100 Things I've Learned about Photography in 10 Years, Part III


Note: this is the final post in my 3-part series titled "100 Things I've Learned about Photography in 10 Years". You can catch part 1 here and part 2 here.

I hope you've enjoyed this series. Today it's time for the epic conclusion :)

Here we go with the the final group of 40:

61. Keep a folder/journal of the times when work you’ve created for someone has truly made a difference. Maybe you created an image of a family member of theirs that has recently died. Or a special newborn shot. When that heartfelt appreciation comes in (and it’s noticeably different than regular appreciation), take note of it.

62. Remove the ‘sent from my iPhone’ or similar email signature from your mobile device. Leaving it shows people that you are available to read/reply every moment of the day.

63. Your word is everything among clients and colleagues. Treat it as such.

64. Creating your style may take a while. It took me from 2005-2009 to narrow my focus to what I liked. And I’m still refining parts of it with every shoot.

65. Play with a ring flash, and then try using it only for slight fill.

66. If you get into off camera lighting, you will find yourself preferring either speed lights or strobes. Try to use them both for different shoots. You’ll quickly learn the pros and cons of each. Eventually you’ll use both on the same shoot for some particular reason.

67. Research your commercial clients as much as possible. Knowing what they’ve got going on is a great conversation starter.

68. Keep an idea file of shoots you want to do. I use Evernote for this.

69. When you come across cool shots/poses, take a photo and then store it in Evernote. There you can use tags (for example “female, standing”), and always reference it later if you need quick ideas.

70. Experiment with all sorts of lights - strobes, flashlights, pen lights, fluorescent, etc.

71. Anytime a client suggests having drinks or a meal after a shoot, take them up on it. More relationship-building happens here than during the shoot, usually.

72. If you put a light on a stand, use a sandbag. Always. Trust me on this. If you travel for a shoot, consider purchasing 'water/sand bags' that you can fill up with water on location. That way you can fly with just the empty plastic bags.

73. If you have children, you still need to take the time to photograph them doing their thing, even though after a long shoot the last thing you want to see is a camera.

74. Wired tethered shooting has always worked better for me than wireless.

75. Pack snacks/bars/etc in your bag for every shoot.

50's diner

76. If your client has images from a prior shoot that they don't like, seek to understand why. This will give clues on how to approach your shoot with them and what to avoid.

77. Don't be a picture taker, but rather a problem solver. The former just pushes a button until the client is happy. The latter wants to understand the needs of their client before they even get to the photography part.

78. Every image can be critiqued on some level, so don't think that a critique is always correct. Over time, you will be able to judge your own photos. And you will worry less about what the professional 'critiquers' have to say.

79. Shoot for free if you are so inclined. I've done it before and have learned a lot from each of those shoots. Not every gain is monetary.

80. The value that you bring isn't just equal to the time you put in, so don't price yourself that way. My pricing is based on 10 years of experience, not the fact that I can do a shoot and be done in 2 hours.

81. Spend some of your time working with a charitable organization. For a few years I photographed for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (infant bereavement). Those sessions showed me the true power of photography.

82. If you must watermark, make it small and out of the way.

83. Selective/spot color went out a long time ago.

84. Avoid the cliched shooting locations (railroad tracks, I'm looking at you).

85. Music can be great to set the mode during a shoot. Streaming services like Spotify are great for this, as you can have all sorts of styles and genres at your fingertips (vs. purchasing a bunch of music).

86. Learn about Facebook dark posts.

87. Study up on Pinterest's promoted pins.

88. Consider using Periscope/IG Live/FB Live for BTS/Q&A streaming.

89. Respond to comments/questions on your blog and other social media channels, *especially* if you started the post with a question. It doesn't make you 'look cool' to not respond.

90. Keep a log of the time you spend on various projects. It will help you determine what to keep doing yourself, and what you can outsource. It will also help you provide better estimates for shoots.

91. If you have completely different 'lines' (for example, commercial photography and pet photography), consider splitting them into completely different websites. You will also end up marketing and promoting them both differently. I do this for doggettstudios.com (commercial work) and austinchristmascards.com (holiday work).


92. Long-term relationships pay off. As I write this, I'm currently on a flight for a shoot that came about because I worked with a guy several years ago on a band shoot. That guy is now a Creative Director at an agency. Because of that long-ago shoot and my continual work, he suggested me for the shoot.

93. Don't listen to the naysayers scream about the death of photography. Families and businesses will always need images. It won't matter that iPhone 12 takes pictures as good as your Canon 5D Mark 3; what will matter is that you have years of experience and know what to photograph and what not to.

94. Figure out where your best 'idea spot' is. For me, it's the shower, hands-down. Lots of great ideas came from there (although so did high water bills).

