22 Photography Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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INTRODUCTION
TO ERR IS HUMAN

Hello and welcome to a post about photography mistakes to avoid – Everything from embarrassing to fatal mistakes. Yes, everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect. Noobs, hobbyists, professionals and even seasoned masters. It does not matter who, as long as you are human, you will not be spared of misses.

But are there times where you just wish you have not done those silly things? This post is exactly the list of stupid stuff that I have done before as a clueless newbie, and these are the things that we should avoid doing. A fair word of warning though : this post consists of many badly Photoshopped examples to illustrate my nonsense.

 

 

NAVIGATION
TABLE OF CONTENTS

Section A
Fatal Mistakes

Section B
Embarrassing Mistakes

Section C
Editing Disasters

Section D
Shoot Disasters

Section E
Improve!

 

 

SECTION A
FATAL MISTAKES

Oh no, I don’t mean the kind of shoot-till-you-drop-dead kind of fatal mistake here. I mean terrible mistakes that could cost you an entire shoot, and go home empty handed… or maybe land you in very bad situations. These mistakes are to be avoided at all costs.

 

MISTAKE 1) FORGETTING TO BRING GEAR

Every went to a shoot and forgot to insert the memory card? Bought everything except for the battery? You are not alone, and I have done that a few times before.

Luckily, those were not paid assignments and casual shoots. Plus, I am not the only photographer. But that still hurts, imagine what could have happened if those were paid shoots. Your head will be put on the chopping block… literally.

So I have learnt my lesson. While packing up before every shoot, I like to switch on my camera to make sure everything is in and working – Body, lens, memory card and battery.

 

MISTAKE 2) FLAT BATTERY

This used to be my number 2 killer mistake, and even with my habit of turning on the camera while packing up. Oh, I still have 3 of 5 battery bars, that should be enough for a half day shoot. Turns out I was wrong. The shoot dragged on a little longer, and I ran out of juice towards the end.

So on top of switching on the camera, I now have a spare battery. If I need to charge the battery in the camera, I immediately swap it with the spare. Even if I somehow forget to bring the charging battery – I will always have at least one full battery.

 

MISTAKE 3) TRESPASSING

Hey, there’s this cool abandoned building. I bet that will make an awesome place to have a shoot. Little did we know that the “abandoned building” is actually someone’s private property.

We unknowingly trespassed the place, and had the good fortune to meet up with a security guard. Thankfully and luckily, we were not the first to wander into the “abandoned private building”.

We got off pretty easily by volunteering our beautiful model to take a selfie with the security guard. Next time, it does not hurt to check online if the property is really abandoned.

 

SECTION B
EMBARRASSING MISTAKES

Let us now move onto mistakes that are more forgiving…

While these are mistake that don’t cost you an arm or leg, these silly things can leave you with permanent mental scars.

 

MISTAKE 4) FORGETTING TO TAKE THE LENS CAP OFF

Bow before the fearful ALMIGHTY LENS CAP! This is the number one silly mistake that everyone makes, and I don’t just mean the newbies. I am sure seasoned photographers and professionals are guilty of not taking off the lens cap as well.

For some reason, no one seem to be able to escape from this sin. I believe that every photographer is doomed by some sort of lens cap curse.

Luckily, lifting the curse is as easy as removing the lens cap before shooting. Yep. If you are looking at pitch black while shooting, you should know that the cap is still on.

 

MISTAKE 5) THE NUCLEAR FLASH

The usual mom nagging goes – It’s too dark, turn on the lights or you will spoil your eyes. So we comply to stop that nag… after a few hours.

Sadly in photography, we seem to be a lot more “automatic” with the lights. As in literally. Some people just love to have their camera on full auto, and pop nuclear flashes in the darkness. Oh please.

In-your-face flash will only produce shots that are nothing more than horror flicks. Not to mention that they make your subject squint, and a long awkward moment of silence.

For these “hard core” flashers, you have my advice that it does not hurt to learn about flash photography. Please go learn about exposure too. Boost the ISO, lower the flash power and at the very least, point that flash at somewhere else other than straight into peoples’ eyes. You can even use a piece of tissue to soften that light.

