100 Photography Tips & Tricks To Becoming A Celebrity Portrait Photographer

ONLY 100 Photography Tips? Actually… there are SEVERAL photography tips I could give you on becoming a professional celebrity portrait photographer and over time, I plan on sharing all of my knowledge with you.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not writing this ONLY for photographers who want to shoot celebrities and work in Hollywood.

These celebrity portrait photography tips are not exclusive to celebrity clientele.

My experience and photo tips can help ANYONE walk down the road of photography, whether you want to pursue it for fun or as a serious career.

Whether you’re searching for portrait photography tips in general or specific photography tips and tricks for a particular type of client, you’re in the right place!

We’ll start by going through the top 10 photography tips in detail and as time goes on, I’ll share ALL that I know and ALL that I discover, with YOU!

For example, taking pictures of Alimi Ballard right by the recognizable Hollywood sign was a day I mark in my photography career history!

My portfolio AND my understanding of running a photography business grew immensely that day.

Some of the best photo shoot tips are the ones learned right in the middle of a photo shoot.

You may have seen Alimi Ballard in 6 seasons of Num3ers. His first action movie, Fast Five has grossed over $625 million worldwide, making it number 66 on the all-time worldwide list of highest-grossing films, in unadjusted dollars and the seventh-highest-grossing film of 2011.

…or I can share examples of digital photography tips I gained after shooting Keenon Daequan Ray Jackson, better known by his stage name YG.

In 2009, he released his debut single, “Toot It and Boot It”, featuring Ty Dolla Sign, which peaked at number 67 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The single’s success resulted in him signing to Def Jam Recordings and doing multiple collaborations with music artists to include, but not limited to Drake, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg.

Ever heard YG’s “Who Do You Love?” featuring Drake or “My Hitta” featuring Lil Wayne, Rich Homie Quan, Meek Mill and Nicki Minaj playing on your local radio station?

VALUABLE photography tips and tricks could very well be…

…the difference between a successful or disastrous photo shoot.

Working with YG at Def Jam Recordings and being present during the interview of him with Red Bottom Events was one of those times where my knowledge quickly kicked in.

You have a short amount of time to capture great content. It’s hit or miss when you’re working with people whom, every single day, have a laundry list on their agenda.

Celebrity Portrait Photography Tips For The Enthusiast AND The Career Driven Photographer:

In 2009 I started this very blog you’re reading and shortly after, a podcast, where I interviewed other photographers and experts in the industry as a platform to discuss the business of photography!

Since then, I’ve gained SO much MORE experience and knowledge about building a successful photography career.

So I felt it was time to revamp the blog and update my knowledge on here, to give you the best photography tips I have learned over the years.

Photography tips for pursuing a celebrity photography business…

How to start a successful photography business for under $5,000…

Tips for photography on branding yourself strategically…

Creative portrait photography tips…

Tips for photo shoots and tips for better photos…

Photography tips and techniques for photographers, from experts…

Tips on photography & camera tips from my personal experience…

Digital camera tips and techniques…

Professional photography tips and tricks for beginners, through reviews and tools that will help you throughout your career…

These were all topics discussed and ongoing conversations I continue to have with my peers and professionals in the industry.

Whether you’ve listened to Young Photopreneur Radio before, you’ve read my blog posts or it’s your first time here, I hope my experience and “how to be a good photographer” tips can add value to your career!

After releasing my first eBook: The Young Photopreneur’s Handbook and working in Hollywood, meeting a wealth of valuable people left me with the best photo tips and business advice, I didn’t know I needed.

There’s one thing I want you to understand and ALWAYS remember…

Photography Tips #1, #2 and #3

No matter how big or small your business is,

There are only 3 MAJOR components to ANY successful business.

1. A system to attract the IDEAL person to you.

2. A system to convert these ideal people (a simple one page website will do).

3. A system for you to build a real (non-superficial) relationship with these ideal people.

This was one of the biggest takeaways I received from the Tiny Little Businesses creators, these 3 simple tips transformed my photography business. Here’s one of the ways they illustrate these 3 MAJOR components on their website:

Apply the same concept to your business, from your website to the actual photo shoot and the delivery of the edited images. If you do, you may never go back to the old way of doing things! You’ve been warned 🙂

One of the biggest challenges many photographers have, is learning how to make a living as a photographer and comfortably calling themselves a PRO.

