So, you’ve done it—landed your first paid photography gig. As exciting as this moment is, there may also be a lot of uncertainty surrounding your obligations and expectations for successfully pulling off the job. Though every shoot will vary depending on the client and the subject, here are some helpful do’s and don’ts to ensure your first paid photography experience runs smoothly.


  • Get the information in writing. Drafting a contract and making sure you and your client understand all aspects of the job is crucial. This should cover everything from days and times of the shoot, equipment needed, payment, and when/how the client will receive their images. This way, if something goes wrong, you will have a concrete document to ensure all of your needs are still met.
  • Be professional. This sounds like an obvious one, but it is of the upmost importance that you have this in mind at all times. Even if the person happens to be a friend, every client deserves the same manner of professionalism, and you should make a conscious effort to be courteous and patient—this will go a long way the next time the client needs a photographer.
  • Bring the right equipment. It is essential that you don’t show up unprepared and lacking in the equipment you’ve brought. At the very least, you should include an external flash unit and a couple decent lenses with whatever professional camera you’ve chosen. Depending on the shoot and the contract you’ve drafted, you could be responsible for providing a number of other materials for the shoot.
  • Use your creativity. While your client may be looking for certain things from the shoot, at the end of the day this is your time to find the perfect shot. Don’t be afraid to play around with different angles and lightings to get that shot, and if the subject needs a little bit of guidance, be clear and polite in directing them.


  • Be late. This is such a simple thing to accomplish yet punctuality is a huge issue in the professional world. Not only should you make sure to be on time, you should arrive early so you are all set to go with the right equipment when it’s time. Arriving early will give you time to get to know the location or venue beforehand, and will make your life much easier in getting the right shot.
  • Hesitate to interact with the subject. This one is especially important if your photographing an event, like a wedding or party. The client is counting on you to capture the event, and part of how you’ll do that is asking people for a photo. Of course, you can take candids but you should make an effort to get smiling shots of all the guests, and the only way to do this is to ask them.
  • Oversell yourself. There is nothing more frustrating for a client than hiring a professional photographer only to discover they have lied about their abilities. There is no reason to oversell your capabilities—there’s always a chance you are able to pull it off, but if you can’t, you will have burned a bridge and possibly taken a hit to your reputation. People always prefer honesty, and you may be surprised that they are willing to give you a chance.
  • Lose sight of the task at hand. It is a great thing to get into a groove during a shoot and you shouldn’t shy away from that, but you should always have the client’s needs and goals in mind. You should have already gone over exactly what the client wishes to get out of the shoot, and securing that shot should be your priority.