Three Habits That Make a Photographer A Professional

Through our photography agency, I often look at roughly 25-30 new photographer applications each month. I’ve been doing that for well over 10 years now so that is about 3000 photographers and 40,000+ photographs. I also spend a lot of time every month watching the new images being submitted to both our stock photography libraries. Again this adds up to many more thousand pictures each and every year.

I can tell you, in all those photographs there were many thousands of images that might have been great stock images with real sales potential, if the photographer had only done their job right. The frustrating part is, in all those cases, the damage was done by one or two reasonably straightforward mistakes that could have been easily evaded.

Now I’ll freely admit that I’m no master cameraman … In fact I have barely touched my camera since we started building OzImages back in 1998 … But I do know what separates an OK photo from a stock image with real sales potential. So in this two-part article I am going to look at 3 main differences I see between the part-timers and the pros.


If I could only make one suggestion, this would be it. Most amateurs only consider about lighting after sunset. An even then, all they think to do is pop up the flash. Some ‘outdoor ‘ photographers might time their work for early morning or late afternoon light, but even then they still tend to look at lighting as a separate component of from the image.

The pros on the other hand, consider the lighting of their subject, and they do it with every single shot.

Their focus isn’t just on the light, but the way the light is affecting their subject and whether that will work for the message they are attempting to capture. The pros will consider additional lighting, or shading, on every single shot. It is just as much a part of their routine as removing the lens cap.

So make it a part of your pre-shot routine to stop and ask yourself how your subject is lit.

Are the important features correctly lit? Is there anything you can do in order to make it better? Flash could be a choice, but so might a reflector, a different camera position, turning on a light … Coming back in a few hours time.

Remember, nothing kills the commercial prospects for an image as swiftly as uneven lighting … Photo Users take one look as deep shadows and/or washed out highlights and walk away without a backward glance.

Make the lighting of your subject your main concern and your images will improve dramatically in both quality and commercial potential.


If all you do is capture a visual representation of what’s there at the time, you’re taking snapshots, and they’re a dime a dozen. If you really want to capture stock photo images that are going to stand out from the crowd — and sell — you’ve got to convey a message or a story about that subject to your audience.

So make it a custom to study your subject in detail before you even look thru the viewfinder. Work out what it is that you need to convey to your viewers? Conversely, what might your viewer wish to know about the subject? What are you able to capture and convey that the viewer might not know?

Once you’re clear on the key elements of your subject, you can get thinking about the effect different viewpoints may have on the final image. Then you’ll find you’re actually creating unique and new stock images with real potential.

Too many of amateur images come across as indecisive. You get the feeling the photographer ‘knew ‘ there had been a photo op there, but rather than dig around a bit and find it, they just kept pressing the shutter hoping to get something. Occasionally they might get lucky, but more often than not, the final result is vague pictures with a subject lost in the middle-ground, lots of clutter in the background and no clear point of interest in the foreground … And zero sales potential.

Work out precisely what it is you’re attempting to say before you start. Then consider your lighting. Then use your technical talents and creativity to say it.

That is what we’ll look at in part 2 … Talk soon!

Matt Brading is a writer & photographer with GlobalEye Photo Stock Agency and reccommends the Co-op approach for selling images online.

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