9 Bad Habits of Photographers - Digital Photography School

9 Bad Habits of Photographers

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!

1. 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!

Not every picture you take needs to be print worthy. Camera phones are a great way to exercise 'visual push-ups'  if you don't have your other camera with you.

Not every picture you take needs to be print worthy. Camera phones are a great way to exercise ‘visual push-ups’ if you don’t have your other camera with you. (Shot with iPhone 4S)

2. 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!

3. 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!

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. Chimping

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.

8. 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.

9. 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!

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Valerie Jardin I live and breathe in pixels! Photography is more than a passion, it's an obsession, almost an addiction. When I'm not shooting or writing, I spend my time teaching this beautiful craft during photo workshops all over the world! Visit my Website Follow me on Facebook , Twitter , Google+. And listen to my new Street Focus Podcast!

  • wed7

    Damn eneloops! (Batteries)

  • karen

    A good example is i went to reculver in kent and left my camera and gear in the car, so i could check the best locations to set up my tripod and camera.
    As i was walking back to the car park i noticed a lot of segulls and strarlings were perched and squabbling on a telephone wire between a telegraph pole.
    A missed opportunity for really good shot.
    Always take your camera with you at all times…….. you never know

  • Kathleen Mekailek

    I’ve done this so many times- the first two things i do before i leave the house are check that the battery is in the camera and the card is in the slot!

  • Jacqueline Derrick

    I am an amateur and my biggest mistake is not practicing what I have read about at home. I just go out and then try and remember that “thing” I read about settings. I end up with blurry shots. I take notes, but unless I practice, the notes are worthless.

  • Kathleen Mekailek

    i am guilty of the changing lenses outside because i like to change up my compositions and sometimes i can’t get through the barb wire/no trespassing signs. i used to shoot film and keep forgetting to turn camera sensor off. getting out of this habit and remembering now because I’ve gad a few fellow photogs send there bodies out to get clean and don’t want that expense right now. newbie, so i don’t feel comfortable trying it myself yet.

  • Barry E Warren

    Great Read, I enjoyed it very much.My biggest problem is sleeping late and missing the morning light.

  • Christine

    1) get more than one memory card; 32GB ones are fairly cheap now (what if your one card has an error & you don’t have another one while out in the field?); and if you do get a card error, do NOT reformat it or erase anything– look for memory card recovery software online (it also comes w/ some cards) & see if you can recover your images
    2) Get more than one battery AND be sure you charge them
    3) Chimp as much as you need to, within reason, of course. If you don’t look at your photos & keep shooting so you don’t miss anything, what happens when you get home & see that everything is way overexposed, or you didn’t get the important parts of the photos sharp. This not utilizing technology so as to be more like a film photographer just to make some sort of point is silly. My cameras have LCD screens for a reason. If I wanted to shoot film, I would shoot film. As new technology evolves, I will take advantage of it to its fullest. You will learn 20x more quickly from digital by chimping than you ever will by not. Chimping allows you to make on-the-fly adjustments & ensure that you get as close to a “perfect” shot in-camera as possible.

  • Rachael Talibart

    Forgetting to switch off IS when using the tripod. So annoying, and so easy to do.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/hima4ever/ ibraheemkurdieh

    i have the same problem :(

  • Ryan

    I’ve forgotten something so many times that I now perform something similar to a flight check ;)

  • Kathleen Mekailek

    just starting out and getting extras as i can. i have an extra card, but that doesn’t mean it always makes it back into the bag. i chose to purchase some filters over another battery, which will be my next purchase. when you are a newbie, it is hard to get everything that you “need” at once. as far as chomping goes- i don’t check every shot- i will check about every 20 or so and see if i need to make adjustments. i shoot using my viewfinder, not my lcd screen. this is a preference for me because i also like to shoot film every now and then and don’t want to become dependent on my screen, but instead my eye and my gut!

  • jumara

    first time and looks like I will be a constant viewer

  • Barry E Warren

    You got to get that camera out everyday,Get to where the camera feels like part of you. Put the thing on manual and learn it.

  • Karl Boddenberg

    I placed a sticky label on my tripod to remind me to turn off the IS

  • Shaiful Islam (Saif)

    Its a great article really enjoyed reading it!
    I am an amatureture also. My mistake is “Settling for the good shot and not looking for more” and from now on I will definitely try to avoid that! Thanks for sharing.

  • Jacqueline Derrick

    What is IS? I have an olympus pen E-pm1 , would it be on my camera too, and is it something I should turn off when using a tripod?

  • Valerie Jardin

    Rachael, IS stands for image stabilisation. I am not very familiar with the Olympus Pen but I believe the IS function is in the body, not the lens and I don’t think you would have to worry about that when on atripod.

