Photography 101: Common mistakes that every beginner photographer makes, and how to avoid them

While Auto mode is fine for the average photo, it's not the ultimate solution. In a pinch, it's fine, but when you have the time to experiment, do so.

As a photographer it’s easy to overlook things when shooting. Some mistakes are more “on-the-spot” while some are a matter of forgetfulness more than anything else. Some are also not mistakes, depending on what camp you belong to (more on this below). But for future reference, these are a few common mistakes all photographers make and how you can avoid them:

Shooting in Auto Mode

Representational image.

Representational image.

While Auto mode is fine for the average photo, it's not the ultimate solution for every situation. In a pinch, it's fine, but when you have the time to experiment, do so. If complete manual control scares you, experiment with the Av and Tv modes, if your camera supports them. Adjusting your aperture and shutter speed yourself can give you some incredibly rewarding results! More advanced users should also try fiddling with white balance and colour correction settings.

Shooting with inappropriate lighting

We’ve all seen people struggle to take images in the dark, or in bright daylight with the sun behind the subject. Learning to use lighting according to the situation helps a great deal. There’s a reason most photographers shoot during the “golden hour”, for instance. Pay attention to the lighting and compensate accordingly.

Experiment with RAW, but don't overdo it

This is a long-standing debate amongst amateur photographers. RAW files or digital negatives are the raw data that's captured by your camera sensor. After processing the RAW files, your camera will usually give you a JPEG file.

JPEG files are smaller, but they're not easy to tweak and lack the detail that RAW files can capture. RAW files, on the other hand, are very large and need to be processed manually before use. With the right tools and knowledge, you can extract a far better image when manually processing RAW files. However, some amateur photographers tend to overdo it, ending up with humongous libraries and a convoluted workflow. Not every image needs to be processed as RAW. Learn about your camera, understand its limits and choose accordingly.

Using the wrong focus mode

Autofocus is a boon to photographers, but can turn into a headache when in the wrong setting. Autofocus speed and accuracy on most cameras relies on several factors, such as lighting, quality of the lens, distance from subject, etc. Low light, for example, is almost always a headache for AF, and you’re actually better off switching to manual focus because even after AF locks on, it’s likely you’ll get a badly focused photo. Another case would be to use single-shot AF while shooting wildlife: It’s simply too slow and you’re much better off using servo/continuous focus mode.

Not using the Rule Of Thirds

The grid overlay is an absolute blessing while composing images. It’s the best way to explain the rule of thirds in photography (as most cameras come with a 3x3 grid option). A lot of people tend to overlook it (or disable it entirely) and end up getting badly composed pictures. Also, photos where the subject is almost always in the centre can get monotonous: Try placing the subject to one side or even a corner of the frame and see what negative spacing does to the image!

Don't focus so much on your subject that you completely forget the frame.

Don't focus so much on your subject that you completely forget your framing.

Also remember that rules are meant to be broken.

Over-editing an image

This is very much possible, and is probably one of the most common mistakes a lot of people make in the process of trying to make their image look better. Unfortunately, the reverse happens in a lot of situations as well. Oversharpened, oversaturated images are hardly pleasing to look at. Feel free to edit your photos, but do so in moderation. Unless outrageous colours are your objective, overdoing the edit will only ruin your image.

Not preparing in advance for shoots

This is another very common mistake that we tend to make. I have personally forgotten to format memory cards or even install batteries in my DSLR at least 3 or 4 times, sometimes on shoot days. It’s a very easy thing to overlook, and it happens. Plan in advance.

Missing the shot

All of the points are important, but this last one to me is the most common mistake we all make in the beginning. Yes, making sure you get the shot right is important, but if you don’t get the shot at all, then there will be nothing to show. Even if you think you’re going to get a badly exposed, shaky image, take it. Learning from that image is what takes you forward.

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