5 Bad Habits I Had as a Photographer (and How I Overcame Them)

A photographer holding a camera

As photographers, we tend to get used to doing things one way or another. Over time, these turn into habits that we rarely question. But sometimes it’s good to take a step back and evaluate our approach to the art. Here are some bad habits that I personally developed as a photographer and how I worked to resolve them.

At one point or another, we all become guilty of some of these habits. As upsetting as that is, the good news is that you can overcome all of these nasty habits. Without further ado, here are 5 of the bad habits I had as a photographer.

#1. Obsessing Over Gear

The first one is perhaps the most frequently discussed one too. Obsessing over gear never got anyone beyond wasting time reading reviews and watching hours of YouTube. Did I do that? Oh yes, you bet.

Having just started photography, I could work in a camera shop because I was up to speed on all rumors, gear specs, and reviews. I’ve spent hours reading about lenses I’d never buy (and still haven’t) and camera bodies I would never own (and still don’t). The reason I say I still don’t is that I didn’t need that gear in the first place.

What I missed out on was reading opinion articles, articles that dive into the art of photography, not the tools of photography. These provided insight into how other photographers think, how they approach creating images, how they approach getting better in photography.

Ultimately, it is not about the camera, it is about the image itself. I’ve taken great images on an iPhone and rubbish ones on a Canon 5Ds. Very few can tell that some of the images on my Instagram are taken with an iPhone.

Gear obsession was a habit that faded away as I spent more time doing photography. However, if I was to consciously combat it, I’d restrict access to sources that feed the obsession. Instead, I’d spend time reading PetaPixel’s Great Reads in Photography or The British Journal of Photography. Both are fantastic places to find inspiration and see some really good images.

#2. Being Jealous

Being jealous of others’ success is perhaps the nastiest habit that I’ll admit here. As much as we all deny ever being jealous of other people, we inevitably are. Jealousy comes from a plethora of sources, with most people confirming that it has something to do with their own insecurity. But is jealousy a bad feeling? Well, it is, but you can turn bad jealousy into a good friendly race.

When you’re jealous that someone else got the job while you didn’t, or perhaps that someone else takes “worse pictures” and makes more money, consider thinking about what they have and you don’t. If you enter this good race of constantly growing from every job you don’t get, you will inevitably become less jealous of people’s success and become curious about achieving that same success.

Curiosity is one of the key components of creativity, hence you are bound to improve and break the vicious circle of being jealous.

#3. Comparing Myself To Other Photographers

Another one I used to do a lot is compare myself with other photographers and give excuses as to why I’m not like them. Having just started out, I was comparing myself a lot to other photographers. Not only was this counterproductive, but I also failed to see what was setting them apart from me.

So and so is better because they have the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 III and I don’t, therefore I can never become better if I don’t buy this lens. Feeding into my gear obsession, I bought a cheap 70-200mm, but I wasn’t better. So I found a different excuse: so and so is better because they have connections, and I can’t be a photographer because I don’t, I’ll stop. So and so did have connections, but me stopping wasn’t taking my career further. I was taking a deep dive toward the ground.

Comparing myself to other photographers also implied that I should be like other photographers, where the truth is that I will never be like Platon or Rankin. Just like Platon will never be like Avedon. Understanding that we all are unique beings who can never be exactly the same as each other is key to overcoming this nasty habit.

After all, you create your unique images — no one else does things exactly as you do.

#4. Overconsuming Media

This one is bound to set off bells ringing. I was born in the early Internet days and obviously represent the new tech generation. While I don’t romanticize the times without the Internet, I try to be conscious of how much time is spent consuming various media on it. For that reason, I’m a big fan of printed books, magazines, and everything that is tangible.

Social media has grown to become a fast-food chain, whereas a printed Vogue magazine is a 3-Michelin-star restaurant. On social media, you are gently forced to consume as much as you can, taking everything in without ever considering whether what you’re consuming is relevant. You don’t get many unique choices: only what’s on the menu. The experience many users have on Instagram is the same as one of going to McDonald’s. Fast, acceptable, very harmful food delivered to your mouth.

Should you spend more time and buy Vogue, Elle, or any relevant magazine, however, your experience will be that of Le Cinq or Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. So, break the habit of overconsuming media, find some well-curated publications, and consume gourmet-style for inspiration.

#5. Spraying and Praying

How fast does your camera shoot? 4, 8, 16, or 30 frames per second? Do you always shoot bursts and hope that you will get a good photo “somewhere”? Well, you will get a good photo out of a 100, but that photo will be marginally better.

Suppose you were to consider all factors, expose, compose, make the image just perfect — all before taking the photo. It’s easy to just take loads of photos with digital cameras, all in hopes of getting something okay later on. What working with artificial lighting has taught me, above all, is patience. That patience sometimes results in me taking 4 images of one particular set, and getting the shot on the second try.

Shooting high volume is not a bad thing to ensure you do get a keeper, but make sure you learn to construct it perfectly before you start shooting.

So, these have been some of the bad habits I developed and broke free of as a photographer. What are some habits that you had (or currently have)?

Image credits: Header photo licensed from Depositphotos