More Beginning Photographer Mistakes

Obviously I can’t count. Picking up where I left off from the Top 10 Mistakes of Beginning Photographers

Gabe and Julie, lollipop in hand, explore the sea wall in northern California

Knowing your camera well, even if it’s a point-and-shoot model, allows you more control than you might expect. I intentionally under-exposed this backlit shot of my kids walking on a seawall in Klamath, California to get a silhouette.

12.Not Composing Tight in the Viewfinder

Most beginners don’t realize that even if it’s a snapshot, you should get closer to your subjects. The mere act of getting closer or “filling the frame”

  1. gives your camera a better chance of getting a better exposure
  2. helps it get your subject in focus
  3. allows your camera to get a better White Balance for the skin tones. (don’t sweat it, if you don’t know what that means)
  4. throws the background out of focus even more
  5. makes your subject bigger so it becomes obvious what is most important to you

13. Not Paying Attention to the Background

Backgrounds are usually an after-thought. The average consumer using a point-and-shoot camera is documenting a trip, a vacation not creating high-art, so they tend to just key in on their subject.

Those same cameras favor getting everything sharp in the scene by the very nature of the lens.

If you think about it,  even during those are times when you need the background to show, you don’t need everything in the scene to be tack sharp.

If I were to make it up Mt. Everest, I’d want to be sure to show the background as proof. But would the snow and blue skies need to be super sharp or just me?

14. Expecting Auto-focus to Be Flawless

Digital cameras don’t know what your subject is in the viewfinder.

It can only offer its best guess. The default of what it thinks you want to be sharp is right smack in the middle.

So the focusing point that is heavily favored is the one in the center.

What happens if you want your subject off-center?

Most cameras have other auto-focus points in the viewfinder that you can select, but that may require digging through the various menus.

The smaller the camera, the less real estate there is to put buttons and knobs, so the manufacturers have place it in the digital menu.

The easy fix, if your camera offers this ability: turn auto-focus off, look in the viewfinder and manually turn the focusing ring on your lens. That’s what we did before there was auto-focus.

Manually focusing may be your only answer in times when you’re shooting through a fence or glass. You also gain responsiveness if you manually set the focus.

Instead of doing 3 operations acquire focus, determine exposure and white balance, the camera only has to do 2.

If you’re using a digital SLR, most lenses have an off/on button on the barrel.

15. Not understanding Flash

camera_flashpopupWhether it’s the built-in flash that resembles a crab’s eye, or an external one that fits on the hotshoe, using flash without some basic knowledge and understanding introduces more problems at times.


Those red-eye reduction modes on cameras do not work.

Most of the time, they make you miss the shot.

It’s better to disable that feature and fix the red-eye in post production if it appears.

Fortunately the fix is simple in Photoshop.

Even Apple’s iPhoto has a very simple fix for this.

I’m certain those who use Windows have some free application that can do this.

Any help here Windows users reading this is appreciated.

The built-in flash has a very limited range obviously.
Not only does its use drain your camera’s battery life, it makes all your pictures look very similar because the direction of light is fixed no matter what you do.
With the built-in flash, your options are very  limited. If you are close enough to your subject you can either  “fill” or supplement the available light or over-power by 1 to 2 stops.

Hot spots from reflective surfaces

fillflash_problemIf all you have is the built-in flash, and your subject wears glasses, you will encounter this one.

Try asking your subject to tilt their face slightly downwards and facing slightly to the left or right.

The idea here is to keep the glasses from being perpendicular to the path of the light from the flash.

Most of these mistakes can be resolved if beginners know how to glean the information from the owner’s manual.

The problem is that the manuals are written from the perspective of how to use various settings in the camera but not WHY you would use them over such and such situations.

Not the fault of the technical writer. Their company is not in the business of teaching photography, they only make the cameras. The users/owners need to take some lessons.

16. Not understanding the limitations of their cameras

Every camera, even the high end professional cameras, has limitations.

As with most products, limitations are tied to cost of manufacturing the camera.

Small sensor size in consumer grade cameras affect directly the light-gathering ability or the ISO which affects heat production on the sensor creating digital noise.

Lenses which have small apertures or openings are cheaper, so you can expect to find those on consumer grade models.

For this very reason most low-end point-and-shoot cameras never have lenses which are very fast.

The sooner you understand the limitations of your particular camera, the better off you’ll be.

The skillful photographer learns not to be in poor light if they can help it.

When not possible, he learns a workaround.

In case you missed it, read the Top 10 Mistakes of Beginning Photographers.

4 thoughts on “More Beginning Photographer Mistakes”

  1. MaryEllen,
    Thanks so much for your contribution. I’ve only played with Picasa for simple storage of some files. They make a plug-in that allows iPhoto users to export directly to an online album. I haven’t tried Picasa beyond that. I’ll have to definitely try that especially if it runs on a Mac.

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