95. Print your images. They do nothing if they just sit on a hard drive. I am still working on this.

96. If you are nervous about an upcoming shoot, it doesn't show that your weak - it actually shows that you care.

97. If you don't feel nervous about any of your projects, you probably aren't being pushed outside of your comfort zone. Find a project that will push you there. That's where all the growth is.

98. Be helpful to those coming up behind you. Never spoil their excitement for reaching a photography milestone that you completed several years ago. Share in their joy and excitement.

99. If you have a question about these tips (or anything else), email me at eric@doggettstudios.com and I'll do my best to answer it.

100. Always remember that God has given you this special gift and it's up to you to use it to create wonderful works of art - enjoy the process!

What do you think?. Were there things that have worked for you that should be included? If so, leave a comment below. I'd love to hear about things you've learned!

Also, if you'd like the whole list as a downloadable PDF (along with my other PDF titled "How To Shoot For A Magazine" and my Art Wall Photoshop templates), just sign up for the mailing list and you'll get it right away!


100 Things I've Learned about Photography in 10 Years, Part II


Note: this is the second in my 3-part series titled "100 Things I've Learned about Photography in 10 Years". You can catch part 1 here.

I hope you enjoyed part one of this multi-part post! Today I was having a conversation with a wedding-photographer friend about backups, which reminded me a lot about #16 from the last post. You can never have too many backups. Heck even this post has a couple backups. :)

Here we go with the the next group of 30:

31. Send a new client a gift after your first big shoot. I send cookies.

32. When you like one image over another, really study it to figure out why you like it. Then check out other people’s work to see if they made an image similar to yours that you don’t like. Did they make that pose work? Why? How?

33. Be professional and confident, but don’t be bossy or arrogant.

34. Find out when you can share the images online, and make sure your client is ok with you doing that.

35. Assistants ‘assist’ you, not ‘do all labor’ for you. Get in there and help them with setting up stands/etc. Good ideas can come about during that time.

36. Know when your idea isn’t working and move on. Don’t be afraid to say that it’s not working.

37. For your website, don’t have more than a few images from a particular shoot unless the images are incredibly different. You don’t want prospective clients looking at your site and thinking “there’s that girl again”.

38. Try to record as much behind the scenes footage on a shoot as possible. Even little snippets with an iPhone are great.

39. Come up with a personal series (or 2 or 3) to shoot. Creative Directors love to see that you are passionate about different subjects and will make a shoot happen just for yourself.


40. Editorial and music photos won’t pay a lot, but they are a great place to experiment and nail down your style.

41. Discover your favorite photographers and learn their style. Once you’ve figured it out and practiced it, combine it with another photographer’s style and see what you like of the results.

42. Nobody ever buys chicken dance photos from a wedding.

43. Figure out what you can outsource. For weddings, you can have someone else edit your whole shoot and produce the album. For commercial/compositing work, you can use a service like ColorExpertsBD.com to cut a subject out from a background. I’ve used them for years and they do great work.

44. Build a ‘resource’ list in your address book or email client. Have a list of assistants, retouchers, stylists, etc ready to go.

45. Take photos of potential photo spots and build a location image library inside of Lightroom/etc. When someone says they want to shoot in front of a purple wall downtown, you’ll know right where to go to find it.

46. Build an email list. This should be your first priority over Facebook, Instagram, etc.

47.A lot of colored gel can scream ‘1980s’. A little bit of colored gel can add character/dimension.

48. If you want to use a smoke machine in a building on a shoot, make sure to turn off the smoke alarms first.

49. Experiment with all sorts of gear by renting it first at places like lensrentals.com and rentglass.com.

50. Look for ways to collaborate with other creatives on personal shoots. For example, you do the shoot and they do the retouching, or vice versa. This gives you both great images for your portfolios.

51. Take the time to create a great bio page. A video here is a plus.

52. Get BTS videos on YouTube. Or interview videos. Or any type of videos.

53. Experience the difference of having a makeup artist on a shoot with you.

54. If you are traveling with your gear as a carry-on, be sure to pack a small bag just in case your rolling bag is too big for the overhead or they are out of overhead space. That way you can put the most important pieces of gear into a small bag which you hold in your lap or under the seat in front of you while they check the roller.

55. Become part of a local photography group in your town, or start your own (as I did with austinphotogs.com). It can be a general interest group, or something specific like a portrait or newborns group.

cat opening a cat door

56. Build up a referral network of other photographers in different styles, and pass work around if it’s outside of your skill set or interest.

57. If you have the opportunity, hit up a conference like WPPI, Photo Plus, Imaging USA, etc. You’ll learn a lot, establish some great relationships, and probably get a good deal on some gear.

