Hello my fellow and aspiring photographer friends, to the exciting and challenging world of photography! As a professional photographer with decades of experience and a love for teaching, I’m once again thrilled to share some of my insights with you. And thank you for indulging me.
In my years as a photographer I’ve encountered so many photographic newbies and I’ve noticed some common mistakes that beginners often make. This post is a roadmap to help you steer clear of these pitfalls, or at least understand what they are and how to mitigate them, ultimately enhancing your photography skills.
- Neglecting the Fundamentals: one of the most common mistakes beginners make is diving headfirst into complex equipment and advanced techniques without a solid grasp of the fundamentals. Imagine trying to scuba dive without proper training – it’s not safe or effective and takes away from the fun of the sport. Photography is no different. Start by understanding your camera, its settings, and the principles of exposure (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO). In other words, learn to walk before you run!
- Overcomplicating Equipment: while it’s natural to be drawn to the latest gear and gadgets, beginners sometimes invest too much in equipment without knowing how to use it effectively. Don’t over-purchase equipment because a salesman talked you into it or the shiny brochure outlines all the “cool” features. I’ve seen this way too many times in the scuba world and it leads to user frustration and missed photographic opportunities. Professional photographers often achieve great results with basic equipment. Instead of chasing the most expensive camera or lens, focus on mastering what you have first.
- Ignoring Composition: photography is not just about capturing a scene; it’s about composing a visually appealing image. Novice photographers often neglect essential composition rules, such as the rule of thirds, leading lines, and framing. Remember that the best photographs tell a story, and composition is your storytelling tool.
- Not Understanding Lighting: light is the heart of photography, and beginners often struggle to harness its power. The harsh midday sun can cast unflattering shadows, while low light conditions may result in blurry or noisy images. Learn to observe and adapt to different lighting situations. Don’t be afraid to experiment with natural light, artificial light, or flash to control and enhance your photos.
- Forgetting About the Subject: your camera doesn’t take photos; you do. It’s easy to get caught up in all the technical aspects and forget about your subject (I’m so guilty of this). Whether you’re capturing a portrait, a landscape, or a moment, remember to connect with your subject emotionally. This connection will translate into more meaningful and captivating photographs.
- Not Being Patient: patience is key to great photography. Beginners, and even some experienced dudes like me, often rush through the process, hoping to capture the perfect shot quickly. But it’s the patience to wait for the right moment, to set up the scene, and to review and adjust your settings that can make the difference between a mediocre and a breathtaking photograph.
- Ignoring Post-Processing: editing is an essential part of modern photography. Novices may overlook the significance of post-processing and believe that a great photograph should come straight out of the camera. Professional photographers rely on post-processing tools to fine-tune their images, adjusting exposure, color balance, noise reduction, and more. Learning to use software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop is a valuable skill and some may even say a must.
- Over-Editing Images: while post-processing is crucial, beginners sometimes fall into the trap of over-editing their images (I’m also guilty of this and really need to slap my hand sometimes). Pushing sliders to the extreme can result in unnatural and unappealing results. A professional photographer knows the importance of subtlety and balance in editing – enhancing the photo, not overpowering it. One of my pet peeves is seeing people push their shadows so far to the right that it creates a “halo” around the subjects. Yuck!
- Fearing Failure: photography, like any art form, involves trial and error. Novices often fear making mistakes, but it’s through these mistakes that you learn and grow. Don’t be discouraged by blurry shots, overexposed images, or composition mishaps. Embrace these challenges as stepping stones toward improvement.
As a professional photographer, I’ve seen countless beginners evolve into skilled and creative artists over time. By avoiding these common mistakes and focusing on the basics of photography, you’re setting yourself on a path to success. Remember to enjoy the journey, be patient, and never stop learning. Whether you’re capturing the beauty of your town, or exploring the depths of the ocean, photography is a fantastic way to express your creativity and share your unique perspective with the world.