A Critique of 10 Habits of Successful Photographers

A Critique of 10 Habits of Successful Photographers
Illustration for A Critique of 10 Habits of Successful Photographers

By Jim Plaxco, 2024-03-01.

In an email I recently received from Bayphoto, there was a plug for an article on their website. Titled 10 Habits of Successful Photographers I was curious to see what the ten habits were that were on their list. As I read through the article, I decided to jot down my initial reactions for each of the habits. Those notes became the basis for this review of that article.

What I could not determine was whether or not the list of habits was randomly ordered or in a ranked order of most to least important habit. All I can say is that the ordering of the list as it appears here matches the ordering of the list as it appears in the Bayphoto article. I would like to suggest that after reading my thoughts on the article, that you read the original article yourself (linked to in the Reference section at the bottom).

The List of 10 Habits of Successful Photographers

Habit 1. Shooting Often

I agree that a habit of frequency is a positive for building your skills. Whatever your creative medium is, be it photography or art or writing, doing it frequently not only keeps you in practice but should improve your overall skills.

In the book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, the author states that "Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good." It is this book that is the source of the 10,000-Hour Rule that boils down to a claim that if you want to become an expert at something, you need to do that thing, in this case photography, for 10,000 hours.

Habit 2. Finding Your Niche

I have to say that I am not interested in having a niche. Having a niche means that you have set boundary conditions on what you will do artistically/photographically. Sure, a niche is useful for marketing purposes but I think it is a ball and chain for creative exploration. As an analogy, think of the acting profession - how many actors want to be typecast?

Habit 3. Education

For me, education should be number one in a ranked order of habits. Taking classes, attending workshops, reading textbooks - these all work to improve your technical knowledge - as well as providing additional insights into your craft. So I am in complete agreement on the education component of being successful.

As an example, it was through self-education that I acquired sufficient knowledge to teach two workshops in 2023 on Generative AI. Specifically the workshops involved writing Python programs that would run on the Google Colaboratory platform to access the Stable Diffusion libraries for creating art and the OpenAI GPT-3 libraries to access the backend of the predecessor of ChatGPT.

An unexpected benefit of this experience was that in serving as a judge in a student space art contest last year, it was much easier for me to identify AI generated art that had been submitted to the contest - a contest that had specifically banned AI art submissions.

Bottom line: you never know where a new piece of knowledge might take you or when that knowledge will be of practical benefit.

Habit 4. Networking

This is sound advice because networking is not only a great way to learn, it is a way to become recognized within your creative community and share your own insights with your peers. I will say that there are aspects of networking that are a weak point for me. These components are mainly minimal involvement with relevant online communities (see #6 - Social Media Presence) and local in-person art organizations.

Habit 5. Portfolio Updates

I agree with the value of portfolio updates as those updates will involve including photography or art created since your last portfolio update. Updating your portfolio with new work also signals that you are still actively creating art and/or photography. One thing about the Bayphoto article is that there is no mention of the type of portfolio. With respect to portfolios, I have three types of portfolios:

  • a printed album portfolio
  • a slide deck portfolio for my tablet and laptop
  • an online web-based portfolio

My printed portfolio album is large and bulky and consequently I have not updated it in years because it's not something I just carry around. This is in contrast to my slide deck portfolio which is perfect for my laptop and tablet - items that are pretty much always at my side.

Then there are the various art galleries that I have here on Artsnova - which contain a larger, more varied body of work. But I must point out a key difference between my 'formal' portfolios and my website art galleries. A portfolio is considered to be specifically designed to show off your best work with respect to a particular theme. In other words, it is a commercial for whatever it is you happen to be trying to sell. While I follow that guideline for my slide deck portfolio, my online art galleries are much less well organized and include artwork that I would not include in a portfolio for marketing purposes. Yeah I know I shouldn't have substandard (by my definition) artwork on my website but I do.

Habit 6. Social Media Presence

I agree that social media is useful and I acknowledge that I vastly underutilize it. For me it is because I have to budget my time and when I assign priorities to tasks, social media always comes in dead last.