 

MISTAKE 6) WRONG TIME, WRONG PLACE

So you like this idol / model / cosplayer a lot. So much that you will follow him / her and camp outside the toilet just to grab a first hand shot. You like to take sudden photos when people are resting and have their guard down.

The overall tactic is to wait until someone is tired and wants to take a break, then run in to deliver the “final shot”… Which usually result in a photo of a person in shock or confused. How about asking directly?

 

SECTION C
EDITING DISASTER

It is so convenient with Photoshop these days, and everyone can do it… OR can everyone?

I have seen so many editing disasters over the years, and I am not proud to say that I have committed a lot of these.

 

MISTAKE 7) DESATURATION GONE WRONG

Desaturating a photo and leaving a spot of color is a good way to catch attention. But some people just have to up the game on bad Photoshop.

Leaving out a spot of color in a strange way?

This sure reminds me of a certain badly Photoshopped wedding photo. Why? Just why? Let’s just leave the desaturation to flowers and objects, shall we?

 

MISTAKE 8) DREAMLAND TURNED NIGHTMARE

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of what the heck. Some people love that warm and fuzzy feel so much that they take it to the god level. Yes, god level. Where the photo is nothing but a ball of warm fuzziness.

Much like someone who poured too much softener into the laundry, and had a lot of trouble washing it off. What is the photo all about again? I don’t know, it’s just way too warm and fuzzy for me to care. Hint : Keep the sharpness and details.

 

MISTAKE 9) VOMIT OF COLORS

Photographs must be vivid and colorful to be attractive, so I will make mine super color-fool. I am sure this looks super catchy and super nice now. I am sure everyone will be captivated by this, and love this to bits.

Oh please don’t, just leave the color fantasies to unicorns over the rainbow bridge. We humans are not meant to cross that bridge. If we do, our eyes will bleed, and smoke will rise from your head. It can result in permanent brain damage as well.

 

MISTAKE 10) A TRUE HDR HORROR STORY

My eyes! They burn! Yes, the masters did say “use HDR to bring out the details”. But they did not say to use it in the worst possible way. In fact, treat it like a taboo to “HDR everything to the extreme”.

HDR will not work on “everything”, and just… don’t post your HDR horrors online unless you really know what you are doing.

 

MISTAKE 11) THE PLASTIC DOLL

Yet another horrible mistake that I see all over the Internet. People going over zealous with smoothing the skin.

Life in plastic must be fantastic. Not.

While this may not as bad as warm and fuzzy, it is still stupid. Please don’t turn humans into plastic dolls. We are photographers, not puppet masters.

 

MISTAKE 12) BIG AND UGLY WATERMARKS

My photos are worth a lot of money and everyone should know who I am. We should all respect copyright, and so, I make sure that no one can copy my photos. Yeah, right. I think it’s most likely people don’t even bother to copy because of that fat and ugly watermark. Do we really have a need for excessive watermark?

I mean, the Internet is an interesting place now. We have eyes looking out for each other, and publicly shame people who publish without permission. Publish my work without permission, and make a huge profit? Good. Sue them!

 

SECTION D
SHOOT DISASTERS

Photo shoots, there are so many ways in which things can go wrong.

To you newbies, here is the long list of mistakes that I have done before, and proudly present to you.

 

MISTAKE 13) ALWAYS SHOOTING STRAIGHT (TAKING PASSPORT PHOTOS)

Well, nothing is really wrong with taking passport photos. Except, it just gets old. Very old.

Every newbie I come across seem to be “naturally stuck” with portrait, straight on, no tilt. To top things up, they desaturate photos to make “very artistic” black-and-white perfect passport photos.

Good to try this once in a while, but I really don’t think the classic style will work well in modern day… maybe only if you are re-creating that oldie style goodness.

But do try exploring other angles, it’s time to graduate from passport photos.

