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Time Out With Tanya

Tanya’s Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid as a New Photographer, Part 2

By Tanya Goodall Smith on June 20th 2014

Welcome to Time Out with Tanya, where I’ve put my fast paced graphic design career on hold in favor of adventures in motherhood. I’m capturing every moment on camera and you can come along, if you’d like. Sign up for my weekly email here so you’ll never miss a Time Out.


If you didn’t get a chance last week to read part 1 of Tanya’s Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid as a New Photographer, check it out here, then proceed to read mistakes 6 through 10 below…

6. Don’t forget to practice


The best way to learn and improve is to practice. Practice, practice, practice. Shoot as often as you can. Try a personal project. Experiment. Evaluate your photos. What is working? What seems off? Adjust and shoot some more. To become an expert at something, you need to practice and learn from that practice. If you aren’t sure what you should be practicing, try to find a curriculum or set of assignments to help you get started. Roberto Valenzuela’s book Picture Perfect Practice is a wonderful text book style publication that will help you practice in a deliberate and intentional way. If you want something that is more geared toward your everyday life, especially if you’re a mom, try The Unexpected Everyday by Courtney Slazinik.

7. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others


While it can be tempting to look around at other photogs who picked up their first DSLR around the same time as you (or worse, someone who has been working on their craft for years), try to avoid comparing yourself to others. Don’t do it! The only work you should be comparing yours with is the work you did last month or last year. Take a look back and see how far you’ve come. What have you learned? How have you improved? What voice and style are you developing? Comparing yourself to others will just make you feel bad. Don’t go there.

8. Don’t Go It Alone


Photo by Hanssie

One of the greatest joys of my photography journey over the last few years has been the friendships and connections I’ve made with other photographers. In general, we photographers are a very sharing, friendly and passionate community. I never, ever felt that as a graphic designer. Designers are hermits. Photographers love to get out and meet people. I love that. If you feel isolated as a photographer, get out of your bubble and connect. I recommend taking a local workshop or joining a photo walk or club. These are wonderful ways to meet local people. Connect online in a Facebook group. There are thousands dedicated to specific photography niches out there. SLR Lounge has two (SLR Lounge Wedding and Portrait Photographers and SLR Lounge Presets and Textures User Group) and we’d love for you to join us!

9. Don’t Shy Away From Critique


How will you learn and move forward if you aren’t open to having someone more knowledgable than yourself tell you what you need to work on? If you’re taking a formal photography course, critique will be a part of that. If you’re learning on your own, having the guts to ask for critique is important. Just be careful who you’re asking. Don’t ask your mother, or any other person who doesn’t know anything about photography. Your mom will love everything you do. Even online groups full of so-called “pros” might not give you valuable input. Ask someone you trust who you’ve personally connected with (see item #8, Don’t go it alone) and be prepared to take the good and bad of what they tell you and use it to improve. Soon you’ll learn how to critique your own work, but the opinion of another is always valuable.

10. Don’t Give Up


Photography used to be a hobby I enjoyed very much. Turning it into a profession has dampened some of the excitement for me and I’ve often thought of giving up. It’s difficult! The industry is over saturated. I’m not making money, etc. etc. etc. But every time I pick up my camera, I remember why I love it and why I do it. It’s ok to take a break. It’s ok to remain an enthusiast. But if discouragement comes (and it will), don’t give up!

P.S. The above image was edited with the SLR Lounge Lightroom Preset System, Amber B&W Neutral Punch

CREDITS: Photographs by Tanya Smith are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

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Tanya Goodall Smith is the owner, brand strategist and commercial photographer at WorkStory Corporate Photography in Spokane, Washington. WorkStory creates visual communications that make your brand irresistible to your target market. Join the stock photo rebellion at

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Lauren Leith

    #7 and #9 were especially good for me to hear, thank you Tanya!

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  2. Daniel Hollister

    Awesome article, and very relevant, makes you think about it alot :-)
    Loved it, and it hits it on the spot.

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  3. Kristy Brown

    Thank you SOOO much for this two part article. I’m new to this website, but currently in a year long program for photography. There is some amazing talent in my classes and constantly I’ve felt discouraged about photography, but this article especially #7 validated my thoughts and is ground breaking for me. Stop comparing and learn all that I can. I really appreciate this segment and the comments shared by so many. Thank you Tanya.

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  4. Ipek Amdahl

    I try to learn from professional photographers instead of comparing my work to theirs. If you compare it’s too easy to feel you aren’t good enough.

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  5. Judy Griffith

    I definitely compare my work with others and professionals, but I also learn from it too.

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  6. Brian Stalter

    #8 can be tough if you’re naturally an introvert… :/

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    • Tanya Smith

      Brian, I myself am an introvert. I do well in small groups. Try getting together with a small group of photographers.

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  7. Pye

    One of the most understated points you mentioned is #6. Don’t forget to practice. How many of us sit in front of the computer looking at awesome images, wishing we could create them, coming up with reasons why we can’t because we don’t have the right tools. Getting out and practicing is one of the biggest things that is going to push forward your career, and one of the key points I always try to get across to students. Don’t have a paid shoot? Plan a concept shoot, good things happen when you get out and shoot, period.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Totally agree Pye! It’s so easy to sit around and then wonder why when you shoot images once a month they don’t turn out as good as you would like. Practice, Practice, Practice!

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    • Dave Lyons

      I agree as well. The biggest tip I could give right now is to learn your birds and the bees… what I mean is learn to shoot them… in flight and the things you’ll learn will dramatically improve your shooting. I never thought I’d shoot stuff like that or flowers & butterflies but since I’ve basically been stuck out in the country the last 2 years I’ve run out of things to shoot so I just keep going thru my list of “i’ll never shoot….”. Not only will you learn but you’ll be amazed at what all you can do. I shot over 150k shots last year doing that but learned more than i’d learned the 4 years before that.

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    • Greg Faulkner

      Roberto Valenzuela’s first book and the SLR Lounge couples workshop helped me a lot in this regard.

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  8. Geoffrey Van Meirvenne

    I understand point 7, yet I think one also learns from seeing a lot of pictures from the pros. Not to compare yourself, say upfront they are out of league but try to see what you like about their pictures. Not to copy but to see what makes a great photo and what makes it just average.

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  9. Kurk Rouse

    6,7 and 8 hit me really hard

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  10. Jacob Jexmark

    Great continuation of Part I. I think #7 is a hard one. I constantly compare myself with others. Especially when it comes to my rock/metal concert photography. Trying to get better at not do it though :)

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