Photographic étiquette, part one


There are some things you must just do, or must not do, as a photographer. Today’s post is to help all of you navigate that minefield…

Do not:

  • Retouch your makeup using your phone as a mirror before taking a selfie. There are apps that can do that afterwards. But you must pout; there isn’t an app for that yet
  • Claim to be a professional but carry a camera smaller than your face
  • Waste time postprocessing – shoot JPEG!
  • Bother with spare batteries; they’re just a waste of space
  • Ever use a flash without some sort of transparent modern sculpture on top to block the light
  • Waste time reading articles about philosophy; everybody knows it’s all about bokeh
  • Ask permission before taking pictures
  • Carry a tripod – you’re probably not going to use it anyway, and it just hurts your back. If you must carry one to look pro, then use the lightest one you can find
  • Waste time thinking and taking only one or two pictures – spray it at 10fps, just in case. Shoot everything. You have to feel it, man
  • Print – your iPhone screen is for looking at pictures
  • Reduce photos in size before emailing them. You want the other party to enjoy the hundred blurry, overexposed images of your kids as much as you do
  • Half press the shutter: that’s slow! Just jab it all the way down, as hard as you can. Today’s cameras are so smart they’ll understand you’re in a hurry.
  • Hold the camera tight – be loose, be fluid. It’s good for creativity
  • Ever go anywhere without the battery grip attached
  • Go anywhere or do anything without photographing it. To photograph it is to experience it; you can always watch the video or look at the photos later.


  • Place your camera as close to the bride’s face as possible when attending a wedding
  • Use wide angle lenses for portraits
  • Believe that artists can still ‘make it big’
  • Work only ‘for exposure’
  • Make sure you ‘follow up’ with models after a shoot; ensure you get their cell phone numbers for this
  • Pre-order every single new camera as soon as it’s rumoured, then cancel it because you really want the next one after that in the hopes it’ll solve all of your problems
  • Buy the biggest memory card you can, shoot every single picture to that, and never have to bother with this pesky downloading thing
  • Shoot wide open, all the time, with the fastest lens you can find
  • Shoot from popular spots: if there are a lot of people with cameras there already, it must be a good place to take a photograph!
  • Trust the judgement of people who are paid by the camera makers: after all, they must know what they’re talking about since that’s their job 🙂
  • Use as many filters as you can
  • Add shake and grain for ‘atmosphere’
  • Clean your lenses regularly. Your finger is a nice soft surface, but if there’s stubborn dirt, you might need something stronger, like sandpaper.
  • Use a longer selfie-pole so you can get more of the background in; better yet, use a GoPro too because it has a wider lens
  • Sell every piece of equipment you own to switch systems to the direct competitor because it has 2MP more, and then spend the next two years learning the buttons…until your old brand has 3MP more, and switch back.
  • Take hundreds of pictures of every meal you eat to document it comprehensively for your three followers
  • Photograph inside interesting places, to make interesting images: police stations, jails, opposite sex bathrooms, motorcycle clubs, strip clubs, favelas…
  • Carry your gear with as much prominent branding as possible: you want everybody to know you are a real, serious photographer
  • Believe you can quit your job and ‘make it’ as an artist after buying your first DSLR
  • Start a site selling photographic accessories, like paranormal apparatus
  • Reply all trolls! They will die without feeding.
  • Always leave your camera set to maximum speed burst for a more professional feeling
  • Sell all of your best stuff to a micro stock agency: they will get you maximum exposure
  • Photograph your camera with your iPhone, and use your iPhone to photograph
  • Assess the quality of any camera based on a little web jpeg shot by a ‘professional reviewer’
  • Write reviews, instead of wasting time shooting. If possible, review gear that you haven’t seen/used/tried
  • A photo without filters is not a photo.
  • Wear the loudest clothes possible to match your camera strap
  • Read every single review before buying anything
  • Remember, reviewers’ opinions are gospel. Even if they can’t take a single halfway decent image.
  • Use the AF assist light: your camera can’t see otherwise
  • Use the LCD on the back to compose – why look through a teeny little hole? Hold it at arms’ length to avoid eye strain
  • Actually, photograph with your iPad: the screen is even bigger!

And in the unlikely case you didn’t get it…happy April 1st 🙂 MT


Visit the Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including workshop and Photoshop Workflow videos and the customized Email School of Photography. You can also support the site by purchasing from B&H and Amazon – thanks!

We are also on Facebook and there is a curated reader Flickr pool.

Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. Love it! Thanks for the laugh, Ming!

  2. Frans Richard says:

    That was a fun read! 😀
    Thanks Ming.
    In similar jest…
    Do not: Treat bloggers with respect, trolling is the way of the Web.
    Do: Believe *everything* you read on the Web (especially on the 1st of April)

  3. How about,

    You won’t truly know how good your FF camera is until you’ve attached, via a £6 ebay adapter, an old lens you found at a car boot sale

  4. Wonderful Article Ming! Very fun to read.

  5. Great list, but we really need a picture of you with your Leica Q on a selfie stick to finish it off 🙂

  6. CAT Pro says:


  7. Stefano says:

    Ming, this is brilliant!
    I would add a further point to the “Do” list:
    “Write reviews, instead of wasting time shooting. If possible, review gear that you haven’t seen/used/tried” 🙂

  8. So that’s where I’ve been going wrong! Thanks for putting ,me straight. Sally.

  9. I was literally saying, “Really, Ming? Really!?!? …Oh, wait….” haha

  10. Ming, I’ve been shooting full time as a working pro for 30 years and I am guilty of some of the above. Great stuff!

  11. Evan Cohen says:

    You are the best! I so look forward to reading your morning posts

  12. Hehe paranormal apparatus. WOO-HOO Kirlian photography is just GORGEOUS! I LOVE the colors of auras they are AMAZING! 😉 😉 😉

  13. Richard P. says:

    First my wife wakes me up to tell me a snow storm has started (not impossible here in Canada at the beginning of spring) and then your post – ha ha! You both got me well.
    Richard (gullible) P.
    Ps. Now how to return the favour?? 😉

  14. Genius! You forgot – sell all your gear to move systems because it has 2 more megapixels.

  15. Can’t believe you left out…. above all, listen to Ken Rockwell, the God of photography.

  16. You are starting to make April 1st one of my favorite days of the year, Ming!

  17. Ha haaa!

  18. Better than sandpaper is a sandblaster.

  19. :-)))))

  20. Jon Barker says:

    If you approach it in the right way this is a genuinely helpful list 😉

  21. Ha!

    What’s that old saying… Every joke has a kernel of truth….?

  22. For a couple of bullet points there, I was really worried that you’d fallen and hit your head. Thanks for the hilarious “tips!” 🙂

  23. Brilliant! don’t you just love em :o)

  24. haaaaaaaa!

%d bloggers like this: