10 Common Photography Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

March 5, 2024
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Photography might seem straightforward at first glance, but delve a little deeper, and you’ll uncover layers of complexity you never knew existed.

Falling for photography is like being charmed by the thought that you can freeze a moment with a simple click. It feels almost magical to capture something that catches your eye, preserving it forever. And indeed, it’s miraculous.

The real challenge begins when you aim to do more than just snapshot moments as they pass. You transition from merely taking photos to crafting them, and the results might not match your vision.

If this resonates with you, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there at some point.

Let’s explore how to sidestep the common blunders many photographers face and share some advice on elevating your photography skills.

10 Common Photography Mistakes to Avoid

Every photographer, regardless of their experience, slips up now and then. However, if you’re new to the game, it’s common to find yourself repeating the same beginner mistakes. These errors are surprisingly simple to dodge if only you know what to watch out for and how to correct them.

Fortunately, those who have dedicated years to mastering digital photography have identified a few frequent slip-ups that novices tend to make. With a little bit of knowledge upfront, you can easily steer clear of these pitfalls. 

Let’s dive in.

1. The Temptation to Center Everything

When starting in photography, it’s common to center everything in your shots, from people and trees to buildings and the horizon.

Although centering your main subject can sometimes work, it often doesn’t. The catch is that placing your subject in the center tends to split your photo in two, leaving viewers wanting to know where to look. Plus, photos with everything centered can end up looking static and dull.

So, what’s the alternative? Enter the rule of thirds. This guideline suggests placing your main subject off-center, about a third of the way into the frame, making your photos feel well-balanced yet more dynamic and exciting.

While the rule of thirds isn’t a magic solution for every photo, it’s incredibly effective for most. Skeptical? Give it a shot and see the difference for yourself!

2. Not Watching Out for Unwanted Guests

Getting captivated by your main subject is easy, whether it’s a striking silhouette, a stunning structure, or a vivid bloom. However, even with a show-stopping main attraction, watching everything else in your shot is crucial.

Without realizing it, beginners can often crowd their photos with extras—unwanted bushes, lampposts, or random people walking by—that pull attention away from the show’s star. It’s key not to get so lost in your main subject that you forget to scan the rest of the scene. 

So, before you hit that shutter button, take a moment to survey your frame. Spot any distractions? Shift your position or adjust your framing to eliminate them. This little check can make a big difference in focusing on what truly matters in your photo.

3. Avoiding Unintentional Cropping

It’s surprisingly easy to accidentally crop out important parts of your subject, like chopping off a person’s feet, without even noticing the mistake. These slip-ups might not jump out at you right away, but once someone points them out, you can’t help but notice them every time!

This kind of mishap is common among beginners. It’s not just feet; it could be a hand, the top of someone’s head, or even parts of buildings or trees in landscapes and architecture shots. Maybe you’re capturing a beautiful church but accidentally cut off the spire tips, or you leave out the top of a majestic tree.

Overcoming this common photography mistake involves being mindful of your framing. Ensure your subject fits well within the shot. If your subject doesn’t fit entirely, decide which parts to include and which to exclude. Intentionally cropping a part of your subject can enhance your image’s composition, but it requires thoughtful execution to appear deliberate.

4. The Myth of the Magic Camera

It’s a tale as old as time in photography: “I splurged on this high-end camera, but my photos still aren’t turning out how I want.” Many beginners fall into the trap of thinking a fancy camera is a shortcut to stunning images. But here’s the truth: it’s more complex.

A top-notch camera doesn’t compensate for a lack of technique, an eye for composition, or an understanding of how to work with light. The real magic happens in the hands of the photographer, not within the camera itself. Your vision, creativity, and skill transform ordinary moments into extraordinary photographs.

Refrain from relying too heavily on your equipment or feeling discouraged if your current setup isn’t delivering the results you envision. Excellence in photography demands effort, practice, and patience. Starting with this guide is a step in the right direction toward capturing the amazing shots you envision.

5. Sticking to the Same Old Perspectives

Each subject, from people to landmarks, tends to be captured from familiar angles. For instance, most photos of the Grand Canyon come from a few well-trodden spots, and buildings often get snapped from the front.

Sticking solely to classic shots can limit creativity and prevent you from capturing unique images. To avoid this, actively seek different perspectives of your subject by moving around it, adjusting your height, or zooming in on easily overlooked details. This approach not only challenges you but also significantly enhances the originality and depth of your photography.

