Like most hobbies or professions, every photographer started out somewhere. This usually means they also made mistakes along the way from which they have learned.
The thing to remember is that everyone makes mistakes – even seasoned pros might on the odd occasion get things wrong, but the key is to learn from your mistakes and move on. As you become more experienced the mistakes will get less and less, but in the meantime, here are six mistakes to avoid when you’re just starting out in photography.
#1 – Avoid Skipping Over the Camera Manual
I often get asked if I have any advice for people starting out in photography and my first tip is to read the camera manual cover to cover. Even now, whenever I upgrade my camera I always read the manual a couple of times. Besides the fact that your camera is the tool you need to use to capture photos so you need to understand how to use it, the manual also has a wealth of information about photography.
Set yourself a task of reading each part over and over again until you understand it, then practice it using your camera until it becomes second nature to you. In an instant, you should be able to change settings, focus points, review images, and so on.
Cameras these days offer so many possibilities and you can only use your camera to its full potential if you know and understand everything about it.
#2 – Avoid Blaming Your Gear
Every new photographer has probably at some point early on in their photography journey said the words, “If only I had a better camera I could take better photos”. While better cameras allow you to take better photos by giving you more control, bigger image sizes, less noise, etc., that alone will not make you a better photographer and thus make you capture better photos.
A good photograph requires that many elements come together and regardless of the camera that you have, a boring or uninspiring subject will still be boring and uninspiring even shot with the latest high-end camera.
If you really want to improve your photography, first you need to improve the creative and visual elements. Things like being able to light the scene or subject nicely, compose/frame your image correctly and actually find interesting opportunities to photograph. Once you have mastered these parts, your photos will look better regardless of the camera you are using.
#3 – Avoid Skipping the Theory Parts of Learning
Like most things, the more you practice photography the better you will become. It’s easy to forget that there is actually some science and theory behind photography.
Now while you don’t need to understand every intricate part of the theory (unless you want to) and be able to recite color temperatures off by heart, it still does help if you know some of the basics. It can help you in your photography, but also it can give you an indication of the limitations of modern day DSLRs.
The great thing is that there is tons of information about photography online these days and you can learn as much or as little as you want to, at your own pace, in your own time.
#4 – Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others
When you are starting out in photography there will always be a part of you that looks at your work and compares it to other people’s. While you should always look at other photographer’s work and be influenced by those who you admire, trying to compare yourself to others is not only a pointless exercise but it might actually be detrimental to your long-term success.
You will find yourself trying to copy other people rather than developing your own style which is what can help you and your photos stand out from the crowd. So don’t get consumed by comparing your work to others, view other people’s work with admiration but never envy.
#5 – Not Being True to Yourself
One of the great things about photography is that you could send a brief to multiple photographers and they will all likely come back with different work. Whether it’s in their interpretation, their vision or their style – the key is that their work will all probably look different even if that difference is subtle. It’s this uniqueness that makes photography such a wonderful art form to be involved in. But all of those photographers have one thing in common and that is that they stay true to their own way of working.
Sure, at times you’ll have to adapt when working for clients on a brief, but when photographing for yourself, there should always be a synergy in your work. If you want a test to see if you have developed your own style, lay out a whole load of your photos on a table. You should immediately see a connection between them. If you don’t, then ask yourself why and try to understand what is different.
#6 – Not Doing What You Love
Most photographers will tell you that they absolutely love what they do, and they wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
If photography is a hobby for you, why would you want to photograph something you don’t enjoy? Most people get into photography with a part of it that they really enjoy. For some, it’s travel images, for others, it might be food or weddings. Some people like shooting wildlife photos and others like sports photography.
Whatever your passion is, you’ll be far better off focusing on the things you love photographing rather than things you don’t enjoy as that passion will likely be shown in the quality of your work.
While this may seem like an obvious list, it’s incredible how often people still fall into these pitfalls. If you want a few more mistakes to avoid – go here.
Photography for many people is a hobby, and as such should be like any other hobby, an enjoyable activity. Avoid these beginner pitfalls and you’ll be sure to enjoy your photography even more and it will show in your work.
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