Five Essential Traits of a Professional Photographer


In my 35 years of doing professional photography in Perth, there is one question that I am asked more often than any other: “How do you get to be a professional photographer?”

The short, flippant answer that many photographers give is, “Take a lot of pictures.” While experience is definitely a large part of the equation, taking bad pictures over and over again with no direction isn’t going to make anyone a professional photographer.

There are so many factors to consider, including but not limited to: cameras, lenses, lighting, rapport, darkroom techniques and angles. These can all be taught. However, we feel there is one quality above all that makes a photographer good enough to be a professional: an artist’s eye.

We don’t want to “burst the bubble” of any fledgling Perth photographers, but if you don’t have that “eye,” that sense of what makes a truly great picture, the patience to wait for it and the ability to take action once the “shot” is there, you will never amount to anything more than a picture-taker.

As a master photographer, I like to “give back.” Photography has been very good to me over the years; I have spent my life doing the only thing I ever really wanted to do as a profession or as an art. Consequently, I don’t mind offering advice to aspiring photographers. We were all in the position of wanting to be a professional photographer at one point.

In the spirit of “give back” and to help those who are serious about photography find their way, I would like to offer what I believe are the five most important things that you must do to become a professional photographer.

Buy Professional Equipment

If one took commercials and advertisements seriously, it would be easy to think that walking into your favourite small electronics store, dropping a few hundred dollars for a “professional” camera, and buying a few batteries is all you need to take great, professional photos.

I’m sorry, but it simply doesn’t work that way. You will require different lenses for different situations and different lighting for different shots. Some shots will require longer or shorter exposure times than others. Simply put, you must have these professional equipment to be a professional photographer. There is no shortcut here.

Learn from the Masters

I personally train anyone who works for me. Not to brag here, but that means you would be getting mentoring and training from a master photographer–and get paid for it. I always recommend going to a great school, but you should also try to work for a master photographer to learn how to fully utilise what you learn in school by applying it in the field.

If you can find a master photographer to work with, it will steeply accelerate your learning curve and keep you from making a lot of mistakes that you will definitely make on your own, no matter how good you are.

Be Prepared for any Shoot

Both you and your equipment should always be prepared for any photoshoot, whether it is in your studio or at a remote site. You need to know that the equipment you have is right for the situation and you have to know that every piece of equipment is fully functional.

Do you have enough disc space? Do you have batteries? Does all of your lighting work–including your flash unit? Are all of your lenses in order?

Be Personable but Professional

Photographers mention “rapport” a lot. If you don’t have it, every shoot will be an uphill struggle. You must be able to put subjects at ease. Photography doesn’t produce anything that isn’t already there.

The magic of photography is that great photography brings out the beauty that is already in the subject and captures it for all to see. It is nearly impossible to bring out a person’s inner beauty if they aren’t comfortable in your presence.

Take a lot of Pictures

We know that we called this the “flippant” version at the beginning of the piece, but it is important to take a lot of pictures. Then you need to study them; figure out what worked, what didn’t and why. Take copious notes if you need to.

While an artist’s eye can’t be manufactured, someone who loves to take pictures often finds that it was there inside all along, waiting to come out. When it does, you’ll know–and so will anyone you show a picture to.

If you would like to know more or would like to hire a master photographer, call 0414 644071. Experience the difference that a professional photographer can make in capturing your most-cherished memories.