Top Photographers Reveal What They Wish They’d Known Before Going Pro

Clockwise from top: Elle Muliarchyk, Dixie Dixon, and Andrew Scrivani.
Clockwise from top: Elle Muliarchyk, Dixie Dixon, and Andrew Scrivani.

We’ve all benefited from learning a lesson the hard way, from the ground up. It’s the best way to test our perseverance and force us to work outside of our comfort zone. In fact, we should all plan to fail occasionally and learn from those transformative mistakes. The problem is, if we all learned the hard way every time, life would be flat-out exhausting.

For those of you just starting out in the photography world, here are a few words of advice from the industry’s brightest

Photo of Andrew Scrivani courtesy Eric Krebs Photography.
Photo of Andrew Scrivani courtesy Eric Krebs Photography.

names. What do working professional photographers wish they’d known before they launched their career?

Andrew Scrivani: “Find a niche, don’t try to be everything to everyone.”

Andrew is a phenomenally well-known food photographer, avid  blogger, and regular New York Times contributor. Andrew’s photography incorporates his passion for the culinary arts, which allows him to shoot what he loves on a day-to-day basis while still making enough to pay the bills and live a NYC-based life that makes every single one of his Instagram followers jealous.

Elle Muliarchyk:  “Never veer off your personal vision — compromise as little as possible about your ‘voice’ as a photographer.”

Fashion photography Elle’s work is as exotic as her around-the-world childhood, and her sophisticated aesthetic flows beautifully through each and every one of her images. Elle’s most admirable trait is her ability to stay true to her creative vision, which has resulted in a powerful up-and-coming brand centered around her unique style.

Charles Lucima: “A photographer is no different from a salesperson — and magazines don’t pay anymore.”

The business of photography is still exactly that: a business! It’s equally important to hone your marketing, sales, and pricing tactics as it is to develop your craft from behind the lens. One major misconception rampant among beginning photographers that the value of magazine editorial work lies in the high pay, when in reality the value lies entirely in heightened brand awareness. Magazines circulate your work to a large amount of potential clients, but unlike the glory days of glossy magazines with massive budgets, mid-level magazines only have to much to spend to use your images.

Photo courtesy Dixie Dixon.
Photo courtesy Dixie Dixon.

Dixie Dixon: “Take at least one day off during the week… I find that when I work 7 days a week, it’s too draining — and I am less inspired and productive.”

The great thing about running your own photography business is that you get to set your own hours. Unfortunately, it also means there’s no one to tell you to stop working and take a day off. Recent studies have shown that professionals, especially creative professionals, should actually be working less than 40 hours, not more. Dixie says her day of rest “re-ignites passion for not only photography, but life in general.”

Roberto Valenzuela: “I wish I would have paid more attention in art history class.”

Roberto brings up a great point: key conceptual and technical fundamentals can be found in every art form. There is so much to be learned from studying the work of famous painters, architects, and even scientists — and the classroom is the perfect place to develop your aesthetic.

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Topher Kelly is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and editor at CreativeLive. Follow Topher on Twitter@Topher_LIVE.