, bookkeeping,
marketing, promotion, competitive analysis and, well, everything I had always needed to
know. This one class had many students realize if their business ideas were doomed, or if
they should move ahead. That's what business plans do.

They stressed the old wives tale about "99% of new businesses failing in the first year" was
baloney. They pointed out that if you consider every half-baked attempt at business, like
people giving money to casual acquaintances to start weak partnerships in undefined
business ideas you might see 99% fail. They explained that people who did their research
(the sort of people smart enough to attend that class) almost always succeeded if they chose
to move ahead. This is because something as simple as making a business plan, which is
writing down what you're going to do, makes one look at all the pitfalls and makes very
clear which businesses are likely to succeed. People who do their diligence and realize an
idea isn't likely to succeed don't do it, so they don't fail.

I was expecting a bunch of dull old farts teaching. Retired doesn't mean old. These guys had
been so successful that they had retired young. Talking with them at the end of class as we
walked out to the parking lot we noticed that these weren't business teachers driving
clapped-out old Volvos. These dudes were driving new Mercedes S-classes. These guys
were winners, and loved what they did so much that they couldn't keep out of it after they
retired. These are the guys from whom you couldn't afford advice, yet they offer it for free!

The class for the day cost about $60, which paid for the room. They even threw in free
lunch! The teachers, and there were many of them, all volunteered their time. Unlike most
things, I got far more than I paid for.

Take the classes you need at SCORE and you'll have what you need to plan if your idea to
start a photography business makes sense. Ask and you can get real advice from people who

Some Tidbits I Learned from SCORE:
1.) Forget Partnerships. These almost always fail. It seems like a great idea for two friends
to team up if one has the photo skills and the other has the business skills. The problem is
that as things develop they both want to be in charge. You can't have an animal with two
heads. Eventually they each want to go in a different direction, and the business falls apart.
The really bad thing is that it's not pretty, and they lose each other as friends, too.

2.) Keep your day job and take your time planning your business. The longer you plan, the
more likely you are to succeed. You won't be making money for some time and you'll need
your day job. Six months of planning is a minimum, two years is better. Don't just quit and
say "Bingo, I'm now a pro photographer, yeah!" Plan for some time and know exactly what
you're going to do.

3.) Business is competitive. It's a jungle. People win and people lose. It's not like a job
working for someone else. You have to plan to win, otherwise you will die.

4.) Do it! Most encouraging was the sentiment that anyone can do it. This is America and
anyone can become anything they like. Your only limitation is your imagination. Plan it of
course, but think big. When I was setting my goals one instructor was taken aback at my
low figures. He said "What, that's your goal? Why bother? Set something worth achieving!"

5.) Don't worry. The worst that can happen is you have to get a job again, which is exactly
where you started. I've met several people who lost everything in attempts at their own
business and were still glad they did it. They were happily working regular jobs again.

Other Observations

This is the easiest way to make money on weekends.

You'll pull in a few hundred dollars to start, and today decent guys pull in at least a few
thousand just to give a CD with photos to the bride. That saves them from having to deal
with prints later.

Old timers still try to charge for shooting and then to take print orders for profit. People hate

Sell them the CD, let them print their own, and get on to the next job.

Of course this is also dangerous. A guy in my family had his lab lose his film. Today one
computer glitch could lose your whole job. He had to fly almost everyone in the wedding
party back to the USA to redo the photos. They had to come from Brazil! The photographer
had to pay all this, since he was liable. He lost so much money he gave up.
You only get one chance to photograph a once-in-a-lifetime event. That's why it can pay
well, and why you'll be in deep trouble if you screw up.

I don't do weddings. The one I have done have been for fun for friends. When they've
wanted to pay me in advance I've been very clear that their rate is as low as it is because I'm
accepting no liability for anything.

Other friends do weddings and already have $60,000 in bookings for the next few months
after only being at it half a year. They key is marketing, promotion and sales. They hump
themselves and get out to every bridal event and ask for the business. They invite
prospective couples over to their home gallery, show them walls loaded with great wedding
shots and get top dollar.

It's not the photo quality - look at any wedding photos and you'll see. It's all in how well you
can run your own small business.

Health Insurance

This was my biggest worry, but easy. I called Blue Cross and got a plan for $94 a month.
Easy! It even covered annual exams and drugs.

Be certain not to quit your day job before you arrange to get health insurance. In my case it
was easy to get new coverage because I had coverage from my day job. If you currently
have no coverage it's much more difficult to start new independent coverage.

You save money with a large deductible. You save so much each month that even if you
have medical expenses you've still saved money at the end of the year.

