Top 17 Mistakes Beginner Photographers Make
(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on lightroompresetshoppe.com)
This week we are excited to bring to you the Top Mistakes Beginner Photographers Make. As you already know, Photography is a science and art and therefore the study of Photography is a never ending process.
Even as a Professional Photographer, we are constantly learning & sharpening our skills. If your goal is to become a Pro Photog, you must make sure that you are avoiding these common mistakes that Amateur Photographers make.
Instead of enlisting all the top mistakes beginner photographers make, we have divided them into 3 broad categories…
Top Mistakes Beginner Photographers Make:
Now, let us take each one and see how best we can tackle and avoid these mistakes…
These are mistakes which beginner photogs make before the shoot. There is a lot of prep-work that needs to be done before you undertake any shoot. Whether you are a commercial photographer or a landscape / wildlife photographer, if you wish to take your Photography seriously, then here are some mistakes that you need to absolutely avoid at the Pre-Shoot stage…
Researching A Good Location: Deciding on a good location is mission critical for a Photo Shoot to be a success. This perhaps might not be under your control if you are a Professional Wedding Photographer…but if you are a Fashion / Landscape / Wildlife / Boudoir Photographer etc, you definitely can plan on a good location for your Photo Shoot.
Here are some simple & effective ways to research a good location:
- Use 500px & Flickr to scout great locations
- Search using relevant keywords for your photo shoots on the above sites (Viz. New York Fashion, Italy Landscapes)
- Short list some of your favorite pictures and try to find their exact locations if EXIF details are available for those images
- Make a list of your favorite locations
- Then search using those exact locations on 500px & Flickr for brainstorming ideas for the photo shoot.
- Make a list of your favorite places & locations and also the vantage points from where you can get the best view and angles for the photo shoot.
- Dump all those into your research & inspiration folder for that location preferably on Dropbox / Google Drive so that you can access those images even on your phone while traveling.
- Remember, the purpose of this research is NOT to copy and create the exact images you see on 500px & Flickr but to actually help you get inspiration to do something different and creative.
- When you travel to those locations, meet locals & travel guides and ask them for recommendations.
Planning the shoot: The next step post researching a great location is to plan & do prep work for the shoot! One of the most neglected areas by beginner photographers is this one…i.e. Planning the shoot.
Here is how you can avoid mistakes while planning the photo-shoot:
- Decide on the camera equipment, lenses, accessories & gear you would need for the Photo-Shoot
- Ensure all your camera equipment, lenses, accessories & gear is in top working condition, the batteries are fully charged & you are also carrying sufficient battery chargers & memory cards & backup devices!
- If it’s a fashion / model photo shoot, decide on the themes / looks you have planned, what sort of a model you would need, what kind of make-up & styling would be needed, what kind of clothing, accessories and props would be needed
- Where will you find the model, make-up artist, stylist, designer, art director? Would you prefer finding them locally and travel with them to the location for the photo-shoot (costly but safe) or would you prefer to find them on-location (cheaper but risky)? Deciding on these aspects is extremely important and something which you cannot ignore.
A lot of challenges will present themselves or crop up without notice at the time of the Photo-Shoot. Following are some of the ways you can avoid mistakes as a beginner photographer at the time of the Photo-Shoot…
- Camera Settings: Using appropriate camera settings depending on the type of photo-shoot is extremely important. The most important tip irrespective of the kind of photo-shoot you are doing is, to shoot in RAW. Remember, always shoot in RAW! Choose the right lens, aperture, ISO, shutter speed & shooting mode at the time of the Photo Shoot. Having a checklist of all the settings you would need to make in-camera at the time of the shoot is always a great idea!
- Appropriate Camera Gear & Accessories: If you are doing a professional Photo Shoot, make sure that you choose the best possible camera gear & accessories. Do not skimp on this aspect. The quality of your imagery and output ultimately depends on the quality of your camera gear and equipment. If you are photographing landscapes / street photography, carrying what feels convenient and fun is always a good idea. Preferably travel light so that you don’t get weighed down carrying your own equipment. Pro Tip: Always carry a tripod. This will open up a whole new world of possibilities for you especially in low light situations particularly for night / cityscapes photography.
- Knowledge of Composition: Not having a solid foundation of the rules of composition is a grave mistake you can make as a Photographer. Learn the foundational rules of composition and make sure you keep the rules of composition in mind when you shoot your images. The real reason for having a good grasp over the rules of composition is so that you know when to break those rules. The sign of a great professional photographer is to know when to break the rules of composition.
- Knowledge of Subject: Not knowing your subject well is yet another grave mistake beginner photographers make. If you are a fashion photographer, you need to develop a good rapport with your model to make him / her comfortable at the time of the shoot. If you are a wedding photographer, you need to connect better with your couple so that they are comfortable to pose for the wedding portraits. If you are a street photographer, you need to develop rapport with the people you shoot and make them comfortable so that they give you the images you so desire. If you are a wildlife photographer, you need to learn a lot about the animals you are planning to shoot so that you can ensure that, you get the best images.
- Knowledge of Posing: This is one of the most common mistakes even Professional Photographers make! Not having a good knowledge of posing can be completely detrimental to your imagery. You may use the best equipment, have the best subject, use the right settings on your camera but all that would be still not enough if the posing is not good. Calling yourself a candid / photo-journalist / documentary wedding photographer is certainly not an excuse to not learn the art and science of posing. You may get away with beautiful candid moments captured, but when it comes to couple & family portraits you would really have mediocre images! If you are a fashion photographer, then having a good understanding of posing is an absolute must. We highly recommend Roberto Valenzuela Books & Courses for learning the art & science of Posing!
