Written By:
Jeff

Photography Errors: How To Avoid Common Photography Mistakes

Published On:
September 17, 2021
photography errors
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Photography is an amazingly creative outlet. It's one of the few professions where pure creativeness can lead to a very lucrative income. If you're a hobbyist - that's great! However, if you're a beginner/intermediate looking to make (or already making) an income from your photography skills - avoiding common photography errors and mistakes as much as possible is crucial to your success.

So, how do you avoid common mistakes and errors?

That's where we come in. We've made many mistakes over the years - and have written this in-depth article to ensure that you don't make the same photography mistakes that we have (and sometimes still do). So come along with us while we explain common mistakes made by beginners and intermediates and how to avoid them.

By the end of this article, you'll be more prepared and know how to spot these mistakes and correct them at the moment - ultimately making you a better photographer in the process.

Let's get to it.

Common Mistakes beginner photographers make (and how to avoid them)

photography errors

First, this article/section is geared towards those who shoot in manual mode. While there is nothing wrong with shooting in automatic - you aren't harnessing the real benefits of a pro camera (or point and shoot or 'pro mode' on a camera phone). Using automatic mode over manual mode will hold you back from setting yourself apart from other photographers - ultimately hurting your creativeness in the process. Start shooting manual today, if you aren't already.

This section will cover the basic mistakes and errors made by beginner photographers. So, if that's you - great! If you're an intermediate,, I still recommend reading through this section. It could hold information that you were unaware of before. Too much knowledge is never a bad thing...

Overexposed Or Underexposed Images

photography errors

This is debatable - but under or overexposed shots is the most common mistake among beginners (and intermediate/professionals too, believe it or not).

Exposure as a basic photography term, is the measurement of how light or dark a picture or scene is. So, if an image is underexposed,, your picture would be too dark. If it's overexposed, your image would be too bright. Your 'goal' as a photographer, no matter the setting, is to get the 'perfect exposure' or balance of bright and dark - ultimately giving you a correctly exposed image.

How to avoid overexposed or underexposed images:

photography errors

Exposure meter: Every modern camera (DSLR, mirrorless, point and shoot, and even some camera phones) have a digital exposure meter built-in. It's a bar with numbers that go to the correct +3 and the left to -3 with 0 (zero), dead center. Zero is where you want to be (90% of the time). This bar represents exposure based on the metering mode set in your camera. It's actively calculating the balance of light to help with this very issue. If you aren't using it right now, your images will immediately improve when you do.

Check the brightness of your screen: There are many times when I will take a photo on a bright sunny day, and it will look great on my screen, but after taking it home, it's slightly underexposed. This is only because my display was set to outdoor or the brightest setting. The brightness of your screen will alter the look of your image on the screen itself. Many beginners and intermediates don't take this into account. Try and keep the screen in the 'default setting to avoid this. If you can't and need the screen as bright as possible on a sunny day - keep this in mind while shooting. Continuously monitor the exposure meter mentioned previously.

Shutter speed too slow or too fast (blurry images)

photography errors

You can over and underexpose your images with shutter speed. Shutter speed too fast - your image will be too dark. Too slow? Your pictures will be too bright. Aside from that, there are a few other photography mistakes to avoid, specifically with shutter speed.

Think of the shutter as your eyelid. The longer your eyes are open (before you blink), the more of the scene you will capture. This includes movement and light. Once you blink, you've taken a picture - that's your shutter.

If that 'blink' is too slow compared to the movement it's capturing - you will get motion blur.

Now, sometimes in creative instances - you want this. But, with new photographers just getting started, this isn't the case most of the time.

There are two ways motion blur is introduced into an image:

  • Subject movement: This is when the subject is moving too fast in comparison to your shutter speed setting
  • Camera movement (your movement): If your shutter speed is set too low, even slight signs of the camera itself will introduce it.

Here are ways to avoid motion blur:

photography errors

Make sure you are correctly exposed: If you're using shutter speed solely for exposure - you may want to consider adjusting aperture and/or ISO to achieve that, while keeping your shutter speed fast enough to capture motion the way you want to.

Avoiding motion blur caused by subject movement: As a general rule, you'll want your shutter speed double your focal length. So, if you're shooting with a 50mm lens your shutter speed shouldn't be any slower than 1/100. Personally, I set shutter speed 1 step higher than that - so I would set it to 1/125 in this case. This is a general rule - and can be broken - but it's a great place to start to ensure your shutter speed isn't too slow.

photography errors

Avoiding motion blur caused by camera shake/movement: This one is a little trickier. First, see how close you can get to double your focal length. If you aren't quite there and are afraid of camera shake - you'll want to mount your camera on a tripod. This will keep it completely stationary - allowing for a crisp clean image. The second option is to practice the way your holding your camera and the way you breath.

