Avoid these common photography mistakes and start seeing some massive improvements as a photographer
I’m going to say something that I hope makes you very happy – you are going to get better as a photographer, that I can assure you.
I look back on when I first started taking my photography a lot more seriously and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I was very much a “shoot first, think second” kinda guy, but over the years I’ve evolved my style of shooting. I’ve refined it, made it more simplistic, and it is only now, years later, that I am constantly taking photos I am proud of. It’s taken time to get there though.
The beautiful thing is no one is the finished product, and even professional photographers are constantly looking for ways to improve; I know I certainly am! For me, I’ve no doubt my photos will look very different to the ones I take today, and that is something that still really excites me.
When it comes to improving your photography, a lot of it comes naturally over time. For example, learning about the rule of thirds is something that people work out for themselves. Saying that, you usually have to go through a fair number of mistakes before you start seeing huge gains in your photography.
To help you on your way, here are some common mistakes you’ll make as a new photographer and how to overcome them:
- Centering everything in the middle of the frame
When you first start taking photos, usually everything will be in the centre of the frame. Your horizon will cut the photo in half, or the person you’re taking a photo of will be centered taking up the entire image. When taking a photo, you want to tell the story, you want to tell people where to look. By learning the rule of thirds and moving your subject around the frame, you’ll actually be able to tell more in a single photo.
- Taking only one photo of a subject
A lot of newbie photographers will fire off one image, take a quick look at it on the back of the camera, think they’ve nailed it and then move on. The thing is it can be really hard to tell if you’ve taken a good photo on a tiny camera screen, so make sure you’ve got a few different options (ideally with slightly different compositions) to choose from otherwise you’ll regret it.
- Deleting photos because they’re not “good enough”
This one really bugs me and I used to be so guilty of it when I first started out, but stop deleting photos! I would give anything to go back in time and recover those photos which I deemed “not good enough”. Yes, they may be slightly out of focus, but do you know what, they still tell a story and each one is your memory. I say keep them for prosperity. Your future self will thank you for it!
- Only shooting in JPEG to save space
Carrying on with deleting photos, I know you’re only shooting in JPEG as opposed to RAW to save space. I know, I understand, but I can promise you your photography will really improve if you make the switch and only shoot in RAW. You really can do so much more with a RAW image in post-production, and external hard drives and extra storage space is so cheap these days saving on space shouldn’t really be an excuse.
- Never cleaning your camera or equipment
Like any piece of machinery, your camera needs some serious TLC, especially if you use it a lot. On average I clean my camera about once a month. Usually I wipe down the outside of the camera to remove any salt or dust, and I’ll clean my sensor too to prevent any spots appearing. If you really want to improve your photography and take better photos, take care of your kit and learn how to manually clean your sensor.
- Thinking that buying the best kit will turn you into a better photographer
I was once on a trip with someone who had a Canon 5D mkiii and used it like any other point and shoot. He didn’t know what aperture or shutter priority were so kept it in auto the whole time. After a while he came up to me and said “I’ve just bought a £3,000 camera, why aren’t I taking better photos?” The problem wasn’t with the camera, it was with him. Just because you’ve got the best kit, it doesn’t automatically turn you into a fantastic photographer. It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting on your smartphone or on the world’s most expensive camera, you’ve got to learn how to use it. Read the manual, watch YouTube videos, learn how to use your kit.
- Focus is set to auto, not to spot focusing
When it comes to photography, you should be in as much control of the camera as possible. That means manually setting the aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, everything. Another thing you should be in control of is your focus point – for portrait photos of people, make sure your focus point is on the eyes. If you’re taking a photo of a tree in a landscape, focus on that. Try and be in control of everything and don’t let the camera decide where to focus.
- Not understanding why you’re getting blurred photos
There is a rule in photography where your shutter speed shouldn’t be below your focal length. What this means is if you’re shooting on a full frame camera with a 50mm lens, your shutter speed shouldn’t be lower than 1/50sec otherwise your photos will become blurred (FYI, this will be 1/85sec on an APS-C (crop) sensor camera). Understanding why you’re getting blurred photos in the first place will prevent you from getting them. Alternatively, buy and learn how to use a tripod. I know my photography improved drastically when I bought my first Manfrotto 190 CF tripod. It’s one way to guarantee taking crisp photos almost every time.
- Not paying attention to what’s in the background of a frame
Don’t be surprised if you look back through photos and come across the occasional bin that has somehow magically appeared or tree growing out of someone’s head. When taking photos, it is very easy to focus on the subject and the foreground that you completely overlook the background. Next time, make sure nothing in the background is going to take away from the focus of your subject.
- Oversaturating your photos in post-production
When you first start editing your photos in post-production it is very easy to turn vibrance and saturation bar all the way up to 100. The thing is, with photography, you’re trying to capture a natural scenario. With oversaturating a photo, you’re going against this. Yes, it’s important to make colours in an image “pop”, but there’s a right way of doing it.
Remember, photography is a journey. It’s very unlikely you’re going to take award-winning photos tomorrow. But with practice, patience and a willingness to learn it won’t be long before you’re constantly taking amazing photos. Just make sure you avoid some of these common mistakes and you’ll do fine!
Do you have any other common mistakes you think should be added to this list? What are the mistakes you’ve learned over the years? Take a look through your photos and let me know in the comments below!