Getting started in photography is generally not easy. The grip of the camera, the discovery of the settings, the choice of the subject, the basic rules of composition to assimilate. There is a multitude of things to think about when triggering.
Getting started is also about making mistakes. That in itself is not a bad thing, we all make mistakes and it is an integral part of the learning process. The most important thing is not to make mistakes, but to realize them and to rectify the situation.
In this article, I present to you some common mistakes with the beginner photographer. Most come from my personal experience but, over time and meetings, I realized that I was not alone to have been there. Whether you are just starting out in the photo or already have some experience, chances are you will find some of you in the following!
Mistakes of the Novice Photographer
- Automatic photography
Current cameras have an arsenal of automatic settings to assist the photographer at the time of the shooting. When you are just starting the photo, it is a precious help and it brings a certain comfort.
However, as you become familiar with your unit, I advise you to take quickly the control of the settings. If you want to succeed in your photos, you have no interest in letting the camera decide everything for you!
Take the example of focusing: do you really want the camera to choose where to focus? I am sure that you have already faced the following problem: you have your subject in front of you, you press the shutter button but the focusing is done next to it.
As sophisticated as it is, even the best of cameras will not always make the right choice. The focus is therefore one of the first parameters on which you must regain control. To do this, start slowly to select yourself the collimator to be used for the development.
Photographing fully automatically also means closing the door to immense creative possibilities. By letting your device choose the aperture and speed, you greatly reduce your room for maneuver.
In full automatic, I could not have obtained this result or
I would not have done it on purpose!
Want to play on the depth of field and get pretty background blurs? Do you want to freeze the movement of a subject or, on the contrary, transcribe its movement? To fully express your photographic intention, there are not fifty solutions, you must avoid the automatic!
- Do not check your settings
If you have already passed this first step and you have quit automatic, there is another “danger” waiting for you. Before you start a photoshoot, take some time to check your settings. It is possible that during the previous session you had to modify this or that setting for a specific need and that this setting remained as it was.
A case study concerns the use of an ISO sensitivity that is not adapted to the situation. Here is the classic scheme: you take photos indoors and, since the speed is a bit tight, you increase the ISO sensitivity (for example to 1000 ISO) to avoid camera shake. Then you calmly finish your photos without worrying about this change.
A few hours or a few days later, you take your camera again to take photos outdoors when the sun is shining. And since you have not checked your settings, you are still shooting at ISO 1000!
If you have the eye, you will realize immediately that you have an abnormally high speed. But when starting out, chances are that you will only notice it once in front of your computer, constantly bitterness with the presence of digital noise in your photos or worse, irreparable overexposure. It’s silly, but I found myself in this situation and I can tell you that it served me as a lesson!
This is only an example but it shows that even the smallest oversight can have significant repercussions. I could also give you the same demonstration for the use of an aperture, a speed or an autofocus mode unsuited to the shooting conditions.
But don’t panic, with a little organization, you can get away with it! Before taking pictures, just make sure to check your camera to make sure the settings you have selected will match the situation.
- Photograph only in JPEG
When shooting in JPEG, the camera automatically applies a set of corrections to your image (white balance, sharpness, contrast, saturation, etc.). This often surprises beginner photographers whom I meet, however, a photo in JPEG format is a post-processed photo! Not by the photographer, but by the camera’s internal software.
After applying these corrections, the camera performs data compression to produce a JPEG file. By favoring JPEG, you, therefore, lose part of the information recorded by the camera’s sensor. JPEG is great for your souvenir photos or if you need to have your photos quickly.
But if you are a minimum demanding, it is in your interest to use the RAW format. As a reminder, a RAW is the raw version of your image, as it was recorded by the sensor. By using the RAW format, you, therefore, become an actor in post-processing and you no longer undergo the corrections applied by default by the camera.
Above: a photo that I developed from a RAW file.
With RAW, it is no longer the camera that decides for me what corrections to make!
Since there was no compression, you also have greater flexibility in post-processing. For example, one of the many advantages of the RAW format is the adjustment of the white balance. Using this format, the white balance is not fixed, so you are free to adjust this setting in post-processing. You can easily solve the most common color problems (photos too yellow indoors, for example)
If the RAW format and more generally post-processing scares you, you can proceed in stages and start by photographing simultaneously in RAW + JPEG. Many devices offer this possibility and it would be a shame to deprive it.
- Sort your photos on the camera screen
The LCD screen of the Nikon D7100
It was a reflex that I had taken at the start and I quickly realized that I had it all wrong. The camera’s LCD screen is made to preview their photos, but no more.
Even if the definition of screens has improved a lot in recent years, a screen a few centimeters wide is in my opinion not the ideal tool for sorting your photos.
You are going to tell me that there are still photos that we can immediately classify in the “failed photos” category. An error in focus, a blurring of camera shake, an obvious framing problem, a parasitic detail … I agree, and there are some situations where the destination of your photo is hardly in doubt. In this case, if you are sure of yourself, go to the trash can.
But for the other photos, those that do not present any obvious defect, I recommend that you wait until you are in front of your computer to perform efficient sorting. This is how you will come to see all the subtleties and that you will be able to really judge the quality of your photos.
- Photographing with the built-in flash
Surely you’ve already tried taking pictures with the flash built into your camera. And you have probably noticed that the light produced by the flash of the flash does not enhance the subject: subject too bright or unsightly shadows, to name just that.
An example of a built-in flash diffuser
Before firing your flash, try to see if there are no other alternatives. When the ambient lighting is not too low, increasing the ISO sensitivity can sometimes be enough. You will make the noise go up, but between a noisy photo and a photo with an unflattering light, my choice is quickly made … If you are indoors and there is light coming from outside, you can also use a reflector to provide a complimentary light source.
If you really want to use the built-in flash or you have no choice, know that there are accessories commercially available to diffuse the light. For small budgets, there are also a few “homemade” solutions for diffusing light at a lower cost (handkerchief, piece of tracing paper, etc.). It’s not a panacea, but it’s already better than nothing!
I, therefore, advise you to use the built-in flash only as a backup solution. If you regularly need supplemental lighting, the royal way is to use a cobra flash with a swiveling head. You will be able to more easily modulate the light and you will get much better results.
And you, what are the mistakes that you made when you started taking photos and that allowed you to progress? Do not hesitate to share your experiences by leaving a comment!