58. Become a content empire (I’m still working on this one).

59. Find mentors. Mentors to help you with technique. Mentors to help with business. Mentors to help with being a good person.

60. When you make a promise, immediately think to yourself how you can over deliver on it.

The series epic conclusion is coming Tuesday, 6/23. However, if you'd like the whole list as a downloadable PDF (along with my other PDF titled "How To Shoot For A Magazine" and my Art Wall Photoshop templates), just sign up for the mailing list and you'll get it right away!


100 Things I've Learned about Photography in 10 Years


Note: Part II is posted here. It's taken me 10 years to write this post. Well, not exactly. More like a few weeks. But it comes from a decade of experience.

10 years ago this month, my son Brandon was born. That was the month that I started learning photography. I didn't go to photography school or anything like that. I just had a voracious appetite for all things related to photography. I read books, watched videos, and took tons of images.

Just getting to that starting point was a big deal. My wife had given me a film camera somewhere around 2001, and I gave up on it because I couldn't understand what was happening and how I could improve. The birth of my son and the purchase of a Canon 20d changed all of that. Now I could see every improvement (and mistake) I was making. A path forward became much more clear. Every shoot brought about the tiniest of improvements.


Not that I didn't suck as all get-out initially ---> :)

Since those first bad images I've gone on to shoot weddings, families, seniors, newborns, magazine covers, headshots, advertising images, and more. I've had to weave through all of those styles and subjects to define my style and approach. As with all creative pursuits, you have to put in the time to figure out what you like - what is fulfilling.

And what you define as 'fulfilling' one year can be less-interesting the next. It's always-evolving. It's a process I've gone through for 10 years, and one that I anticipate will continue for the next 10.

So here, over 3 parts, are the 100 most-important things I've learned about photography. I tried to include technical, creative, and client-relationship tips. And I'm sure I've left some out that I would include had I written this post a year ago or a year from now.

Here we go with the first batch of 30!

1. Often the simpler ideas are better.

2. Don’t just shoot what you’ve set up - walk all the way around it, shooting above and below it.

3. Have backups for your backups.

4. Shoot for the end product - not everything needs to be photographed in the highest RAW setting.

5. Clients like regular updates while you are doing the post work on their images.

6. Learn to sketch, even if just a little. It can really help sell a photo idea.

7. Don’t be afraid of lens flare - just be sure to photograph the same angles without flare.

8. Tethering can show you what’s in or out of focus much better than the back of your camera.

9. Don’t keep shooting the exact same angle over and over until you think of the next angle to shoot. Clients don’t need 20 shots of the same pose.

10. If possible, scout locations ahead of time and write/sketch out your ideas. This applies to commercial work as well as weddings.

Will staney

11. Knock the safe stuff out of the way first before the fun/exciting stuff. This way you can get the trust of your subject/client first.

12. Remember that it gets tiring for a subject to hold a pose/position for too long. Give them rest breaks while you check images/discuss plans.

13. Always capture as much as possible in-camera. Trying to create lighting in Photoshop is hard and often fake-looking.

14. When shooting for magazines, remember to back up and give space for text around your image.

15. Let the shoot requirements (number of images needed, available time, etc) inform your lighting/gear decisions.

16. Employ 3-2-1 backups (3 copies, 2 locations, 1 of which is offsite).

17. A phone call to follow up after you sent a potential client some info can be a good thing. Just hearing your voice means you are a real person and not just an email reply. And the same is true for hearing their voice.

18. If you want to get into celebrity photography, check out this post by my friend Doug Sonders. And then practice nailing a shoot within 1-5 minutes.

19. Don’t be afraid to ask others at your shoot for their thoughts/input. I’ve lucked out with a ton of great ideas this way.

20. Try to bring an assistant to every shoot if possible (definitely for commercial/editorial work). It gets you into a team mindset much more quickly.

rob thomas

21. You will get hungry and thirsty after an hour or two. Plan for it. Never be embarrassed to need to eat.

22. At the shoot, always remember who is your client and who’s not your client. Try to help the latter when they have questions/suggestions, but remember you are always responsible to the former.

23. If you have any interest at all in compositing, collect your own images, starting with clouds. Those are what you usually always replace first in an outdoor scene.

24. Tag your image collection, but don’t go overboard with it. For example, “clouds” is fine. “clouds, puffy, white, midday, wispy” is overboard.

25. Only tag what you might need later. It makes no sense to tag 500 wedding dance images as “dancing” if you wouldn’t use them later on for some other client or project. Otherwise tag only your favorites from that event.

26. Experiment with the slightest amount of fill, both on and off axis. Just enough light to help define the subject.

27.  Keep yourself educated with the ‘top 3’ photography education resources I can think of: Chase Jarvis’ CreativeLive, Scott Kelby’s KelbyOne, and Jeremy Cowart’s SeeUniversity.

