These are common mistakes for photographers, and I’m a big believer in learning from other people’s mistakes, rather than your own. That’s what this post is all about.
You may remember last year I wrote an article called 10 Embarrassing Mistakes I Made As An Beginner Photographer. It was all about the silly mistakes I used to make, when I knew no better.
This post is an advancement to that, showing you that there’s still plenty to be learned.
I Only Used On-Camera Flash
This might seem like a bit of a weird one to start on, but it’s similar to a mistake I made as a beginner photographer. It used to be that I would never use a flash, but when I finally started using an external flash, another problem arose.
Flash that comes from the same angle as the lens has a very flattening effect on a photo. It would make my photos dull and two dimensional. When I started to take my flash off-camera, I was able to make my photos much more interesting.
Find out how to use your flash off-camera.
My Focusing Sucked
This may be airing on the side of beginner problems, but it wasn’t included in the last post, so it deserves a mention.
When you buy your first wide aperture lens, such as the 50mm f/1.8, you end up with a lot of photo where there’s a very shallow depth of field. This leads to focus problems.
Here’s a few examples for you.
- If you’re taking a photo of a person, always focus on their eyes. We’re drawn to a person’s eyes, so that’s where the focus needs to be.
- If you’re taking a photo of a group of people, focus on the person closest to you. This is where you’ll look first, so it’s important that it’s in good focus. The focus will still extend back naturally. If you’re focused on the person at the back of the photo, then you’re going to have a hard time keeping everyone in focus.
- When you’re shooting landscapes, focus about a third of the way into the scene. I often just use my center focus point if I’m facing down to the scene. If you focus here, with a narrow enough aperture, this is where you’ll find the greatest depth of field. Even if there’s no apparent foreground subject.
I ‘Invested’ in Cheap Photography Products
Ergh, this one still annoys me.
I was so tempted to buy a good selection of tripods, lighting modifiers, accessories, etc. that I would end up buying the cheapest available. And even though it seems good value, when the gear eventually arrived, it was never really up to scratch. In fact, it tended to break pretty quickly.
I would end up buying the same thing twice. First, the cheap version, and then second, the expensive (and good quality) version which I had put off the first time.
To stop you from making the same mistake as me, I’ve put together a selection of recommended photography gear for you to browse. This probably sounds like a sales pitch, but just trust me on this one.
I Held My Camera Poorly
You never really realise how useful holding your camera correctly can be. Especially when you need to keep still in low light.
Just by learning how to hold my camera correctly, I stopped my fingers from getting in the way of the lens, and I would feel much more secure in holding my camera. This would allow for slower shutter speeds, which can come in really useful.
My Camera’s Sensor was Dirty
You may not even realise how dirty your camera sensor is, so before you go any further, I want you to test it.
Pick up your camera, and point it at a clean, plain part of the wall. Then turn your ISO up (to allow for more exposure), and narrow your aperture. Take a photo, and because you have a narrow aperture, you will be able to spot any dust lurking around.
I recently had mine cleaned professionally, and it only cost £15 so it’s not bad. Ask other photographers to help you, don’t take it to a shop as it will take a lot longer, and cost more.
In the meantime, buy this blower to help remove sensor dust.
My Workflow Was Useless
Here’s how I used to import my photos…
If I went to take photos on Brighton beach, the folder would be called ‘Brighton Beach’ and the file name would be ‘Brighton Beach’, followed by a number.
The folder name always has a month/year after it now. If I take a photo on the beach now, the folder is called ‘Brighton Beach 10/12’. But much more importantly than that though, is the file name. Lets have a look at what I do.
I also apply my own copyright information onto it too, during the import.
This way, whenever I need to search for a photo, I can find what I’m looking for, and if someone sends me a photo back, I know where it’s come from. It’s good practice for your file management.
I Waited For the Weather
This is such nonsense. It’s just an excuse to not get up and take photos.
Waiting for the weather is when you want your scene to have very specific conditions before you take a photo. And then when it comes, and you’re busy, you just think, oh well, this weather will be back in a few weeks. What nonsense.
In reality, you can’t rely on weather, and you would do much better if you learned to adapt to the weather you have. I went to take a photo of the sunset on the beach the other day, but it was cloudy, so I adapted.
In the photo below, it would have been great to have the sun glowing through the sky, but it wasn’t, so I worked with what I had, and it looks great in black and white. Stop waiting for the weather.
Only Ever Shot From Eye-Level
I’m 6 foot 3, and I tower over a lot of people when I take photos. This can have a pretty negative effect on my photos, if they’re always looking down, from the same perspective.
When you can start to consider different angles that you can take photos from, you’re going to produce far superior results, because there will be a mix of perspectives.
I personally love shooting from the hip now.
I Only Shot in Manual
But Josh, professional photographers only ever shoot in manual?
Rubbish. Completely not true. Some may, but the majority don’t.
It’s great (and essential) to learn manual mode, but the truth of the matter is that I probably only use it about a third of the time. The rest of the time I’m on aperture priority mode, or shutter speed priority mode.
- Manual is great when you want to take full control over your photos, and has loads of uses.
- Aperture priority mode is used when you know that the most important factor is the aperture (perhaps because you want a certain DoF or sharpness), and the shutter speed isn’t so important.
- Shutter speed priority is for when you know your shutter has to be a certain speed, such as when you’re shooting in low light, or a fast moving object.
A lot of the time when you’re shooting in manual mode, you’re doing something that a priority mode would have easily done for you. Read more about it here and here.
I Would Reach a Creative Road Block
When you take photos often, it’s not uncommon to reach a creativity road block, where you’re mind stops coming up with new ideas, and you find the idea of taking photos quite boring.
You may even start to hate your own photos.
This is no good, it’s poison and it can start to spread.
Whenever I get stuck, you know what I do? I look at my photos. I share my photos. And I enjoy my photos. That usually stops me from hating them again, because you start to see why you like them.
When I want to find inspiration, I go for a walk. Only I leave my camera at home. I’m pretty well trained by now to look for photographic potential in everything, and for some reason, that feeling is even stronger when I don’t have my camera. It’s like an itch where your missing finger should be – you notice it more.
Don’t run your inspiration into the ground, you want to make photography fun for yourself, not to suck the life out of it. If you’re looking for inspiration in particular, I find it’s great to browse Pinterest too.
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A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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