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Photography is a wonderfully diverse artform with an enormous scope to express yourself and create unique compositions; however, despite this there are certain pitfalls that are unfortunately all too common, even among professionals!
By learning about the potential pitfalls, including some which you may be doing yourself, you can begin to avoid them and improve your overall output. Photography is about more than just taking pictures and you need to master a massive range of techniques, concepts and approaches to really grow as a creator.
To get the very best results, especially on a consistent basis, you need to learn what to avoid as well as learning what you need to do to get things right! Avoiding some of the major pitfalls in photography will set you up to shoot stunning photos, no matter what genre you’re working in.
Don’t Get Seduced By The Technology That Is In the Gear.
When you’re shopping for new kit it can be all too tempting to be swayed by the latest gadgets, high tech features and extras. However, at the end of the day, when it comes down to taking top quality photos you only need the basics to get the job done!
Photographers can often be seduced by the latest tech and as a result waste thousands of dollars that could have been better spent on a less technologically advanced camera, or equipment, that makes doing the basics more reliable with equally good better results. Always read the customer reviews carefully before spending extra cash on the latest high technology and when in doubt, keep it simple.
Learn the Fundamentals.
When you’re starting out as a photographer it is 100% essential to learn the fundamentals of photography – including, but by no means limited to, understanding aperture, shutter speeds and ISO, the essential aspects of composition and, of course, how to keep your camera gear clean and well maintained.
You might think that it’s easier to skip past the fundamentals and get round to learning them later but you should avoid this approach! Even professional and experienced photographers should frequently go back and refresh their understanding of the basics, not only because there will always be new techniques that are being put forward but also so that you keep your skills as sharp as possible.
Each week, try to schedule some time to study the fundamentals of photography and never allow yourself to stagnate and stop learning new things!
Don’t Overcomplicate the Process.
When you’re shooting photos try to keep your process as simple as you can. If there’s an easy way to do something and get high quality results then don’t overcomplicate the process and make your life more difficult with extra steps and procedures!
For instance, don’t worry about image stacking in the post production phase when you could have spent a little more time out in the field to get the photo right the first time! Stacking images is done to reduce noise levels in a photo however, if you get your ISO, shutter speed and aperture settings right when you’re actually taking the photo you won’t usually need to fall back on post production techniques to fix the image.
Similarly, instead of using post production HDR, or high dynamic range, to get the full tonal range of a scene try to get used to using the available light and conditions to achieve the results you envision instead. Getting into these habits will serve you much better in the long run than trying to fix problems in the editing suite.
Focus on Getting it Right While You’re Taking the Photos.
As technology has improved and the post production software has developed truly incredible capacities it has been all too easy for photographers to rely way too heavily on what they can do in the editing suite to make up for poor practise in the field! You can certainly get away with this for a while but in the end it will catch up with you.
This means that you should always, in every situation and every time you take a photo, try to get exactly what you’re trying to achieve done at the time of taking the photo! If you follow this rule of thumb your photography will improve much more quickly and you’ll start to develop a genuine mastery of the artform.
Never Leave Your Camera At Home – Ever!
As a photographer there’s nothing worse than leaving your camera at home because if you do you’re bound to come across several perfect picture moments while you’re out! It’s a real cardinal sin to forget your camera so make sure you don’t because you should really be taking photos every day if you possibly can!
A good way that you can help yourself to never leave your camera behind again is to keep it near the front door, or keep your front door keys in your camera bag so you literally can’t leave the house without seeing it first.
Obviously, there are some occasions when bringing your main camera won’t be possible but you should still bring your smartphone at the very least, or a smaller, more compact prime lens secondary camera instead. Remember, that practise makes perfect and there’s no easier way to improve than to take photos every day, and every time you go out.
Only Shooting Landscapes With A Horizontal Frame.
Granted that it’s traditional to shoot landscapes in a horizontal frame but there are times when you can create much more impactful images by shooting in a portrait mode instead.
When you switch things up and try to use more portrait mode shots in your landscape work you can incorporate more of the sky, create dramatic foregrounds and emphasize the height of the scenery, especially during sun rises and sets. Using a vertical orientation, or at least having it in your box of tricks, is a great addition to landscape photography which unfortunately too few photographers make use of on a regular basis.
Not Cleaning Your Gear Regularly Enough.
It’s a bit of a chore sometimes to keep your kit properly cleaned but in the long run it will serve you well to get into the habit as soon as you can – preferably today! If you haven’t been keeping your camera lens properly clean, for example, you might take the greatest photo ever but the shot will be ruined by smudges, dirt and a build up of grease. Even small bits of dust and dirt can spoil your photos so try to set aside a few hours a week to maintain your equipment.
One way to make the chore of cleaning your lens, camera and other kit is to do so while you watch a movie, listen to a podcast or chat with friends! Taking proper care of your equipment will extend its lifespan and keep it in the best possible working order.
Relying on Full Auto Mode.
Especially for beginners, staying in Full Auto mode can help you in the short term but eventually you’ll realize that you barely know how to use your camera properly. There are, of course, certain occasions when clicking onto Full Auto is the right thing to do but if you have time then you should always try to use the Manual modes on your camera.
This will help you to make the most of the camera’s full capacities and force you to learn more about the fundamentals of photography; all of which will lead to better photos and higher quality results in the end, even in tricky conditions.
Always Shooting From The Same Angle.
