Leading on from the post last week about critiquing I thought this week we could have a look at common mistakes that people make when they first start taking photos. Of course not everyone does these things, but some people do.
I just thought of something new to do with a post like this, I think it will work, let’s give it a try. I know a few things that many people do when they start, but it has been over 20 years since I started, so what if I start the post and you guys finish it. What I mean is, I will list a few things, and you will see what I do, and if you can think of additions to the list, then tell me in a comment, after I publish the post, I will leave the post in edit format on my computer and as you think of things to add I will add them and continually update the post. I am home today so I should be able to do it when they come in.
Common Mistakes People Make When They Start Photography
The horizon is always smack bang in the middle of the image.
It is something we all do, it is funny because it is the natural thing to do, but then in photography it is consider a big no no. I think sometimes it should be in the middle, and I put it there, but I do think that it isn’t always good in the middle.
Don’t Put objects you are photographing in the middle.
I see this a lot, people taking a photo of something, like a tree, and it is right in the middle of the image, I think it does work best having on the third lines, though like everything there are always exceptions.
Cut off peoples feet when you are taking their photo.
I do see this a lot, the perfectly composed shot, but the feet of the person has been cut off, or a hand, and it usually means that the photographer hasn’t taken in the whole scene, which is common. I tell my students it is best to cut off around 2/3 of a limb, then it looks deliberate, and not because you didn’t look properly.
Give the whole scene enough space.
This one is a bit like the feet one above, where the photographer gives the scene at the top lots of space, but doesn’t leave any at the bottom. I have a friend who does this all the time, and I have told her to make sure so looks at the bottom of the image as well and not just the top.
Laura has pointed out, “the biggest mistake I used to make when I first started was framing my subject to tightly. I’ve learned to back up just a bit to make sure I get all I want in the frame plus a little bit of breathing room to allow for proper cropping in LR or PS.”
Things are sticking in at the edge of a photo.
This is one of the most common things I see, something just jutting into the edge of the photo, and it can be distracting, like half a rubbish bin and when you ask what it was, the person will often say, I don’t know I didn’t notice it. One of the first things I was taught was to scan the whole frame, the edges and look for things I don’t want in the image. I know you can crop them out later, but that reduces the size of your image, and then it reduces what you can do with the image later on. It is always best to get the best image when you click the shutter button.
Looking at what is behind or in front of your subject.
mzklever just reminded me about another very common mistake which is taking a photo of someone and not looking at what is behind them or in front, so you get the photo on the computer and realise that a tree or pole is coming out of their head. Or something else looks like it is in the wrong spot.
Making objects in the image too small.
“I took a photo of a fountain, with my wide angle, can you see it in the image.” Taken from too far away so it looks small. There are no rules about having to stand so many feet from an object, you can walk up to something and take a photo. Zoom in, zoom out, work out what you think is the best one. If you don’t know, it is digital so take lots at different zooms. One will stick out.
Take more than one photo of something.
You go somewhere, there is something beautiful in front of you and you take one photo, then you get home and it isn’t as good as you thought it would be, and you wished you had move around a little more. I know it isn’t always possible, but you can take a photo standing up, or kneeling down, there are lots of ways of changing your position.
Consider different angles.
Melbourne being a town with lots of tourists, you see it all the time, oh Flinders Street Station, they walk up to it point the camera and take a photo. They don’t move to the right, or to the left. They don’t walk right up to it and photograph looking straight up at it. Trying taking photos from lots of different angles.
Also Papict, has added that you don’t have to take things at your eye level, like if you are photographing kids, get down to their level.
Using the Flash on Automatic.
Andre just said that when he started he would use “just flash people in the face, then wonder why their eyes are closed”. That is a common thing, people not understanding how their flash works. I usually recommend that people learn how to take the their flash off auto. You see people taking photos and the flash pops up, and it won’t do the image any good.
Buying a DSLR and never learning how to use it.
This happens a lot, people spend a lot of money on buying a DSLR and then use it on auto all the time, which in the end means it is a very expensive and large compact camera. It is best if you buy one that you do learn how to use it to it’s best ability, really see what you can do with it. If you don’t want to learn to do that, then consider getting a compact camera that would be perfect for what you do, and possibly give you better shots.
Chillbrook has something to add to this as well, “I think the biggest mistake beginners make is not learning the exposure trinity from day one – apeture, shutter, ISO. It’s the basis of all photography. DSLR’s with all their automatic settings are all very well but it really isn’t difficult to master the basics of manual exposure. All modern DSLRs have a light meter, learn to use it.”
