top 8 mistakes to avoid as a photographer

Sometimes, getting better results with your camera is as much about what you avoid as it is about what you actually do.

There are tons of mistakes that we’ve all made along the way, some big and some small.

And though making mistakes is a great way to learn, it’s even better to learn from the mistakes of others. That’s the whole point of this post!

If you can avoid these 8 embarrassing photography mistakes, you’ll end up with much better photos.


1. Using Direct Flash Without a Modifier –

I see so many photographers struggle with using artificial lighting.

Some opt to use the pop-up flash on their camera, which is a huge no-no.

The pop-up flash produces extremely harsh light that washes out subjects. In a word, the lighting is terrible.

I also see a lot of photographers use a hot-shoe mounted flash or an off-camera flash, but without a modifier.

Without a modifier to soften that light, you end up with the same problem – harsh, unflattering light that washes out the subject and creates deep shadows.

2. Leaving Your Camera at Home

This is a cardinal sin because the best way to get better at photography is to take a lot of photos, and to take a lot of photos you need your camera with you!

Granted, there are some situations in which you might not want to take your big DSLR, but you have a great camera right in your pocket – your smartphone.

That means there are zero excuses. Take your camera – any camera – with you to shoot at least a few frames each day. With time, that practice will pay off!

3. Shooting Landscapes Only in Horizontal Format

Sure, most landscapes probably benefit from shooting in horizontal format, but sometimes, they look even better in vertical format.

By switching things up and shooting landscapes in a vertical orientation, you can incorporate much more sky and foreground into the shot.

That’s especially advantageous at sunrise or sunset, or when there are interesting elements in the foreground, as seen above.

4. Not Cleaning Your Gear

I took a great shot of Yosemite back in the day. It was perfectly composed, I had great light from the sunset, and I was sure to include foreground interest in the shot to invite viewers into the image.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t cleaned my camera or lens for a good, long while, so my “great shot” ended up having dust specks and smudges appearing all over the place.

Cleaning your gear isn’t just necessary for the best shots, either. You want to keep your gear in good working order, because who wants to pay all that money to buy new stuff?!

5. Never Leaving Full Auto

Full auto is a great learning tool when you’re just starting out, but to stay in full auto isn’t going to do you any favors.

Instead, challenge yourself to learn aperture priority mode, shutter priority mode, program mode, and, eventually, manual mode.

The more you know how to use your camera, the more confidence you will have, and that will mean you’ll be able to take better shots in more varied conditions.

6. What’s not to like about that?!

If you take all your photos at your eye level, your collection of images will look a little boring.

Instead, vary your eye level a bit to find unique and unexpected ways to portray the subject.

Get up high. Get down low. Look up and look down. Even if it means laying down on the ground, give it a try!

7. Not Using a Tripod

Something that will kill the mood of even the best-composed images is if they’re blurry due to camera shake.

Though there are plenty of ways to try to avoid camera shake, the easiest one for beginner photographers is to use a tripod.

It’ll give your camera the stable base it needs to get the sharp results you want. Plus, using a tripod helps slow you down a bit, so you have a few more seconds to pay attention to things like your camera settings, the framing, composition, and so forth.

8. Overediting Your Photos

Photoshop, Lightroom, and other photo editing programs exist to help you make them look better, not to help you make them look like they’ve been edited to death.

Try making small adjustments first – enhancing colors, adjusting the contrast, cropping the image, and so forth – in an attempt to make the image more eye-catching but while also leaving the image’s integrity in tact.

If your photo looks like the one above, with totally unnatural colors (and too much saturation, at that), then you might consider toning it down a bit!

In the end, use the tips like those I’ve outlined above as guidance, but don’t think of them as hard-and-fast rules that if not followed will result in you being expelled from the photographer’s fraternity.

After all, photography is an art form, and each of us has our own personal style and vision!