I’ve been actively shooting photos for about six years, since eighth grade. However, I’ve had an interest in photography for way longer! If you go through my desk drawers and old scrapbooks, you can find photos from a disposable camera from Girl Scout camp, church camp, and family vacations. (I recently found a hilarious posed shoot with my American Girl dolls…) Over the years, I’ve learned a lot of tricks about photography and composition. You can read more of my posts about photography here! One of the best things about taking photos for so long means that I’ve made several mistakes and learned from them! Here are the top five mistakes that I’ve made and have learned from.
1. You’re still shooting in auto.
I see so many people that buy a DSLR (a camera that can change lenses, not just a point-and-shoot) in an attempt to learn photography, but they only keep it on auto mode. This is probably the biggest mistake you can make if you’re trying to learn! If you’re not willing to make the full leap and commit to manual mode, you have two options: Av or Tv mode.
Av/A mode, or aperture priority, will help you learn how to control the depth of field. This is the trick to give you that ‘professional’ blurry background that everyone wants. Tv/S mode, or shutter priority, will help you learn how to control the movement in your photos. For example, if you’re taking photos of athletes, this will let you keep them in focus instead of making them blurry once they move out of the screen. After you conquer those two methods, you can advance to mastering manual mode!
Solution: Shoot in Av, Tv, or manual mode.
2. You don’t take advantage of your focal points.
If you think you’ve figured out manual mode or Av mode, then you’ve probably figured out how to blur the background and get that desired bokeh. However, your photos are always out of focus–and you can’t figure out why. To pinpoint focus every time, you need to select a focal point on your DSLR. For Canons, you can do this by pressing the +/zoom in button, and a screen that says ‘AF point selection’ will pop up. Then you can use the dial to change where you want your camera to automatically focus. For portraits, you’ll want to always focus on the eye nearest to you. When you look through the viewfinder of your camera and hold the shutter halfway down, you can see the red dot of the focal point you selected and move your camera or focal point accordingly.
Solution: Select your focal point to nail focus every time.
3. You’re shooting straight into the sun.
I always see people getting excited about going out to do a photoshoot, then taking all their photos in the middle of the day when the sun is at its brightest, making all their photos either overexposed or extremely shadowy. An easy fix to this is to shoot at golden hour. This is a common term in photography that refers to the time of day when the sun is coming up or going down. However, I get that photoshoots are hard to coordinate–so if you’re taking pictures in the middle of the day, find the shade or cloud that doesn’t make your light so harsh.
Solution: Change the time of day
4. You’re always taking photos from eye-level.
Change up your perspective every once in a while! You can go for a bird’s eye view, shoot from the ground, and so much more. For the first photo below, I got down and laid on my stomach to get the right perspective and be on eye-level with my subject. For the second one, I stood above her and shot down. See the difference?
Solution: Change your perspective and move around your subject.
5. You’re following all the rules.
I know, this contradicts probably everything you’ve ever read…but the best part about art is that it’s all about creating your own style. After you learn how to use the rule of thirds, then feel free to shoot symmetrically to create an interesting style. After you learn how to use light ‘correctly,’ then use the shadows from your window to experiment with how light plays across your subject. There are so many options out there, so one of the best ways to learn photography is to just get out there and practice!
Feel free to ask any questions in the comments, I love sharing my knowledge about photography!