Mistakes That Make You An Amateur Photographer

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

We all hear the godly virtues of a pro photographer, but have you ever thought as to what are the mistakes that make you an amateur?

If you don't know what you're doing wrong, getting on the right track can take centuries.

You don't want to be a noob forever, do you? Read this article to learn about the grave mistakes you might be making as a beginner, and what you must do to avoid them.

1. Throwing out the camera manual

Here is a challenge for you.

Can you explain all the functions in the information menu of your camera and put them to practical use?

Do you know how different white balance (WB), metering modes, flash settings, etc., can have a drastic impact on your images?

Some cameras even have unique inbuilt features such as double exposure and special filters.

That camera manual you threw out while excitedly unboxing your new camera was the first mistake you made in your journey of photography. It is very crucial to attain the basic technical knowledge of your camera settings, and that thin booklet is the best way to get started.

More than often, beginners are tempted to sell their kidneys, and upgrade their camera models without even using their existing gear to its full potential!

So, the next time you think of finally breaking up with your camera gear, hold that thought, pick a fine day and just hold your little baby to get a better understanding of all the features and functions it has to offer.

2. Choosing the wrong lens

Indisputable fact: Lenses are more important than your camera body.

Lens has the biggest impact on the outcome of your image as it controls the aperture, focal length (the perspective and distortion achieved due to the focal length), and sharpness.

Different lenses and focal lengths can make your face appear fat or thin, the background closer or farther away than it actually is, and the subject bigger or smaller than in reality.

There are a plethora of lenses available in the market and you'll probably run out of breath if you sat down to name them. Don't just go off billing a lens somebody else suggested without analysing your needs first.

Choose your lens according to the niche of your photography.

For instance, if you shoot often in low light situations, a fast lens i.e one with a large aperture and faster shutter speed, will yield better results.

If you're shooting in a controlled environment, such as a studio or indoor portraits, a prime lens is the most appropriate option for you.

If you're interested in shooting extreme close up shots of natural subjects such as insects and flowers, it's best to invest in a macro lens.

Identify your requirements, research, and then pick your fit.

3. Shooting in JPEG

If there was a sneaky silent serial killer in photography, it would be the JPEG format.

The most common yet unsuspected reason behind low quality images that even God wouldn't be able to revive in post production.

We're all aware that RAW files are uncompressed, hence contain more information and yield superior results as compared to JPEG. Why is that?

JPEG records 256 levels of brightness, and RAW records between 4,096 to 16,384 levels. This is described with the term “bit”.

JPEG captures in 8 bit, and RAW is either 12 bit or 14 bit.

In case the jargon fails to make the difference profound, here's another way to put it!

An 8 bit JPEG captures 16.8 million colors (256 tonal values for Red, Green and Blue channels), while a 12-bit RAW image can contain up to 68.7 billion colors (4,096 tonal values per color channel).

Mind that difference of M and B in the million with JPEG and billion with RAW.

Those additional steps of brightness capture more details and let you make more adjustments (exposure, blacks, fill light, recovery, contrast, brightness) to your image without a significant reduction of quality.

If you still haven't made the switch to RAW, dear reader, you are missing the whole purpose of shooting with a DSLR.

4. Ignoring the histogram

You must have found yourself wondering why the photograph which looked perfectly fine on your camera screen looks like a piece of junk on the computer and is butchered beyond repair.

It's because the LCD on your camera body lies more than a politician! DO NOT RELY ON IT.

Instead, enable the histogram in your camera. It is precise and reliable.

The histogram is a graphical representation of the tonal values of your image.

In other words, it shows the amount of tones of particular brightness found in your photograph ranging from black (0% brightness) to white (100% brightness).

We know it looks very complex and daunting, but the truth is, it's the easiest tool to understand and most convenient to use.

Once understood, it is a great asset to correctly expose your photograph.

5. Not taking a second look

Recall all the times you came back from a shoot only to realise that your pictures are under/overexposed, or out of focus, or have a crooked horizon, or are taken at an angle where a tree appears to be growing out of your subject's head, the list can go on and on.

The real nightmare begins when you can't undo these mistakes in post-production.

It never ceases to pinch your gut, does it? All you can think is, "Oh darn, I wish I had noticed that then and there!". You're not the only one, it happens to the best of us.

Taking a few minutes out during the process of shooting to assess your pictures can save you hours that would have been otherwise lost in editing. Not only that, but it might also help your mind to look at your subject and surroundings from a fresh perspective to generate new ideas and angles to shoot the shot.

Make sure to zoom in all the way into your image (especially the eyes, in case of portraits) and zoom out once, to get a look at every little detail and the big picture.

On the same note, sometimes you may share, or delete an image too soon. Either may lead to a loss of your potential best work. Take these actions only after carefully inspecting and sorting through ALL your pictures on a computer.

6. Shooting without intent

Beginners often think that shooting more pictures will improve their photography game. However, emphasis must be laid on the fact that slowing down and being more intentional about your photographs will make a stronger impact. Quality > Quantity!

Even the most simple and minimalistic image taken by a professional photographer has an intricate thought process behind it.

Don't just blindly keep snapping away. It's a nerve-wracking task to find that perfect shot in a pile of crap!

Think. Visualize. Take your time to frame the composition and story of the shot.

From the holy trinity of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to the principles of composition you choose to break or apply, use every element (colours, lines, expressions, negative space, etc.) in the picture to convey your intentions and feelings.

7. Not picking up your camera

You binge-watch all those tutorials on YouTube, drink up all those articles' content like smoothies, only to end up day-dreaming and putting a full stop to the learning process there.

This one mistake plagues us all. You get so overwhelmed with information that you never actually get to the part of shooting and practicing what you registered.

Don't store all this knowledge in your brain or on a flimsy notepad, but in your camera lens.

Now that you're aware of all the rookie mistakes you need to avoid, don't just sit there, grab your camera and start shooting!

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