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8 Common Beginner Photography Mistakes and how to fix them

When you are first starting out in photography it is common to make mistakes. You will make tons of mistakes your first couple of months or even years. Unlike what Bob Ross would always say about mistakes when painting (happy accidents). There is no such thing as a happy accident when making a mistake in photography but those mistakes can usually be fixed easily.

One of the most important things to remember is to pay attention to your surroundings. Is there a tree sticking out of someones head? Is that person really missing half of their leg? Does my shutter speed really need to be that low? Is that group of people heading right towards me?

I’ll break those common photography mistakes and more down below. As you can see while they may seem like “silly” mistakes. It’s something we all do. Chances are we will continue to do them for a long time. I am guilty of some of these mistakes myself. However, the frequency of them is far lower now then it was when I first started out.

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Not knowing your camera

Just like everything else in life, when you first start out in something you need to learn how to do it. You need to understand all the different aspects of that particular thing. In photography the same rules apply. If you don’t know your camera how can you even start understanding and fixing your mistakes?

You should be soaking in all the information you can about your camera and photography as a whole. You don’t need an expensive camera to take good photos. A Canon EOS D5 Mark III and a Canon Rebel T7i can take the same image. It is the photographer that is behind the camera that makes the image what it is. NOT THE CAMERA.

Knowing and understanding all that your camera can do, is the best way to avoid mistakes when you are starting out.

Cropping

Sometimes we don’t always focus on the whole image when we are taking our photos. A lot of us just focus on the main subject and don’t realize that part of their leg or arm is missing. The good news is that this is an easy fix.

Don’t crop your image while in camera. Step back a foot or two or zoom out. You can always crop your image later on in whatever photo editing software you use. When I first started out I would zoom in all the time just to find that I cut off some of my image. Now I will leave a little “protective” boarder around my image so I can crop it in Lightroom.

Not using ISO

I am sure that you have heard that the higher the ISO the more noise/grain you will get and to leave your ISO at 100. While that is very true sometimes it can hurt. If shooting indoors it can really hurt your images since you would have to shoot with a lower shutter speed and a larger aperture to try and get the right light conditions. Chances are your image is still underexposed and you would have to brighten it up in post processing.

When brighten an image up in post processing can still bright the noise. Even at ISO 100 there is noise in the shadows (dark areas). This shows up even more when you are processing the image in Lightroom and brighten the pictures up. If you would expose correctly in the beginning by using a higher ISO the noise would be less noticeable.

Over Processing

Every beginner is guilty of over processing their images. You upload your photo to Lightroom and just start moving the sliders all over the place. Bringing up the highlights, “crushing” the blacks, playing around with the saturation and vibrance.

Some photographers still will do this many years later but that’s because it is their style. Some images work well when they are over saturated and have a lot of contrast. However, that is an exception and not a rule. Not all images can be edited the same way. That’s why there are thousands of presets out there that give us thousands of different results.

Shutter Speed

If you don’t think your shutter speed is important you are sadly mistaken. Not only is it part of the exposure triangle. It helps keep your image in focus. Remember the longer the shutter speed. The more out of focus your image can become.

A small change in your shutter speed can make your subject out of focus. It wouldn’t be noticeable zoomed out but if you would zoom in you would find a little motion blur. When photographing a person a good rule to remember is to not let your shutter speed drop below 1/125th. When photographing a child I would keep it no lower than 1/250th since those little buggers can be quick.

Not paying attention to the background

Raise your hand if you have ever had your best picture taken to date ruined by a tree sticking out of your subjects head? It is almost unavoidable. We have all had it happen to us. Sometimes we get so lost in the moment we don’t pay attention to the background and what is going on around us.

This is one of the easiest mistakes for any photographer to fix. All you have to do is slow down and pay attention to your surroundings. Maybe you have wait a second or two to let that person or car pass by. Maybe you have to get a little lower or higher. Just take an extra second to look around and see what might become an issue.

Not shooting in RAW

When first starting out shooting in RAW is important. A RAW file holds so much more information than a JPEG it’s not even funny. But what does that mean to you? It means when you get more advanced in with your editing skills you can go back and improve the edits on those first images you ever took.

Many cameras you can shoot in both RAW and JPEG. Sure it takes up more space on the memory card but it is well worth it. While shooting in RAW isn’t a must. It holds a ton of information that a JPEG simply doesn’t.

Not getting out there

Perhaps the biggest mistake a beginner can make is not getting out there and taking photos. How else do you expect to get better in your craft? You have to put the time in and practice if you want to improve your skills. That goes with anything in life. If you fall you pick yourself back up and try it again.

Just because it didn’t turn out good the first time doesn’t mean it won’t improve as time goes on. You wouldn’t expect your first painting to be a masterpiece would you? So why would you expect your first pictures to be?


How many of these mistakes are you guilty of? I have been guilty of all 8 when I first started. Now I can usually avoid these common mistakes but I still find myself making them from time to time.

Not all mistakes have to be major. As you can see with the 8 listed above. None of them are a major mistake but there are 8 common mistakes that beginners make. Hopefully, you found this post useful and want to share it with your friends who are starting out on their photography journey.

Still trying to absorb as much photography knowledge as you can? Check out our post about Photography terms you need to know. Or check out our photography starting guide. Photography is a fun hobby that can get you back out in nature and exploring the world around you from many different angles. 

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2 comments

  1. I’ve noticed that beginners often take a “one and done” approach to taking a photo. One picture from one angle in one place. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been glad I took multiple shots trying different things. Sometimes the first picture is the best, but sometimes it’s number 28 or 42.

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