Most photos that you see are taken from a straight forward angle and yet some of the more impactful and memorable images are shot from unusual angles. Before taking a photo give yourself a moment to test out various angles to see how they change the feeling and outcome of the composition.
Shoot some photos with the camera angled upwards and others with it angled downwards. Sometimes, you might even want to lie down flat on the ground or climb up to vantage points and shoot directly downwards. All these different angles will completely change your compositions and add more interest to your work.
Never Using A Tripod.
While you don’t always need to use a tripod, and sometimes it might be impossible, there will always be occasions when you really have to get out your tripod. Using a tripod opens up new options to you, such as slow shutter speed and light trail photography. Using a tripod will also remove shakes and jolts from your photos while keeping your camera perfectly steady; all of which will make your work look far more professional and polished.
If you’re worried about portability then you can get some excellent tripods that are lightweight and foldable so it fits easily into your kit.
Not Including People in Landscapes.
Of course, when you’re shooting landscapes the main focus should be on the scenery itself but to make your images stand out from the competition you should consider including people, buildings and other points of interest in the photos. You can use compositional techniques such as Leading Lines and the Golden Ratio to help you place the people and other focal points in the most impactful positions within the frame.
Including people in landscape photos immediately creates a narrative aspect to the image which you can use to great effect to give the pictures more depth, emotional content and atmosphere.
Crooked Horizons – A Massive Mistake To Avoid!
No matter what you’re taking a photo of you always have to make sure that the horizon is straight, and not slanting up towards one side! This rookie mistake will ruin a photo and there’s no amount of editing you can do in post production to fix it. Many of the better tripods have a built in bubble level so you can accurately gauge a straight horizon; however, even if your tripod does not have one built in you can buy attachable versions of the same device.
Not Keeping An Eye on the Background.
When you’re shooting photos outside, whether it’s a portrait or street photography, make sure that you keep one eye on what’s happening in the background. A random passing car or crowd of people in the distance can ruin your composition and so even if you have to wait a few moments for them to pass out of the frame you should do so.
It only takes you a few moments to give the background a quick glance before you look through the viewfinder to check for potential distractions that might be about to pass, so make it a habit when you’re shooting outdoors.
All Your Portraits Are Posed.
While posed portraits are a great keepsake for your clients you should also try to capture the moments in between poses when they are acting more naturally. Sometimes, a headshot while someone is walking, or just relaxing between shots, can make the best portrait of all!
These types of candid portrait photos have a real feeling of genuine authenticity. Un-posed photos can be fun and reveal the characteristics of your subject in ways that posed ones cannot always achieve; so don’t be afraid of snapping some un-posed shots during your photoshoots.
Not Making The Most of Your Photos.
After you’ve taken your photos, what do you do with them? The last thing you want is to just leave your best photos sitting on a memory card somewhere in your house, so always try to schedule time to go through your photos and organize them into categories. Some photos you might want to post on your social media while others deserve to be framed and go on your wall at home!
Why not put together an exhibition or create a photobook to sell online? You should also be updating your portfolio regularly and keeping your website, if you have one, posted with your latest work.
As well as making the most of your photos; the mere act of organizing them and making use of them will help you to get a better idea of what’s working and what’s not, which will show through in your future work.
Keep It Simple.
When you’re shooting photos it can feel like you should fill them with as much detail and points of interest as possible but in reality it’s usually better to keep your images sharp, uncluttered and focused on the central subject.
Try to eliminate anything that isn’t necessary to the composition and don’t hold back from shooting very simple, but powerful, images. This will require you to do some planning and pre-visualization before you start taking photos so that you can keep your work focused, clear and impactful.
Forgetting Your Memory Card!
Never, never, never forget your memory card when you take your camera out. There’s nothing worse than coming home at the end of the day to find out that you didn’t have a memory card in your camera while you shot some great photos.
This may sound like an unbelievable mistake to make however, if they were honest, most photographers have done this at least once – so try to make sure you don’t end up being one of them who has to admit to this embarrassing mess up!
Some cameras can be set so that it can only take a photo when a memory card is installed inside it so you won’t make this mistake – so check your camera’s user manual for more information about how you can set it to this option.
Overusing the Zoom Lens.
Zoom lenses are a great tool to have as a photographer but you don’t want to fall into the trap of overusing it. Experiment with other types of lenses including prime lenses, 35mm or 50mm are the most common, as well as more creative lenses such as the infamous fisheye lens.
The Pitfalls Of Photography – Learn to Avoid Them.
Many of the major pitfalls that photographers face are merely a matter of having gotten into bad habits and can easily be corrected, such as not cleaning your equipment, taking photos with crooked horizons or not using a tripod; whereas other pitfalls will need a more conscious effort to overcome, such as overly relying on post production to fix bad pictures and not learning the fundamentals.
However, never forget that photography is a creative artform so don’t let yourself feel overwhelmed by the ‘rules’. As with any type of art, it’s fine to break the rules in photography as long as you know what the rules are and why you are breaking them! So try not to get too hung about rules and follow your vision to create interesting compositions and unique images that feel right to you.
Nonetheless, most of the pitfalls in photography should be avoided like the plague and even if it takes a while for you to get into the habits of best practise, as long as you work on it everyday, in no time at all you’ll see your work improving in quality as avoiding these pitfalls becomes absolutely second nature!
Are you interested in getting into photography?