  • Rachael Talibart

    I shoot Canon and Fuji so can’t answer the question about Olympus. IS = image stabilisation. Canon and Fuji have a switch on the lens. Nikon do it on the camera body (I think). If I leave it on and use my tripod, the IS tries to compensate for movement that isn’t there and the shots are less sharp. Tried and tested and lesson learned the hard way, over and over again!

  • Rachael Talibart

    Thanks, I have done the same but still encounter the problem when switching lenses while my camera is on the tripod, from my 16-35mm which has no IS to my 24-105mm which does. I just need to think.

  • Karl Boddenberg

    I have a Sony DSLR and the IS (Steady Shot in Sony) is in the camera, so I forgot about other makes having it built in the lens lol.

Some older comments

  • Jenny R

    March 27, 2013 12:32 am

    Another bad habit was not taking my DSLR everywhere because of its size and also because I worried that someone would steal it.
    I solved this problem by buying a nice little point n shoot that fits into my handbag. It takes fairly good macro shots, too.

  • Jenny R

    March 27, 2013 12:28 am

    My worst is forgetting my sd in my laptop then missing a good shot.
    Not using my mono-pod as a matter of course when shooting birds and butterflies.
    Rushing to get a shot, any shot, instead of composing and taking my time.

  • phill anstice

    March 15, 2013 11:25 pm

    Overzealous post-processing. Taking too many steps to achieve the perfection not achieved when shot. Punishment... write a thousand times: "I must not be lethargic, this is a fine craft and Photoshop is not a crutch for limp images".

  • Frank

    March 13, 2013 08:59 am

    Denise, sometimes try using a longer (slower) shutter speed. Walking tourists will just be blurs or sometimes not even visible. At a water front a huge tanker passed in front of the scene in the evening with a long exposure time. All that showed up was a red streak caused by the running light. The huge ship was not there!

  • viragored

    March 6, 2013 12:58 pm

    Not getting the horizon level...

  • Lori

    March 6, 2013 09:57 am

    Great article -- and guilty of most, if not all, of these - along with always always always tilting my head to the left.

  • Joe Candrilli

    March 6, 2013 09:49 am

    Spray and Pray. I typically say "I am going to take pictures today", then drive somewhere and take 300+ pictures of average stuff. I rarely take the time to plan a photo and put thought into it. Most of it is reactive and I spend more time changing gear vice planning what I want to achieve.

  • Vicki

    March 6, 2013 09:03 am

    Not bringing my camera everywhere I go, or at least having a point and shoot with me (I don't have an iPhone). I miss so many photo opportunities because of it.

    I'm actually anal about how I change my lenses. I've read about it so much before actually getting my DSLR that I knew to point my body downwards to avoid dust, and I do prepare my lens ahead of time so in the end, it takes me about 10 seconds or less to switch lenses.

  • Joe Palffy

    March 6, 2013 03:26 am

    Guilty as charged, i see i'm not the only one who can't or doesn't take the time to 'make' a photograph.

  • Phil Walker

    March 5, 2013 03:25 am

    My wo0rst fault is rushing into taking a pic in case I miss the opportunity. HJave learned to 'snatch' one first and get it in the can THEN take my time (if it is possible) and take another - slowly this time/

  • Kevin

    March 3, 2013 04:50 am

    My most frequent "bad habits"
    Not taking the time to take a great photo ...
    Often when on vacation with my wife, I will try to Grab a good shot instead of asking my wife to "wait a minute, I want to take a picture" so I hurry the shot and get poor focus or composition.

    My other problem is, when spending a few days at location and thinking " I'll come back for that shot later" and almost never do.
    Oh and. Of Deleting the poor shots that just need a little post production, then running out of
    "film"

  • Jeannie

    March 3, 2013 12:39 am

    Being overly critical. Constructive feedback is immensely helpful from the right people. But don't tear yourself down to the point where you don't enjoy photography any longer.

  • Dilip

    March 2, 2013 12:41 pm

    I shoot almost always on manual mode. I have these bad habit while shooting pictures:
    a) I will just switch off the camera after taking some pictures. when i switch on the camera somewhere else I get bad pictures at first as the the aperture, shutter speed, ISO etc wouldn't have been properly set!!! Before i set them the whole scene would have changed!!!
    b) Leave the sense covers and filters on the open ground and go searching for them after sometime. Once I lost my DSLR itself in a beach!
    c) Shoot as many photos as possible and still leave the spot feeling that I should have shot some more!
    d) Spend large amounts on camera and camera accessories and struggle for money at the end of the month! (Sorry this is the financial part though!!)

