Lessons from a Pro Photographer

Justin Bailie shares his do's and don'ts about being a pro photographer.

This post brought to you in partnership with Tandem Stills + Motion, an outdoor photo agency and community for adventurous souls.

Name: Justin Bailie
Length of photography career: 10+ years
What do you shoot with? Mainly Canon (5D Mark 3, 7D)
Where are you based? North Oregon Coast
What photo are you the most proud of and why?

I don’t know if I can say that I have just one favorite photo. Let’s just say this one for now.


This image is of a good buddy taking a PBR break while fly fishing for winter steelhead on the Oregon Coast. It just captures what the day feels like on a cold, wet winter float of steelhead fishing in the Northwest.
Tell us about your biggest mistake.

Printing out what I thought was the shot list and it was not — on an assignment that was time-sensitive. So even though I created good photos and really only missed one main scenario, that one scene was what was most important to the client. Definite fail.

What are you working on next?

Fly fishing and salmon / steelhead ecosystem conservation. And helping to build connections between small food producers (farmers & commercial fishermen/women) and community.

What is your “never leave home without it” item (besides the camera itself)?

Any Lowepro camera bag. I think they’re the best bags in the business for the outdoors. And a well equipped van, a fly rod, corn tortillas, and chocolate.

10 dos & don’ts


1. Bring less camera gear than you want. 1-2 lenses is usually fine.
2. Be quiet in areas where there might be the chance of wildlife encounters. Unless you don’t like grizzly bears. Then just scream on a regular basis.
3. Turn around once in a while. Sometimes the best view is behind you.
4. Bring a light tripod, a cable release or learn how to use your 2 or 10 second timer for twilight / night shots. By using the timer, you won’t move the camera, which would make the photos blurry. If you don’t have a tripod, just build a little spot with rocks to provide a stable place for your camera.
5. Go higher. By getting up above camp or the trail, you’ll get different perspectives as well be able to create a broad view of the entire scene.
6. If possible, make dinner early so you can shoot during the best light of the evening and twilight.
7. Pack your camera gear in extra clothes or beanies. No need for camera bags as they just take up room and add extra weight. I do use lens cases sometimes (Lowepro), as they are small and provide good protection.
8. Camp with friends who are stoked about life. It’ll make for better photos and of course you’ll have more fun.
9. If you're waffling about jumping in that freezing lake, just do it. Even though life is the longest thing you’ll ever do, it really is short and it’s all about experiences and memories as far as I’m concerned.
10. Breathe.


1. Forget your headlamp
2. Bring more than you need. While the others will be groaning up the trail with their giant, heavy packs, you’ll be bounding up the trail like a gazelle...or something like that.
3. Make too much fun of your friends and their heavy packs, they may be carrying all sorts of tasty things to eat or drink. Like bacon or beer.
4. Keep the bacon in the tent. Bad plan.
5. Forget the small things; the details. Besides the obvious big views, notice the things about a place that make it unique. Certain kinds of plants, the water, rocks, etc. Showing these things will give some depth and character in your photos.
6. Forget extra camera batteries.
7. Do everything you would normally do. Try something different. Go higher. Get low. Lay in the flowers and look up. If you always shoot with a tripod, leave it home. Change is good and usually inspires creativity.
8. Shoot everything at F22. Our eyes don’t see everything sharp from front to back, so try to make images that have more of a selective focus. They look good.
9. Forget the chocolate.
10. Follow all the rules. Cuz’ that’s no fun.