ISO settings are too high

When taking photos under recommended shutter speeds - I take them much like I am shooting a rifle. Breathing is very key. Breath normal and slowly push all the air out of your lungs - hold it for a half second and take the shot. This helps a ton with camera shake - and as you get better at it - it may completely eliminate it (leading to you not needing a tripod at all). This will take a bit of practice and getting used to (if you aren't already) - but once you get the hang of it and develop a bit of muscle memory, you do it without even knowing it.

photography errors

Rarely will you ever find yourself shooting with an ISO setting that's too low. But too high is quite common amongst new photographers.

ISO is quite simple really - it increases the sensors sensitivity to light. So, when you increase it - your sensor becomes more sensitive and the brightness of your image/scene increases. Decreasing it does the opposite. It's one of the three parts of the exposure triangle and used to balance exposure.

Now, this is on a digital level - it's artificially doing it. Overuse will introduce digital noise and leave you with sometimes a very grainy photo. Note also, ISO increases the brightness of every light source in the image (unlike shutter speed, which doesn't affect the brightness of a flash, for instance).

Ways to avoid overexposure due to high ISO:

Keep iso at its native/default setting: Generally speaking, ISO 100 is the native setting of most digital cameras today. 'Native' meaning the location that offers you the most dynamic range. Use shutter speed and aperture to adjust exposure first - then adjust iso if needed. If you do find needing to increase ISO - do it slowly. Go up a tick at a time and check your exposure meter while doing it. If you follow this - you won't have to worry about over-exposing with ISO again.

Not shooting wide enough

One of the most significant benefits of an advanced digital camera is how many megapixels there are within each image. Use all those MP to your advantage. Shoot a little wider than you think. When you're editing, crop the image. Be sure to maintain its aspect ratio when you do (believe me on this one - you'd be surprised how much of a pain an uncommon aspect ratio image can become down the road).

This gives you flexibility in the long run too. Don't shoot as 'tight' on your subject, and leave yourself some room to adjust later if needed.

Not shooting in manual mode

Photography mistakes

I know we went over this at the beginning of the article - but I can't stress this enough. Yes, it can take a little while and a bit of practice to get used to - but just like anything else in life - you'll eventually get great at it (and even not have to think about it anymore).

Manual mode allows you to harness everything that makes a pro camera 'pro'. You'll become way more creative and ultimately a better photographer for it.

Trust me - after you get comfortable shooting manual - you'll be so glad you did (and you may wish you had started sooner).

Common photography mistakes and how to avoid them (for all skill levels)

Photography mistakes

Seeing as the topics already discussed are more common among beginners - we're now going to talk about photography mistakes made by photographers of all skill levels. These are mistakes you should keep in mind from this point in the future. This goes for beginners up to a professional photographer - because, believe it or not - everyone makes mistakes from time to time... it's learning from those mistakes (or be prepared for them) that sets you apart from the rest.

Composition mistakes in photography

This is a subjective topic - composition. Whose to say one photo looks better than the other? It's an opinion. One person may love one of your images while the next guy dislikes it. It's personal taste.

But, a few compositional aspects will make an image look better regardless of who's looking at it.

Rule of thirds

Photography mistakes

I'll bet an entire month's pay that you've heard of this rule. Keep in mind that while it is a rule used by many in the industry, nothing stops you from using it. Remember, photography is art. Art is subjective and entirely in the eye of the beholder. Over anything, you do you. It's what makes you unique. So, if you believe the rules help your image, do it! If not - don't! It's that simple.

I use it quite often. It's one of the few rules that I have grown to love and gives some of my photos their unique look. In the future, in the article - we will be using this rule to make suggestions in other aspects.

Here are some photography composition mistakes (and how to fix/avoid them)

Photography mistakes
Photography mistakes

Building off the last subtopic, here are a few composition mistakes that I've run into and how to avoid or fix them. Again, this is purely opinion. Who knows, this may be precisely what you need for great photos or at least better photos, right? If you agree with what I'm saying, add it to your creative process! If not, no worries!