- Knowledge of Lighting: Just like the above, this is also one of the most common mistakes that Professional Photographers make! Not having a solid understanding of lighting and how lighting can create / affect mood and emotion in an image is a very common rookie mistake. Many professionals, like to shoot in ambient light for weddings. They buy high end full-frame camera’s so that they can shoot at High ISO’s with minimal noise. This is not an excuse to not learn lighting. A true professional will know how to accentuate ambient lighting using strobes & continuous lighting in their shooting. If you are a fashion photographer, having a solid understanding of Lighting is an absolute must. For learning the science & art of lighting, we highly recommend, Scott Robert Lim, Sue Bryce, Lindsay Adler, Roberto Valenzuela Books & Courses!
- Model-Release Form: If you are a fashion photographer, getting the Model-Release Form signed and filled in, is mission critical. Model Release Form details exactly how the images will be used after the Photo Shoot. This ensures your safety as a photographer and also gives confidence to the model that you are transparent about the photoshoot and you would not misuse his/her images in the future.
- Wedding Photography Contract: Just as a Model-Release Form is important for a fashion photographer, a Wedding Photography Contract is a must for a Wedding Photographer. It ensures your safety as a Wedding Professional Photographer in case of any unforeseen event happening at the time of the wedding and post wedding as well.
Tip: We highly recommend DesignAGlow, for Model-Release Forms & Wedding Photography Contract & Business Templates!
- Not having a proper strategy to organise your photos: This is the single most mistake most amateurs and beginner photographers make! They do not know how to organise images so that they can have the most seamless, safe & effective post-production workflow. If you do not have a proper system and strategy in place to organise your photos, it means that you aren’t very serious about doing your Photography business seriously. Here is our article on how to organise images in lightroom which you will find extremely useful and comprehensive for your Photo Organising Strategy!
- Not having a proper backup strategy: It is not enough just to have a proper strategy to organise your images. You need to also have a proper backup strategy for organising those images. Your digital assets are very important not just to you but also the client and hence you need a proper backup strategy in place for making sure that your business runs smoothly and efficiently.
- Using Cheap / Non-Professional Software: Another mistake amateurs / beginner photographers make is not using Professional Editing Software for post processing and editing. Professional Software such as Adobe Photoshop / Adobe Lightroom / Capture One Pro / Photo Mechanic can be expensive and an on going cost but if you are a professional, using these software is a must. Stop using free and readily available software even if it is easy to use.
- Over-Processing & Editing / Heavy-Handed HDR: One of the most common photography mistakes beginner photographers make is over-processing and editing their images. Just because you can further edit an image, doesn’t mean you should. This is a common practice when it comes to editing or post-processing HDR’s. Most HDR’s tend to be heavy-handed and that’s what makes them look very fake, cartoonish and unnatural. Be subtle with your editing. Pro Tip: Less is more!
- Not cropping images: A common mistake beginners make, is not cropping their images. Sometimes, it is not possible to get ideal composition for an image at the time of shooting that image. Hence, it is important to crop the images and improve their composition by cropping the image better. A good image can be made even better sometimes just by cropping and improving the composition of that image!
- Not having your own signature: When you are hired as a Professional Photographer, the primary reason why a client hires you is because they like your work. Hence it is very important to have your own distinct signature when it comes to shooting & editing images. If you look at the work of any great Professional Photographer, you will find one thing always in common. They all have a peculiar and distinct style of compositional elements, subject, color tones and editing styles. If you want to just be a professional photographer, you need not have your own signature but if you want to become legendary, then having your own signature is a must!
- Having too many images in your portfolio: Your portfolio must contain only your best work. One of the biggest mistakes beginner photographers make is they have way too many images in their portfolio. They want to showcase how capable and versatile they are and that is where the difference lies between amateurs and pros! Showcase only your absolute best work. Less is more. Do not be tempted to add a lot of images to your portfolio. Slowly build your portfolio of your best work. Initially when you haven’t worked on a lot of assignments, you can permit yourself to have more images per assignment in your portfolio, but once you have worked for a decent number of clients, you need to go back and delete the 3 or 4 star images and only keep your 5 star images!
Here is an infographic of the top mistakes beginner photographers make:
So there you have it…a comprehensive list of the top most common beginner photography mistakes at every stage of the Photo Shoot. Here is a short recap of the above mistakes in bullet points for your convenience & reference!
Top Mistakes Beginner Photographers Make
- Researching a good location
- Planning the shoot
- Camera Settings
- Appropriate Camera Gear & Accessories
- Knowledge of Composition
- Knowledge of Subject
- Knowledge of Posing
- Knowledge of Lighting
- Model-Release Form
- Wedding Contract
- Not having a proper strategy to organise your photos
- Not having a proper backup strategy
- Using Cheap / Non-Professional Software
- Over-Processing & Editing / Heavy-Handed HDR
- Not cropping images
- Not having your own signature
- Having too many images in your portfolio
We hope that you loved our blog post on the most common mistakes beginner photographers make! Do you have any more to share with us that we may have missed? Do let us know in the comments section!
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About the Author
Amit Desai from Lightroom Preset Shoppe is the author of this blog post. For more in depth articles like these and to get instant access to Free 75+ Lightroom Presets, click here.