Ten Rules for Photography Success

When not producing video and writing articles for USA TODAY, I’m also a working portrait photographer in the Manhattan Beach, California area.
I recently penned these ten principles that apply to running a successful photography business, which realistically, could apply to any.
So I thought I’d share:
1. Be early and prepared. So when the client arrives, you’re ready to hit the ground running. A minimum of one hour ahead of time, if not 90 minutes. I once met a couple for an engagement session at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, without getting there early enough to have scoped out the location. It started out really rocky, as they asked me where I wanted to shoot, and I had no idea. I eventually figured it out, but that hour of pre-planning really would have gone a long way.
2. Be well groomed. Look great, hair combed, face shaven, clothes not sloppy. Clients want to look good, and be photographed by someone who looks even better.
3. Never let client see you struggle behind the camera. Smile when the battery goes dead, as you casually replace it .

4. Stay to the agreed upon time. If the contract says you’ll be there until 11, stay until 11.
5. Answer e-mails on a timely fashion. Speed is everything, especially since so many clients are shopping for photographers online. The longer you go without answering, they’re already onto the next photographer.
6. Answer phone calls on a timely fashion. Ditto from above.
7. Try to do an amazing job. Lots of great poses, comfort with the client, show them you know what you’re doing and love it.

8. Hand in the work on a timely fashion. Don’t knock yourself out–I used to do that, and show them the work the next day. That’s crazy. But do try to get them an online gallery within 7 days at the latest. Face it–they’ve already seen tons of point and shoot and iPhone shots from the event on Facebook.
9. Put your best foot forward. Let them see your best work as the first thing they see. Simple logic: put the best 10 shots at the opening of the gallery. Weed out the junk.
10. Let the great work sell you for word of mouth. Do an awesome job, and all their friends will be calling.


  1. All of your rules are good ones and almost universal when dealing with clients from any profession or business. One of the rules I try to follow is to have a routine or script to work from. This allows you to relax and not worry about what you forgot to shoot.