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10 Embarrassing Mistakes I Made As A Beginner Photographer

When I first bought my camera, I read the manual straight away; I used to take it on photo walks and read it before bed. This wasn’t really like me, but I knew I wanted to become good at photography and to do so, I was going to have to learn. I’d encourage everybody to do the same, but there’s only so much you can read in there; websites with lots of photos like this are much better. Here’s a list of embarrassing mistakes I made.

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

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’. Oh how wrong I was, I had no idea. I didn’t like flash, because I was using the completely wrong type of flash; a nasty harsh and flattening light on the top of my camera. It was only when a photographer I knew and trusted, convinced me to buy a proper flash, that a world of opportunities opened up for me and my lighting. Canon Speedlite 430EX iI  10 Embarrassing Mistakes I Made As A Beginner PhotographerIMG 4148 10 Embarrassing Mistakes I Made As A Beginner Photographer

Constantly On The Wrong Focus Mode

A lot of the time when you’re taking a photo of something that is happening right in front of you, time is of the essence and one thing you can’t fix in post production is your focus. When you have the wrong focus mode selected, it causes you camera to either continuously try to refocus, or not track your subject and their movement at all. This can be a real problem and a source of frustration and if you read this article, you’ll get a much better understanding of how to fix that annoying problem.

The Wrong ISO

I had 2 problems with ISO, firstly, I knew what the ISO did to your photos in terms of quality and wanted nothing to do with it, so I set the ISO to 100 and left it there. As you can probably imagine, this left a lot of dark and under exposed photos that really weren’t up to much. My other problem was that on the rare occasion I changed my ISO to something like 1600, I would forget that I had done so and would go out in direct sunlight taking photos with way too much noise. 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. Nowadays, I’ll happily set my ISO to 1000, even when I’m using flash as it allows me to get much more background details like in the photo below.Ben Katie McGowan BBQ 310711 8387 10 Embarrassing Mistakes I Made As A Beginner Photographer

Always Shot In JPG

I really can’t encourage you enough to switch to shooting in RAW, as it allows you so many more options. When you shoot in JPG, your camera applies the white balance, sharpening, saturation, contrast and compresses the image, which massively restricts what you can do it in post, if you have to. I’m not that big on editing, as I don’t really find it fun, so it’s the compression that really bothered me – set your camera to shoot in RAW and JPG at the same time and you can really see the difference between the 2 shots.

I Didn’t Know About Bulb Mode

This was a bit of a weird one for me, and it’s probably a little more important to me than most my readers, as I love night photography. I used to go out and get frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t set my shutter speed to any longer than 30 seconds, not realising I could set it as long as I pleased if I set my camera to bulb mode. This was also useful for slow sync flash photography as it allowed me to essentially customise my exposure length. It wasn’t until I started shooting on film again and I saw the ‘B’ setting on the shutter speed dial that it dawned on me!

photography.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/slow-sync-2-1.jpeg”> 10 Embarrassing Mistakes I Made As A Beginner Photographer

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 harddrive 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, I back up during the import so I have a copy and then every month I delete that backup and reference the original file from my computer to 2 separate harddrives, clearing up space on my computer and ensuring I don’t lose anything.

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, but I was wrong. A fixed 50mm lens might seem like an unusual choice, but when you understand aperture and optics, it’s clearly the right one. Because the lens really only has one job to do, it can do it much better, the other lens was more 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: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 ii 10 Embarrassing Mistakes I Made As A Beginner Photographer.Christmas Eve 1088 10 Embarrassing Mistakes I Made As A Beginner Photographer

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. Since I’ve switched, I’ve never look back and resent having to use a USB at all. 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 Was Off

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 a manual using words I didn’t understand. Almost always I would have my camera set to AWB (Auto White Balance) and end up with some really lousy shots, especially when I was inside and all the photos came out orange. As soon as you start getting your balance right, you’ll see a massive difference in the colour and over quality of your photos and you won’t look so amateur anymore.

