Mistakes to Avoid as a Beginner Photographer

The title of a photographer has been diluted by the ubiquity of cameras in everyone’s smartphone and the vast opportunity to force photos into the world via social media. As people try to shift their hobby into a profession, thinking that the likes their pictures get on Instagram are automatically indicative of commercial potential, they soon realise a few sobering things. First, a smartphone camera makes excellent images, provided those images are also consumed via smartphone. You want to make a poster out of that image? Good luck ignoring the grainy, blurry, over-exposed imperfections that rear their ugly heads at those resolutions. Second, photography is a profession because it is actually difficult. Like anything that requires skill and experience to gain excellence, it is equally about knowing what to do as it is about knowing what not to do. Let’s look at some of those “don’ts” so you can avoid the early on.

Don’t ignore the background

Beginners tend to get this tunnel vision where they think that whatever is in the best focus will be the only thing on the photo that people will pay attention to. You know how people used to stick two fingers up behind the head of whoever next to them to make them look ridiculous in the photo? Photographers often do that to their subjects when they ignore the pole, tree, building, road sign or any random object that suddenly appears where the head ends. Once noticed, it cannot be unseen and ruins everything, so pay attention. In fact make sure to use the background to your advantage by making sure it frames the main focus of the photo in a complementary way.

Don’t think a good camera will make you a good photographer

Obviously, a good camera is important if you want high quality images. But an expensive DSLR will not automatically elevate you to National Geographic levels of professional images, the same way buying a restaurant-grade stove won’t earn your grilled cheese a Michelin star. There is nothing worse than spending around 1500 dollars on a camera, which if you’re a beginner will buy you a camera than can do more than you can do with it, and then shooting everything is “automatic” mode.  Learn what the setting mean, change stuff, experiment, there is quite a bit to learn. For example, go into the settings and make sure that the camera shoots in RAW format – that will give you the highest possible quality images and therefore greater flexibility when editing.

Don’t overdo it when editing images

Editing is a labour intensive and difficult task, and you don’t need to be a photographer to know this. Anyone who spends 5 seconds making a selfie and then 20 minutes choosing the Instagram filter that best reflects the contents of their soul can attest to this. And the mistakes made by the selfie fanatics are similar to those of beginner photographers. You want the image to stand out, to pop and be attractive through its vibrant colors, and in that pursuit many oversaturate colors and oversharpen details to the point of the image losing its substance. The same way makeup is not designed to bury the face, but manage the details, emphasising and de-emphasizing things, processing a photograph is about making sure the image carries the right vibe, and sometimes putting the emphasis on the shadows rather than the light. There is no magic combination for editing, so take it on a case-by-case basis. In time, you will develop your own presets.