Burns was a professional photographer in Fife
from 1860-70, and again from 1872-83. In
1868, he published a book of his photographs of Old Edinburgh:
From 1880 to1910, he had studios in Edinburgh,
producing silver and carbon photographs, finished in oil and water colours.
He joined Edinburgh Photographic Society in
the season 1884-85
He was also a member of EPS. He contributed bromide,
carbon and carbon-opal photographs to the 1890 EPS Exhibition.