I Used Free Editing Software

This is somewhat of a sin in photography; I was managing my library in iPhoto which was ruining the photos when I went to edit them. The biggest problem I had was that any photos that I had to straighten, lost a load of their sharpness as the free software wasn’t capable of working out what to do. Get a proper system of work and backing up in place now so you don’t suffer form the same mistakes I did. Aperture 3 10 Embarrassing Mistakes I Made As A Beginner PhotographerIMG 8220 10 Embarrassing Mistakes I Made As A Beginner Photographer

— — —

10 Embarrassing Mistakes I Made As A Beginner Photographer1 10 Embarrassing Mistakes I Made As A Beginner PhotographerThank you for reading my post, if you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

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Lightroom Presets (v6) by SLR Lounge

I do 98% of my processing with this package, here's why:

    • Over 300 presets to instantly transform your photography
    • Simple video tutorials to make amazing adjustments easy
    • Get that 'professionally processed look' in seconds

Enter 'expertphotog' at the checkout to save $15!

Check Them Out Now!

 

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Comments

47 thoughts on “10 Embarrassing Mistakes I Made As A Beginner Photographer

  1. Yusrie

    Man, i cant thank you enough. Really appreciate what you do here, setting up blogs, articles, tutorial and stuff. hey do you got an fb version?

    Reply
  2. John

    Hello there,is it right that you shoudn’t reformat your sd card using a computer, you should always use the camera to do it, as you run the risk of corrupting the card. PS, I like the site keep going.

    Reply
    1. Josh Post author

      I haven’t used SD cards in a long time, so I’m probably not the best person to ask, but I should think it would be fine. If in doubt, use your camera. You shouldn’t really have a need to reformat it, just delete all the files and start over.

      Reply
      1. Brandon

        ^It usually is best to reformat the card in camera just so you know it will read the card. Although you don’t necessarily need to reformat after ever shoot. It is recommended because it supposedly lessens the chance of files becoming corrupted.

        Reply
    2. Wahid Roshan Surya

      i only came upon this site via twitter or facebook several days ago… i’ve used sd cards since i started digital photography a few years back… recent experience with friend A borrowing the sd card from friend B, stuck it in her macbook, gave it back, and whoa: the sd card doesn’t work in friend B’s camera or laptop… what i did: i reformatted the sd card using my win7 os laptop, reformatted it AGAIN in friend B’s sony compact and, guess what, it worked fine… true, camera manufacturers warn against reformatting the memory card with a computer, but it could sometimes rescue a dead card…

      Reply
    1. Josh Post author

      I use Gimp too, but that’s not really a problem, it’s more about the basic editing from much simpler programs that you need to worry about.

      Reply
  3. Dan

    Nice site.
    I think you should make your in context links stand out a little more. They are hard to spot as is now. My 2 cents.

    Reply
  4. Megan

    Can I PLEASE tell you… You just took Everything that was in my head jumbled up and typed it out for me! I think I love you! I am bookmarking this site and expecting to read more from you!
    Thank you!
    PS…. I’m shooting a wedding Saturday and sooo needed this!

    Reply
  5. Haron

    Hey, this is an amazing article. im new to Dslr photography and this is just the right advice i needed!, just one thing concerning the lenses. Besides the 50mm fixed lens, what zoom lenses would you recommend for a beginner? because my type of photography, usually is event/sports photography where i wouldn’t have direct access to my subjects. any help?

    Thanks

    Reply
  6. Alex

    So a few of my friends are into photography, and i just discovered
    My passion for it too, thanks to my art teacher…
    I’m so happy i found this site to help me understand the basics and stuff., keep it up and thanks so
    Much

    Reply
  7. Wendi @ A Southern Yogi

    Question: Do i even have a host if my camera isn’t super nice? I have a Canon, I can’t remember what model it is. It’s a model where I don’t have the ability to change the type of flash/lens, etc. It’s got a lot of different settings that I don’t understand. HOw can I learn more about that?

