Photography is an art, and like every art, asks for patience and practice. Making mistakes and later understanding why and how it happened makes you a good photographer. The down side – it makes you lose shots that you may never get again.
Here are some things you can keep in mind to avoid common mistakes.
- Carelessness with equipment: your sturdy and heavy camera is an extremely high precision piece of handheld equipment. It should be cared for and not treated harshly. The fingers shouldn’t touch the lens and sensor in any situation. ALWAYS use the strap, don’t just hold the camera by the body.
- I read about a poll somewhere that claimed 87% DSLR owners have never read it’s manual. Reading the manual isn’t an “amateur trait”, rather it’s the second nature of a professional and a good learner. Understand your camera the way the manufacturer wants you to.
- Unnecessary use of manual mode: I have friends who are way too new to photography but love the manual mode because it “feels professional”. I’d suggest that you stick to auto mode and see how the settings combine to give you desired results. After that, you’re good to go with manual mode. It isn’t smart to ignore built-in assistance features if you’re not sure what settings to make.
- The aperture value confusion: a classic problem most people face. Does f/4 allow more light or f/8? Which gives a higher depth of field? Read it and experiment and find out! The higher the f/number, smaller the aperture opening and smaller the amount of light falling on the sensor. Selecting a wrong aperture will almost always give you unexpected results. For stock photography, use the aperture in the range of f/1.8 to f/11. Don’t use f/22 or f/32 unless you have no option left because those smaller apertures produce optical distortions.
- ISO film speed or sensitivity: Don’t ever set ISO to 6400 or 25600 just because you like the idea of a highly sensitive camera or because 1/4000 could produce sharper images than 1/200. A higher ISO gives a higher noise. So stick to around ISO 200 for most situations. Use of “night mode” or handheld night photography mode isn’t recommended either as it uses a very high ISO. Better use a tripod, it is really worth it.
- Flash photography: are your images coming out dark all the time? Just set the ISO to auto. If you fix your ISO at 100 and flash power isn’t enough, you’d get those dark photos. Flash photography is a huge topic in itself and tough to master. Please refer to additional resources if you have a separate flash unit.
- Lens settings: is the manual focus on? Or is the auto mode selected? Always check beforehand. If you’re shooting without a tripod, shoot with IS enabled. All other steady bases….have the IS disabled. Remember, the IS only reduces camera shake – not the shaky subjects.
- Never think that the use of presets like “landscape”, “beach”, “portrait” would not give you good pictures. When you don’t have time to set all parameters or when you aren’t sure what to do, you can always rely on the specific modes or auto mode in general. The higher probability is that auto would give you just the right shot.
- Be certain you have set the correct white balance. If you are shooting in JPEG mode, you’ll get an unusable photo. White balance can be corrected for RAW files in post processing but it is better to have it correct at the time of shooting. Use “auto” most of the time except in dull colored lighting situations. You’d have to use custom white balance for that. Refer to your camera manual.
- Take care and check where your camera is focusing. Always focus on the main subject accurately.
In the case of wildlife, don’t focus on their bodies, focus on their eyes. It doesn’t matter if the body isn’t in focus…but eyes MUST be, otherwise that photo is most probably unusable as stock.
- Last but certainly not the least relevant. This is actually probably the most relevant one – unscrew the lens cap before shooting! This must sound silly, but I’ve lost many good wildlife shots from being in a hurry. Make sure the lens is ready if you are expecting action.
These are a few of the very common mistakes people make when they are starting out with new gear and with photography in general. Find your way around them!