It’s easy to be by possibility when you’re starting out in photography. And, we’ll level with you, there is a lot that can go wrong. But fear not: by reading this, we hope you’ll know how to avoid the five most common mistakes that beginner photographers make when starting out.
Let’s be clear: whilst some photographers will tell you otherwise, it is ok to shoot in JPEG. The files sizes are smaller, cameras usually allow for a faster burst mode in JPEG, the whole process is quicker, and sometimes all you need is to take a few quick snapshots and be done. However, there are a few of reasons why it might not be the best bet.
Basically, when your camera is shooting in JPEG, between you taking the image and seeing it on the screen, the camera does the processing and voila: your photo is ‘finished’. Shooting in RAW, on the other hand, gives you many more tools for a much wider range of creativity and often this is key in developing your own signature style. So, for greater freedom beyond your shoot, give RAW a shot.
2. Blown Highlights
One of the most common issues facing a new photographer is the blowing or ‘clipping’ of highlights. This means that your highlights are overexposed to the extent that the camera sensor can’t record any information from that part of the image. If your highlights are blown, literally no amount of post-processing can bring them back. The data simply isn’t there. Ouch.
So, what can you do if you’re shooting on a sunny day or in another high contrast situation? Here’s where we ‘expose for the highlights.’ What this means is, when you take a photograph, make sure the exposure is adjusted for the highlights in the image. Naturally, this will result in a darker image. But don’t worry: if you’ve shot in RAW, you’ll be able to bring back the detail from the shadows in post-production.
The RAW mindset can lead to a problematic ‘I’ll fix it later’ mentality. You may well wonder what the point in nailing your exposure is, when you can easily adjust exposure by up to five stops either way at your computer screen. And why bother getting the white balance correct in-camera when you can just fix it later on?
With Photoshop at your disposal, you may increasingly hear yourself saying, “I’ll fix it later”. Be warned. If you start taking shortcuts in one area of photography, other areas are likely to suffer too. Remember: processing is intended to enhance your work, not rescue poor photos.
Whilst you should absolutely try to shoot day, less can be more! Back in photography’s analogue era, you were fixed to either 12, 24 or 36 exposures per roll of film – and it didn’t come cheap! This meant that thought was required before you pressed the shutter.
Whilst digital photography opens up the possibility of vast quantities, it also increases the risk of overshooting. Be careful not to merely ‘spray and pray’ – the quality will suffer. One recommended exercise is to go out for the day and limit yourself to no more than 12 photos. You might just find that you end up putting much more thought into what you are capturing and develop better shooting habits as a result.
5. Conspicuous Editing
Contrast, shadows, exposure, highlights, vibrance, saturation, vignettes – the list is pretty endless. However, this can often make it easy to lose track of where an image started out! Moderation is key and subtlety is the name of the game. Quick tip: keep a copy of the original image side-by-side with your working edit, so that you can constantly see how far you have come.
We hope these five easy tips will put you on the path to greatness.
Bradley Allen is a freelance photographer and writer for Fat Lama.