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The Dirty Dozen: 12 Common Photography Mistakes and How to Correct Them

Michael Gabriel by Michael Gabriel on February 15, 2013

Whether you are new to photography or you are a seasoned master, you are bound to make mistakes. Some of these are fairly common, but fortunately, you can easily avoid or correct them.

What are these mistakes?

Camera Lens
photo by hunnnterrr

1. Not knowing who or what the subject is

Your photos should have a strong point of interest. It should be clear to you and to the viewer who or what the subject is and why you are taking a photo of your subject.

This will not only help you take interesting photos but it could help you with your composition.

This is very easy to correct because the subject is basically what caught your attention in the first place. So you just have to let the photograph capture that.

2. Shooting too far away from the subject

As we have pointed out earlier, knowing the subject is the key to great composition. Good composition makes it obvious to anyone who or what your subject is.

How do you correct this? A good technique is to fill your frame with your subject. This will help you focus on the subject itself and lessens the chance that there will be other elements that are included in the photo that could take away the spotlight from your subject. This will also help ensure that your subject is not too small or does not seem too far away in your photo. A subject that is insignificant just blends in the background.

3. Waiting for the perfect weather to take pictures

A lot of people think that the best photographs happen under a clear blue sky, so they wait. Well here’s what: Any time and any weather is perfect for taking pictures. While azure blue skies and white clouds would make a great subject or a lovely backdrop for your photos, overcast skies and dark gray rain clouds can also provide a stunning effect for your photos. So whatever the weather, never pass up on an opportunity to take photos.

4. Letting your subject go out of focus

In any great photo, the subject should be the sharpest part of your image.

If you are using a DSLR, check out whether it has a focus lock feature. This allows you to lock the focus on the subject by half-pressing your shutter release button.

5. Composing the photo so that the subject is in the middle of the shot

This would lead to a static composition, which would render your photo flat and uninteresting. To correct this, you should try to place your subject a little off-center. If your camera has a grid screen, you should try to put the point of interest in the intersections.

For example, if you are shooting a portrait, the person’s face is your subject while the point of interest is their eyes, put the eyes into one of the intersections.

6. Having too many elements in the photo

Remember that your photo should have only one subject and that you should make it clear to anyone looking at it who or what that is. If you have another element or two that competes with the subject by having striking colors, a bigger size or a more noticeable shape, then redo the shot. Make sure that nothing overpowers your subject.

For example, if you are taking a shot of a beautiful skyscraper, you might want to avoid including power lines into the shot!

7. Not caring about the light

Before taking any photographs, make sure that you take into account where the light is coming from and how it is lighting up your subject. For instance, if your subject is wearing a cap and the light is such that there is a shadow on his face, then shoot from another angle.

If you are taking photographs of buildings or statues, you might want to wait for another, more appropriate time.

8. Not shooting from another angle or perspective

Most people take photos standing up at eye level. But did you know that you might get a more interesting photo if you shoot low? Try crouching a little or perhaps getting down on your knees.

Also, there are times when improving your photograph takes only a few steps. For example, if you want a shot of a house but you find that a tree obscures it from the left, why not walk a little further to the right and take the shot of the house without the tree blocking the view?

9. Red eye

For some cameras, red eye may be a consistent problem. This is usually caused by the reflection of the flash on the subject’s eyes, or your camera might be built so that the flash is too close to the lens.

The obvious way to avoid this is to refrain from using flash. If this is not possible, then ask your subject to avoid looking directly into the camera.

10. Relying too much on Photoshop

Photoshop, admittedly, is a great piece of software. It allows you to enhance your photos and improve on it when necessary.

The problem stems when you start thinking that it is okay to take passable photos because you could always manipulate them better. For one, editing in Photoshop can introduce a significant amount of noise into the photo. For another, you would never really learn by relying too much on Photoshop.

Take time to set up your shot properly, check on the white balance, proper exposure, lighting and framing your subjects right. Once you take the shot and you find it lacking, see why it is and what you could do to correct it. This way you would learn how to take really great photos even when you don’t go through post processing.

11. Relying too much on Auto mode

Relying on auto mode represents a waste of your money, especially if you have a good DSLR camera. There are a lot of things that you can learn but you are letting the camera do all the thinking and the configurations for you. You might just as well go for a good point and shoot camera.

Learn how to set ISO, shutter speed and aperture and think of a shot that you would like to achieve. Take photos and see how you could achieve that particular shot by tinkering with these three settings.

12. Always shooting with a camera tilt.

So you’ve read that tilting your camera would make for a better and more dramatic photo. The truth is, people do not like to tilt their heads to view each and every picture you take. If you have people posing for a picture, you might want to skip on the camera tilt.

Camera tilt is just perfect if you want to convey motion in your photographs. Photographs with subjects such as a kissing couple, a running child, or a hotdogging skateboarder would benefit more from a camera tilt.

So these are some of the most common mistakes that photography amateurs make. Once you become a better photographer, you’d find that there are actually more mistakes than what’s included on this list. However, regardless of these, never be afraid to commit mistakes and do not hesitate to experiment with your settings, your framing, and your techniques. It is only when you go out of the box that you learn to take better photos.

About the Author

Michael Gabriel Michael Gabriel L. Sumastre is an experienced freelance writer for hire. He has been professionally writing articles, blogs posts and tech content since 2005. Michael loves to take pictures of the countryside when he is touring with his motorcycle. He maintains his professional writing portfolio and personal blog at TheFinestWriter. You can also visit his photography portfolio at Sumastre Photography.

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The Dirty Dozen: 12 Common Photography Mistakes and How to Correct Them