This approach not only diversifies your portfolio but also sharpens your creative eye. You might only keep some photos you take, but you’ll discover unique images that reflect your vision.

6. The Comfort Zone of Auto Mode

Auto mode is like the training wheels of photography; it manages focus, exposure, and more, making it a breeze for beginners to snap decent pictures for family albums or social media.

However, mastering manual settings becomes crucial as you dive deeper into photography. Switching to Aperture Priority mode, for instance, allows you to choose your ISO and aperture while the camera picks the shutter speed. This semi-manual setting is an excellent stepping stone for beginners eager to enhance their skills.

Taking control of your camera settings is key because, despite its sophistication, your camera can’t guess the exact look you’re aiming for in your shots. By adjusting settings, you can capture images that match your vision!

7. Not Resetting Your Camera Settings

It’s a mistake that catches many photographers off guard, not just those new to the game. Even seasoned pros get tripped up by this one now and then.

Imagine you’re out and about, camera in hand, adjusting settings on the fly to match the changing scenes and lighting. All’s well until your next photo session when it hits you: you never reset your settings from last time. Maybe your ISO was sky-high, or your aperture was wider than you’d typically use, leading to a batch of photos that don’t look right.

Here’s a tip: Always return your settings to a standard “default” after each shoot. Have you raised the ISO? Dial it back down. Have you opened up the aperture? Reset it to something like f/8. And if you slowed down the shutter for those dreamy long exposures, bring it back to a standard speed, say 1/250s.

Before starting a new shoot, take your settings—mode, aperture, ISO, shutter speed, and focus mode—to ensure you’re starting fresh. This simple habit can save your photos from an unintended fate.

8. Sticking Solely to Landscape Orientation

A common trend among newcomers to photography is a strong preference for keeping the camera in landscape mode. They don’t think about flipping the camera for a vertical shot.

This isn’t a critical mistake – horizontal shots can be fantastic. But sticking to one orientation can limit your creative expression. Embracing variety, including portrait-oriented shots, adds richness to your portfolio. Moreover, certain subjects look better in a vertical format.

Experiment with portrait and landscape orientations next time you’re out with your camera. Which will work best? Try both and compare the results. This approach will diversify your portfolio and enhance your ability to capture the essence of your subjects.

9. The Hesitation to Seek Guidance

Achieving excellence in photography is challenging. The fear of seeming inexperienced or facing rejection might hold you back, but overcoming this hesitation and reaching out for assistance is crucial. Please don’t hesitate to contact photographers you admire and seek their advice. Dive into online forums or groups where fellow photography enthusiasts gather to share insights. Attend photography meetups or workshops in your area, and don’t hesitate to ask for tips.

Photographers, by and large, are a supportive bunch, often willing to guide those eager to learn. While you should avoid overwhelming anyone with a barrage of questions, posing a few thoughtful inquiries is generally welcomed. Remember, seeking help is a step toward growth, not a sign of weakness.

10. Avoiding the Panic Spiral

It might seem extreme, but encountering issues while shooting – like dealing with over- or underexposed images, struggling with focus, or facing a blank LCD screen – doesn’t mean it’s time to panic. More often than not, there’s a straightforward reason behind these problems, and with some calm troubleshooting, you’ll find a solution sooner than you think.

A friend shared a story about a time she was photographing inside a cathedral, and all her shots came out pitch black. She initially panicked, clueless about the cause. However, once she calmed down, she realized the culprit was simply a too-low ISO setting.

So, if you find yourself in a bind, remember to breathe. Methodically review your camera settings: the mode, exposure, focus, etc. A moment of patience can lead you to identify and fix the issue, ensuring your photography session gets back on track.

Identify the Problem, Then Take Steps to Correct It!

If you’re feeling the heat from the challenges of learning photography, welcome to the club, which includes every renowned photographer who has ever clicked a shutter. Photography is unique; it seems simple at first but reveals its complexity the deeper you dive and the more you strive for perfection. Every mistake you make is a step toward mastering this art, a rite of passage that deepens your connection to photography and paves your way to becoming a master of the craft.

Whether you’re a newbie getting to know your camera or an experienced photographer, chances are you’ve encountered some of the common pitfalls I’ve mentioned.

The key is pinpointing where you’re going wrong and then take the necessary steps to fix it. By addressing these issues, not only will the quality of your photos improve, but you’ll also gain the satisfaction of knowing you’re on the path to taking genuinely great shots.


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