    Reply
    1. Wahid Roshan Surya

      hello, wendi… i’ll tell you what i told donna… before digital while in university, i had my dad’s cheap-i-can’t-even-remember-the-name film camera… my first “serious” start with digital photography was with my Nokia 7710 mediaphone – sometime in 2006(?)… then a Nikon CoolPix S10 sometime in the early part of 2007, then a brief switch to a Sony CyberShot H9… resold that and got back to a secondhand Nikon CoolPix P80… then sometime February this year, i was able to get myself a Nikon D7000… FIRST: one doesn’t always need a dslr for every shot (unless of course you’re a professional)… practice with what you have, then you’d outgrow your current device – because you would then know all its functions and features, not because there’s a new model… SECOND: try the internet, search for keywords like “composition”, “rule of thirds”, “white balance”, and well “f-numbers”… THIRD: for inspiration, look at other photographer’s shots in magazines, galleries, and on the internet… wishing you good luck!

      Reply
  8. Donna

    I am an amateur photographer, and I don’t have a DSLR camera as of yet. I have been using a HP M525 Photosmart camera. I have been trying out the different settings on it. Most of my photos are just lucky shots, just happen to be in the right place at the right time. I do own a Vivitar SLR camera, haven’t used it too much, still don’t comprehend the f settings and apertures. Love your photos and website!

    Reply
    1. Wahid Roshan Surya

      hello, donna… before digital while in university, i had my dad’s cheap-i-can’t-even-remember-the-name film camera… my first “serious” start with digital photography was with my Nokia 7710 mediaphone – sometime in 2006(?)… then a Nikon CoolPix S10 sometime in the early part of 2007, then a brief switch to a Sony CyberShot H9… resold that and got back to a secondhand Nikon CoolPix P80… then sometime February this year, i was able to get myself a Nikon D7000… FIRST: one doesn’t always need a dslr for every shot (unless of course you’re a professional)… practice with what you have, then you’d outgrow your current device – because you would then know all its functions and features, not because there’s a new model… SECOND: try the internet, search for keywords like “composition”, “rule of thirds”, “white balance”, and well “f-numbers”… THIRD: for inspiration, look at other photographer’s shots in magazines, galleries, and on the internet… wishing you good luck!

      Reply
  9. Julie

    I sooooo agree with you on the 50mm f/ 1.8 by far my fav, it never leaves my camera….I feel that my next lens will most definately be the 50mm f/1.2 (saving my pennies!!!

    Reply
    1. Luke

      Many professional photographers use the 50mm f/1.4 instead of the f/1.2 because it only offers a slight increase in image quality, and indeed not any increase in quality at some apertures and so don’t feel this justifies the ridiculous jump in price. The best application is if you NEED the f/1.2. Just my opinion from what I’ve gathered.

      Reply
  10. SHARON

    First, thank you for setting up a blog for Q&A’s. That’s very thoughtful of you. I have been an outdoor photographer for the most part and recently decided to try indoor pet photography to help our local Humane’s Society increase their adoption rate with better photographs. I purchased a light box, reflector and have a speed lite for my Cannon 7D. With my flash used as a slave, inside the lightbox, it only flashes when my camera’s flash is up, reading an infrared beam. But my pop-up flash, even with a tissue over it, makes the pet’s eyes green. I was hoping that the tissue would prevent this. Do you have any tips for me? And have you photographed pets in a studio, and if so, what set-up did you use and what lens? Thanks.

    Reply
  11. Ellen

    Hi Josh,
    Happy New Year! I was in ugly Hedgehog forum and came upon your post. I have several editing programs that I use on my desktop but I really need to get a new computer resolution doesn’t look good. So I use my iPad to edit simple fixes, the program I use is photogene. Is this one of those programs that degrades the images?
    Second question I just purchased the nikon d7000 when shooting group shots 2,3 or 4 people at say a party do you still use AF- S mode the camera has 39 pts, should I have it on single 9, 21 etc.. It gets a little confusing. Thanks for the help! As always. Ellen

    Reply
      1. Wahid Roshan Surya

        agreed… as far as i can recall, most Asian countries, too, don’t/can’t use Aperture because most of the desktopss and laptops in the market here are pc/ibm-based… i’ve tried Lightroom 1 up till the current Lightroom 4 – i’ve seen many of the changes in them, but all of them are fantastic (although i also wish i could try Aperture)…

