You’re bound to make mistakes along the way when you’re learning how to do anything, and digital photography is no exception. Fortunately, those of us who have been learning the ropes of digital shooting for years already know there are some common mistakes that beginner photographers often make with a bit of prior knowledge that can be easily avoided.
Eight of the most common technical mistakes made by beginners, from blurred to overlooked image composition, and some advice on how to avoid them are presented here.
1. Missed Focus
If you use autofocus and allow the camera to select your focus points, it is highly likely that from time to time, especially when using a shallow field depth, you will focus on the wrong part of your image frame. This is something that after the fact is either impossible or hard to fix, so it’s important to nail your focus in the field. A simple way to ensure accurate focusing is to use the spot autofocus mode of your camera to select your focus. Make sure that your focus is on the eyes of the subject when focusing on people and portraits.
Tip: To lock on, use your back focus button.
2. Blurry Photos
If your photos turn out to be blurry or slightly unsharp and you’re uncertain why it’s probably because you’re using shutter speed too slow. If your shutter speed is too slow, your camera’s shaking can reduce your image’s sharpness. A thumb rule to help avoid this is to use a shutter speed at least equivalent to the lens focal length you are using.
For example, if you use a 50 mm prime lens on a full frame camera, 1/50 of a second is the slowest shutter speed that you can use without shake. On an APS-C (crop) sensor camera, this becomes 1/85 of a second, as the lens’ effective focal length is multiplied by 0.5. If you use a zoom lens, pay attention to the focal length you use as you zoom in and out.
Tip: If you have image stabilization in your lens or camera, you can shoot slower at three to five stops and still get a sharp picture.
3. Over or Under Exposure
While shooting in RAW gives you plenty of latitudes to adjust your post-processing exposure, what you can do is definitely limited. If your exposure is too dark, when you bring it up in processing, the shadows will be grainy and discolored. If your exposure is too bright, your highlights will be blown out and when processing the detail will not be recoverable. If you have a scene with a high dynamic range, including very bright highlights and dark shadows, a general rule of thumb is to slightly underexpose to preserve details in the highlights while not wiping out the shadows and then brightening up the shadows in post-processing.
Tip: Use the spot metering function of your camera to measure different frame parts.
4. Wrong Posing
Since most people you’re going to work with are probably not going to be professional models, they probably won’t feel all that comfortable posing. And while it’s great to find poses online and try them out, people are likely to feel awkward just being told how to stand up, which will happen in your pictures. Your best bet is to use poses as basic guidelines and then concentrate on making your subjects comfortable by engaging them with eye contact and friendly banter while encouraging them to have fun and be themselves.
Tip: Use a tripod to compose your image, then get in touch with your eyes and talk to your subjects freely.
5. Importance of Background
A good portrait can be ruined easily by having a vertical object like a tree or telephone pole sticking straight out of the head of your subject. While you are likely to focus most of your attention on the pose and appearance of your subject, it is also important to pay attention to the background and ensure that there are no distracting elements that grow out of or cut through your subject, even if they are very out of focus.
Tip: Do a quick visual scan of your whole viewfinder image frame to look for objects that are poking in.
6. Complicated Composition
It may take some time to figure out how to arrange the elements in the frame of your camera. When you don’t know what you’re doing, the breakfast composition of a dog is easy to create that will cause the viewer to get completely lost and confused when looking at your photo. Fortunately, there are some very simple guidelines that can help you manage and arrange human perception-based elements in your frame, such as a third-party rule.
Tip: Using your grid overlay in processing, you can often crop portraits to third-party rule.
7. Extreme Post Processing
It can be easy to get so excited that you overdo it when you first learn how to post image processing. A common mistake is often made by beginners when processing by adding too much saturation and sharpening to images, resulting in overdone and totally unrealistic photos. Another initiator processing error is extreme HDR processing, which robs images of their shadows and highlights, making them look unreal or horrible at best.
Tip: Use your histogram to ensure that you have a white and black point.
8. Backup Failure
The potential for technology to fail is one of the dangers of digital photography, and this includes the hard drive you store your image files on. If you have only one copy of your image files stored and you fail to store the drive where they are stored, all your image files will go. That could give you and your customers a lot of disappointment. So make sure somewhere, on an external hard drive or cloud storage service, a second copy of your images is stored.
Tip: Increasingly affordable are cloud storage and external hard drives, so why not keep two backups just for peace of mind?
Do you have any other information about beginner photographers mistakes? Left your ideas and questions in the comments section below! and please don’t forget to follow kuulphoto.com on Twitter @kuulphoto