BUSINESS Editorial

Keys to Being a Successful Photographer (Part I)

We are very excited to have Quavondo joining MasteringPhoto as a contributor. Quavondo has his own blog — — where the article below was first posted. Quavondo has agreed to write new installments for MasteringPhoto so stay tuned!

Heck I don’t know, let me know when you find out.  Just kidding.

Attitude is Half the Battle

I find that the first key to success is attitude. I’ve always been a positive person, and I’ve found that the more positive you are, the more positive things gravitate towards you. Negative thoughts feeds negative energy. Stay clear of the mindset that photography is too difficult and that you can’t succeed, everything takes time. Know your limitations and weaknesses, by doing so you’ll be able to fully work on them. Some people are too close to their work and can’t critique their own work, if this is the case, get colleagues in your field to give you feedback.

Know Your Camera

With the ease of technology today, anyone can take a photograph. The cameras all have auto focus and preset modes. Being able to press the shutter, does that make one a photographer? Sure. But being a successful photographer takes more. Learn your camera inside out. You want to be able to adjust your camera settings on the fly without hesitation. Know how to adjust your camera settings to get the output that you need in your images. When you’re on a job, time is money. You must be able to work efficiently. When I got my camera, I read the manual from front to back, then shot in different scenarios to put the theory to use.

(c) Darren Utt

Mistakes are Part of the Process

Know that it’s okay to make a mistake. You’re not a surgeon. If you make a mistake, someone is not going to die. By not being afraid of mistakes, you give yourself the freedom to explore. Try new things. Sometimes an accident can create something magical. When I first started shooting with strobes, I would make sure I forced myself to use a new lighting set-up every time I shot. I didn’t want to get into a comfort zone where I was doing the same things over and over. There were definitely some UGLY images, but that was acceptable. Take notes of what worked and what didn’t.


Whether it’s formal education in an institutional setting or like myself, you attend the School of Hard Knocks, you learn on your own in the real World. Either way, education is key. You must know at least the basics before you can get anywhere. Another route to take is photography workshops, but make sure you do some research to see if it’s the right one for you. Check out who’s teaching the class. Do you like the work they produce? Check out the testimonials, feedback, or ask people who have attended. This past weekend I put on a two day workshop on photography lighting and retouching with Pratik of Solstice Retouch. An attendee came up to me at the end and told me that she had learn more in two days then she did in her four years in school. This isn’t right for everyone. People learn differently. Know yourself.

(c) Darren Utt


The most valuable form of education is an internship. Like the workshops, you have to pick the one that’s right for you. Research photographers in your field of focus that you look up to, reach out to them and inquire about an internship. Remember though, an internship is not an easy walk in the park. Later this week, I will focus on what makes a good intern to help you mold yourself into the photographer’s right hand man (or woman).

Join a Gang and Go Shoot People

Different kind of gang and completely different kind of shooting. Reach out to photographers in your area, make friends, having a community is a great way to learn, talk shop, share ideas, build a relationship. I know that I recommend other photographers to potential clients who can’t afford me or we have conflicting schedules, and the photographers that I recommend are the ones I know and trust.

Hard Work

It’s pretty simple, you have to work hard at it. Nothing comes easy or else everybody would be successful. Work begets work. Simple equation. I am consumed with photography. If I’m not physically working, my mind is thinking and is always open to inspirations for photos. Here’s my personal quote, “Work while other people play. Retire while other people work.”

Stay tuned for other parts of this Keys to Being a Successful Photographer series!

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about MasteringPhoto

MasteringPhoto, powered by bestselling Routledge authors and industry experts, features tips, advice, articles, video tutorials, interviews, and other resources for hobbyist photographers through pro image makers. No matter what your passion is—from people and landscapes to postproduction and business practices—MasteringPhoto offers advice and images that will inform and inspire you. You’ll learn from professionals at the forefront of photography, allowing you to take your skills to the next level.