        Reply
  12. Dave

    The Professional canon 50mm f1.2 when compared with. the 1.4 or 1.8 is build quality folkes. The lens costs that much because it is dust and weather resistant!!all canon L lenses are however, the glass in the 1.4 is no different to the 1.2! the slight gain in speed is neither here nor there too!!
    Remember all full frame cameras are expensive due to there build quality!! and they do not have idiot modes, (only AV< TV< M<P modes) so its good to think that in the hands of a beginer these cameras will not produce better pics unless you know what your doing!

    good article again Josh

    Reply
  13. Erwan

    Awesome write up. Lol soo many of my first mistakes too! Especially leaving the Iso up when I should have changed it!
    Another big mistake I think is always keeping my aperture at the widest, because i wanted shallow depth or field everywhere. Only now I realized the power of f4, f8, f11 and even f22!!

    Reply
    1. Wahid Roshan Surya

      hello, erwan… i’m on a similar page here – mostly using the widest aperture i have… but only because i consciously choose to do so with my “style” of photography… have fun experimenting with the various apertures, of course… cheers!

      Reply
  14. Dan

    It’s always better having a high ISO-noisy shot (Bad quality) wich grants you a faster shutter speed, than a low ISO (High quality) slow shutter speed, blurred shot.
    Lower quality good picture vs Good quality bad picture.

    Reply
  15. Nadia

    Do you know me or something??? hehe… Thanks for all the tips, I
    just bought a camera {canon t2i}, and all I see is a bunch of symbols,
    and most of the time no idea what they mean!!! But your way of
    explaining stuff it’s really easy to understand, and gives me hope.
    I’ve had like three photo sessions… Even though I knew I wasn’t
    prepared, my friends insisted. I KNOW the pics weren’t good at all, and
    In the future I’m gonna deny I took them! Lol! Thank you, and I will
    {really try to} read everything you post!!!

    Reply
    1. Wahid Roshan Surya

      hello jason… i’m from the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom side (not officially connected to Adobe and its subsidiaries, don’t worry), and i think i understand why “free” software is sometimes not the best thing – they do alter the pixel information in every image you tweak – with every single tweak you make… in comparison, Lightroom (and i suppose Aperture, as well) is non-destructive in that it never touches the original pixels or other data in your image (unless you purposely alter them within the software, of course); what you see onscreen as you edit is simply a “smart preview” – until you “export” them as jpeg images… two immediate benefits: you wouldn’t clutter up your hard drive as quickly with lots of extra copies (as what happens with most image editors), and your original image will always be there just in case you want to re-edit… which brings us to another point: backing up… most of my original images are in an external hard drive and my edited (exported, in Lightroom lingo) one can stay in my non-system drive on my laptop… then i periodically burn copies of my originals (even some of the not so good ones) onto 4 or 8 gb dvd discs, so even when the hard drive crashes i still have the original copies in my dvds to start with…

      Reply
      1. Wahid Roshan Surya

        by the way, it’s only sometimes – critical events or mixed/poor lighting conditions – that i shoot RAW (and i think that’s what Lightroom and Aperture are mainly about), but Lightroom is virtually jpeg-friendly…

        Reply
  16. Colin Carmichael

    These aren’t (or shouldn’t be) EMBARRASSING mistakes… they’re part of learning. If some had just said always to this, that, and the other thing – you wouldn’t understand WHY you should be doing those things.

    Reply
    1. Wahid Roshan Surya

      hello colin… perhaps one limitation of language is the semantics or contextual component… for josh (author), he may be simply looking back at those “mistakes” and considers them embarrassing, now that he knows much better… don’t we all have this tendency? hehe… but i also agree that we do need to make “mistakes” in the process of learning something – we don’t always have the luxury of a mentor with everything we do; constantly having one following us around would be, in the least, a dismal existence… cheers!

      Reply
  17. BeatSuite

    A good list of fundamental pointers I’m learning to understand as I go. Still don’t like flash yet! But I appreciate how it can be used well if you use it right and have the right set up.
    Mark at http://www.beatsuite.com

    Reply

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