Top 10 Camera mistakes beginner photographers make
A photographer’s guide to avoid typical camera errors
Many magazines will give you the impression that photography is easy, especially now that it’s digital and all you need is a great camera, right? Unfortunately not. In fact, the biggest mistake of all, that some beginners make, is to buy more gear than they know how to use and exploit. My advice on gear is to buy what you need for your level and experience and master the use of that before adding to your kit bag.
The list of common mistakes related to camera settings is actually a lot longer than 10 but I have complied what I think are the most useful one’s for you to read and try to avoid. In no particular order:
1. Camera shake – blurry pictures
There are a number reasons why you might end up with blurry pictures. The most common cause is that the camera has moved whilst taking the photo. This can be caused and avoided by learning how to hold the camera properly – providing maximum support and stability to it and ensuring that your shutter speed is fast enough for you to keep the camera steady for the duration of exposure time. If you can’t manage to hold it steady you can either change the ISO setting to a higher number or put the camera on a tripod, or something else that is stable.
2. Poor focusing – blurry pictures or wrong thing in focus
It’s surprising how often I have looked at someone’s camera when they are taking pictures and noticed they have the camera or lens set to manual focus without realising it. Manual focus is effective if you trust your eye-sight enough to focus using the viewfinder or LCD screen. However the auto-focusing points are very accurate regardless of your eyes so for most people are more reliable. However you still need to make sure the focus point is on your subject so need to learn how to move the focus point or use one the local/single focus points in your screen or viewfinder.
3. Shooting in Automatic modes – no control of settings
If you shoot in Automatic or one of the automatic pre-set modes (sports, portraits etc.) you do not have any real control over the exposure settings the camera will use. This will make it much harder for you to achieve the effect you want in your photo of freezing or slowing down movement or creating depth in your photo with aperture. Using aperture or shutter priority mode will allow you to control the most important aspects of your photo and create to your own taste rather than the camera deciding for you.
4. Ignoring white balance – colours are incorrect
The white balance setting allows you to correct the colours in a photograph – using a pre-set white balance setting for the type of light you are shooting in can sometimes be good enough. However, setting a custom white balance is far more accurate and means the colours of whatever you include in the photo will be as you shot them rather than second guessing from a computer screen when you are at home.
5. Not resetting camera settings
This is one mistake I have to admit to doing on countless occasions – forgetting to reset my camera settings back to a default position. Then, realising during a shoot or when back home that everything I shot up to that point had been taken with the wrong ISO or file format, or some other setting like image stabilisation turned on even though I was using a tripod!
It’s easily done by all of us – we forget we changed a whole bunch of stuff from the last shoot we did and carry on the next time without double checking everything. I now have a routine of reverting the camera’s settings (ISO, Image Stabilisation, White Balance, Shutter/Aperture, file format, focus mode & metering) back to a default position ready to go again at any opportunity.
6. Under and over exposing a shot
This may be a little bit mean to include as a beginners mistake because most beginners probably don’t think about under or over exposure - they look at the photo on the back of the LCD and use that to confirm if it looks too bright or dark.
Unfortunately the LCD is just a device like a TV or phone which you can turn the brightness up or down on so it’s no indication of whether the photo is under or over exposed (that’s if you can actually see your LCD when it’s sunny). To check you have a good exposure you need to learn how to read the histogram that can be shown for each photo on the back of your camera.
7. Not checking your shot after taking it
How many times have you been out taking photographs then returned home to look at them on computer to find that the shot was out of focus, poorly composed, wrong something or other? Plenty, I imagine. This is a really easy one to fix – check your shots regularly on the back of the camera using the zoom-in button to check for sharpness, depth of field/focus and composition. If you have the chance you can delete the imperfect image and re-take the shot as many times as you need too.
8. Not deleting shots in camera and formatting card
Do you go home with so many shots in your camera that it becomes a mammoth task to sort through them and pick out the best shots? A very easy discipline to implement is to delete your test shots as you go along – by all means, keep two or three of the same shot that you may have used slightly different settings for, but get rid of the rubbish there and then. This will save you memory card space whilst out shooting, save you time when you get home and encourage you to be more meticulous about checking your shots after taking them. Once you have them copied to the computer, format the memory card in the camera so you are ready for a new shoot. Formatting the card is the best way to avoid a corrupt card and lost photos.
9. Not choosing the right aperture or shutter speed
Making sure you get exactly what you want sharp in a photo, or have frozen your subject so there is no movement blur is simply a case of experimenting with the aperture (F number) and shutter speed (1/nnn). Your focusing may be spot on, but an aperture that is too shallow will mean parts of your subject may be outside the plane of focus.
Equally a shutter speed that is too slow may mean that there is a slight bit of movement in the subject, which will result in a blurred shot. Experiment with your apertures using a higher F number to increase the plane of focus but be aware that this will also reduce your shutter speed so you may need to compensate by using a higher ISO number to ensure you cans still freeze the subject still.
10. Shooting in JPG and low resolution
Not everyone wants to shoot in RAW format which gives you the best quality images. However, JPG format is a much lower quality file and certainly won’t stand up to much post production because so many of the pixels that make up the picture are discarded in-camera to give you a smaller file.
Even if you do shoot in JPG then it’s a good idea to set the quality level of that to the highest available – you never know when you might want to print something larger than 6x4 one day. If memory card space is the reason you don’t shoot in RAW or fine quality JPG, then buy a bigger memory card – the cost these days of large and fast cards really isn’t a reason not to get the best you can from the camera you bought.
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