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5 beginner photography mistakes and how to fix them

Last updatedMar 9, 2021

Here’s a super-fast article to up your photography game with tips that are actually useful.

1) Too many elements in your composition

I used to be guilty of this a lot when I first started photography. Early on, it’s a good idea to learn that it’s your job as a photographer to deliberately choose the elements that belong in your compositions. The faster you realise that the faster you’ll get better.

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Have 1 main subject and then at most a few complementary elements in your compositions if you need to.

By simplifying your compositions, you’re aiding the viewer by reducing the amount of visual busyness in the image and showing them what’s important.

This is a great way to start to build your ability to tell stories through your photography.

2) Going too hard on the shutter

Yes, photography is digital, and a single photo doesn’t cost anything, but one thing I see beginners do all the time is holding on to that shutter button for far too long when they’re shooting static scenes like landscapes or cityscapes etc.

Most of the time, this comes from a fear of not capturing the image correctly for one reason or another, but it’s far better to slow down, compose yourself, take a breath, then compose your image. By slowing down, you’ll end up with better shots more consistently plus you don’t have to deal with bloating your hard drive with hundreds of the same image from the same scene.

Slow down. Be intentional about your shots, and you’ll find yourself getting better and luckier with every deliberate shot you take.

3) Blurry images

Okay, let me just burst the bubble for you; 99.95% of the time, blurry images are rarely “artistic”.

There might be specific cases where you want blur, but if you do, you’re either going for a specific technique like panning shots or a distinct visual look.

The majority of the time, though, if your images are blurry, you’ve done it wrong, and that’s fine, just admit it and fix it up for next time.

So, to ensure your images are always sharp, there are just 3 things to consider:

1) Having a fast enough shutter speed. For static images, 1 or 2 times your focal length is a good place to start. For example, for static scenes, if you’re shooting at 24mm, a minimum shutter speed of 1/24 or 1/50 is a good place to start. For moving subjects, try to get faster than 1/400 if you can as a minimum. 1/1000 or faster is good to aim for.

2) Nailing your focus. It is especially hard with lenses that provide a shallow depth of field like f1.4, but a good tip here is to remember to use some sort of continuous autofocus mode when you’re shooting moving subjects.

3) Steadying yourself. Ensuring your frame is rigid and stiff, your cameras stabilisation isn’t magic, and it won’t always save you. Slow down and compose yourself before composing the shot.

4) Over edited or under edited images

Just because photo editing software like Lightroom can do all the things doesn’t mean you should go ham on the edits.

Over-editing is very amateur and very immediately noticeable.

Pull back on the clarity, and the saturation, and the contrast, and the crazy colours.

You want your images to look edited, sure, but you also want the edits to be subtle enough to allow the image itself room to breathe and room to tell the story. Less is more when it comes to editing, and it should only ever be like 20-40% of the overall process.

Conversely, too little editing is also a problem; when you don’t fix things like exposure, colour correction or what have you, images tend to look flat and dull. Yes, shoot in RAW always, but RAW doesn’t mean “pure”, but that’s another topic for another time.

5) Photography is not about the gear

Sure, there are things that good gear allows you to do, but the art of photography, the craft of photography, is about Vision, not gear.

It’s about how you see the world as a photographer; about how you’re able to distinguish different qualities of light when you’re out in the field. It’s about how you’re able to spot compositions and exciting subjects in the most boring of places. It’s about being able to replicate whatever is in your mind's eye into the camera itself.

When you learn the art of visual language, and you apply it to your photography, you can pick up any camera and make it work.

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