This is a guest post by Phil Hill, a travel photographer from the UK based in Australia. You can see more of Phil’s great work at his travel photography blog or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.
If you fancy yourself as a pro then you have got to raise your game, and raise it high. I have a few pet hates within the photography world, things that make you look plain un-professional and professionalism is paramount.
Purely my own opinion of course, some of my gripes have been properly executed by many (professionally) and readily create fantastic imagery, just steer clear from these clichés and already you will be a step ahead.
1. Selective Colour
Is it color, or is it black and white? It’s both! Everyone will have seen a picture of a person holding a red rose, classic bad wedding photography. If the image doesn’t look good in either, it’s not going to be improved with selective colour.
2. Overcooked HDR
A few photographers out there really rock the style of merged images; Ken Kaminesky and Trey Ratcliffe shoot high dynamic range, and do it well. The basic principle is to take two or three different exposures of the same scene, usually a landscape, where the sky is much brighter than the foreground, then combine them into one image showing detail in both highlights and shadows. This process should be subtle, push it too far and you end up with weird halos and a posterization effect. It makes you look really bad at PhotoShop for a start and left with photographs which are an assault on the eyes.
3. Photographers websites that play corny music, any music
If you run a photography website, let your images do the talking. I am coming from an editorial perspective here; I want editors, creatives, people in the business of commissioning photography to view my portfolio, nothing will turn those kind of professionals away faster than if I had music blasting out from my homepage. No one wants to have a sudden blast of song erupt in a quiet office space either. The other trouble of course is copyright, un-able to license something really cool to promote your work, all that’s left is the terrifyingly low rent tracks that make you look tacky.
4. Hopes, dreams and moments photographers
Have a listen to ‘I’m qualified to satisfy you’ by Barry White, too many photographers out there are doing the ‘About me’ section equivalent, describing themselves as having the ability to ‘capture moments and memories’ it makes me cringe, be original, be honest. Listen to ‘Why don’t we do it in the road’ by the Beatles instead.
5. ‘Artistic’ Photo titles
So, you’ve taken a really cracking image of a landscape. Please don’t ruin it with a name like ‘sunset moods’ or ‘sheer beauty’. Under no circumstances quote verse, song lyrics or poetry in the description. If you have successfully communicated ‘true love’ I will get it, 9 times out of ten a caption like that has been applied afterwards without no real foresight when it was created, the most effective way to shout amateur. Look at Cindy Sherman, she has made an entire career from ‘Untitled’ images.
6. Non editors
Most photographers aren’t very good at editing their own, common knowledge amongst professionals, favoring the opinions of others to make a cut of images. It is never a good idea to litter a website or Flickr (big offender) with every conceivable shot of the football match, frame by painful frame, laid out like stills from a movie, viewers will tire quickly. Less is more.
7. Kit envy
This should be on a photographer’s deadly sins list. Have you ever judged a fellow photographer’s ability by the camera around their neck? It happens constantly, next time you are out snapping watch the amount of other photographers eyeing up the number before your ‘D’, sizing you up as a lens-man. For every below-average pro-dslr user out there, I will give you 5 geniuses with entry-level cameras.
8. Using words like ‘Nice Capture’
I shudder when I hear, or read, those words. It kind of implies that the image was nothing more than luck. There are certain ‘scenes’ and ‘trends’ in photography that people go along with, sometimes its better to abstain from such things. Incidentally if you uttered the word ‘Bokeh’ in a photographic context to a Japanese person they would wonder what you were on about.
9. Wearing cameras to exhibitions, especially vintage ones.
This makes me laugh every time, a couple of months ago it was Fotofreo photography festival here in Perth, I managed to attend a couple really great exhibition openings and check out some amazing work. Every other person in the room was walking around with a camera and prime-lens attached over their shoulder like some uncontrollable need to let everyone know you are a photographer and an artist. I was even able to work out a hierarchy, the top of the pile firmly dominated by the Leica wearers (see number 7). If you decide to do the same and don’t have a press card, ask yourself, what do you intend to photograph? It looks ridiculous.
10. Digital attitude
Never fall into the ‘it can be fixed in PhotoShop’ trap, think how much better your photography could be if you achieved everything in-camera. Learn the business of photo making before even contemplating owning a copy of the software.