I have to say, I am terrible at getting a straight horizon line, but I do always straighten it in post processing, so if you can’t take straight horizon lines, then it is something you need to learn how to do in editing. If you are going for that look of an uneven horizon line then it should look obvious, like that is what you intended.
Not waiting for your camera to expose correctly or focus.
Pamela has commented, “I’ve noticed that with so many light weight cameras (and phones) in this fast paced age, many people forget to take the few seconds needed to hold the camera still and often missing the opportunity to do many of the tricks you’ve noted.” I just wanted to add it often means getting images that are out of focus.
Maxine wanted to add that people tend not to hold the shutter release button half down to let the image get in focus, so they end up with out of focus images.
Not checking the settings on your camera before you take photos.
This is from Nelson, “A mistake that I was making when I started was not taking the time to look at the adjustments of my camera before taking my first shot ( shutter speed, ISO, f stop, white balance). If the conditions were the same as the last time I took photos there was no problem, but if the conditions changed ( sunnier, fast moving object etc) then there was a problem”. I want to add that I still do this, drives me crazy, I am getting better at it though.
“digital is cheap, I can delete my mistakes,” mentality
Jeff has added this, “Another rookie mistake is to take the “digital is cheap, I can delete my mistakes,” mentality too far. They shoot a million photos with no consideration of composition, lighting, etc, in hopes that some will turn out good. I see so many people who just show up, point their camera at something and blast off a few dozen shots.”
Stay focused on what you choose as your subject.
Jill has added this, “I think the biggest thing is focus. Stay focused on what you choose as your subject. Lots of times I’ve had a hard time getting my camera to focus on what I want, especially on close ups or when there’s something moving.”
Taking attention away from your main focus.
Here is a great point from Alex, “I see a lot of potential great compositions with a interesting subject, but then there is a bush in the foreground, or a lamppost somewhere, or a person somewhere, and the image loses its balance. Your eye is drawn away from where you want it to be. I guess this gets into composition and their are situations where it can work creatively, but I would say as a rule of thumb for starting out, if you have a subject or set of subjects you want your photo to focus on, make sure the rest of the image compliments them.. I think visual weight and balance is so interesting..”
What is your point of focus.
Adding on from Alex, a lot of people take photos with no idea what their point of focus actually is, so it is good to know you are trying to achieve with your image.
Learning the numbers, what they refer to.
Damo was explaining how when he started he thought the higher the number for ISO the better, and I am sure many of us have done the same thing. Of course it is the opposite, the lower the number the better quality.
Keeping early images.
Agarrabrant just pointed out that when you start don’t throw away all your images, especially as you start improving, as you will enjoy looking at them again in years to come, it helps you to see how much better you have gotten.
I have one suggestion: Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Sarina has offered this bit of advice, “When people start out with photography most people say: “Ah photography is not so difficult. I can figure everything out myself.” I think to some extent this is true but you should also try to find other, more experienced Photographers that can help you in the early days. And it is not always about giving you input but also about having company and someone that you can watch and learn from. And if you don’t know any experienced people it also is nice to just have a photo buddy that has the same level or even less knowledge. You will grow together and figuring something out together will make a great experience.”
Turning the Camera up on its Side.
Infraredrobert has just pointed out that many people when they start, just use landscape mode, and they never turn their cameras up on the side to get portrait mode.
Jeb has added, “I think the most important lesson is not to panic and try to relax (I was in utter fear of my camera when I got it, never used one before other than take the odd snap). I make bag loads of errors, I can’t say I am bothered it is how I learn to do things. Despite the myth of artistic genius these things are a craft and we learn them slowly through trial and error.”
Take a Course.
Norm has suggested that when you first start, take a course, “If you’re able to spend $500-$1,000 on a camera, a few hundred more spent at a reputable school will only pay dividends in the long run.”
Expensive Equipment doesn’t Necessarily Mean Great Images
Sally has pointed out “another common mistake is reliance on expensive equipment to “make” a good image. Today there are so many choices. More and more attention should be “paid” to the “seeing” and looking at works by well-known photographers. It’s also important to understand light. So many people do not understand the relation between lighting and the differences between artificial and natural lighting.”
Victor just send a link to this, Top 15 Photography Clichés Everyone Hates.
That is about all the ones I can think of, so let me know what to add to the list. I would also like to hear about camera mistakes too, my first camera was so basic, that you couldn’t make mistakes, or wrong settings, not really, but I would love to hear from people about ones that people do, if they do, what you have done or someone else you know. Also if there are any more composition things that people often do.
The images I have used for this post are ones that were taken with black and white film and I have scanned them. They are some of my earliest photos when I first got my Pentax K1000 back in the early 90’s.