1.Not Planning Your Shots
This is one that I noticed a lot from people who just get their cameras. There is that old adage about “the best camera is the one that is with you” which is great but the best shots come from when you are ready and know what to shoot.
You maybe thinking “But Jason, what if something truly magical happens? Are you saying that we should already have a plan in place? That’s impossible!” and to that I say “It’s possible because you have to know what you should shoot and how to shoot it” and this is something that can happen in a split second. However, it is that split second that many new photographers skip past when shooting.
I see this a lot in areas where tourists congregate. People see a beautiful place and they start clicking away. That 1 second of preparation could make the difference between a card full of random shots or a few shots that you are really happy with.
Focus on the Composition and Story. Before you shoot, step back and think about what makes the scene interesting. What is forcing you to take the image and how you can make it better. Try different angles or zooming in. Experiment with these and see what works and you will start to learn how to capture a scene effectively. Basically, make a plan in your mind of how you want the scene to look and take deliberate action to achieve that shot.
2. Not Editing Properly
There has always been a debate about editing images. When I first took a photography course in university, students were debating whether or not you could even call a “photoshopped” image a photograph or not.
However, that was close to 20 years ago and we’ve progressed immensely. Sadly, people are still grappling with the idea of editing. Some use it too much. You can probably find some of my earlier work to see examples of bad editing and too much HDR.
Others feel overwhelmed by editing and/or simply don’t want to do it. They are fooled by elitists who take pictures of New York’s garbage cans and think that everyone else’s photos are “over-cooked” and whatnot. Editing is simply adding to the story that you are telling with your image. It is a lot like the seasoning on your food. A little is good, not enough is bland and too much overpowers and ruins the meal.
Start by editing the basics which would be saturation, sharpness and exposure. Most free editing programs will have a version of these sliders and just adjust them to your liking. This will get you used to editing in a very minor way.
By adjusting these areas, you are not going to over-edit your images too much and you will also get practice using your editor of choice. After a while you can add in other elements if you like.
3. Focussing on the Gear
I recently had a talk with a new photographer and all that he could talk about was what gear he should have. He is a novice photographer but his gear list looks like that of a veteran sports photographer. Yet, he doesn’t shoot sports…
The problem was that he was following a lot of what the gurus said and was making purchases according to what was the latest and greatest in the world of youtube photographers. Sadly, a lot of these so-called photographer on youtube are simply creating videos to stay relevant and keep you clicking to get a paycheck. Most working photographers don’t give a flying f**K about the latest and great gear unless it truly revolutionizes their particular niche. If it works, it works and you don’t need some douche in tight pants walking in slow-mo to tell you this.
Ask yourself two questions: What do I want to photograph? and What gear (if I don’t have it already) would I need? The reason being is that I know a lot of new photographers jump around from landscape to photographing their kids to macro photography. All I hear from them is how they need this new piece of kit to take their work to the next level.
What they should be doing is mastering the equipment that they already have for the work that they want to produce. The first step is to figure out what style you are really interested in and work on getting the images that you want. You will quickly find out what gear works and what you need.
4. No Consistency
When you start out it may be tough to figure out what you really want to photograph. For me it was easy as I don’t really like street photography and never really got into portraiture. I naturally gravitated to cityscapes and landscapes. I blended in cinemagraphs as a part of my workflow as well.
The thing is that you don’t necessarily have to lock yourself into one style but be consistent. This will help you master the craft better and make your instagram a little more organized. It all goes back to that old saying “Jack of all trades, master of none” and there is a lot of truth to that here.
I am not saying that you can’t or shouldn’t try different styles. What I am saying is that I often here of new photographers buying new equipment because they are getting into food photography, for example.
Then, they buy backdrops and set up a studio with props and fill their facebook feeds with shots of their morning omelette. Mixed into that are shots that they took at their friends wedding, a few shots from the sunset from their car window and so on.
**This is something that I am still actively working on**
If you have a personal page post whatever you want. Make a second page that is strictly for your selected style of photography. Keep that one as clean and consistent as you can.
Focus your efforts on finding that style of photography that motivates you and work hard at mastering it. Post only your best images and keep your followers updated on your progress.
You can take this one step further too. If you are looking at getting serious into a completely different style of photography, set up a different page as well that is ONLY for that style. I would hold off on that for a bit but the key here is that people want to see consistency.
The photographers that I like have a very clear style. It may not be just the subject. It could be the location or the editing style or look to their images.
5. Competing with Other Photographers
This is another one that many photographers like myself still struggle with. When you first start out, you may want to try and jump the line. Even if you are very talented, experience often puts you back in your place.
Not to mention that these days, it is very easy to sit and wonder why a friend is getting so many followers and you are not. The thing is that, IT DOES NOT MATTER! Unless that friend is doing something that directly affects your photography, then give them a pat on the back and move on.
The same goes for those photographers that you always see travelling. It sucks watching their feeds fill up with exotic locations while you work a 9-5 job and then come home and have to look after your family or cat. That is part of life.
Nothing is worse than trying to live up to people that you have built up in your mind as being a “better photographer” or something like that. It leads to cheap petty moves like copying their shots or keeping a location secret because you don’t want them to copying your shot. Trust me, I have seen it all. Just don’t do it.
In a recent article, I noted that you don’t need a great location to take good photos. It is true and the reality is that you should just focus on what you are doing more than trying out do anyone else.
Who cares if some dude got a new camera or is traveling to Tokyo while you are stuck visiting the in-laws during the holidays. In the long run, it doesn’t matter. Just focus on your own work.
Also try picking up a personal project. I wrote about this as well. That really helped me get out of a slump but it also allowed me focus more on the craft rather than who was following me.
The bottomline here is that I see these mistakes and many more repeated over and over again. If you noticed, these are not your typical mistakes like having your photos out of focus either. A lot of these mistakes can be corrected by taking a step back and really focussing on what you want to achieve and how you can achieve it.