Thirty things I’ve learned as a photographer

My education as a photographer is ever evolving, and the amount I’ve learned since I first picked up a camera is way more than just 30 things. I thought this would be a good time to reflect on some of the fun and important things I have learned over the years. I have taken classes from Katelyn James and Amy & Jordan for style, technique, editing, business and marketing. Continuing my education with a monthly subscription called KJ All Access is another way I try to keep learning, and you essentially get to be a fly on the while of KJ’s real weddings. I recently started a class about SEO and making my website work harder for me that I’m excited about.

So, the thirty things I’ve learned as a photographer are varied and not always technical things, but they are very much so true for me. Hope you enjoy!

Thirty things i've learned as a photographer

Thirty things I’ve learned as a photographer

  1. Take the picture. The best camera is the one you have with you, so take the picture. The ordinary moments, the day-to-day, the messy, real-life moments are some of the best, so take the picture of you with your favorite people, or doing your favorite things. You’ll be glad you have them down the road.
  2. Just get in the photo. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing or how think you look, just get in the photo. You’ll be glad you have them later.
  3. Light is important, and natural light is best – in my opinion. But don’t let the lack of natural light stop you from taking photos of the good things.
  4. Being a photographer is about 10 percent taking photos, and 90 percent everything else in the business.
  5. Personal connections with clients are the best. Who doesn’t like making new friends and getting to celebrate some of life’s best moments with them?!
  6. I love birth photography and wedding photography for the combination of portrait, candid and detail work.
  7. Engagement and family sessions are a great time to really get to know people.
  8. Just because I’m a photographer does not mean I am comfortable in front of the camera, but I know I want as many photos with Wynn as I can get.
  9. Slow down. Pay attention to focus points and settings before taking a ton of photos. Take a breath and look at the background for distracting elements.
  10. If you get it right in camera, editing goes so much faster.
  11. Having a camera in hand has just made life better. I love having so many photos at the end of each year.
  12. PRINT YOUR PHOTOS. Even your phone photos. What if you lose your phone? Or your instagram profile is hacked/deleted?
  13. Decide on a system for file organization and printing, and stick to it. We use a process I picked up from Katelyn James. I have an instagram account where I post phone photos and it is linked with Chatbooks for an ongoing series. At the beginning of each year I design and order an album from Blurb books (12×12 photo book) and print a yearbook with all of our photos.
  14. Have an annual photo session. We started ours the October after our wedding. Justin and I had our anniversary session in 2018 and a maternity session in 2019. I can’t wait for family photos this year! (I mean I can, because Wynn should stay this size forever, but also I’m so excited to see him grow. Motherhood is weird.)

    happy birthday husband

    Photo by Lacey Rene Studios

  15. On the motherhood note – If you see a Mama friend and her baby talking, cuddling, playing, etc. – take a picture and send it to them. They are probably the one documenting their family the most, but they need photos with their babies and not just of their babies. Take the picture with your phone or your camera, whatever is available. But know they will be grateful. (*Baby being a Mama with her child at any time in that baby’s life)
  16. Lightroom mobile is a great app for editing phone photos.
  17. Don’t make it stressful. If you’re having fun taking photos, you’ll want to take more of them.
  18. If you really want to get good at your DSLR camera, you have to use it. Take a class (there are great ones online!) and then practice, practice, practice. Great photos aren’t created by great cameras, they are created by great photographers. Katelyn James and Amy & Jordan classes are incredible, and they are great photographers.
  19. Back up, back up, and more back up. I store my photos on a hard drive labeled for each year, and I have a duplicate hard drive of each year in a fire proof safe. AND all of my edited photos are uploaded to an online gallery. I would hate to loose any of those memories. I have an iCloud subscription to back up phone photos, along with printing them in Chatbooks.
  20. Always be looking for new angles or ways to frame a photo. Try to be creative and really push yourself to create sometimes. There are times when you just need to take the photo, and times when you can try to create art.
  21. Lens choice can have an impact on the way an image looks. I love prime lenses and the 85mm is my favorite! Although, with Wynn I use the 35mm a lot so that I can stay close while taking his photo. When he gets more active, I will probably switch to a 24-70 mm zoom lens for more flexibility.
  22. Make your camera settings a hierarchy. I decide what aperture I want to shoot at first, what shutter speed is necessary and then set ISO.
  23. For family events, some of the best advice I’ve heard has been you don’t have to photograph the whole thing. Take a few photos to remember the event by, and capture what’s happening, but then put your camera away. Put it away and be a part of family celebrations.
  24. When you’re being posed, the way you naturally stand next to someone might not look natural on camera. Amy & Jordan teach “feels weird, looks great.” And that is something I find to be true. The pose may feel so awkward and you might think it will be weird, but it will look natural in the photo.
  25. If you are going to edit your photos, start at the most recently taken photo and go backwards when culling. Chances are if you took 3 photos of the same thing, the third shot is the one you got right/wanted. *Note this is of no help to me when I take photos of Wynn because I just want ALL THE PHOTOS.
  26. The most stressful times to photograph a wedding are the first look, ceremony and reception entrances because there are no redos. But it’s like knowing I have one chance makes me step up and make the most of every situation.
  27. Doing a Project365 is a great way to get your camera in your hand everyday for practice and to document your life.
  28. No matter where you are in your photography journey, don’t compare yourself to others. They might have a different technique or style, but find what works for you and what you love.
  29. If you are shooting on a DSLR, shoot in RAW (Canon) or NEF (Nikon) if you’re going to be editing your photos. RAW/NEF photos are larger file sizes that give you more flexibility when editing, but they are not the shareable file types that JPEGs are so they would have to be edited and exported to JPEG to be able to print, order, upload them.
  30. Remember photographs are like time machines. I’ve never regretted taking an abundance of photos, but I have regretted not capturing some moments.

Want to get in touch?

If you’d like to book your session or wedding, you can contact me at kelsey(at)kelseyalumbaugh(dot)com. Check out my Instagram @kelseyalumbaugh ! And like me on Facebook to see the latest blog posts. 🙂 If you’re curious about the investment, you can check that info out here, but please feel free to reach out so we can better address your photography needs.


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March 12, 2020




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