 

MISTAKE 14) OUT OF FOCUS

No, I did not screw up the shot. This is just a very cool Len blur effect (pun intended) that I wanted the photo to be. Modern day technology. If it is auto-focus, it must be in focus. I wonder how many people have that 100% trust in their cameras these days…

Sadly, that trust is misguided. Auto-focus is not always in focus, so don’t just shoot and put 100% trust in your camera. Shoot, and review your shot. Always zoom in your photos to check if they are in focus after taking a shot. Get the shot right on the spot, or regret later at home.

P.S. Sorry to those who don’t get the pun. That is a shot of a character called Len.

 

MISTAKE 15) GROWING THINGS OUT OF THE HEAD

I confess, I am guilty of this crime several times. Ever notice that lamp post, tree, or street sign pop out of people’s head?

Yes, they don’t look good. Be a ninja, learn to notice your surroundings while you shoot.

 

MISTAKE 16) SPRAY AND PRAY

I am noob, I do not know camera settings, but I know strategy. If I take 9999 shots, at least 1 of them will be good. 🙄

Photography is not a gamble. If you spray 9999 bad shots, you will get 9999 bad shots as it is. There are no sudden “critical hits” in photography, it is all about skills.

I know a certain “photographer” who spams thousands of photos, and nobody gives a sh*t about the photos he publish. So learn to hit hard, not to spray hard.

 

MISTAKE 17) WAIT FOR IT, WAIT FOR IT, NOT YET, JUST A LITTLE WHILE LONGER

If I stay at the same spot long enough, senpai will notice me. Good shots are worth waiting for, and they rarely happen.

No. Sometimes when you want good shots, you have to ask for it, and you have to work for it.

If you want to create good shots, you don’t wait for it. You have to think of a shoot concept, and you have to create it yourself.

MISTAKE 18) DRUNK AND SLANTED

I know, the Dutch tilt offers an interesting angle and perspective. But you can count on some people to take it to the extreme. Welcome to Dutch tilt gone wrong, or what I like to call as drunk tilt.

A slanted horizon, or horribly tilted photo sure is fun. If you stare at it too long, you will start to feel some vertigo. Let’s just keep the Dutch tilt moderate, and let straight horizons be straight.

 

MISTAKE 19) I HAS A GOOD CAMERA, I MUST SHOOT IN MANUAL

I have a DSLR camera. This camera only shoots in manual. Automatic is for the weak. Well, a word of advice from the experienced – don’t be stubborn. Even professionals use semi-auto during event shoots.

Think about this, would you rather use automatic, or miss that money shot while trying to get the settings right in manual?

 

MISTAKE 20) NOT SHOOTING IN RAW

What is RAW? Sushi RAW?

For you guys who are shooting in “JPG only” and have no idea, it’s time to make a switch. While it is not wrong to use JPG files, they are lossy, and not good when it comes to editing.

RAW files on the other hand, is loseless and keeps a lot of data. So if your camera supports the RAW file format, do yourself a favor and switch to shoot in RAW. Now.

 

MISTAKE 21) CUTTING OFF LIMBS

Welcome to an otherwise perfectly good photo, and some people just have the habit to cut off an arm or leg. If you think that a leg is sorely missing from the photo. It is.

Just take extra care when you are taking photos of people. Don’t SAW off their arms and legs needlessly.

 

MISTAKE 22) NOT KNOWING HOW TO POSE

To follow up on “always taking passport photos”, I encourage newbies to try out different angles. But the next challenge they face is, posing. Yes, a good photographer understands how to pose and not just depending on the talent.

Not sure how to pose? Just ask Google, or Youtube. Here are a 2 generic posing guides for you.

Well, these 2 videos sure don’t cover everything on posing. So do your own research on more poses for what you are planning to shoot next.

 

SECTION E
TO ERR IS HUMAN, TO IMPROVE DIVINE

Thus we have come to the end of the list. No one is perfect, which is why we have exactly gone through a whole list of mistakes to learn from.

Everyone will have their moments in failure, just don’t be disappointed and give up. If you keep improving and going on, you will have a good laugh looking back at all the mistakes in the future.

Do feel free to share your mistakes in the comments below, so we can learn from each other.

Cheers, and happy shooting!


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