The Curse of the Professional Photographer

Once you’ve been a professional photographer for a few years, some things become automatic.  You critique images you see, whether you want to or not, and do it mostly in your head because it happens so often.  Wherever you are, you spot where the “good light” is.  This is a great asset as a professional when you are on a client shoot — however, when you are shooting for personal reasons, like photographing a casual BBQ with friends, it can be a curse.

So why do I not like bringing a camera when I go out?  I’ve become critical of what and how I shoot.  And I have a higher standard of what constitutes a decent image.

When I’m out with my family, I want to enjoy them.  So if I bring a camera, it’s better to wear my Mom Photographer (or “Momtog”) hat, not my Professional Photographer hat.  But that is hard to do.

Here is an example:

Below is a photo I took last week during our vacation.  For most of our stay there, I left my camera at the beach house.  One day, I took my camera with me to capture our easy-going beach lifestyle, so I wore my Momtog hat.  I took photos as any parent would take of their kids.  I didn’t pressure them to be subjects in a photoshoot.

Looking at the photos today, I cringe.  I am fighting the urge to delete them from my hard drive.

What Most People See

“Siblings standing in the water at the beach on a sunny day.  They are happy and hugging.  It’s a Keeper.”

What a Professional Photographer Sees

Yep, all of that goes instantly into my head….and MORE!  I just ran out of space.

Am I being too critical?  Maybe.  But this is all automatic.  I am not trying to find things wrong with this photo or any other photo.

I still remember how it was before I started my business when I’d look at personal photos and be in love with how it transported me to that day.  And that was it.  Was something crooked or was something cropped unaesthetically?  Who cares.  I didn’t.  Did I shoot mid-day in the harsh sunlight?  Most definitely. 

Before becoming a Professional Photographer, I enjoyed more photos that I took on a casual day.

The takeaway:

Know your camera, learn photography rules, hone your skills, develop a more critical eye, so you can improve and grow as a photographer.

When it comes to personal photos, capture your life on camera, however it happens, and know that not every photo needs to be a work of art.  It is better to capture moments than miss them.

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  1. Nikki Theiss

    Thank You for this article! I feel stressed out about getting great shots of my families special moments and also about their expectations of the shots. They feel be cause I’m a photographer and have a “nice” camera that every situation will be captured like it would on a “shoot”. Some photos will just be “snap shots”, and that’s ok! Thanks again!

    • Exactly! I’m glad it’s not just me and that you (and some others who are reading this) know what I’m talking about! I have a lot of friends who are surprised when I DON’T bring my camera. Thanks for your comment, Nikki!

  2. Cathy

    Thank God I’m not the only one who thinks this . I now put pictures on my photography Facebook page and leave my own page for “family snapshots ” like when we are on holiday etc. I get annoyed with myself sometimes like instead of enjoying the moment with my kids, i am trying to get the perfect picture.

    • Hi Cathy,

      I hear ya!

      If I want “that photo”, I will designate a special time/day for a mini shoot. That way, I can have nicer photos of my family (not just for my clients), yet outside of that time, I won’t have the pressure to get the perfect shot.


  3. Annie

    By the way, I remember why they have fists! Just thought I would share… 🙂

    My monkeys were collecting shells on the beach, so they were holding some in their hands when I took this photo. Of course they had a crazy vice grip because they didn’t want to drop any in the ocean! Fists don’t translate well in artistic imagery, but as a “family snapshot” (not a “portrait”), seeing the fists in the photo is memorable and make me laugh.

  4. Tiffany

    Hi Annie,

    Thanks always for your inspiring posts, amazing photos & honest confessions that keep me both laughing and encouraged! I’ve followed your blog over the past couple of years and in this time, I’ve progressed through my photography courses at the local university college (only 6 of 16 courses left to go)! It’s amazing how you manage to be a professional photographer and also juggle the role of being a dedicated mom at the same time. I have two little ones of my own and they’re the inspiration for my pursuit of greater knowledge in DSLR photography. Perhaps one day soon I can step beyond my current teaching career and add “photographer” to my resume as well. Thanks very much for the excellent work that you do and please keep it up! Many warm wishes from your Westcoast neighbours here in Vancouver, Canada!

    • Oh Tiffany, thank you so much for commenting! I am touched by the fact that you’ve been reading my blog for so long and that you find some kind of inspiration from it. Sometimes I post things that are super personal, like this one, so I feel like I’m taking a risk of turning people “off” or exposing myself too much. So hearing comments like yours is affirmation that I should continuing sharing. 🙂

      I think it’s wonderful that you are so close in finishing your courses. I bet you are learning A LOT! You must stay in touch and let me know how you are doing after you take the plunge and become a full-time photographer.

      By the way, if I ever move outside the US, it would be Vancouver. My husband and I love it there!


  5. Haha! Great post. Think we all can relate. I noticed that I too started leaving my camera at home because I KNOW I would not be able to take great photos without great lighting, reflectors, etc. But then is my iPhone photos any better? Not at all, but at least I spend less time worrying about capturing the image but enjoying the moments. Keep up the great posts Annie. 🙂