  • terry

    March 2, 2013 10:53 am

    not shooting raw. argg,,,,,

  • Alan Granger

    March 1, 2013 11:09 pm

    Composing too quickly has become a huge fault of mine. After all they're just a bunch of 0's and 1's. Too remedy this I got out one of my film cameras and bought some film. 5 rolls of 24 don't really go very far. Forces me to think about what I'm doing.

  • Peter Oxley

    March 1, 2013 08:33 pm

    FORGETTING TO RECHECK THE CAMERA SETTINGS...
    I take people on photo tours where we are continually running across new images to shoot. One moment you might be taking a back-lit portrait and the next a wide-angle landscape. When you use the exposure compensation button for the portrait to add in extra light, don't forget to reset. I am often too busy manipulating the aperture, shutter, iso and the focusing point, that I sometimes forget to reset the exposure compensation. In other words, have a mental check list each time you shoot a new subject.

  • Terence Starkey

    March 1, 2013 05:29 pm

    Not having a camera with me. Missed some great shots today of Kingfishers in a mangrove swamp.

    Also not checking my settings before shooting the first for the day - you know, yesterday I had it on macro and didn't reset before turning the camera off ...

    The white balance issue has me thinking too. I am one of those who leave the camera set to auto and then correct in Lightroom, but I'm going to give it a go with camera white balance settings.

    Thanks for the great article.

  • J Juby

    March 1, 2013 05:03 pm

    There's a picture lurking everywhere, anytime. So, pack your cam with your favorite "walk-around" lens and take it with you, everywhere. Then, forget the cam. Turn on your creative muse and seek the shot with your eyes. Until you see the light and the scene, the camera is useless. When your heart jumps and your creative muse cheers for the shot, only then do you need the cam and your science to compose the great shot.

  • sean

    March 1, 2013 04:03 pm

    My worst... Missing a morning's worth of shots by leaving my SD card in the laptop at my hotel during a recent trip to Utah's Zion National Park.

  • Keith

    March 1, 2013 10:39 am

    too much post processing

  • Trevor

    March 1, 2013 10:13 am

    Spending too much time reading about photography and not enough time doing it.

  • William Marshall

    March 1, 2013 09:36 am

    I often doubt my abilities because I know my equipment isn't the greatest. Then I see good photos that people took who have the same gear and I just kick myself for it.

  • Denise Aitken

    March 1, 2013 08:56 am

    This one relates particularly to being on holiday somewhere you have never been before and unlikely to go to again. It has been my worst habit, but something I have recognised and worked at improving, though I do still have to consciously think about it.

    What is my worse habit? Waiting for other tourists to get out of the way so I can get a better shot. Sometimes, it just doesn't happen and the situation can get deteriorate rather than improve. As a tourist I have to move on and I have found that one more than one occasion I don't have a photo for memory sake.

    When you get to wherever it is - take the shot, just take it. Then slow down and try to take the best shot you can.

  • Ricardo

    March 1, 2013 08:20 am

    My bad habit is to do not take my camera with me all the time, I love to take pictures, but I always think that someone is going to steal my camera, jajajajaja

  • Betty

    March 1, 2013 06:24 am

    Forgetting to reset my camera after using a remote shutter release is my most common. I've found myself grabbing my camera to get some great shot or portrait, only to kick myself as I hear the timer counting down!!! I am learning to reset my camera BEFORE I put it away.

  • christie

    March 1, 2013 05:47 am

    my worse habit...i just about never use a tripod. i have a nice one and easy to use...i just don't....when i should

  • Al Wehrmann

    March 1, 2013 05:37 am

    Perhaps my greatest fault is shooting too quickly. Getting caught up in the moment, not checking camera settings, and then not getting the shot I visualized. I often shoot in aperture priority concentrating on landscapes. So, for example, early morning light using small aperture and long exposure. Then, something with movement appears, such as a flock of geese, which if captured properly will add something dynamic to the image, but one needs to shift to shutter priority or at least pay attention to the shutter speed on aperture priority to that movement doesn't turn out blurry. I've been told by at least one pro photographer that going digital has led to a greater number of photos (hey, they're free, right?), but poorer quality photos (i.e., not concentrating on composition before pressing the release).

  • Donald Withers

    March 1, 2013 05:18 am

    Great article... I do have one point on the Chimping though. Looking at the LCD to peak at your histogram seems like appropriate chimping behavior, wouldn't you agree?

  • Darlene

    March 1, 2013 04:36 am

    Great article and things to think about, thanks Valerie!

  • Terry S

    March 1, 2013 04:17 am

    Rushing through interesting places - usually because I'm with a non-photographer who's anxious to move on.

