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10. Learn Your Equipment
Becoming a professional photographer will be entirely impossible if you don't know your equipment inside and out. This doesn't go just for cameras, but also for tripods, lights, different types of flash, and anything else you have. Not only will you take better pictures when you have a deep understanding of all your camera equipment, you'll be faster and more efficient. So read all the manuals and online guides you can and learn from more experienced users whenever possible.
Image credit: Silvio Tanaka
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9. Practice, Practice, Practice
Even if you are already a professional photographer, this doesn't mean that you can't get away without practicing. Practice taking all different kinds of shots, even if you don't think you'll branch out into that particular type of photography. You might be interested in landscape photography, but trying out portrait photography or nature photography may teach you a few tricks and techniques you can apply to your landscape photography. Try to schedule time each week to spend working on your skill and taking it to the next level!
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8. Clean Up Your Act
Or rather, clean up your equipment! The latest and greatest isn't going to mean much if you're not regularly cleaning it and caring for it. Don't put your cameras away dirty or damp, as you're just asking for trouble. Looking to learn how to clean and care for cameras? Check out these guides that are full of professional digital photography tips:
Image credit: Nayu Kim
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7. Keep Three Portfolios
Keeping photography portfolios is absolutely crucial to your success. Ideally, you should keep at least two, if not three portfolios. The first portfolio you should keep is a hard copy on your computer (or on a CD) that you can quickly burn and share with potential clients and employers. Oftentimes, it is extremely beneficial to you to also have a hard copy portfolio. Do yourself a favor and have your photos professionally matted and then placed in a high quality binder. Sure, it will cost a little more, but presentation counts. Simply slapping your photos inside of a binder does not make a strong presentation. If you've got the time, money, or ability, you could also benefit greatly from keeping a web portfolio. While not required, it is a very smart thing to keep on hand.
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6. Mind Your Lighting
I know that I've said it before, but learn how to use lighting to your advantage. This is important for both inside and outside shots, because time and time again you've probably seen someone with a well composed shot only to have it ruined by lighting that is too bright, or an unfortunate shadow stretching across the subject. Learning how to position yourself, or your lighting, can eliminate the chance of ruining an otherwise perfect shot.
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5. Learn How to Classically Compose Photos
Even though rules are meant to be broken, make sure you have actually taken the time to learn how to compose photographs according to the rules of photography. This includes the Rule of Thirds, leading lines, perspective, depth, cropping, and framing. Learning how to compose a good shot will help to create a beautifully balanced photo that never goes out of style.
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4. Move Outside of Your Comfort Zone
If you take a lot of photos, you'll probably notice a pattern developing. This is because people are generally comfortable with doing what they're good at, but no one is going to be impressed with a gallery full of nothing but photographs of flowers. Don't be afraid to move outside of your comfort zone. Sure, the shots might not be as good at first, but with practice you'll quickly learn how to set them up as though they were second nature!
Image credit: Spisharam
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3. Variety is the Spice of Life
Don't be afraid to buy a few cameras and lenses you might not think you would normally use. Obviously the goal is not to break the bank here, but even cheaper cameras or refurbished cameras will do. Learn how to familiarize yourself with all kinds of equipment and you'll quickly become a more versatile artist, which will quickly play to your advantage when a potential client looks over your resume.
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2. Accept Critique Gracefully
Learning how to accept critique without flying off the handle, especially if it isn't something you're used to, is extremely hard. However, you have to realize that critique is something that you're frequently going to face, and learning how to handle it gracefully and learn from it is something that every photographer needs to do.
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Learn from photographers both old and new and take the time to join artist communities. Why? Because you cannot expected to understand everything, nor are you expected to come up with original ideas every time you shoot. Learning and accepting critique from other artists will make you a better photographer in the long run.