Over the years I have met lots of photographers of various levels. From my travels to leading photo tours, I have met complete beginners to those with a little more experience. Often they are all making one or more of these mistakes. They don’t even realise they are making a mistake because it has never been pointed out to them. But the great thing is that the most common photography mistakes that I have come across can easily be rectified. So here are the 8 most common photography mistakes that I have witnessed. Are you making any of these mistakes?
1. Wrong light
Light is a crucial component of any photo. Whether you are photographing in a studio or outdoors, without the right light the photo will look dull and uninteresting. This is the reason that landscape and travel photographers photograph early morning and late afternoon. The soft golden light can bring even the more mundane scenes to life. So if you want to improve your photography, first start by learning how to utilise the best light for your chosen field of photography. For example, most professional outdoor photographers will rest around lunchtime when the light is too harsh rather than exerting time and energy trying to capture a photo.
2. ISO too high
This is a really common mistake that photographers make and is usually because they don’t understand the impact it has on their photos. ISO is part of the exposure triangle and along with shutter speed and aperture allow you to control photo taking process. They are linked and so changing one has an effect on others.
So, whilst bumping your ISO up to 24000 might give a fast shutter speed, it comes with the compromise of picture quality. This is because the higher your ISO is the more noise will be introduced into your photos. This will make your image feel soft and blurred. You should always aim to keep your ISO as low as possible. Unless you are photographing at extremely low light conditions you should need to raise your ISO too high.
If you have set your camera to auto ISO, it is worth making sure you have set a maximum so that your camera doesn’t automatically raise it too high.
3. Shutter speed too slow
The other common mistake involving the components of the exposure triangle is shutter speed. Basically, the faster your shutter speed is the quicker it opens and closes thus freezing the action. For example, if you are photographing something that is moving fast like a race car you will need a fast shutter speed to freeze the action.
Unfortunately, humans are only able to hold a camera steady enough to avoid camera shake for a split second. For most people, this would be anything from 1/60 sec to 1/100 sec. But this will differ for everyone based on how steady you are. Anything slower than 1/60 and unless you have superhuman powers of steadiness you won’t be able to avoid camera shake. So to avoid blurred photos, always be aware of your shutter speed.
4. Too far away
The most common feedback that I give people on my photo tours or workshops is that they are too far away. Trying to capture a portrait of someone hiding from across the road not only looks creepy but also won’t feel personal and candid. That’s not to say you shouldn’t take photos from that far back. But it should be done because you feel that’s the best composition. Not because you are shy and don’t want to get caught. So, don’t be afraid to get close. Most people will not have an issue and the worst thing that could happen is that they ask you not to take their photo.
5. In a rush
One of the biggest attributes you can have as a photographer is being patient. Of course, sometimes when you have a fleeting moment you have to work fast. But in the vast majority of cases, you can actually take a few more seconds to think about the composition or the settings you are going to use. So, when you have a scene in front of you that you would like to photograph, if possible, just take a deep breath and count to ten. Use that time to examine the scene and pre-visualise your end shot. Then once you know what you want to achieve go ahead and take the photo.
6. Missed the background
Usually, this mistake is linked to the one above and is caused by rushing. This is when you look at a photo you have taken only to realise that there is a lamp post sticking out of someone’s head. Sometimes you can fix this in post-production by retouching it out, but occasionally you can’t, and it feels like a wasted image. But if you take your time and really examine the scene you might just see it before you take the photo. This will allow you to re-compose your shot to avoid it if you can.
So, whether you look at the photo you have taken on the back of the camera or through the viewfinder, always have a look beyond your main point of interest. Look around the edges of your photo and if you spot anything, think about your composition again.
7. Not using a tripod
There are times when you should photograph handheld and there are other times when you should use a tripod. In situations where you will be using a slow shutter speed unless you use a tripod your photo will be blurred. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen people trying to take photos handheld at speeds such as 1/25 sec. Nobody will be able to hold a camera steady enough to avoid blurred photos at these slow speeds.
The best way to know is to test it out at home. Take a photo of the same scene at shutter speeds starting at 1/100 sec and slower. The have a look at the results on the computer by zooming into each photo. When your photos stop being sharp is the slowest you can handhold a camera.
There’s no shame in making mistakes as a photographer. But if you can cut out these common mistakes you will notice an improvement in your photos.