10 Photography Bad Habits for You to Conquer

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Let’s define what a bad habit is first; A habitual behavior considered to be detrimental to one’s wellbeing. However, this can be extended into learning a new skill set (like photography) where you may develop habits that can inhibit your learning progression, or even cause you physical injury.

How to Conquer Your Photography Bad Habits

Magnolia bud, not 100% sharp as I hadn’t taken my tripod with me

Before you can fix or adjust a bad habit, first you have to identify it. There is a good chance that a majority of photographers pick up or share the same habits, so maybe you can learn from my list. Possibly you are doing some of the same things. If you are lucky you aren’t doing all of them and this will help you avoid picking up any new photography bad habits.

There is little as heartbreaking as downloading your photos from a shoot to find you did a really stupid thing like have your ISO really high, or the wrong white balance setting or some other silly thing. Take the time to develop good habits and break any bad ones you might have.

How to Conquer Your Photography Bad Habits

Macro image of a gerbera, achieved by allowing sufficient time and patience to set up the shot and my gear correctly.

Confession Time

Most of the following are simple stupid things, stuff that doesn’t take a lot of time to think about or do but is easy to put aside for later. Except later usually doesn’t come, and then you pay the price.

Bad Habit #1 – Batteries not charged and ready

Failing to check and charge spare camera batteries when they need it is an issue. Nothing worse than being in the middle of a great shoot, having to switch batteries to find that all your spares are flat.

10 Photography Bad Habits for You to Conquer

Bad Habit #2 – Memory cards not empty and ready to use

Forgetting to take the CF card out of the camera and wipe it before reusing is bad habit number two. I have multiple spare cards so leaving one in the computer isn’t a deal breaker, but I am bad about formatting the card and dumping the previous images before a new shoot.

10 Photography Bad Habits for You to Conquer

Bad Habit #3 – No cleaning routine

Another photography bad habit is not completing a regular cleaning routine after each shoot. Living in a coastal area means always being aware of salt spray off the sea. You should have a regular cleaning routine for your camera, lenses, any accessories and don’t forget the inside of your camera bag as well. The life of your expensive camera gear will be extended. Also if your lenses and filters are clean, there is less to handle (fix) in the post-production stage.

10 Photography Bad Habits for You to Conquer

Bad Habit #4 – Not checking camera settings

Are you guilty of this one – not checking how the camera is set up before a new shoot? Time to fess up – this is my personal worst habit and it has cost me some good shots over the years.

Before you go out on your next shoot, allow time to go over your gear, check that you have everything you need, and set your camera up to your preferred base starting point. A few minutes spent here is an investment that saves you hassles and disappointment later.

10 Photography Bad Habits for You to Conquer

Shot unnecessarily at ISO 400 because I forgot to check my camera settings BEFORE the shoot.

Bad Habit #5 – Underestimating travel allowance time

Underestimating your travel allowance time so you can get on site and scout out in advance can be a problem. Sometimes it’s hard to find a particular spot, or the sun is setting as you are driving home from work. There are a Lot of reasons for you to be in a hurry to get to somewhere with your camera. But, make life less stressful by allowing plenty of travel time and plan out your route in advance. Get there early.

10 Photography Bad Habits for You to Conquer

Bad Habit #6 – Not stopping when you see a shot

Have you ever seen a possible shot while driving and not stopped?  I often think I will get it on the way back, but the light changes and the shot is gone forever. Of course, habit five applies here as well, if you have allowed sufficient travel time and built in a buffer for possible stops along the way, then you can stop.

10 Photography Bad Habits for You to Conquer

Bad Habit #7 – Not protecting your gear properly

Not protecting my gear as much as I should.  Doing things like putting my tripod legs in the sea, forgetting to use my rain cover for the camera, relying on the weather sealing to protect my camera and lens in a drizzle. Guilty!

If you do use your tripod in water, learn how to take it apart and clean it. They get a surprising amount of sand inside the legs which can eventually rust. Use proper rain gear to take care of your equipment.