My plan had a $5,000 deductible, which of course you need to have in the bank when
starting a business anyway. If I wanted a smaller deductible it would have cost maybe $250
a month. At the end of the year that's $2,000 in extra premiums. If you don't get sick, that's
$2,000 in your pocket. If you do, you're probably even.

Insurance is to cover you in case of a dire emergency that would wipe out your finances. It's
wasteful to expect it to pay your month-to-month medical bills. If you're an employee that's
fine, but not if you're self-employed. A friend had an infection and spent a month in the
intensive care unit. The bill was over one million dollars! They paid nothing since they had
insurance. You need coverage for emergencies, not for expected bills.

Equipment Insurance

This is the tough part. Your homeowners' insurance probably excludes any items used in
business. Once you do photography for money you're probably not covered.

If you're a new business no one wants to write you business insurance. You typically need to
have been around for two years.

I got lucky. Farmer's, for about $50 extra a year, sells a business pursuits rider on
homeowners' policies.

I'm in California where the Farmers' guy explained that my problem finding insurance was
tough because most or all of the other popular insurance companies no longer offered that
kind of coverage.

Of course homeowners insurance only covers some kinds of losses, like theft. It doesn't
cover my stupidity, like dropping it. Thankfully homeowners insurance covers everything
up to my limit. I don't have to provide a list and add to it everytime I get something new.

I avoided paying about two cents per hundred dollars per year for most other equipment
policies. Those policies cover any sort of loss, but only apply to the list you provide and pay
for. If you buy new gear you have to add to the list, and it gets cumbersome if you want to
include straps and filters and etc.

The Client is Always Right

Always do what the client wants, even if he is an idiot. He may be stupid, but that's too bad.
I've heard stories about photographers who thought they were right and the customer was
wrong. They lost the jobs. Duh. This isn't about art. It's about commerce. Do the art on your
own time.

I warn people obsessing about cameras that photography depends on imagination, not
equipment. Success in photography for money depends on your business savvy, not the
quality of your photos. Worse, very little depends on your ability to make a photo that you
think looks good. It's your ability to get the client what he thinks he wants.

Only after you've earned a clients' respect might he start paying attention to your
suggestions. Be careful.

Trade Associations

When I've attended meetings of professional photography groups I was saddened by the
overall crummy attitude. Everyone whines about how they are beaten down to bottom dollar
by all the new people coming in and every other whine imaginable. Regardless of
organization, no one seems to have a confident handle on running their business. Everyone
is too busy complaining about why it's not their fault. Tough, it's a competitive business, and
to succeed one needs to rise above the whining and differentiate one's self in the eyes of the
people who hire you. If you can't make clear why you are different from everyone else,
you'll always get bottom dollar.

When I shopped for things like insurance I didn't see any great deals offered compared to
what I found on my own.

I don't belong to any of APA or PPA or ASMP or any of that. People should join, as it's the
best way to meet others doing the same thing and to learn from the camaraderie. I didn't find
any of them that encouraging from a business standpoint.

I'd suggest joining these groups to learn specifics about pro photo issues, but stick with
SCORE to learn about how to be successful.

Professional photography is about running a business. It's not about creating art. Sadly the
folks I often met at trade association meetings seemed too concerned with being victims and
not enough about confidently taking charge of their futures. Don't let these guys wear you

It's like learning about photography. I suggest people wanting to improve their photography
hang out with painters and other artists, and not hang around camera hobbyists or
photographers. Likewise, I suggest people looking to become professional hang around
successful small businesspeople.

Know When to Call it Quits

Small businesspeople are great. Ask them about their baby (their business) and they'll talk
you ear off with free advice.

One pearl I learned was to know when to give up. Set a time table before you start. If you're
not profitable within that time, give it up before you lose everything.

One person told me how sad it was that they saw friends finally get into the businesses of
their lifelong dreams, and they didn't know when it was time to give up. They threw
everything they had at the dying dream and lost everything.

I picked two years. I was lucky; things worked great.

I picked two years because I had enough cash to live on for two years when I quit my real
What If You Have to Get a Real Job Again?

I was worried what would happen if I took off for two years to do my own thing, gave up,
and had a huge hole in my resume. You have to have a job to get one, and having a two-year
period of unemployment didn't seem like a good idea.

I was told no problem! Every decent employer would look at someone who made a real
attempt at their own business very positively. Most employers dream of doing it themselves.
You will be seen as more of a self-motivated go-getter than any of the other dull employees

Independent businessmen have completely different mindsets from anyone who's an
employee. It's the difference between being caged in a zoo with free food, no fighting
allowed and HMO-grade medical care for life, or being on your own in a jungle. In the
jungle we have to make do for ourselves. 80% of being an employee is just showing up.

