Beginner Digital Photography: 5 common mistakes

It’s Friday again! (well in Australia it is). This week we will be looking at the 5 common mistakes made by every beginner photographer and how to avoid them. When i first picked up my camera, I pretty much had no idea what I was doing, all I knew was to press the shutter button, I just left in auto and shot whatever I could with no sense of composition or anything! Don’t fret if you do some of these, we all make mistakes when we start off and it’s learning from these mistakes which helps us improve and improve.

Focusing on the wrong subject

I suffered from this mistake the most when I was began shooting my photos and it still happens today when I loose focus. Essentially if you leave your camera on autofocus and let the camera choose the focus points, you often leave your main subject blurry, leaving something else to be in sharp focus. This can be fixed relatively easy. The easiest fix is to change your camera settings to programmed auto, this allows you to choose the different focus points easily. Programmed auto also allows you to change different settings and I found it much easier to learn with. You then change the focus point to your subject, allowing your subject to be sharp. If you plan to take portraits, make sure to focus on the subjects eyes for the best results!



Blurry and shaky photos

Blurry and shaky photos are a very common sight for a beginner photographer. This would be commonly caused by shooting at a shutter speed that is too low. The higher the shutter speed, the crisper the photo will be. At a lower shutter speed, the camera sensor is subject to the natural shaking of your hands or movement. If you stay very still or use a tripod, you can bring your shutter speed down. However a common rule is to never shoot at a shutter speed that is 1/(your lens focal length). So if you are using a 35mm lens on a crop sensor, you aim to shoot 1/50 and above. You can manually adjust this in the Shutter priority setting, which then the camera automatically adjusts all the other settings to compensate for your shutter speed. The more you are zoomed in, the more vulnerable your shots are.


Blown exposure

This is a tough one to fix when you are shooting in JPEG. You can do your best to change your ISO settings to a lower setting, however you are better off shooting in RAW and fixing up the photo in post. If your exposure is too low, the grainier the photo will be and discoloring will occur. If your highlights are way too bright, it would be hard to recover the data. A general rule of thumb when shooting in RAW is to make sure your highlights are exposed correctly and then adjusting the shadows which will bring out the data. If your camera struggles to bring up the shadows, overexpose the photo and just bring down the highlights in post processing. If you really want the best results, shoot the scene at different exposures, such as underexposing, over exposing and then compile the image into light room or Photoshop and merge as an HDR, this will give you the best results. Make sure each frame is exactly the same!


Shooting in the wrong file format

JPEG and RAW are the two files your camera will shoot at. JPEG normally as three settings such as FINE, NORMAL and BASIC. Ensure that you shoot FINE if you want to save your photos as JPEGs and don’t plan to post edit them. If you want to edit them later, save them as RAW files. The biggest mistake is saving the files as normal or basic, these file formats are very compressed and loose a lot of important data that will make your photo become less editable for Instagram and your colours will be off and find some distortions. JPEGs algorithm is an efficient algorithm but looses a lot of detail. The size difference in the file formats will be the amount of data that is on each photo. If you find yourself running out of memory, buy a new or larger SD card.


This is the biggest mistake beginners make, that is shooting photos from eye level. The reason this mistake is costly is that the photos can turn out to be very bland and mediocre. If you shoot from a different angle, you create a whole new perspective that people don’t normally see everyday, this gives the photo some appeal and creates a mood or a story. Everyone everyday views the world at eye level, however struggle to view the world from down below or up above. When taking portraits, try taking them from higher above or below, each represents different “power” stances and moods. When taking landscapes, try take it from down low, up above, giving a new unique perspective. If you struggle to find a unique angle, try shooting through something such as a branch, tree, people, rocks or grass. This gives a new angle of approach to the photo, making it stand out from the rest. If you have a tilting screen, it makes it very easy to get down low and take some photos through using live view. If you don’t have a tilting screen, just blindly take some photos and adjust accordingly to get that photo you want.


Make sure to keep shooting with all this in mind! If you can get past these mistakes, your photography game will be on point. Next week I will go through a second part to this, with more suggestions on how to improve your beginner photography game. Remember, any progress is progress no matter how big or small. I’m currently on the market for a full frame camera and will post an article in the coming weeks about which are the best budget full frame cameras for you guys! Have a good week and catch you next time!


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