We are excited to welcome Jean Smith Photography who is sharing some of the most common photography mistakes in a series of photography tutorials here on I Heart Faces. This is the first of a 4-part series. You can read the other parts here:
- Common Lighting Mistakes and How to Fix Them
- Common Posing Mistakes and How to Fix Them
- Common Photo Editing Mistakes and How to Fix Them
In this age of internet and digital everything, tutorials and how to’s are available with a simple Google search and click of a button. How to get a better focus. How to find the light. How to shoot in low light. How to pose high school seniors. And so it goes.
But, what about the “no-no’s” and “don’ts” of photography? The I-wish-someone-would-have-told-me-about-this-earlier mistakes? We all make mistakes…beginning or seasoned photographer. It is how we learn and grow. But, what if we could side step some of the more common mistakes out there as we strive to make our way to photography greatness?
Photography Mistakes and How to Fix Them | Part One – The Basics
This is a first in a four-part series. In the coming weeks, we will discuss common mistakes and fixes with lighting, posing, and editing. Today, we are focusing on 10 general photography mistakes and how to fix them. These can be applied to all genres of photography.
Mistake #1 – Assuming it can be “fixed” later in Photoshop.
I would dare say this is one of the biggest mistakes made while shooting. Fixing mistakes in post processing that could have easily been done right in camera is a huge pain and time waster. Most importantly, remember that no amount of post processing can fix bad light.
The Fix – Before you start shooting, do a quick check for the basics…white balance, possible color casts, lighting, proper exposure, and distracting objects on subject or background. If you look at your images and find that you are unsatisfied, analyze the reason why (no light in eyes, red color cast to skin, etc), and find out how to fix it for next time. Realizing your mistakes and then working on them each time you shoot will give you the skills to become a better photographer. Don’t allow yourself to keep making the same mistakes over and over.
Mistake #2 – Keeping your camera in “auto” or “program” mode.
When you constantly sit it auto mode, you are letting the camera survey the situation and decide what it thinks is best. Your expensive SLR camera has become a glorified point and shoot camera. Although it usually does a pretty good job of getting a proper exposure, you are missing out on the tools and settings your camera allows you to create your own vision.
The Fix – Start with a vision. How do you want your image or set of images to look? You want to focus on your baby in the foreground, but have your children in the background out of focus? Set your aperture to as wide as it will go (lower the number) and get close to your foreground subject. You want to show your son in motion during his soccer game? Set your shutter speed to a lower number (ex: 1/30) and adjust your aperture and ISO to get a proper exposure. YOU decide how the image is going to look and adjust your settings.
Mistake #3 – Thinking that more expensive equipment will make you a better photographer.
The Fix – It is true that you can’t achieve a distorted, wide-angle shot with an 85mm lens, and if your camera can’t handle a high ISO, you may not be able to shoot in a low light situation. Those are part of a VERY short list of reasons to need new equipment. Mastering your current equipment and learning the components that make great photography…light, shadows, depth, movement, composition, and mood…are what will make you an amazing photographer, not a new camera body.
Mistake #4 – Overdoing the camera tilt.
The Fix – People don’t want to have to cock their heads to view their images or figure out why it looks as though they are sliding out of an image. However, there is a time and place for camera tilt. Use it when people aren’t standing in a perfect pose looking at the camera. Camera tilt looks amazing in images portraying motion (child running, bride and groom kissing, etc), as well as closeups. By tilting your image, it changes the story you are telling, so be sure you know what story you are trying to tell.
Mistake #5 – Not recognizing and fixing color casts when shooting.
The Fix – When shooting, always be on the lookout for colors showing on your subject’s skin. Green/yellow tones on the skin are common from placing your subject in a grassy area, especially in shade. Easy fixes for this would be to use a light, reflective surface (such as a reflector) on your subjects face, or turn your subject toward the light source, even if subject is in the shade. Another nightmare color cast is the magenta/red tones from buildings or clothing. Easy fixes for this are to use a white reflective source (sunlight hitting sidewalk, reflector, etc) on your subject, and for you to NOT wear something red, purple, pink, or other bright color. The color of your shirt can easily show up on your client’s skin while you are standing close.
Mistake #6 – Centering your subject in every frame.
The Fix – I am a huge believer of centering…and then not centering. A little of both gives you a big variety of images and ups your creativity. Center your subject. Beautiful. Then put your subject somewhere within the rule of thirds. Perfect. And then do neither and get creative in your composition. Fabulous.
Mistake #7 – Always taking horizontal images.
The Fix – Admit it, you are guilty just like me. Take your horizontal shot. Then immediately follow it with a vertical shot, framing it a bit differently. You will be surprised at how different they look and will most likely love the new creative shots coming from something as easy as turning your camera.
Mistake #8 – Not making your subject feel their most comfortable.
The Fix – Whether it is a child, parent, bride, or high school senior, remember that everyone feels uncomfortable in front of the camera. Silence and continuous checking of your screen makes them feel uneasy and therefore they may not perform well. Keep talking. The entire time. Weather, your dog, their hobbies, it doesn’t matter. Just keep talking. COMPLIMENT them from time to time. If you check your screen, follow immediately with something like, “Awesome, I absolutely love what you are doing.”
Mistake #9 – Showing up to a shoot without backups.
The Fix – Backups are important for every shoot, but MANDATORY for weddings. If you are already shooting or thinking about shooting weddings, don’t show up to the wedding without backups of camera, flash, camera battery, double AA batteries, and memory cards. If you don’t have backups of these things, consider purchasing, borrowing, or renting them.
Mistake #10 – Shooting your subject with a wide-angle lens.
The Fix – For portraits and headshot images, stick with 50mm or longer to flatter your subject’s features and body. Anything with a focal length less than 50mm is going to distort your subject, so avoid using a wide-angle lens to photograph men, women, and high school seniors.
As I said before, we all make mistakes. But at least you can now avoid the most common ones by using the above tips.
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Stay tuned each Monday during this month for the next part of Jean’s series of tutorials that she’ll be sharing with the I Heart Faces community!
Jean Smith is a portrait, wedding, and commercial photographer in New Hudson, Michigan. She has a super rad husband (also a photographer) and four awesome little boys who keep life fun and VERY busy! To see more of her photography, visit her website, blog or follow her on Facebook.