10 Pieces Of Advice For NEW Photographers

Over the course of my photography career, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. It’s part of the learning process, but I sure wish I knew then what I know now. In today’s post, I’d like to share 10 pieces of advice for new photographers just getting into the field so they can shorten their learning curve.

red headed girl with camera

Here are 10 mistakes I made early on as a new photographer. You’ll save yourself a lot of frustration by not making the same ones.

1. Using A Slow Shutter Speed In The Wrong Situations

Soooo many pictures are ruined by not using a fast enough shutter speed, especially if you’re shooting sporting events, actions shots, or families with precocious toddlers. A fast shutter speed freezes motion and prevents motion blur, which basically demolishes your image.

Aim for a shutter speed of at least 1/500 to get laser sharp images. You’ll have to compensate by using a wide aperature, which works well for blurring the background and highlighting the subject. Wide aperatures won’t work for large family groups, however, unless they’re all on the same plane. I aim for a shutter speed of f8 for families to be safe.

[Read More: How To Take A Picture Of A Moving Subject]


2. Not Realizing How Awesome Bokeh Is

Backgrounds can be distracting in portraiture. Blurring them using bokeh highlights the subject, and is a distinguishing factor of a professional photograph. I love using fast lenses because of the wide aperatures that are so amazing at creating gorgeous bokeh. For me, aperatures of 1.8 to 3.2 are the sweet spot I aim for.

Keep in mind, if you’re using a zoom lens, and you zoom all the way in, you’re aperature will automatically get smaller. Use a shorter focal length to take advantage of the widest aperature your lens offers.  It took me awhile to clue into this. Be glad you know this. If certain situations don’t allow for a wide aperature, you can digitally create a bokeh effect in Photoshop.

[Read More: How To Create A Bokeh Effect In Photoshop]

3. Using Too High Of An ISO

There’s nothing as awful as a grainy picture. Well, I guess a blurry one is worse. If you have to choose between the two, go for a grainy one. Today’s DSLR cameras are incredible, allowing for high ISOs, without producing too much grain. This wasn’t always the case. Camera technology has come a long way.

There will be certain situations where you’ll have to use a high ISO in order to get the shot, and that’s okay. My mistake was using too high of an ISO, when using a tripod would have properly exposed the image. More at that below. At least I learned my lesson, and now I carry a tripod, or at least a monopod, with me on every shoot, enabling me to dial down my film speed, which makes a huge difference in picture quality.

Watch the video below for 3 more mistakes photographers make:

4. Not Using A Tripod With Slow Shutter Speeds

You can’t capture a decent picture without light. In low-light situations, using a tripod will enable you to use a slow shutter speed to better expose the image, and will also prevent you from having to use too high of an ISO. Knowing how to manipulate your camera settings is critical for taking great images as is knowing when the situation requires a tripod. Your camera can only do so much in tricky lighting situations.

You’ll have to use a tripod if you’re using the self-timer feature or firing the camera via remote control, however the majority of the time, I prefer using a monopod. They aren’t as bulky as tripods, and are easier to maneuver. This Manfrotto Xpro monopod comes with a video head, and has collapsible feet on the bottom so doubles as a tripod.  My Manfrotto has saved the day in so many instances, and is an indispensable piece of gear.

5. Being Lazy With Custom White Balance

I became a photographer before digital cameras were even a thing. When I got my first digital camera, I didn’t spend enough time learning about white balance, and consequently got some funky colored photos. And of course I wasn’t shooting in raw so fixing it in Photoshop didn’t work that well.

Rewards Program Samy's Rewards bannerUsing the automatic function for taking pictures outside is fine most of the time, but indoor lighting can be deplorable. Getting your white balance right can make all the difference. This one step will save you time in post, and your images will look so much better. Plus, you’ll feel better about yourself and your skills.

6. Waiting To Invest In A Telephoto Lens

Years ago, I used a wide angle lens for a large family group photo. Huge mistake? Why didn’t I know not to do that? It was absolutely horrifying because the unfortunate people on either end of the image were distorted. The people in the middle were fine, which accentuated the distortion even more. NEVER use a wide angle lens for family portraits. It was awful!

Another great benefit of using a telephoto lens is you’re not right in people’s face, but can keep a comfortable distance without being intrusive. This is particularly important for sporting events where a telephoto lens is a must. My favorite telephoto portrait lens is the Canon 85mm with a 1.8 aperature. It will save your bacon in abominable lighting situations where fast shutter speeds are necessary, and the bokeh is absolutely fabulous.

7. Shooting In JPEG Rather Than Raw

JPEG is fine for wedding photography, shooting in raw would take up too much space. I always use raw for product and real estate photography, headshots, and family portraits because raw images are easier to adjust in post, whether that’s manipulating white balance, correcting color, or playing around with contrast and saturation. I love the new sharpening feature that’s been added in the latest version of Photoshop.