Transitioning from photography being a hobby, to a lucrative career, is a reoccurring roadblock I hear from most photographers.

Paying your bills, traveling, spending more time with your family and having your camera become an asset (not an expensive pastime) is a central goal.

…but being a photographer, means you’re an artist.

Photo tips and tricks are a part of the process.

You’re a storyteller!

So enjoying what you do AND getting paid to do it is the secret.

Let’s face it, with technology, smartphone’s are equipped with impressive lenses and powerful camera apps to boot!

ANYONE can use their camera phone, watch a couple YouTube videos on portrait photography tips, start charging $20 to take head shots and call themselves a “PRO”.

…but, if you’re an artist that cares about what you put into the world, the beauty is getting to make a living, working on your art form.

The caveat?

Finding a way to make a living, working on your art form.

…and if you’re ONLY focused on making money with photography, turning your art into a career is a surefire way to kill your love for it and any photo taking tips will also do no good.

HOWEVER, if you download a few premium iPhone photography apps, invest in some additional pieces of iPhone photography equipment and apply your unique artistic perspective to it, you could become the BEST iPhone Photographer, making $20 every 30 minutes!

In fact Lou Lesko, Advertising Photographer and Founder of my favorite invoicing software (BlinkBid), helped me see things in an inspiring way.

Photography tips and techniques from a more experienced photographer was refreshing.

Lou Lesko’s photography tips were priceless!

He never waited for someone to tell him he was an “OFFICIAL” photographer worthy of charging for his services.

He KNEW he had quality work and wasn’t afraid of billing his clients, early on in his career. Listen to the golden nuggets he shares in this episode of Young Photopreneur Radio:

Photography Tips #4, #5 and #6

(THE TURNING POINT FOR ME)

While I was in college still working on my degree in Art, I created Cheri Amour Photography and started booking work with companies to include, but not limited to Disney, CBS and 20th Century Fox.

…but before I held out for legitimate projects like these, or even absorbed all the digital photo tips I could get my hands on, I was offered high paying underground offers.

Like $900 a day to shoot behind the scenes x-rated pictures.

Or $5,000 a weekend to take pictures for x-rated film production companies.

Yeah, as a college student I would’ve been BALLIN!!

…but do you know how easy it is to have your images indexed on ALL the major search engines?

If you don’t, maybe I’ll make an episode dedicated to that topic.

I may have gained some unconventional tips to take better photos, but I surely didn’t want to go down in history with a reputation of shooting x-rated pictures and adding content to the dark net.

Yikes!

Knowing that if someone searched “naked photos” and MY work would come up, didn’t sit well with me because, well… I had other goals.

Plus, you know how some child actors do SO well in a role, then those are ALL the types they EVER get cast for?

If you put yourself in the x-rated niche, just be prepared to be typecast.

…where the ideal companies you WISHED you could shoot for, don’t want to hire you, because of the work you’ve ALREADY done and your brand doesn’t fit with their brands integrity.

So shoot wisely. Don’t just shoot for the money.

In order to get well paying work shooting your ideal projects, you need to stick to a strategy.

Once I made this decision… it only got better over time.

…but let’s be real.

It was NOT easy.

…and the high paying, easy money projects came around to tempt me, more often than not.

I’m going to teach you my strategy though.

I won’t leave you in the dark and susceptible to feeling like you have to take ANY work that comes your way.

Whatever type of work you want to get as a photographer, is the work you need to master.

Some of the BEST portrait photography tips and tricks were given to me from my mentor, a famous celebrity and fashion photographer.

Kevin Michael Schmitz became one of my most valuable mentors, when I was pursuing my photography degree.

He taught me valuable lessons and tips for taking a good photo, EVERY time I assisted him.

He would say things like,

“Even if you’re limited to one or two lights. MASTER it!”

So that you get stunning pictures…

Every.

Single.

Time.

…because once you get it out there, people will start calling you to book work from what they’ve seen in your portfolio.

While assisting Kevin Michael Schmitz, one of his tips on taking photos that stayed with me, was how to creatively manipulate ANY lighting situation.

Amateur photography tips may be where you start, but as you begin surrounding yourself with people smarter than you, tips for taking pictures will change the game for you.

