When I first bought my camera, I read the manual straight away; I used to take it on photo walks and read it before bed. This wasn’t really like me, but I knew I wanted to become good at photography and to do so, I was going to have to learn. I’d encourage everybody to do the same, but there’s only so much you can read in there; websites with lots of photos like this are much better. Here’s a list of embarrassing mistakes I made.
There is now a sequel to this post! - 10 Embarrassing Mistakes I Made as an Intermediate Photographer.
I NEVER Used Flash
If you play around with your pop-up flash, you can see why I made this choice, and whenever anyone asked, my reasoning was ‘I don’t like flash’. Oh how wrong I was, I had no idea. I didn’t like flash, because I was using the completely wrong type of flash; a nasty harsh and flattening light on the top of my camera. It was only when a photographer I knew and trusted, convinced me to buy a proper flash, that a world of opportunities opened up for me and my lighting. Canon Speedlite 430EX iI
Constantly On The Wrong Focus Mode
A lot of the time when you’re taking a photo of something that is happening right in front of you, time is of the essence and one thing you can’t fix in post production is your focus. When you have the wrong focus mode selected, it causes you camera to either continuously try to refocus, or not track your subject and their movement at all. This can be a real problem and a source of frustration and if you read this article, you’ll get a much better understanding of how to fix that annoying problem.
The Wrong ISO
I had 2 problems with ISO, firstly, I knew what the ISO did to your photos in terms of quality and wanted nothing to do with it, so I set the ISO to 100 and left it there. As you can probably imagine, this left a lot of dark and under exposed photos that really weren’t up to much. My other problem was that on the rare occasion I changed my ISO to something like 1600, I would forget that I had done so and would go out in direct sunlight taking photos with way too much noise. It’s easy to forget small details like this when you’re first starting out and a little practice goes a long way in helping you to remember to check your camera. Nowadays, I’ll happily set my ISO to 1000, even when I’m using flash as it allows me to get much more background details like in the photo below.
Always Shot In JPG
I really can’t encourage you enough to switch to shooting in RAW, as it allows you so many more options. When you shoot in JPG, your camera applies the white balance, sharpening, saturation, contrast and compresses the image, which massively restricts what you can do it in post, if you have to. I’m not that big on editing, as I don’t really find it fun, so it’s the compression that really bothered me – set your camera to shoot in RAW and JPG at the same time and you can really see the difference between the 2 shots.
I Didn’t Know About Bulb Mode
This was a bit of a weird one for me, and it’s probably a little more important to me than most my readers, as I love night photography. I used to go out and get frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t set my shutter speed to any longer than 30 seconds, not realising I could set it as long as I pleased if I set my camera to bulb mode. This was also useful for slow sync flash photography as it allowed me to essentially customise my exposure length. It wasn’t until I started shooting on film again and I saw the ‘B’ setting on the shutter speed dial that it dawned on me!
I Never Backed Up
This is probably one of the most embarrassing confessions for me, I was one of those poor stupid people who didn’t back up and lost all their photos to a horrifying little harddrive failure. At the time, my photography was nowhere near what it is now, so looking back it wasn’t as terrible as it felt at the time, but it still really sucked. Now, I back up during the import so I have a copy and then every month I delete that backup and reference the original file from my computer to 2 separate harddrives, clearing up space on my computer and ensuring I don’t lose anything.
I Chose The Wrong Lenses
I remember seeing an advert for an 18-250mm lens by Sigma and thinking that it was exactly what I was looking for, no more of this changing lens business that I’ve been putting up with, but I was wrong. A fixed 50mm lens might seem like an unusual choice, but when you understand aperture and optics, it’s clearly the right one. Because the lens really only has one job to do, it can do it much better, the other lens was more of a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’. This lens is on my list of ‘Top 20 Essential Camera Gear‘ and I couldn’t recommend it enough: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 ii.
I Transferred Over USB Straight From The Camera
I honestly couldn’t believe what I’d been missing when I bought a CF card reader for about £3 on amazon – the speed difference was shocking. All this time I’d been transferring photos over a USB lead and experiencing slow transfers, wasting my battery life and experiencing cutouts during transfers. Since I’ve switched, I’ve never look back and resent having to use a USB at all. If you’ve got a newer beginner SLR, you’ll probably find that your camera takes SD cards and you may well have an SD card reader built into your laptop, so you have no excuse not to use it.
White Balance Was Off
I sort of understood white balance, but it had never been explained in the way I’ve explained it to others in my tutorial, it was just what I could pick up from a manual using words I didn’t understand. Almost always I would have my camera set to AWB (Auto White Balance) and end up with some really lousy shots, especially when I was inside and all the photos came out orange. As soon as you start getting your balance right, you’ll see a massive difference in the colour and over quality of your photos and you won’t look so amateur anymore.
I Used Free Editing Software
This is somewhat of a sin in photography; I was managing my library in iPhoto which was ruining the photos when I went to edit them. The biggest problem I had was that any photos that I had to straighten, lost a load of their sharpness as the free software wasn’t capable of working out what to do. Get a proper system of work and backing up in place now so you don’t suffer form the same mistakes I did. Aperture 3