Inevitably when photographing families, I always end up swapping a head, or two, or three, and raw makes it easier to make these edits than would a JPEG file. Always shoot in raw if you’re not going to be taking hundreds of pictures. You’ll be glad you did.

8. Not Getting A High-Quality Camera Bag

Here’s another area where I was slow to get the memo. Sturdy, well-made camera bags are a non-negotiable you don’t want to skimp on because they’ll protect your expensive gear. Camera equipment isn’t cheap and you’ll want to safeguard your investment.


Find a bag that suits your needs in terms of space. Will it accommodate your cameras, lenses, flashes and other accessories you’re used to traveling with? There’s a ton of different styles and materials to choose from so take your time in selecting a bag. You’ll be using it a lot, and it will take a beating.  Look at it as another piece of camera gear.

[Read More: The Best, Rugged Camera Bags For Photographers]

9. Wearing High Heels To Shoot A Wedding

I like fashion and style. I also love high heels. Put the two together and you have a recipe for disaster, that is if you’re spending all day filming a wedding. Wedding days are long, and are not the time to wear designer shoes. I have literally limped to my car after a hectic wedding day with blisters on my heels and toes, and, yep, I’ve done it more than once.

I’m pretty sure it took me two or three feet-wrenching experiences to wise up to the fact that no one was looking at my shoes, and why would I care anyway, when they caused me such misery. Why I wore those darned heels a second or third time is beyond me. Needless to say, I ditched the designer shoes, and settled on a pair of cute, comfortable flats. When it comes to shooting an all day wedding, comfort will always trump style.

10. Not Being Firm On My Pricing

I think I might be too nice. I always want to give people a good deal, but if you’re going to make it as a photographer or videographer, set your prices and stick to them. It’ll make your life a lot easier in both the short and long run. When you’re first starting out, it’s ok to give reasonable discounts in order to build up your portfolio, but only do this for short amount of time.

Cameras, lenses, flashes, and whatever accessories you buy, all cost money. You deserve to make a living from your craft so charge a competitive, fair price, and don’t waver from it too much. This will allow you to put the money you  earn back into your business, and will prevent a lot of awkwardness and brain damage trying to remember what price you quoted someone.

discount on drone bannerKey Points

Making mistakes is part of life. They teach us valuable lessons. Learn from mine to save time, embarrassment, and a lot of headache going forward. And please don’t wear high heels when photographing weddings. You’ve been warned!

Are you a new photographer? What mistakes have you made? Let me know in the comments:)

6 thoughts on “10 Pieces Of Advice For NEW Photographers”

  1. I like what you said about being firm on pricing, especially as you gain experience. As a personal trainer, I can relate to the pricing mantra and have also learned that people come to expect deals. However, I’ve come to expect that with cheap deals, I get cheap quality and service. For those who truly value photography, and in my case, training, they’ll pay your price without batting an eye, especially if you have experience and credibility. Hold true to those prices. 

    • Hi Todd,

      I would have saved myself a boatload of trouble if I’d been firm on my pricing. In the beginning, I was all over the place. Big mistake! People do expect deals and I think it’s ok to give small discounts in the beginning to build a portfolio, but after that setting strong boundaries is key when it comes to pricing. 

      It’s important to treat a photography business like a real business because it is just that. It’s ingrained in us to see products and services that don’t cost a lot as possible inferior so setting a fair price is critical, not only for people to see your services as high-quality, but also for the intent of making a living. 

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  2. Hi there, Holly, 

    Really appreciate the effort you have taken with the information I’ve just read on your post.

    I feel I’m now a lot more knowledgeable in taking a better photo. I have a 2-year-old toddler that loves to thrash around at the exact moment I’m hitting the button.

    I will try what you recommend about having a shutter speed of 1/500 and really do thank you for your advice.

    Best regards, Jeff.

    • Thanks Jeff!

      I think it’s programmed into toddlers to move the most when they’re getting their pictures taken. I’ve had that happen a million times. Using a fast shutter speed will help. Best of luck getting some amazing shots!

  3. Hello; Do you believe anyone can be successful as photography while making these ten mistakes?

    I found your information helpful. Especially for beginners in the photo business. And I think that following the advice of an experienced professional is an excellent start on the road to success.

    I know for a fact that when your feet are uncomfortable, you will not be able to perform in your duty as a professional as you should. Thus a flat shoe or slippers will enhance smooth performance.


    • Yes, I believe anyone can be successful as a photographer because once you make a mistake, you’ll hopefully learn from it, and not repeat it. All photographers make mistakes in the beginning, and even at other times. It’s all part of the process, and to be expected. 

      Hurting feet are a huge detraction from performing well. So true! Boy, did I learn my lesson on that point. 

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


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