Even the smallest of businessmen has a mindset a few steps above any employee, even if
that employee's title is Vice President. As employees, even the most hard-working lust for
approved ways to screw off or take more. Raise? Excellent! Extra vacation day? Yes!!!
Christmas week off? BULLSEYE!!!!! Life is completely different when you pay yourself. I
don't even know what a weekend is! I get no vacation. Any time I'm not working, it's costing
me. I pay myself; there is no such thing as a raise or time off. If I ditch an afternoon it costs
me forever.

If you've made a valid attempt at running your own business it's better than having worked
for someone else the past year.

Put your business and title on your resume. You are the Owner, Big Kahuna, or CEO or
whatever you call yourself. It's OK to give up and go back to work. It's better to try and lose
than be a wimp who never tried.

A caveat is that I haven't looked for a job personally in years. I asked a headhunter when I
was considering quitting and was told employers welcome business owners back into

I have personally experienced the complete change in mindset from employee to working
for myself. It's interesting, because my wife is an employee of someone else. Things we
each consider absolute, like the value of a day off, are opposites! She loves days off, and I
want to keep working. You never get a day off in the jungle, unless you want to be eaten.

Share Everything You Know (separate article, click)
The Salesman and the Polaroid

I knew of one guy who had great people and sales skills, borrowed a Polaroid camera, went
to a tourist area here in San Diego one night, and made hundreds of dollars selling couples
photos of themselves on vacation. He wouldn't take no for an answer!

Photography isn't nuclear weapons design. This guy had never held a camera in his life.

Success comes to those who can sell and promote.


All salespeople learn to differentiate their product or service from their competitors. Your
success is critically dependant on your ability to educate others why your photographs or
photography services are superior. If you can't you're going to get bottom dollar every time.

If you can differentiate yourself, you'll be the one pulling in $10,000 for a few hours
shooting a wedding on Saturday. I know of one guy who was so good at this he kept raising
his wedding rate trying to get out of the business. At $85,000 a shoot he kept getting calls.
Only when he raised his rate for a few hours of shooting over $100,000 did people stop
asking him to shoot weddings.

Unless you can differentiate yourself, there are hundreds of others hungrier than you hoping
for the same job. If you won't take their lowball offer, the next guy will.


Negotiation isn't about price. If you're stuck on negotiating price, you lose.

Everyone wins in a good negotiation. Good negotiation is learning what the other side really
wants. Negotiation isn't about one side wining and the other losing. It's not a competition.
It's a constructive collaboration.

If you can't differentiate yourself you'll only be able to negotiate pricing and payments. If
you're only negotiating pricing, you'll always lose to someone newer and hungrier.

The best way to learn to negotiate is to read Herb Cohen's You Can Negotiate Anything.
Back when I was a senior manager at a multi-billion dollar company we took many courses
on negotiation. Nothing ever taught us anything that wasn't already covered in this book.

People who buy photographs know how to wrap photographers around their fingers. The
standard line used against photographers for probably over 100 years is "We only budgeted
this much for the job today, but if we like your work we have another project coming soon
for which we can pay you much more." If you fall for this one you deserve bottom dollar.

When people try that line on me (they do all the time) I either ignore it and keep on with the
discussion, or say "sure" with an intonation that lets them know I'm calling their bluff. Also
I'd realize that they intend to get someone at bottom dollar. I'd either walk away, or
apologize that I was unclear in explaining that I'm a guy who is paid a premium because
those who use my products do so precisely because it sets them apart from their
competition. Since standing out is the purchaser's whole point in buying, I have to get them
to see that they can't afford not to pay top dollar!

You have to differentiate yourself. If you can't show why your work is better than everyone
else's, you're only worth bottom dollar. If the only way you can win a job is on price, it's
time to get a real job again.


We all admire the few photographers who have glorious retail stores selling their work.

These photographers are successful because of their skill at retail. These guys could have
opened successful chains of stores selling anything else instead.

You can do it, too, but it requires retail skill. Photo quality alone gets you nowhere.

Go investigate SCORE and start planning your own business as a business, not a hobby.
You'll do great!

Help me help you                   top

I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.

The biggest help is when you use any of these links to Adorama, Amazon, eBay, B&H,
Ritz, Calumet, J&R and ScanCafe when you get anything, regardless of the country in
which you live. It costs you nothing, and is this site's, and thus my family's, biggest source
of support. These places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since
before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.
If you find this page as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may
have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.

If you've gotten your gear through one of my links or helped otherwise, you're family. It's
great people like you who allow me to keep adding to this site full-time. Thanks!

If you haven't helped yet, please do, and consider helping me with a gift of $5.00.

As this page is copyrighted and formally registered, it is unlawful to make copies, especially
in the form of printouts for personal use. If you wish to make a printout for personal use,
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thereof. Thank you!

Thanks for reading!

Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

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