Beginner Photography Mistakes to Avoid


When you’re just starting out in photography there are so many things to learn it can be overwhelming. Here are two videos with some tips on common photography mistakes and how to avoid them.

Mistakes to avoid as a beginning photographer

This video by Serge Ramelli will give you 6 things to avoid doing as you start out in photography.

  1. Shooting during the daytime instead of sunset or sunrise.
  2. Not using an ND filter when shooting the ocean.
  3. Not using a tripod for night photography.
  4. Putting too many elements in your photo, not telling the story well.
  5. Shooting JPG instead of Raw.
  6. Not using Lightroom or its presets.

10 More beginner mistakes to avoid

If you’ve got those things covered, here are 10 more beginner mistakes to avoid including:

  1. Forgetting something at home.
  2. Not arriving early enough to the shooting location.
  3. Not scouting the location ahead of time.
  4. Shooting in the wrong lighting (see mistake #1 above from Serge!).
  5. Not moving around enough.
  6. Images that aren’t sharp (use a tripod, etc.)
  7. Going home too early. Stay later than you planned.
  8. Forgetting to set your camera back to zero (default settings, ISO, exposure compensation, etc.)
  9. Don’t worry so much about shooting in Manual mode.
  10. Not getting close enough to the subject, being too shy.

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Darlene Hildebrandt is an educator who teaches aspiring amateurs and hobbyists how to improve their skills through articles on her site Digital Photo Mentor, online photography classes, and travel tours to exotic places like Morocco and India. To help you at whatever level you're at she has two email mini-courses. Sign up for her free beginner OR portrait photography email mini-course here. Or get both, no charge!

  • Click and Learn Photography

    Nice list, although I disagree somewhat with always using an ND filter for seascapes. I’ve made plenty of images where I prefer to stop down and use 1/2 second exposure rather than putting on an ND filter and making yet another cliche milky seascape.

    Other than that I completely agree, and I’ve actually covered many of the topics in depth on my site too!

  • Becky

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  • Patchy

    Forgetting something at home forces you to learn to work with the equipment you have. Often, this could lead to a better understanding of the capabilities of your camera gear which in time, could equate to better quality photographs.

  • H Shaheen

    Not sure that I agree with all 6 items being mistakes; it depends on your starting point and your photographic aspirations. While I’m no longer a beginner, I recall that when I first switched to digital from film, I shot jpg because having to learn digital processing was just one more thing to have to contend with in addition to working with the new technology and medium. I was able to do basic jpg editing with Photoshop Elements. To say that a beginner must only shoot only in raw is like saying a person shooting film must do their own developing and printing. I’ve shoot film as a hobby for 25 years and never developed or printed my own film; that doesn’t make me any less of a photographer.

    Today, I remain a hobby photographer and am shooting raw and using Lightroom (perpetual licence). However, If I were starting today,I might be coming from the jpg heavy smartphone world and wanting to focus on Photography and ILC basics before tackling raw files and their processing. I would most certainly not sign up for the Lightroom subscription but seek out other software options or make do with the Elements version of ACR. Someone who wants to be a pro may well choose to go the Lightroom subscription route but for someone for whom its not a living, its a questionable requirement and not necessarily a “mistake”.

    On the issue of ND filters, this may again be too tall an order for beginners; I’d be inclined to encourage the use of a polarizing filter before trying to get beginners comfortable with NDs. I cant see beginners investing in a Lee or similar filter system with all the expense and sceesories that come with it. Besides, I’m a bit tired of seeing virtually all ocean and waterfall scenes now having that smooth, silky, but unrealistic look; whatever happened to conveying just the power of the waves, oceans and waterfalls?

    Just my 2 cents…

  • Chuckl8

    I agree with the other comments here that take exception at calling different techniques “mistakes.” For example, while I understand the advantages of shooting either RAW or RAW+JPG, I can also see the disadvantages; … including RAW inhibits the ability to shoot fast multiples when the shoot calls for it, and it eats memory. And while ND filters can provide “prettier pictures”, they also move the product away from pure editorial output.

  • John Doherty

    Shooting in RAW for a beginner. Overwhelming, I’d suggest?

  • Terence McKenna

    Disagree about the suggestion that it is a mistake to shoot water/oceans without the ND filter to slow the water down. I agree that it is important to learn this technique but it is so overused. Sparingly, it is beautiful. But many photographers use it without realizing that it makes pictures look like Thomas Kincaid landscapes – so smarmy.

  • Doug

    Actually RAW does not inhibit the ability to shoot fast multiples. The memory card is the problem on this. Spend a little more on a faster memory card and you will not have this problem. The camera can only shoot as fast as the memory card writes. I do a lot of modeling shoots and airshow shoots, I always shoot in RAW and I have never had a problem shooting fast.

  • Chuckl8

    I use the fastest cards, in the fastest cameras, and I used to also shoot only in RAW if I had the time to deal with it in post. But no matter which cards you use, RAW will always be slower than JPG. That’s simple physical reality; … more info to move takes more time to move it. And more memory.

    Some clients who use the card hand-off system won’t even allow RAW, since it clogs the system. Personally, if I have the choice, I prefer to at least back-up in RAW, since it obviously has much more info to play with in post.

    As you mentioned, for some situations the write-speed for RAW is sufficient, but for others it is not. Even the fastest cards and cameras will stall at times in RAW or RAW+JPG when the shooting is hot and heavy. Not so with JPG only. And now that JPG quality has improved by leaps and bounds, while reproduction quality has – unfortunately – dropped, the gaps between RAW and JPG are much narrower.

    Don’t get me wrong; … I realize that RAW is still better than JPG. But there are still limitations.

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