  • Center Portraits: This is strictly a studio-style (either outdoor or indoor) portrait. The word portrait is used very loosely these days - but we aren't talking about environment/lifestyle shots. We're talking strictly about portraits, which are of your subject with zero background/foreground distractions. I do not recommend using the rule of thirds here. Center your subject while leaving correct headroom and cropping if needed. You want the viewer to look at the issue and immediately know it's what they're supposed to be looking at. They should be the 'center of attention' - hence placing them center.
  • Center family photos: If the family you're photographing are posed, place them in the center of the frame. Rarely will a posed family photo look better using the rule of thirds. This is only amplified if they're outside on location. Your viewer may wonder what they should be looking at. This doesn't compliment your subjects... it just confuses the viewers most of the time.
  • Offset movement photos: This is where the rule of thirds works the best. By offsetting your subject, you're emphasizing the subject and their environment. This can place your viewer in that scene. This is my bread and butter for anything that's moving (people, cars, pets/dogs/birds, etc...)
  • Add a room in front of your moving subject: Adding to the previous section, adding room can transform an average photo into a great one. Giving the viewer the context of space and its location. This is how I edit any movement shot. I rarely ever put my subject in the center frame if they're moving (playful children is a great way to get practice too!)

We'll fix it in post

This is something I hear from professionals - even to this day. This includes photographers that've been in the business a lot longer than I have. All I do is shake my head and keep doing my thing.

This is the statement made when a photographer or videographer is tired of taking the same shot (or doesn't care about the images). Again, laziness plays a significant role in someone saying it.

But here's the deal, if your camera settings are correct - and you're prepared and ready for whatever it takes... there would be no use of high-end photo editing software.

If you have this mindset often - it'll eventually come to hurt you in the long run (both in clients and skill).

Don't take the easy road. Instead, learn what you need to get everything you can straight in-camera. Then, there's a much less chance of running into editing issues later on... and you'll also learn (and know) how to achieve that shot the natural way (instead of in photoshop).

Visual examples of photography mistakes - along with the correct way (pictures)

Even though we have thrown in a few photo examples - here is a list of everything we have talked about in this article thus far.

Photography mistakesPhotography mistakesPhotography mistakesPhotography mistakes

That'll do it!

Now that we've gone over the most common photography mistakes for beginners and all levels - you now have the knowledge needed to prevent most of the errors mentioned in this article.

Before you go, remember, everyone makes mistakes. Even as you get better at photography - you will make mistakes. It's inevitable. The difference is what you decide to do with the mistakes... learn from them and bounce back better than before. There are those people who need to experience the error first hand to understand and learn why not to do it.

It's what you do with these mistakes that'll determine what you do in this industry. So learn from them and be stronger for it.

Throughout the article, I linked to other related articles. So here are those articles in one single spot. They go into depth on the topics they were included in.

If there are any questions, concerns, or requests... feel free to reach me at support@jnrphotovideo.com, or you can contact us on Facebook or Instagram.

Until next time, be safe and keep creating!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some problems in photography?

Common photography problems among beginners is exposure and grabbing and maintain focus. Exposure is the balance of light and dark within an image. Beginners have a tendency to overexpose (image is too bright) or underexpose (image is too dark). To combat that - it is suggested to use the exposure meter built into modern cameras. Focus on the other hand can be a little more difficult. If your camera has an autofocus system, use it. If it has continuous autofocus (CAF) - that's even better. If not - you can still gran focus manually. Either way, once you take a picture - zoom into the image on your camera's screen to make sure the subject is in focus (even if it looks in focus without zooming in). This will allow you to retake the photo if you need to (instead of going home and noticing it after the session has ended).

What is the most common mistake made by amateur photographers?

The most common mistake made by amateur photographers is either under or overexposing an image and not correcting it during the session. This is caused by not looking and monitoring the exposure meter that's built into your camera - or relying on the screen only to gauge whether the photo looks correctly exposed or not. The problem with relying on the screen only is that the screen may be set to daylight (or its brightest setting) - when in reality, the photo ends up being underexposed... and you didn't know it. Always use your exposure meter when in the field.

What is a bad photograph?

The answer to this is entirely subjective and complete opinion. What may look bad to me may look great to you. It's all in the eyes of the beholder. With that being said, I do believe there are certain aspects of an image that would deem it 'bad' amongst most people viewing it. That would be if the photo is way too bright or dark - or there is too much contrast or saturation. Again, I have seen people praise photos that were clearly oversaturated... but hey - if they like it then so be it.

What should a photographer not do?

No matter skill level - a photographer should never assume or think they're the best at what they produce. They should always remain humble, because there is always someone out there producing something better and different - and all it takes is one person to come in an show them that they aren't. We have seen it time and time again. Remain humble and thankful for how far you've come and your current skill level... continue to improve and grow as both a person and a photographer.

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