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Traits of a Great Photographer

Being a great photographer takes a lot more than knowledge you would gain from photography school. While anyone can learn to take a great picture with the right equipment, not everyone can make it in this intensely competitive industry. Here are a few qualities that all top photographers share.


The simple truth of photography careers is that there are fewer jobs than skilled photographers looking for work. That said, you have to be ambitious and driven. This applies to not only landing photography jobs but also getting that winning shot. If you are at a sold-out concert in the photo pit, you are bumping elbows with 20 other photographers that all want the perfect picture of the band. You will learn in photography school that being aggressive and asserting yourself is the only way you will come out with the picture of a lifetime.

People Skills

Even though they need to recognize their competition, professional photographers always need to be respectful of their colleagues and others in the industry. This is important because their success in this industry can be catapulted with the right contacts and networking opportunities. Always focus on making lasting impressions and touting your strengths. Be open when working with clients about what they want, even if you don’t necessarily agree.

Key skills for photographers

  • Creativity
  • Technical photography skills
  • Patience and concentration
  • Attention to detail
  • Strong networking skills
  • Team working skills

Leave your camera to its own devices and it will focus using the central focus point. While this will produce sharp images in many situations, for more creative photography it’s better to take some control over the focus point. Your chosen subject won’t always be in the centre of the frame, after all.

So the first skill you need to master is how to get your camera to focus on exactly the point you want to be sharp. Your camera has a number of focus points spread across the frame – you can see them through the viewfinder – and these offer an excellent solution for focusing on off-centre subjects. You’ll need to set your camera to its single-point autofocus mode, rather than the multiple or automatic selection.

Focusing on a static subject is all well and good, but not everything will wait patiently for you while you compose and capture your shot. For this reason, you need to master the art of focusing on moving subjects.

To do this, change the autofocus mode from Single Shot (Nikon) or One Shot (Canon) to Continuous or AI Servo mode. Now, once you’ve locked focus on your subject by half-pressing the shutter-release button, the camera will continue to refocus as the subject moves, until Below Use Continuous autofocus to track moving subjects you fully press the button to capture your shot.

You might forget all about setting the right white balance – especially if you shoot in raw, as then you can change it when you process your images later. However, you’ll need to get the right white balance in-camera to be able to assess the exposure and colours of your shots and achieve the best results.

Your camera’s Automatic White Balance setting generally does a pretty good of capturing colours correctly in most lighting conditions, but it’s not infallible.

The main situation in which you’ll get better results by using one of the manual preset values is when your subject is dominated by a single colour or tone, such as a blue sky, orange sunset or even a large expanse of green grass.