10 Photography Bad Habits for You to Conquer

Bad Habit #8 – Not using a tripod

Sometimes I’m lazy about taking my tripod with me. It’s heavy and carrying it everywhere can be annoying sometimes. However, for landscapes and long exposures, it is a necessity.

10 Photography Bad Habits for You to Conquer

This bokeh shot was only possible while using a tripod.

Bad Habit #9 – Getting caught in the excitement

Getting caught up in the excitement of an event or happening and forgetting to take my time and plan for strategic shooting.

This is possibly less of a habit and more something you learn with time and experience. But learning how to distance yourself from the excitement of what is happening in front of your camera is a necessary skill to help you compose and capture meaningful images, rather than “spray and pray”.

10 Photography Bad Habits for You to Conquer

Taking myself off to the side of this light display, after capturing the usual images I decided to have a play with some ICM – Intentional Camera Movement.

Bad Habit #10 – Afraid to hit delete

Being afraid to delete images. While there is some merit in keeping images that you can come back to and edit later when your skills might have improved, part of your journey in learning to improve is being able to critique your own work. Learn to identify average shots, poor composition, dull lighting and other things that lessen the quality of your images, and don’t be afraid to cull them. If nothing else, it will help extend the life of your computer hard drive capacity.

10 Photography Bad Habits for You to Conquer

It’s a nice memory of a fun birthday lunch but it’s not the most amazing photo ever!

Conclusion

“I don’t have time to do it now” or “I’ll do it later” are two of the worst mental habits you can get into as a photographer. Learn to stop yourself when you think these things, then take the time to do whatever it was you were going to put off.

Being a photographer means you need to cultivate the art of patience. With patience, you also have to learn to allocate your time effectively and efficiently. Spending time looking after and checking your gear in advance of a shoot, will save you from making mistakes or wasting time later on fixing them.

Your photography bad habits may well be different to mine, so make a list of your own personal ones. Don’t try to fix them all at once. Pick the two that have the most impact and concentrate on fixing those. Over time you may find that the good habits you develop make it easier to quit the bad ones.

Keep an eye out for developing new bad habits in the future too. It’s easy to tell ourselves we won’t, but trying to be perfect is one of the worst habits of all. Do the best you can on the day, and hopefully every day it gets easier, and your good intentions become habits. Positive outcome!

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Stacey Hill invested in her first DSLR back in 2007. While having many adventures out and about in the South Island of New Zealand, Stacey took to blogging about her experiences learning photography. Recently she discovered the fun and creative possibilities to be had with Photoshop. She can be found having an opinion all over the place here.

  • Ana

    I love street portrait photography. My worst bad habit is being afraid to ask. I feel like an intruder and shy away. Too often my great shot walks or drives away just because I didn’t dare to ask if he or she minded being photographed.

  • David Hussey

    Regarding the culling of bad images …. I get the rational of this but to be honest my time is far too valuable (to me) to waste on deciding whether or not I should delete a particular photo. Digital storage is not so expensive that it pays to spend countless hours to avoid buying a HD

  • Taking photos will be a hobby of most of the people. But it is not easy for them to take the picture in the correct sense. getting a clear image is not easy and the people have to study more about the photo taking techniques. Without knowing the tips it is not easy for them take the picture manually. Otherwise they can take the picture in the auto mode.
    Vehicle Registration in Dubai

  • Stacey

    Hi Ana, I am not a street tog myself but I have done a bit. Sometimes you can discretely shoot without them knowing, but if you want a better level of engagement ie eye contact then yes you do have to be brave and approach them and ask. A smile and some way of initiating the conversation ie a comment on their clothes or their activitity or something and asking if you can shoot them has usually got me a yes.

  • Stacey

    David, true, storage is cheap and plentiful. However you might be discounting the learning possibility available by taking some time to edit your images for quality and for composition. How can you learn or see improvement if you are not culling your images as you go?

  • Stacey

    Yes taking photos is a hobby for most people, thanks.

