Teaching photography workshops has made me aware of four mistakes people make which hinder their development as photographers. If you can learn to avoid doing these four photography mistakes you will become a much more creative photographer and find more enjoyment in using your camera.
Mistake #1 – Always thinking your camera is not good enough
Most people who join our workshops come with DSLR or mirrorless cameras and have made a reasonable financial investment in this equipment. They have researched what to buy, carefully chosen and purchased a camera they decided will be right for them.
But many people still are stuck on the idea that if they upgrade their equipment their photography will improve dramatically. This can be true in some cases, but generally, it’s a mistake to be easily avoided. It’s most often a mistake to think like this because you are telling yourself you cannot improve unless you get new gear.
Changing your thinking about wanting new camera equipment is the best way to avoid getting stuck in a photographic rut. Sticking with the camera you have, getting to know it and love it will enable you to become a far better and more creative photographer. I’ve had my main camera now, (a Nikon D800,) for over five years – a long time for any digital hardware, and I am more than satisfied with it. I have come to know it well and therefore, use it easily. I’ve been using Nikon cameras for over 30 years so am pretty familiar with the way they work.
Sticking with the camera you have, and getting to know it well will enable you to concentrate more on composition, lighting, and timing. You will not be distracted trying to figure out which dials and buttons to use to set the camera the way you want. Making these settings will become second nature once you are intimate with your camera. By upgrading your camera too often you are not as likely to get to become truly familiar with it.
Mistake #2 – Not studying how to use your camera
Another mistake I find people often make is not learning how to use their camera. We had a customer recently who had studied photography in high school and also taken courses in photography at university, but they did not really know much about using their camera. I was shocked!
One of the easiest ways to avoid frustration and undoubtedly help improve your photography is to study your camera before you study anything else about photography. Learning how your camera functions and how to control it should be the first step you take in your photographic journey. Unless you are confident with your camera and can use it with ease, you will be distracted from the more creative aspects of photography.
Picking up most camera manuals it’s not difficult to understand why people so often do little more than skim a few pages before putting it down again, as they are notoriously challenging to make much sense of. There are other ways to learn about your camera settings.
Getting online and using Google and Youtube will typically result in an incredible amount of good information about most camera models. Many top brands have authors who write independently about their cameras and the information in those books is often far easier to digest.
By deciding to enjoy the camera you have and learning how to use it, you will be avoiding two of the biggest mistakes I find people make that hinder their growth as photographers.
Mistake #3 – Using your camera infrequently
Hopefully, if you are committed to avoiding the first two mistakes you will naturally avoid this third one I find many people make – not using your camera frequently enough.
If you only use your camera when you go on vacation, or for family gatherings or to photograph your kid’s soccer game, you are not using it enough to become a really proficient photographer. This is an easy mistake to avoid if you build a healthy habit of taking your camera everywhere, (and you don’t just leave it in your camera bag).
Using your camera frequently, every day preferably is the best way to integrate what you have learned about your camera into practical experience. Taking up what’s known as the 365-day challenge is a great way to help form a creative habit which will do more for your development as a photographer than any other method I know. Choosing to pick up your camera and take at least one photo a day, every day of the year, is a commitment destined to shape and speed your development as a photographer.
Mistake #4 – Relying on auto exposure
Most people who join our photography workshops have their camera’s set to one of the auto modes, typically aperture priority, at the start of the day. Before we are through the first hour, most have their cameras set to manual mode. I am very good at convincing people to make the switch to manual because I passionately believe it is a big mistake to allow your camera to make the creative choice of setting the exposure. Your camera is smart, the artificial intelligence in modern cameras is incredible, but your camera is not creative.
By taking control of your exposure using manual mode you are avoiding one of the biggest mistakes people make. Knowing how to use manual mode on your camera will empower you to become so much more creative, but you must first overcome the mindset that tells you it’s too difficult. It really isn’t, especially if you are avoiding the first three mistakes I’ve written about in this article.
Camera manufacturers love to promote all the new technology in their cameras and you never see much encouragement from them to use manual mode. I believe learning to use your camera in manual mode is a lot less complicated than learning all the auto settings. Learning to set your exposure manually you have control over the way your photographs will look and you will truly be able to develop your own unique photographic style.
Take creative control
By making the mistake of relying on the camera’s AI and using your camera on auto you are relinquishing creative control to a piece of equipment manufactured to return standardized results. If you want to avoid all your photos looking like most other people’s I would encourage you to switch to manual mode and take creative control of your photography.
This is a big step for many people and does require practice to learn the principles of exposure. We have had so many people leave us lovely reviews and thank us for encouraging them to make the switch to manual mode.
Even if you can avoid making one or two of these mistakes you will notice an improvement in your photography. Managing to avoid all of these photography mistakes will take some time and commitment, but to excel in any creative expression does not happen easily for most people.