09 Common Mistakes All Beginner Photographers Make
All systems are a go! You’ve finally purchased the camera that you had your eyes on for months and you’ve taken it out for a test run. After a shooting session in the streets or a photo shoot for your stunning online store, you were surprised to discover something kind of unfortunate. The pictures that you see on your computer aren’t exactly what you expected them to be. Some came out blurry, some are out of frame and others look like they were taken by your seven year old nephew. But why?
It turns out that photography isn’t exactly a walk in the park. It’s actually much easier to create a photography website than it is to take the pictures you’ll fill it with. Of course, no one expects you to become the next Annie Leibovitz or Richard Avedon a week into your photography journey. From mastering the perfect light and understanding some basic settings, to the way you move your body, there are hundreds of mistakes that you can (and should) easily avoid.
Here are the 10 most common mistakes that all beginner photographers make. Well, everyone except for you.
1. You only use the automatic mode
Today’s cameras incorporate a bunch of automatic settings that make your life easier. For example, cameras can identify the surrounding light, movement and even faces in order to take the best possible picture. But remember, the automatic mode are like the training wheels on your first bicycle; they’re merely a tool to give you the self-confidence you need for your first few outings.
You should drop the automatic mode very quickly, even if it leads to less beautiful pictures in the beginning. Why? Because when you’re using the automatic setting, you’re basically letting the computer within your camera decide for you. Let’s take, for example, the focus. Do you really want to let your camera processor choose what the central point of the picture should be? As sophisticated as cameras are, even the best won’t understand and execute what you have in mind. The same can be said for the shutter speed, the aperture or the ISO. If you want your pictures to truly be your pictures, you’ll have to learn how to set your settings by yourself.
2. You forget to check your settings
Now that you left the automatic “comfort zone,” here comes another common mistake. When you change the settings of your camera, they will most probably be kept in its memory. Don’t forget to change them before your next shoot, because the light and conditions will most likely be different.
A textbook case: you’re shooting interiors and you chose a strong ISO to reduce the camera shake. A few days (or even hours) later, you have to get your cam’ out again – this time, when the sun is shining. But alas, you forget to check your settings, so your ISO is up. As a beginner, it’s likely that you’ll realize your mistake when sitting in front of your computer reviewing your work, and when you’ll see the noise on your pictures, unfortunately, there won’t be much you can do.
An honest (and totally forgivable) oversight can have serious consequences, so be sure you’re organized. A lot of photographers simply create their own little ritual when getting their gear ready. They always check certain things in the same order – much like a musician tests their mic before a live performance. This small routine ensures you’ll be on the safe side!
3. You’re only shooting in JPEG mode
A lot of digital cameras offer you the possibility to take your pictures in JPEG format. The more options, the merrier, right? Well, not exactly. JPEG is a commonly used method of compression for images. On the one hand, it gives you low images that you can upload and share very quickly. On the other hand, this format is particularly lossy, which means that you’ll sacrifice a lot of poor, innocent pixels along the way of compression.
Shooting in JPEG mode is totally fine if you need to take quick, disposable snaps of your vacation or if you’re just looking to experiment. But if you want to be able to edit your shots, this is definitely not the right option for you. Go for the RAW format, which is – as the name says- the “raw” version of your pictures, as captured by your lenses. You’ll have much more flexibility to do your own editing and, if needed, compression afterwards. Of course, it will consume more memory. But SD cards aren’t as expensive as they once were, so for the sake of your pictures’ quality, keep an extra one on-hand.
4. You don’t have a clear focal point
Focal point? Don’t worry: we won’t lecture you on high-school physics. This intimidating word merely designates nothing but the crux of your image. It’s the central point where the eyes of your viewers are naturally drawn to. Now that you understand the importance of a clear focal point, you’ll want to mindful of this while you’re photographing. A lot of new photographers simply shoot like Rambo: abruptly and erratically, in and outside the frame.
A photo without a clear focal point or subject matter is simply a photo that doesn’t offer much to the eye. You can have vibrant colors, an amazing landscape or the most beautiful subject on a beach in your photo, but if the focal point is not clearly defined, your viewers will remain searching for it. How can you make sure your subject is in the right place? Simply start by applying the rule of thirds, a very convenient tool to remember where to put what on your pics.
5. You don’t move around enough
Stand, bend, lean, jump, run; no matter what you do, just move! Not only will your developing six-pack thank you, your photos will, too. The same action will always lead to the same results; so if you always stay in the same spot when you shoot, your photographs will inevitably be identical. In order to find new perspectives, you need to experiment with some new positions. This is also the case when you’re capturing something that traditionally needs to be done from a static point – for example, when you’re taking pictures for your eCommerce website. Come up with some new angles for your next photoshoot and watch your photos come to life in a whole new way.
This rule also applies to the way you photograph people. Robert Capa once said, “If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Most new photographers are afraid to get close to their models, but if you try holding your camera closer than usual, you’ll be surprised by the quality of the shots you get. Your models will also be bewildered to see you coming close, which will allow you to capture a unique expression on their face.
6. You only use the built-in flash
You’ve probably noticed that when you use the built-in flash of your camera, you don’t always get the light that you wanted. Sometimes the photo comes out too bright, sometimes you get awful shadows and sometimes you just don’t see anything at all. Don’t rely on your built-in equipment alone. It’s alright to depend on it during your first few weeks as a photographer, but you’ll soon realize that you’ll need more.
Of course, purchasing additional flashes means less money in your bank account, so don’t forget about second-hand gear, which can help you get quality tools at an affordable price. And if you’re really short on cash, explore the alternative options that are right in front of you, such as playing with the ISO sensitivity or using a reflector to bring extra light.
7. You sort through your pictures on your camera’s screen
The LCD screen of your camera is meant to have a preview of your photos – nothing more. Of course, while still on set, there are a few obvious pictures that you can get rid of (your aunt with her eyes half-shut, the photo with the sun right in front of your lens, etc.). You will save some precious space on your SD card for more captivating snaps. Overall, you shouldn’t delete picture based on what you see on the tiny screen of your camera. Wait until you’re sitting in front of your computer, otherwise, you might mistakenly delete a masterpiece.
8. You forget to backup your work
Diamonds are forever, but your photos aren’t – unless you save them carefully. Don’t forget to backup your precious data on your computer (of course), but also on an external disk. Your third layer of protection: the Cloud. There are plenty of great platforms that enable you to store your pictures for a very affordable price.
9. You neglect editing
Editing is not reserved exclusively for professional fashion photographers. You’d be surprised how many photos you can salvage with just a few simple editing tricks. Crop, add a text, adjust the colors or correct tired, red eyes. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the 10 most useful Photoshop tips & tricks for beginners.