5 Things You Shouldn’t Do as a Photographer

At Shutterbug.com, we have a vast archive of how-to stories and tips pieces offering advice from photography experts on what you should do to take better photos. But after following the wacky and occasionally disturbing photography news this past month, I’ve come up with a list of five things you really shouldn’t do as a photographer.

You may take these with a grain of salt since they’re extreme examples of photography “don’ts” but keep in mind that there’s no accounting for sane behavior these days. Consider yourself warned!


1) Don’t Take Photos on the Railroad Tracks

Yes, we know if might look picturesque and rustic to pose your model on railroad tracks for a portrait session but it’s really a BAD idea. In California last week, a photographer was struck and killed by a train when he didn’t notice it barrelling down on him during a shoot. Fortunately, his model and none of the passengers were inured but it’s a situation that could have easily been avoided.

If you absolutely must shoot portraits on the tracks – which, we really don't recommend and in most cases, is illegal – at least have an assistant or a friend spotting for you to make sure there aren’t any trains coming. And, even then, just DON’T DO IT!


2) Don’t Take Stupid Selfies

First off, we’re not saying don’t take ANY selfies, even though the world would probably be a much better place if you refrained from this narcissistic behavior. We’re saying don’t take any stupid selfies that might put you or other people at risk. Seriously, people are dying because of stupid selfies.

In normally living-on-the-edge Russia, the government has gotten so concerned about the dangerous selfie craze, it’s published a pamphlet, put out a video and launched a website providing the public with selfie safety tips.

This all occurred after a spate of dangerously dumb selfies in Russia.

Here’s how our writer Steve Meltzer describes them in his recent story: “a Moscow secretary...found a security guard’s 9mm in her office building and thought it would make a great selfie to send friends. She pointed the gun at her head, tripped the shutter and unfortunately the trigger too. She was lucky; she survived. Two young men in the Urals were not so lucky. They found a live grenade and took a selfie of themselves pulling its pin. They were blown to bits but the iPhone and photo survived. In another part of Russia, a teenager died while climbing on a railway bridge to take a selfie and accidentally came into contact with live electrical wires.”

Yeah, don’t do it. Just don’t.


3) Don’t Take Photos with Your Back Turned to Wild Animals

I’ve been to Yellowstone National Park; it’s a wild and beautiful place where bison and other untamed beasts wander the park like the natural, unfettered animals they are. It’s really wonderful but you need to use an ounce of common sense when taking photos there.

Whatever you do, don’t get too close to these beautiful but powerful creatures and don’t turn your back on them to take a Facebook photo. They might charge and you just might wind up dead.

That’s exactly what happened to a 43-year-old tourist from Mississippi last week. After she and her daughter turned their backs on a bison from just six yards away to get a photo with the animal in the background, the creature started to run at them, catching the woman and throwing her into the air. Luckily, she escaped with only minor injuries.

"People need to recognize that Yellowstone wildlife is wild, even though they seem docile. This woman was lucky that her injuries were not more severe," a Park ranger told reporters.

No truer words were spoken.


4) Don’t Sign a Bad Photo Contract with a Multi-Millionaire Celebrity

Many of you have followed the saga of Taylor Swift and her questionable photo contract for photographers. One photographer, Jason Selden balked at the contract for freelance photographers, calling it “a complete rights grab” and he fought back, writing an open letter to Swift on his blog that was picked up by many photo news outlets.

After the uproar led by Selden and later echoed up by the National Press Photographer’s Association and others, Swift backed down and agreed to change the contract to make the conditions more agreeable.

“It’s helped expose the hideous terms music photographers are sometimes forced to agree to (under economic duress) in order to carry out their jobs, and that is what it is – a job,” Selden told PDNPulse.

Indeed it is. So don’t sell yourself short; fight back instead.


5) Don’t Uses Drones for Wedding Photography (Unless You Know What You’re Doing and Have an Open-Minded Couple)

Here at Shuttebug.com, we’ve covered the ups and downs of the camera drone phenomenon, pointing out that it’s been (overall) a very good thing for photographers but that people still need to use common sense when flying UAVs. (Do you notice a theme to this editorial?)

Take, for instance, the idea of using drones to shoot wedding photography. Sure, you might be able to capture some neat angles with your drone of the happy couple’s big day but make sure the bride and groom are up for it (drones can be noisy and intrusive), and make sure that you take ALL the necessary precautions.

As the painful clip below shows, drones and nuptials don’t always mix.