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Do you want to understand your camera and take great photos today?

Yes Please

Sometimes, the more you learn, the less you know.

When I bought my first DSLR, I read the manual from cover to cover. I used to read it in bed, and carry it with me when I was out taking photos.

It was a great way to learn how to use my camera, but learning on my own meant that I was left with some wrong impressions.

Wrong impressions that led to embarrassing mistakes.

There is now a sequel to this post! – 10 Embarrassing Mistakes I Made as an Intermediate Photographer.

Stop learning from your own mistakes, start learning from mine…

I Never Used Flash

If you play around with your pop-up flash, you can see why I made this choice, and whenever anyone asked, my reasoning was ‘I don’t like flash’.

The pop-up flash produces a harsh and flattening light, directly onto the subject.

But I had no idea the potential of the camera flash… you just needed to use an external flash, preferably off camera.

It was only when a photographer I knew and trusted convinced me to buy an externalt flash, that a world of opportunities opened up for me and my lighting. It was the Canon Speedlite 430EX iI.

Constantly On The Wrong Focus Mode

One thing you can’t fix in post production (yet) is your focus.

That’s why it’s so essential to get it right in the camera, and often, time can be of the essence.

If you’ve ever noticed that you camera constantly tries to refocus when you’re taking a photo of a still object… or that you camera won’t track the focus of a moving object… then you’re on the wrong focus mode.

Super frustrating, I know. Read this article on focus modes and you’ll get a much better understanding of how to fix that annoying problem.

The Wrong ISO

When I first went through my camera’s manual, I learned that the higher the ISO, the more digital noise there would be, and therefore, the worse the image quality.

So naturally, I wanted to keep my ISO as low as possible, often around 100-200.

Guess what?

A ton of my photos were underexposed.

And when I did boost my ISO to the likes of 1600, I would forget, and take photos in bright sunlight with it still set there.

It’s easy to forget small details like this when you’re first starting out and a little practice goes a long way in helping you to remember to check your camera.

The truth of the matter is that ISO isn’t bad or scary, and it should be embraced. A high ISO can be used in all kinds of situations, even when using a flash, like in the photo below.

Always Shot In JPG

Listen, if you’re still shooting in jpg, pick up your camera right now, and switch it to RAW.

Not only is the image quality far superior, but it allows you vastly more options when it comes to post production.

When you shoot in JPG, your camera applies the white balance, sharpening, saturation, contrast and compresses the image.

Just trust me on this one.

I know a popular complaint for why people don’t like shooting in RAW is because the file size is much larger and they don’t have enough hard drive space, but external memory is so cheap these days, there’s really no excuse.

I Didn’t Know About Bulb Mode

Ergh, this is embarrassing.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll know that I love night photography, and film photography too.

I knew what ‘B’ did on a film camera, but when I saw it on my digital camera, it never really clicked.

For those of you who don’t know, bulb mode allows you to take a photo for as long as you hold down the shutter release button (best done with an external remote).

No longer was I restricted to photos taken for 30 seconds or less.

This is useful for slow sync flash photography as it allows me to essentially customise my exposure length to whatever I feel like.

I Never Backed Up

This is probably one of the most embarrassing confessions for me, I was one of those poor stupid people who didn’t back up and lost all their photos to a horrifying little hard drive failure.

At the time, my photography was nowhere near what it is now, so looking back it wasn’t as terrible as it felt at the time, but it still really sucked.

Now, my backup workflow is flawless, and you can read more about how I do it here.

I Chose The Wrong Lenses

I remember seeing an advert for an 18-250mm lens by Sigma and thinking that it was exactly what I was looking for, no more of this changing lens business that I’ve been putting up with!

I guess this was before I learned about image quality, haha.

A fixed 50mm lens might seem like an unusual choice, but when you understand aperture and optics, it’s clearly the right one.

As the lens really only has one job to do, it does it really well. A lens like the one mentioned above has to zoom through a ridiculous range, so it compromises on images quality. Sort of a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’.

This lens is on my list of ‘Top 20 Essential Camera Gear‘ and I couldn’t recommend it enough for beginners: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 ii.

It’s worth mentioning that I use much better glass these days, but for a hundred bucks or less, I think it’s a fantastic investment. 

I Transferred Over USB Straight From The Camera

I honestly couldn’t believe what I’d been missing when I bought a CF card reader for about £3 on amazon – the speed difference was shocking.

All this time I’d been transferring photos over a USB lead and experiencing slow transfers, wasting my battery life and experiencing cutouts during transfers.

If you’ve got a newer beginner SLR, you’ll probably find that your camera takes SD cards and you may well have an SD card reader built into your laptop, so you have no excuse not to use it.

White Balance Accuracy Was Baaaadddd

I sort-of understood white balance, but it had never been explained in the way I’ve explained it to others in my tutorial. It was just what I could pick up from my camera manual, using words I didn’t understand.

I would almost always have my camera set to AWB (Auto White Balance) which resulted in wildly inaccurate colour accuracy, especially when I took photos inside, in tungsten light, and my photos all came out orange.

When you start getting your white balance right, you’ll cringe at some of your old photos.

I Used Free Editing Software

This is somewhat of a sin in photography; I was managing my library in iPhoto (back in the day – it’s now replaced by Photos) which was ruining the photos when I went to edit them.

Whenever I would straighten a photo, it would immediately lose image quality, and look much less sharp.

Ditch your free software and download Adobe Lightroom – my editing software of choice. 

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10 Embarrassing Mistakes I Made As A Beginner Photographer

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Josh

I'm a self taught photographer from Brighton, England. I take a lot of photos and enjoy teaching my methods to anyone willing to learn- this is my blog, check out my video training & Google.

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