    Potential remedy: go alone or go with other photographers

  • Mark Atwell

    March 1, 2013 03:14 am

    My worst: Taking a lot of pictures, some of them good, most of them crap, a few VERY good, yet NEVER printing anything so I can display them at home. Just get stuck between pushing the shutter button and pushing the print button...

  • Anita Broda

    February 28, 2013 11:31 pm

    Very true, thanks for sharing, I think I will print it and read it regularily and learn myself to avoid the same mistakes ! :) Shooting so many years and still doing the same mistakes is hopeless.

  • Mridula

    February 28, 2013 09:03 pm

    I am guilty of not chimping enough. And self doubt. I have kicked my self many times that if only I used the display I would have known how to take that next shot.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/

  • Tod

    February 28, 2013 07:02 pm

    My worst one is sleeping in. So often i have grand plans to go somewhere early but when it comes to the crunch i hit the snooze button. However next week im going to the coast by myself so hopefully i will be able to get some early nights so i can get up early for a couple of shoots

  • Blake

    February 28, 2013 06:38 pm

    Yeah, the whole 'chimping' thing is a total non-issue, constantly brought up by people that consider themselves 'real' photogs and others to be 'fauxtogs.' I check every photo for a half-second to make sure the lighting is right, so I can make on the fly adjustments to my settings.

    My worst habit is not carrying it everywhere. I could use my iPhone, yes, but I'd rather learn to use my SLR in the best way possible.

  • Rhys Lewis

    February 28, 2013 04:40 pm

    I agree with Grady - chimping is required at least a little. I've probably ruined as many shots by blinding shooting on (while out of focus or improperly exposing) as I have missed because I wasn't ready to take the next one.

  • timgray

    February 28, 2013 02:18 pm

    Not doing it in the camera and being lazy and doing it in Photoshop or Lightroom. 99% of what I see people photoshop can be done IRL with a skilled photographer. Set the shots up, use the camera and light right and you can be done the second you click the shutter.

  • GradyPhilpott

    February 28, 2013 01:27 pm

    Chimping is an unfortunate term, but I guess we'll just have to live with it.

    Chimping is only bad if you're missing shots while you're critiquing you're previous shot.

    Of course, in the few moments it takes to chimp, I guess anything might happen that would make a great photo, but the truth is that in the moment the trick is to know when it's okay to chimp and when it's better to keep shooting.

    Learning to use the LCD screen judiciously should be the goal, not demeaning a behavior that can actually improve your photography on the spot.

  • Marc C

    February 28, 2013 12:59 pm

    The very first one, is my worst habit. Awesome article, with some great reminders to put into practise.

  • Caillum Smith

    February 28, 2013 12:48 pm

    How about showing up on the scene as the light is unfolding before your eyes as you scramble to find something of interest to compose. Although it does make for a tidy rush of adrenaline if that's what you're into.

  • Edgar Arias

    February 28, 2013 12:39 pm

    Very helpful article. I think my worst habit is self doubt. I'm trying to get over it by running some shots by a pro photog friend, his critique is always spot-on and has helped me a lot.

  • Frisinger

    February 28, 2013 11:25 am

    Trying to do without the tripod. Bad idea a lot of the time.

  • Michal France

    February 28, 2013 11:21 am

    Thanks again for another great article!
    For me thinking too much is sometimes a bad habit. To think if it will be a good shot or not. And then it's gone. Here is one picture I had the chance to take because there was no time for thinking left:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/90949112@N02/8489963902/in/set-72157632807495872

  • Bernie the Landscape Photographer :)

    February 28, 2013 11:07 am

    I'm not so sure about "settling for the good shot and not looking for more"... It's not a bad habit in my opinion. I would rather settle for the single 'hero' or portfolio worthy shot over a bunch of mediocre shots of everything in between.

    Of course, I'm not saying to be tunnel-visioned and don't look for around, but just that you should focus your attention and effort to nailing the shot & composition that you originally came for (granted that you already had an expectation of what you wanted prior to arriving) :)

    It works directly with the "Composing poorly or too quickly" hint. If your attention is diverted, then this might follow :) I'm certainly guilty of doing this ha!

  • John Samborsky

    February 28, 2013 11:03 am

    The worst thing I do ALL THE TIME is forget to reset the camera back to "normal" mode after I've made a big change to settings the night before ... I've got early one chance only morning shots at ISO 3200, tungsten, mirror-lock .... you get "picture"....

  • Scottc

    February 28, 2013 09:21 am

    Laziness should be on the list, I just don't spend enough time photographing. Great article, though.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/

  • Ian

    February 28, 2013 08:24 am

    Hesitation…waiting for the perfect shot.

  • cristiano007

    February 28, 2013 07:51 am

    It seems I always have something negative to say about articles here, not this time. Great Job, Valerie.

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