4 Bad Habits To Turn You Into A Successful Photographer :: Digital Photo Secrets

4 Bad Habits To Turn You Into A Successful Photographer

by David Peterson 5 comments

With all the advice on how to churn out more photographs and how to follow the rules in your photography business, I want to stop for a moment and consider the possibility that all these gurus are dead wrong. There are some things I do that I’m not all that proud of, but the more I think about them, the more I realize how engrained they are in my personality. Call these habits bad or good. Whatever they are, they’ve helped me focus on what’s important in photography.

Bad habit: disappearing for long stretches of time

I admit it. I don’t always promptly answer everyone’s emails. I know they expect it of me, but I sometimes get so focused on what I’m doing that I can't stop. That goes for the phone too. I’ll answer it if I’m not busy with a shoot or post-processing the results on my computer. Otherwise, you’re just going to have to wait.

I know it’s a bad habit, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. These long uninterrupted stretches of time allow me to hone my skills and get exactly the images my clients want. There is a time and a place for being responsive. Hard at work is not one of them.

Bad habit: unscrupulously deleting photos

I’m a man of my intuition. If a photo doesn’t bowl me over, I usually delete it without thinking. Could I have saved that image? Couldn’t I have at least taken something from it? Perhaps. I’ve even done tutorials on stealing the sky from your pictures and using it in others, but that all assumes the sky just blows you away. If it doesn’t, I usually delete the image and don’t think twice.

I’ve probably gotten rid of some good images that could have been usable. That’s a shame. Having said that, I am very happy with my ultra clean photography portfolio. It’s much more impressive when I present it to potential clients. They see that everything was meticulously chosen for their eyes only. The willingness to say “no,” and to rely on nothing other than my gut feelings, has done a lot to bolster my success.

Bad habit: never trusting what people say about your photos

You’re going to get a lot of compliments from your friends and family. That’s a really awesome thing! You should appreciate it, but you shouldn’t trust them. Most people who haven’t been exposed to the breadth and depth of all the photography out there just can’t spot the difference between good and really really amazingly good. It takes a highly experienced and highly trained eye.

Self-criticism can take you to the brink of insanity, but what else has the power to shake you from your complacency? My advice: Do not be comfortable. Do not be well-adjusted. Remain completely critical of everything you do, even when it’s your best work ever. Few will understand, but it’s a habit that will make you successful.

Bad habit: copying the work of others

Nobody wants to be unoriginal, a copycat, a parasite on a thriving community of photographers. But here’s the thing. The copycats eventually create original work because they’ve done something all the “original” artists weren’t willing to do -internalize the style of others. One photographer might have a single style, but a copycat has many.

Now I am in no way advocating completely copying others and acting as if you’re the first one to come up with the idea. That’s a bad habit that will get you into a lot of trouble. And it won’t make you successful. What I am saying is that there is value in trying to replicate what someone else has done. You can learn a lot of skills that will apply to your own photography.

Those are my bad habits. Do any of you have “bad” habits to add to the list? I’d love to hear about them.

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  1. Susan says:

    David - Thanks so much for taking the time to share your tips. Sometimes, I'm so focused on work, photog and otherwise, I just save them in my Inbox to enjoy when I have the 'bad habit' of lingering on line just to stop, look, think and learn. Other times though, I'm with you: Ignore the bings, beeps and rings, and hold the focus on what you really want to work on -- those times are hard to come by.

  2. Matteo says:

    Hi David.
    First of all thanks for all the insight, tips and tutorial you are sharing with us.
    I find them very helpful and easy to follow.
    Regarding these "bad habits" I totally agree with you about the "copycat".
    I believe that, especially for me that I have started from scratch (am very much a beginner yet), copying others work it is a must. What I mean, since everyone today takes pictures, you must copy and master the work of the great photographer which were or are still out there. Only after that you may develop you own style. Lately I got in love with black & white photography and started to look and (literally) studying the work of Ansel Adams.
    Although I do not practice enough to get this hobby of mine a step further, for sure will bring me good satisfaction.
    Thanks again for all your work and time you share with us and if you have anything (maybe you did already) on how to improve black and white photography, I would love to ready it. Ciao

  3. Linda Bonskowski says:

    David, I am so glad to see that I am not the only person on planet Earth that does not feel obligated to answer the phone every time it rings!! It drives my friends and family nuts....."Aren't you going to get that? It might be important!" What I might be doing at that particular moment is obviously more important or I WOULD answer it!!

    As for other "bad" habits.......I am totally critical of my own photos. I never think mine are good enough. People constantly tell me I should enter contests, but I KNOW BETTER!!! I am NOT good enough ..............yet!!! With your Dash classes, I have definitely improved.......but I am a work in progress, a slow learner, and am still reaching for more!!! I don't think I will ever think I've arrived! But the good part of that is ...I keep trying, keep working at it, and little by little I improve.

  4. Norma says:

    I agree with you David. My motto is...if it's not great, it's gone. I am very critical of my work and will only show my best images since that is how my photography will be judged by others. Just wanted to say how much I appreciate you sharing all this information with your followers while maintaining your own business and life. I can't thank you enough.

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.