I was inspired to write this article after recently asking the question, “What are your worst habits as a photographer?” on social media. Here are some of the most common responses followed by some suggestions. Please share your own ‘bad habits,’ better yet, how you managed to correct them. Everyone will benefit!
Not taking your camera everywhere with you
The best camera is the one you have with you. I may not always have my dslr with me, but I do have my iPhone. The quality is not the same, of course, but when I’m not shooting for a client it doesn’t really matter. Not everything you shoot has to be photo competition material. So, go ahead – use your phone when you have nothing else handy. Those ‘visual push-ups’ count just the same. Just a tip if you shoot with a dslr: Put a small lens on it such as a 50mm or the Canon 40mm pancake lens to make it more compact and light. Then there is no reason not to take it with you everywhere!
Sleeping late and missing that good early light
This is a very common problem especially for those of us shooting in a cold climate. Try motivating yourself with commitments such as meeting other photographers early in the day. If you schedule it and others are counting on you to be there, you are more likely to get up for it!
Getting lazy with WB settings
Hey, at least you know that there is a white balance setting! I’m amazed at how many photographers do not know the importance of white balance or how to use it. I adjust my WB settings throughout the day, but you can also adjust it in post processing. Two things to keep in mind: It’s easier to adjust if you are shooting RAW, but you can also adjust the color temperature on JPEGs. And if you keep your setting in auto white balance (AWB), you will not be able to do batch adjustments. The setting will automatically change depending on the ambient light. Auto white balance works well, but it is generally a bit cooler than the actually color temperature. If you think your pictures are a bit blue in the shade, the white balance is off. Hope this helps!
Letting dust get on the sensor
Changing lenses out in the field requires some care to prevent dust getting on the sensor. I cringe when I see photographers take off the lens, then slowly unpack the replacing lens while leaving the camera body open, face up, to let as much dust get in as possible. I do it this way: I place the replacement lens on a flat surface with the back cap already unscrewed and ready to come off. Then I set the camera next to it, lens down and, with my back against the wind, I quickly switch lenses in about 2 seconds. Another way to prevent dust from entering inside your camera is to blow the back element of your lenses with a Giotto rocket blower before attaching it to the camera body. If you take these simple precautions, you won’t need to clean the sensor as often.
Settling for the good shot and not looking for more
You got the shot you came for? Great! Now look behind you. Another good shot? If you were shooting a sunset, the light on the landscape behind you is may be an even better shot, so go for that, too. Work the scene. Try other angles. Get your camera off the tripod and lay on the ground with it. Many photographers tend to shoot everything at eye level which quickly becomes boring and static. For more dynamic images experiment with different angles and perspectives – tilt your camera, shoot tall, shoot wide, get on the ground, etc.
Composing poorly or too quickly
It pays to take time and care composing a shot just as it pays to shoot from multiple angles. Learn to compose in camera and stop relying on post processing for cropping. This option will make you a better photographer. Train yourself to see distracting elements in your frame. Move a few meters closer or zoom in a bit tighter. Scan the edges of your frame. Remember that the best time to shoot a vertical shot is right after you shoot a horizontal shot. Hey, it’s digital, so it’s free! So, cover your basics because you never know which shot you will prefer once you get into the digital darkroom.
Chimping is a common photography term to describe the action of reviewing pictures on the LCD. Okay, but how many shots do you miss because you are busy chimping? The LCD on the back of your camera is a great tool in achieving the best settings, but chimping is detrimental in some situations, such as street photography for example. Street activity changes quickly and in a split second you might miss capturing that great gesture or expression, or not getting the shot at all. If you shot film in the past, then you are less likely to chimp. But if you’re spending too much time now looking at your LCD, turn it off! Added benefit – you may gain some confidence.
Self Doubt and waiting for others to say it’s a good photo
We all have self doubt! That’s just part of being a photographer. It comes with practicing the craft. However, you can make self doubt serve you by turning it into a positive motivation and a learning process.
If you are shooting for clients, naturally their preferences are your priority. Otherwise, please yourself first! Feeling good about your own images is what really counts. Sure, there is always room for improvement, and constructive critiques are beneficial. Just make sure you get feedback from the right people.
Experiencing sensory overload when traveling to a new place
I’ve written quite a bit about this. It’s something we’ve all experienced when visiting an exciting new place. It’s nice to stay open to everything that is happening around you when you are in a new environment but that approach doesn’t work for everyone. When you try to capture it all, you may end up with lots of mediocre shots of random things and clichés. Instead, give yourself an assignment. This will help you focus and ‘see.’ Next time you’re feeling sensory overload, think outside the postcard, focus on your goal and create your own iconic images. And have fun!