28. Someone once said that photography is 10% shooting and 90% moving furniture. This is true.

29. Show your subject how to sit/stand/etc. - don’t just tell them.

30. If you love an image, ‘compliment’ it to your subject. Let them know why you like it, even comparing it against images you’ve already shot of them. If they know what makes them look good, they will repeat it.

Note: Part II is posted here. If you'd like the whole list as a downloadable PDF (along with my other PDF titled "How To Shoot For A Magazine" and my Art Wall Photoshop templates), just sign up for the mailing list and you'll get it right away!

Rob Thomas for REAL Magazine


I've been waiting to talk about this shoot all year. When REAL Magazine asked me sometime in March if I'd be interested in shooting Rob Thomas, I jumped at the chance. Now, I know exactly what you are thinking. No, not that Rob Thomas (although he's on my list too). This Rob Thomas is the creator of the show Veronica Mars. You probably heard about him in the news earlier this year, as he and Kristen Bell led a Kickstarter campaign which raised over 5.7 million dollars for the production of a Veronica Mars movie. Since then, other high-profile film projects have gone the Kickstarter route (most notably Zach Braff's "Wish I Was Here"), but no crowd funding campaigns so far have been as successful as Rob's.

Talking with the creative people at REAL Magazine, we decided on something fun to match Rob's personality. I sketched up several ideas, one of which involved him at a lemonade stand selling props from episodes of the tv show to help fund his film. Rob liked the idea, so we scouted locations around town that could serve as our neighborhood house.

Right before the shoot, I thought it would be funny if we added in a Ferris Bueller reference and played off the "Save Ferris" idea with our own "Save Veronica Mars" riff. In the Ferris Bueller movie, an iconic scene is the "Save Ferris" water tower that appears in the film. We added that to our image below and the scene was set.

Rob did a great job with a variety of expressions and poses, and after our shoot we took some additional shots that his agency could use for promo purposes.

Below is a great little BTS video that the crew from Reel Visuals put together. I loved working with Terrell, Lauren and Richard on this, and if you need something similar, you should definitely look them up. A big thanks to Bert Mclendon and Justin Leitner who helped out on this shoot, and a heartfelt thank you to Nell at REAL Magazine for the opportunity.

Rob Thomas Veronica Mars Image 1

Rob Thomas Veronica Mars Image 2

Rob Thomas Veronica Mars Image 3



Austin Music Composer Portrait Artists are always looking for promotional images that reflect them on different levels. For this shot of Anthony (a composer here in Texas and the owner of Tranzducer Music), I wanted to create an image that worked well with the electronic, almost electrical, style of his music.

We had some discussions about options. We would get the standard head shot images for his promo kit, but I also wanted to explore this electrical idea a little further. Electronic music is based a lot on 'modifiers', meaning that you might start with a particular sound, but then you spend a lot of time tweaking frequencies, cutoffs, gates, etc to get the sound you want. And all of those variables change throughout the song. It can be a very hands-on/performance-based approach to music. When you see 50 little dials on a Nord keyboard, you can get an idea of all the parameters you can change in real time.

I pitched him on building a small set to illustrate this:

The idea was to have his head surrounded by LEDs. His head then became the 'conduit' between which all these electrical impulses were passing through. We thought some old pieces of metal would be great as a backdrop, but they were surprisingly difficult to find. Texas has some particular rules dealing with the sale of scrap metal. Basically, you can't sell it to an individual like me, probably because of liability. However, I was able to find a sheet metal cutter who sold me a couple of pieces of scrappy, rusted sheet metal that he wasn't going to use.

For the LEDs, I picked up 6 of those flexible USB lights. I then drilled some holes in the metal and ran a USB hub to power all of the lights. In the shot, the LEDs are illuminating Anthony, and then we added the extra electrical bolts and particle effects in post. Anthony was also lit with a gridded beauty dish so that we had some overall fill.

This was an incredibly fun shoot. We got some great images for Anthony and had a great time during the whole process. We've already started discussing ideas for the next shoot, and I'm looking forward to it!




Will Staney

Will came to me via Kim Hollenshead. I did a Christmas card shoot with Kim a while back, and when Will mentioned needing new images, she sent him my way. Lately I've been doing shoots for tech people (like Will) that have been generating their own following. They are becoming their own 'brand' in a way, and want images to reflect that.

After some discussions with Will, we decided on shooting in various parts of Austin. He's got a somewhat movie-star vibe to him, so I wanted some of the images to look like he could be walking down a street in LA.

We shared some stories and some good laughs too. I look forward to working with him again soon.

Will Staney Image 1

Will Staney Image 2

Will Staney Image 3

Will Staney Image 4