…even what may seem like the most simple photography tips.

Seeing it put into action from someone who practices what they preach, is what makes something simple, turn into GREAT photography tips.

I shot this image below, while on set with Kevin. His photography exposure tips came in VERY handy.

To achieve gorgeous beach portrait photography, only two lights were used and the natural sunlight!

It was the perfect opportunity to execute Kevin’s tips on how to take good pictures.

So how do you “get your name out there” and start getting steady work, in the first place?

I mean, professional photo tips can only take you so far. Eventually you’ll need to put it all into practice.

I’m going to walk you through what I’ve done and what’s working now.

Helping a photographer possibly bypass the headaches I’ve experienced, is important to me.

Whether it’s digital camera photography tips, beginning photography tips or just tips to take good pictures in general…

No matter your experience, I’m here to help you in the best way I can.

Why share my top photography tips with you?

As a culture, it’s important we stick together.

When I learn valuable tips for taking a good picture, it’s hard to keep it to myself.

PLUS, I can’t fulfill every photography need in the world, so why not pay it forward.

Out of the top ten photography tips I’ve ever been given, there are 3 problems I continue to see.

It’s something I realized I was ALSO doing and needed to change.

It holds true whether:

1. You went to school and got your degree in photography

2. You’re self taught or

3. You’re just doing it to make extra money.

If you’re serious about your career, I don’t want you to fall into these crippling factors:

Photography Tips #7, #8 and #9

These may seem like tips for new photographers, but at ANY level, you need to avoid (or change) these problems if you’re ready to grow your photography career. They’re easy photography tips that you can put into practice TODAY:

PROBLEM #1

(Not knowing your camera’s settings and understanding the math behind your manual controls.)

If you’re on an assignment and you don’t know for a FACT how to use your lighting equipment OR your camera to create a consistent look, you will lose MAJOR credibility.

You can’t arrive on set guessing and hoping for a perfect exposure.

You need to know how to take a test shot and tweak your camera and lighting settings until you’re getting the desired result.

You can’t walk over to your client and ask them how to use YOUR camera.

You shouldn’t be on set snapping away, WONDERING if you’ll get a good shot or not.

SOLUTION #1

You need to understand your camera SO well, that you can handle any lighting situation, so you can work well under pressure and get the shot in a moments time, whether you have ALL day or just a few minutes.

Working in entertainment and dealing with my clients’ busy schedule, leaves me with a VERY little window to setup the perfect scenario.

If you can’t capture the image of that celebrity who only has 20 minutes before their next interview, all because you didn’t know what aperture or shutter speed to set your camera at, you shouldn’t call yourself a professional.

Go back to practicing before you put yourself out there and damage your reputation before you’ve even gotten started.

Then, introduce yourself as a pro and watch how your career changes for the better.

Celebrity Music Photographer Zack Arias explains your aperture in relation to your flash, very well:

PROBLEM #2

(Defining yourself as an amateur, just because you’re NOT getting paid.)

As artists, we’re problem solvers AND storytellers.

If you:

1. Know the science behind your camera

2. Understand lighting

3. Can deliver a consistent look in all your pictures

Then consider yourself a professional photographer!

There are photographers getting paid everyday that couldn’t tell you the exact reason their pictures look so great.

They credit it to luck!

…but there’s a formula to taking a great picture.

You need to study the science behind your camera and its relation to light.

Memorize it until it becomes 2nd nature.

In the long run, not knowing what you’re doing will cause you to lose assignments and it will definitely stifle your growth.

If you ARE getting paid, but not enough to pay your bills, making you feel like an amateur…

Stop low balling your rates.

If you’re not making a living with it, it hasn’t become a REAL business… YET.

You will eventually turn it into a money making business.

So, STOP low balling your rates just to get ANY job that comes your way.

It will only drain your energy over time.

SOLUTION #2

Focus on getting VERY good in the type of photography you want to get booked for…

THEN when you’re confident in knowing you can consistently get the same look for your clients, set your ballpark rates and stop cheating yourself.

…but once you have all these things in order:

1. Knowing your camera

2. Knowing lighting equipment

3. Delivering a consistent look in all your pictures

…you’ll have a much more enjoyable shooting experience, you’ll be taken seriously as a professional photographer and your business will be moving in a stable, upward motion!