  • Ana

    Yes, you’re right. But it depends on who you’re trying to shoot. My best street portrait is one of à homeless man who was holding a very funny sign. Despite his situation, this person had a great attitude. I immediately felt comfortable approaching him. We talked for about two hours. He was bright, intelligent, and an interesting person. But this is not always the case. I once wanted to photograph skinheads, but my gut told me I could be in danger if I approached them. They seemed crazed and aggressive. I had to choose between high risk and opportunity loss. I didn’t feel like I had what it takes to get them on board for picture-taking. There was an element of safety I chose not to challenge.
    Another time I saw a really pretty young woman walking down the street. I felt intimidated by my age. I thought it would be awkward for her to be approached by an “old” woman asking to take her picture. But I know that in this last case, I could definitely have done a good job at introducing myself and getting her permission, if only I had dared to approach her.

  • August Naude

    Well written!

  • Stacey

    Thankyou 🙂

  • Stacey

    Yes being safe should always be a priority, I agree!

  • David Hussey

    Why would you assume I do not edit my images for quality and for composition? And deleting an image does absolutely nothing to help me learn or improve my technique …. all it does as free up $0.000001 worth of disk space

  • Alejo Planchart

    I think, I learn more if I delete the images in the computer and not on site. That way I can easily observe what I did wrong: was it light, the composition, the focus? If I delete then on site, I miss the analysis and loose time to do something else. Unless I am running our of space in the card.
    The other point I sort of accept with limitation is the one about the tripod. I mix photo travel with family travel and taking a tripod is out of the question. So, instead I have to develop settings that will allow me to get good pictures even under low light. Probably, I have to work harder during post processing but in beats carrying the tripod.
    Finally, I try to get the camera settings ahead of time according to the type of situation I will be encountering so that if I forget to set for a particular shot or I am not able to do it, I will not be completely off.
    These are bad habits but allow me to enjoy family an photography. Also I get more time on processing when I live again the vacation

  • john Noble

    I find my learning curve helped by deleting poor work it is worth the time because you review before deletion.

  • Charles G. Haacker

    Alejo, you sound like me! However, I carry lots of spare pre-formatted cards so I don’t worry about running out of “film.” My understanding is that deleting clinkers in camera is unwise on two counts: it uses battery power (not much but still…), and you can’t be 100% certain It’s a clinker on a little screen; you need to get it to a bigger, sharper screen. It costs nothing to hold it and bring it back where you can delete it when you can be sure.

    I also avoid the tripod as much as possible, but I always have one in the car. There are times when it is essential, such as anything involving un-hand-holdable exposures. I once tried to do a hand-held picture of a beautiful bridge at dusk with no tripod. Nothing but noise! It takes up very little space in the car and sometimes it is the literal difference between a picture and no picture. ?

  • Charles G. Haacker

    Stacey, by “culling as you go,” do you mean in the camera? I’ve heard that deleting clinkers in camera is unwise on two counts: it uses battery power (not much but still…), but more importantly you can’t be 100% certain It’s really a clinker on a little screen; you need to get it to a bigger, sharper screen. It costs nothing to hold it and bring it back where you can delete it when you can be sure. I always have a laptop with me in my travels so when I get back to camp I can (1) upload and backup the images and (2) do a review, but even then I don’t cull until I get home to a “real” computer so I can really see. Sometimes (maybe not often but still) a little judicious crop on a supposed clinker can make the proverbial silk purse. ?

  • Alejo Planchart

    Totally agree. I normally take a plane in my trips, so the trunk of my car is out. Cards are very easy to carry, not so much spare batteries + charger (which also have enough but batteries are the weak link).

  • A story about your #6 Bad Habit – Not taking the shot when you see it. I was on my way to work about a month ago, when I noticed a very unusual car in a golf course parking lot I pass each day. My original thought was “Wow I will take a shot of that on my way home”. But my smarter half kicked in and I thought you have the camera and the time, take it NOW. So I went back, took several photos walking around the car. I went to work did a bit of research on the car model and found out that the car was the subject of a TV episode from a builder that does not live in the area. I had great stories to tell at work as well. When I went back the car was not there! It has not been seen since. My only shot was the shot at that moment. I am glad I went back! You never know, for a lot of reasons.

