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.
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.
Table of Contents
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.
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.
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:)