I couldn’t have had a better experience shooting Alimi Ballard, than the few hours we had with him, in Hollywood.

Once you master your camera and lighting and create a portfolio with gorgeous work, ANY rate you start with will be justified and can easily be adjusted up or down, from there.

Knowing how to use my equipment as well as rented equipment was a part of why the shoot went so smooth.

If I was confused from all the buttons on my camera and the settings on the ring flash, the photo shoot could’ve been a nightmare and left a terrible taste in Alimi’s mouth (someone who knows A LOT of people in Hollywood).

One of my BEST photogaphy tips: “Leaving your talent with a great impression, high level service and an enjoyable experience is half the effort of becoming successful in photography.” – Cheri Amour

It will pay in spades when you work with high level clientele who will go on to tell their friends and colleagues about your work (so knowing your stuff is incredibly important).

When you become a professional and you work with professionals, both in the person you’re shooting and the crew you have on set, you can really enjoy the process and focus on the most important thing (taking GREAT pictures).

Ok… so now you’re probably wondering “but how much do I charge for my work?”

That’s the next biggest problem I’ve seen and also something I struggled with.

It’s hard to put a value on your art and even harder to justify a high fee, UNLESS you can create value for your clients.

PROBLEM #3

(Not knowing how much to charge for your work.)

Hearing the same tips for professional photography will only help you program it into your system.

So I’ll re-iterate what I said earlier, because it will affect your business AND your lifestyle.

STOP low balling your rates just to take on ANY job that comes your way.

SOLUTION #3

Get paid what you’re worth, for the type of photography assignments you REALLY love to shoot.

If you’re going to work, you might as well spend your time enjoying it, right?

All your tips and tricks for photography should be used wisely!

Let me give you an example.

Music has always been my muse.

Growing up, I would listen to music while also painting, or drawing or creating a vision board of things I wanted to take pictures of.

So naturally, my first inclination was to focus on shooting music artists and people in the entertainment industry.

By focusing on that culture of people and laser targeting my marketing message, I was approached with more than enough work, even OUTSIDE of music and entertainment.

One way to calculate your rates is by writing down all of your monthly expenses.

Let’s say with rent, your car payment, groceries and all the things in between, you need to make $3,000/month.

Let’s assume you work 5 days a week.

So 20 days a month.

$3,000/20 days = $150/day

So if on average, you shoot at least once a day, you would need to charge AT LEAST $150 per shoot, to meet your $3,000/month goal.

Obviously, that’s just the base number. If you book 3 portrait sessions in one day for $150 each, you’ll be ahead of yourself!

…so I hope this example gives you a starting point on how to set your rates.

There are much more intricate ways of calculating these numbers. I’ll have to make a separate post dedicated solely to the topic on setting your rates.

…but BEFORE I decided to focus on my ideal clientele, I would just raise my hand waiting for ANYONE who simply needed a picture taken.

My results went from dismal… to worse.

Not only did I have no direction, I also confused everyone I spoke to.

Think about it…

If you walked into a store and EVERY sales person was trying to sell you a t-shirt, how would you know which t-shirt was best for you?

…but if you walked in, and he came up to you saying,

“Hello! We sell t-shirts to photographers that have a busy schedule, little time to freshen up between photo shoots, carry heavy equipment around, but still want to look great and fashionable on set.”

See the difference?

I would feel like that t-shirt was made specifically for my needs.

It would be easy for me to make a decision and drown out the noise from all the other pushy sales people trying to sell ANYONE a t-shirt.

…and if I didn’t buy the t-shirt that day, I would ALWAYS remember it and know where to get it when I WAS ready, since it was positioned as a t-shirt made specifically for busy photographers.

That’s what photographers need to do.

FOCUS.

Learn as many photography tips and tricks you can possibly digest for the niche you want to enter.

Photoshoot tips for photographers: If you want to shoot multiple types of assignments, consider having multiple websites.

One for weddings.

One for celebrities.

One for aspiring models.

Or AT LEAST have a separate page displaying your portfolio for each category.

Don’t just dump it all on one page.

Don’t confuse the very people you’re trying to speak to.

Some tips for taking photos may go in one ear and out the other, just remember:

“When it comes to your website, stop talking to EVERYONE, because no one will hear you. Start talking to ONE person & MANY will listen.”

