Common Mistakes to Avoid as a Beginner Photographer
hen you just start out in photography, it can be an overwhelming experience. After all, there’s TONS to learn about photography, from the gear you need to how to use that gear to understanding things like composition and exposure.
With so much to learn, it’s easy to make simple mistakes that negatively impact the quality of the photos you create. But you’ve taken the first step to correcting those mistakes by checking out this article!
Now let’s examine a few critical errors you might be making and how you can fix them.
Mistake #1: Not Adjusting Your Exposure Settings
One of the most common errors that new photographers make is not accounting for the difference in lighting from one shot to the next.
Part of this is surely a reliance on shooting in full auto mode, which does an okay job in many situations but doesn’t allow you to have the most control over what your camera does.
If learning how to control exposure sounds scary, it really isn’t! In fact, there are semi-automatic camera modes that can help you ease into it. Aperture priority mode allows you to decide the aperture and the camera will come up with a shutter speed to get a well-exposed image.
That means that rather than relying solely on the camera to set the exposure settings, you have some say in it without taking full control as is the case when you shoot in manual mode. Aperture priority mode is a good choice for situations in which you want to control depth of field, like in a portrait.
Shutter priority mode is great for situations in which you want to control how motion appears in your photos.
For example, if you’re taking a photo of a dog running and you want to freeze its movement, you can select a fast shutter speed and the camera with select an aperture that results in a good exposure.
Conversely, if you want to blur the movement of water, you can select a slow shutter speed and the camera will again select an appropriate aperture for a good exposure.
In other words, you change one setting, the camera adjusts another to compensate, and all else being equal, you get better exposed images from one shot to the next!
The next step to utilizing these camera modes to get better photos is to learn how to use them.
To help you do that, have a look at the video above by KelbyOne.
In it, you’ll learn more about these semi-automatic modes and how to use them to your advantage.
Mistake #2: Shooting Too Quickly
I’m one of those people that prefers to do everything quickly, so this tip is a hard one for me to pull off, even after years and years behind the lens.
But by shooting too fast, you aren’t doing yourself any favors.
That’s because if you move too quickly, you don’t have as much time to concentrate on the composition and framing of the shot.
As a result, you can end up with portraits that are out of focus, landscape shots that have a crooked horizon, or images in which the subject is obscured, like the boy in the image above.
Additionally, without a moment to pause to double-check your camera settings, you’ll often find that you take images that are totally worthless from an exposure standpoint.
I’m not talking about spending five minutes on each shot, either. In fact, just a few seconds can help you take much better photos.
To avoid this mistake, force yourself to take 5-10 extra seconds before each shot to check the following:
- Scan the scene for anything distracting – weird shadows, an ugly background, or a portrait subject that’s posed in an odd way – and take measures to correct the issue. Note how the image above is a much better photo of the family because the posing was changed so that each person’s face is visible.
- Look at the lighting in the scene and make adjustments to the exposure settings as needed.
- Adjust other camera settings as needed too, including the focus point, the white balance setting, and the metering mode.
- Perfect the composition and framing, paying attention to things like the rule of thirds to compose a more interesting photo.
Mistake #3: Not Shooting in RAW
Perhaps the biggest mistake you can make as a beginner photographer is to shoot all your images in JPG format. Though JPG is great for quickly sharing images, they aren’t great for editing images.
That’s because JPGs are compressed, so your camera decides what information from the sensor to keep and what information to discard.
As a result, JPGs don’t give you as much to work with in post-processing. Additionally, to edit a JPG means you have to change the original file (unless you save a copy), making them what’s called destructive edits.
In other words, if you edit a JPG without first making a copy of the original, you’ll never get that original image back. RAW files, on the other hand, retain all the data from the camera’s sensor, giving you much more information and detail to work with in post-processing.
That gives you the ability to recover lost details from highlighted or shadowed areas, make adjustments for things like lens distortion, and adjust white balance, just to name a few.
And because the edits you make to RAW files are saved in a separate file, they are non-destructive. In other words, you can edit the same RAW file over and over again and not have to worry about losing the original data.
The drawback to RAW files is that they have to be processed before they can be shared. They are also very large files that will quickly eat up space on your memory card.
Nevertheless, RAW is much better than JPG, and shooting in RAW is something you’ll need to do at some point anyway. Why not start now?
Get more details on the JPG vs. RAW debate in the video above by Tony and Chelsea Northrup.
Wrapping It Up
Are there other mistakes you can make as a beginner? Absolutely.
Are there plenty of other tips and tricks you can use to improve your photography? Definitely!
But these three tips will certainly get you on the right path to avoiding common beginner photography mistakes.
Test out each one, incorporate them into your workflow, and I’m sure you’ll find better photos as a result!