  • GeorgeCz

    I think with certain situations the “cell phone” should be put away! i.e. Weddings: the photographer should not be addicted to his/her cell phone and be devoted to the wedding itself.

  • Karen Carson

    Good concise list and important
    reminders! I am most guilty of #6 and especially #9! But I am improving and try to define my goals and preplan some shots so as not to get on sensory-overload at a new location or event.

  • oldclimber

    Digital has transformed habits I built from frugality in the film era. Take a lot of shots, and if you’re honing in on something that engages you, keep shooting, but reframing, moving, adjusting little nuances with each shot. Later, it may be the better ones have a bit better balance or focus or composition you lose if you only settle for the first couple. Play with depth of field, odd angles, low and high positions, and recognize that many excellent shots reveal images your eyes do not see directly in the real world. Deleting obvious junk is fine in-camera, but keep in mind, if for some reason you ever had to claim a right to a photo – having a series with dates, obviously including the shot in question, could absolutely prove you took the original shot in a context. Digital storage space is cheap, and keeping a download archive by date separate from your edited working file groupings just might save you some day.

  • walwit

    Reminded me -and old man- How I was surprised that even a young women accepted me to take a picture of them. May be I looked a little like a professional with my big camera and other gear.

  • Tim

    #11 – check your lens cap is off! If you just hold your camera up to take a photo, you’ll pretty quickly work it out when you can’t see anything, though you may risk some embarrassment when your subject sees what you just did (and potentially miss capturing the moment you wanted to photograph), but a few months back I wanted to get a star trail shot over the beach – I got there early while there was some light in the sky so I could set up composition, focus, etc. and then I put the lens cap on so the lens wouldn’t get covered in salt spray while I waited for the sky to darken. It wasn’t until I was half-an-hour into my long exposure that I thought “Did I remember to remove that lens cap?”, and I hadn’t…

  • OldPom

    A poor choice is to ‘save space’ on card and computer by shooting in anything other than RAW . By letting the camera make decisions that would be better made by you in editing. So long as you have a decent size empty card every time you set out and another one in your bag. Amazing too how much you can do to ‘correct’ poor choice of temperature balance, contrast and colour from a raw image file. than from a jpeg one. . And filing the raw file as well as the edited one in case you want to go back to it later for another edit.

  • Stacey

    RAW is the recommended file format to use, but some people chose to shoot in jpg for their own reasons.

  • Stacey

    Oh god yes, I have done that myself on more than one occasion – one during a memorable lightning storm, was gutted!

  • Stacey

    Im not sure why you would ever need a series of images to have a claim to have taken a photo – if you have the original image and the exif, that should be sufficient.

  • Stacey

    Yes #6 is one of mine as well but I actively work on it when I can. Sometimes you just don’t have time or opportunity tho. #9 was an issue for me as I was learning too.

  • Stacey

    Anyone being paid to do a job should be a professional about it.

  • Stacey

    Yeah its one that I had to learn the hard way myself with missing several images I wish now that I had made the time to stop for. Glad you did!

  • Stacey

    Everyone has to make compromises to suit their own circumstances. You are making educated choices, and those are not bad habits at all.

  • Stacey

    By culling as you go, I meant in the editing process – sorry if that wasn’t entirely clear. Yes editing from the back of the camera is not ideal, you can’t see if you have sharp focus etc.

  • Arthur_P_Dent

    I just carry a small tripod in my bag at all times (it goes from about 10″ to 42″ easily. A monopod is also a good option for stabilization.

  • tchudson

    I was helping a friend do a multi-flash shot in a very large cave passage using lumadyne flashes. I traversed about a thousand feet of passage, climbing over boulders and such, setting off the flash I don’t know how many times to illuminate different sections of the passage. Got back to the camera and, with an embarrassed look on his face, he admitted that he had forgotten to take the lens cap off….

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