– Cheri Amour

Once I had my website up and running, business cards in hand and auditions scheduled, I was ready to hit the pavement and tell everyone I came in contact with, my best photography tips and tricks!

I was ready to tell the world about my new business (Cheri Amour Photography) and impress prospects with the quotes I created in Lou Lesko’s software: BlinkBid.

Auditions? You may be thinking…

Yes! Your resources are the closest things in your life to differentiating your approach to attracting talent to your photography business.

Being in college left me with little time to waste time. This made me very creative in how I spent my time and what photographer tips I executed on, versus the ones I tossed out.

So when I got booked as a model for music videos with artists such as Janelle Monae, Asher Roth, Cee Lo, Q-Tip and several others, I used downtime between takes, to introduce myself to the key players (directors, producers, talent, etc).

I created a Twitter account that grew to over 9,000 followers in less than 6 months.

…and those business cards?

They were asked for and gladly given out to people I met on set!

…while simultaneously giving actors and models tips for taking better photos.

Tips for photographers, at times, became a topic of discussion when I met other photographers and artists on set.

Simple photography tips given to these potential future clients, paid back in spades.

Producers remembered me, Directors hired me and the talent on set would either have me shoot their headshot or refer me to someone who needed one.

Over time I properly oiled my machine (website), shared as many camera tips and tricks with photographers and all of the best tips for taking pictures I could think of, to models and actors.

Not long after launching this blog, I met a talent coach on Twitter (who STILL to this day, sets me up with meetings) about shooting his talent.

Every person he represents is in the Olympics, on television, heard on the radio… the list goes on. Like I said, a simple conversation around tips about photography can pay back in SO many ways.

This same website, effortlessly sharing digital camera tips with people, combined with the 3 MAJOR components I mentioned earlier, opened up the floodgates to high quality clientele.

So remember these

(PRO PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS #10 & beyond):

No matter how big or small your business is, there are only 3 MAJOR components to ANY successful business:

  1. A system to attract the IDEAL person to you.
  2. A system to convert these ideal people (a simple one page website will do).
  3. A system for you to build a real (non-superficial) relationship with these ideal people.

Implementing these little pieces transformed into a successful strategy in becoming a professional photographer, that continues to work.

There are good photography tips you can find in multiple places, but advice from people who are in the position you aspire to be in, is unparalleled!

It’s helped me build a great relationship with:

  1. CEO’s of music labels who need pictures for all of their artists
  2. President’s of entertainment companies who always have a creative project in the works
  3. Independent talent agents who manage artists with #1 songs on the radio and actors we see in movies and television regularly, but lack quality imagery

They all have become clients and friends.

…and most of all, the work I get hired to shoot helps build my career, excites them to introduce me to their network and opens up MORE doors in celebrity portrait photography.

Every time I shoot, I’m able to add to this list of “photo shooting tips” for you and me to easily refer back to, even when working outside the Hollywood scene.

Over the next few posts, I’ll share even more tips for better photography, to supplement this “100 Photography Tips & Tricks To Becoming A Celebrity Portrait Photographer” list.

These are universal picture taking tips. Not just something only for those seeking to become a “Celebrity Photographer”.

It’s a starting place to learning more advanced AND beginner photography tricks and tips, portrait photography tips and several other digital camera tips, which can open up SO many other doors!

YG-Cheri-Amour-Photography

“If I could work my way up to meeting and working with people we see on TV everyday, while also working on getting my degree and not having all the top notch equipment, you can surely use the same (or similar) tips for taking good photos to carve out your own name in the photography industry as well!”

– Cheri Amour

After graduating from college, it was a great privilege to be able to study photography tips from my professors.

It was intriguing to learn and dissect the history of art and use my love of science to appreciate the beauty and extreme relation it has in artistic creativity.

Those years of enhancing my knowledge only sparked a fire in me to KEEP learning, especially now that I’d have the freedom to gain more real world experience.

I want to equip you with all the knowledge I have and see you become an even more successful photographer, adding your perspective, your vision and your art to the world.

During your time here on YoungPhotopreneur.com, sharing the best portrait photography tips, celebrity photography tips and tricks or just basic photography tips in general, is my goal here.

Until next time. Cheers to your success!

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