Back when Twitter (now known as X) was youngish, I took a class on how to be successful on Twitter. The lady teaching the class seemed proud of the fact that she spent on average 3 hours a day on Twitter. When she said that she spent three hours a day on Twitter, my first thought was "That's nuts. I spend less than three hours a month on Twitter and there is no way I'd spend that much time out of my day on Twitter." For her it made sense to devote that much time to Twitter because she was marketing herself as a Twitter expert. For me, it would be ridiculous to spend 3 hours a day on Twitter - or any other social media platform. While I recognize the usefulness of social media, my own calculations of time costs and benefits result in my spending minimal time using social media. And here's a bit of truth: a couple years ago I made a deliberate decision to completely ignore all social media for a couple weeks. That couple of weeks wound up turning into a 7 month break!

Habit 7. Website Updates

I am in complete agreement with the value of an artist or photographer having a website, keeping it up to date, and regularly adding new content. I confess to having fallen short in this regard for the last several years. My lack of attention has resulted in declining traffic volumes. In self-defense, I'll say that part of not adding new content was due to a desire to completely redesign my site (and replace Wordpress with an alternative content management system (CMS)). Unfortunately my website redesign project dragged on much longer than it should have. But it is now largely complete (see A Redesigned Artsnova Website Part 1) with only backend CMS work, and some HTML content fixes remaining.

Having fresh content on your website helps improve your website's chances of performing well in organic searche results since the search engines have a preference for newer content. For more on this, I suggest doing a web search using the following keywords: organic search fresh content.

Habit 8. Printing Your Work

It should come as no surprise that Bayphoto, a company that specializes in printing and framing services, should include as a key habit the act of printing your work. For the record, I do use Bayphoto's printing services and have always been happy with their work. However, I would not have included this on the list as being a good habit. So now there are nine habits.

Habit 9. Backing Up Your Photos

To be blunt: having a backup is good and having multiple backups is better. This is not just about protecting yourself from a drive failure. It's also about protecting yourself from file corruption. More than once I've had master files become corrupted such that my graphics software could no longer read them correctly. In a couple of instances, I've turned these works into examples of glitch art.

Habit 10. Making Time for Yourself

Given the fixation with top ten lists, I think this habit got added to the list so that Bayphoto could have a list of ten, and not nine, habits. This would certainly not make my top ten lists of good habits specifically for photographers - everyone no matter what their profession should make time for themselves and their family. So now we are down to eight habits.

My Alternative List of 10 Habits of Successful Photographers

To summarize Bayphoto's list of habits:

  1. Shooting Often
  2. Finding Your Niche
  3. Education
  4. Networking
  5. Portfolio Updates
  6. Social Media Presence
  7. Website Updates
  8. Printing Your Work Actively Experiment
  9. Backing Up Your Photos
  10. Making Time for Yourself Engage in Complimentary Activities

To get the list of habits back up to ten, I would add the following two habits:

Habit 8. Actively Experiment
If you want to grow and develop, you need to venture outside your normal boundaries (note that this habit is somewhat at odds with the 'get yourself a niche' habit). Experiment. Try something new. Think about Edison and the lightbulb - for which there are a multitude of variations on the quote - and the failures not being failures but learning opportunities.
Habit 10. Engage in Complimentary Activities
Consider engaging in activities that are not your main focus, be it photography or art or whatever, but can be considered as complimentary in nature. For example, I've engaged in judging space art contests for NASA, NSS, IAA, etc. I've also developed a wide variety of lectures and presentations that I have given in a variety of settings. While these are not directly related to my work as an artist or photographer or creative coder or web consultant, they do provide me with an added degree of recognition for my work, while also providing an opportunity for me to share my knowledge - particularly with students.


I found the Bayphoto article interesting, but mainly as a reminder about things and habits I already knew about. There were no new insights in the article for me. As it turns out, its chief value was in becoming a source of material and inspiration for this review, which I hope you've enjoyed.


1. 10 Habits of Successful Photographers.