It's been awhile since I was a beginning photographer...
But I remember the trials and tribulations very well!
Photography is such a rewarding exercise, but man, it can be frustrating.
Even though I've moved on to greener photography pastures, I feel your pain if you're just starting out!
There's SO much to learn about photography at the outset.
You have to master technical aspects of photography like understanding exposure, but only after you get the individual details down, like what aperture, shutter speed, and ISO are (and what they do).
There's the creative aspect too - all those different tips for composition that help you create a better-looking photo.
It's a lot to learn, and that's why there's so many opportunities for making mistakes when you're just starting out.
And though those mistakes can be frustrating as all get out, they are an opportunity for you to learn even more about photography.
With that in mind, let's examine three common mistakes that beginner photographers make and learn how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Blowing Out the Highlights
If you've never heard the term "blowing out the highlights," it's a very simple concept to understand.
When you blow out the highlights, details in the bright areas of a photo are lost. That means that those bright areas appear as white blobs instead of having details for the eye to see.
Looking at the image above, you can see the blown out highlights in the areas of sky peeking through the trees.
In this case, the blown out highlights aren't as big of a deal, simply because they are in the background which is heavily blurred.
However, because the areas of sky are so bright, they distract the eye from the subject - the woman shooting photos in the foreground.
The question is, how do you prevent blown out highlights?
That's easy...expose for the highlights!
When you're photographing a subject against a bright background, simply expose the image based on the brightest area of the scene.
What that does is allow you to retain the detail in the bright areas of the shot, thus avoiding blown out highlights.
Then, in post-processing, you can bring up the darker areas of the shot to ensure that the subject is well exposed too.
The reason this works is because it's much easier to bring out the details in a dark area of a photo than it is to bring out details in a bright area.
So, the next time you're faced with a situation in which there's a lot of brightness, simply set your focus point on a bright area, adjust your exposure settings until you see a centered meter reading, and refocus on your subject without changing the exposure.
The resulting image will be underexposed, but you'll be able to rectify that once you get it into your post-processing program.
Mistake #2: Getting Stuck With Posing
Something that you often see in a beginning photographer's portraits is that they are often heavily posed.
And though there's nothing wrong with a formally posed shot, posing can become a crutch that leads to photos that aren't nearly as exciting or as genuine as they should be.
Take the image above as a perfect example of this.
It's a nice portrait, one that is composed well, lit well, and processed well.
However, there's just not a lot of life to the photo, even though each member of the family is smiling and appears to like one another.
Now compare that image with the one below.
In this case, the family portrait has much more life to it.
The action of running towards the camera adds some excitement to the shot, and the fact that the family seems oblivious that the shot has been taken makes this a much more genuine image.
This is done by directing your subjects rather than posing them.
By telling the family to run towards the camera, the photographer elicited a natural response that translates well in a photograph - everyone is happy, active, and interacting with one another.
But you don't have to tell them to run or jump to get a great shot.
Play music, crack a joke, ask them to think about their favorite memory. Any of these strategies will help the subjects relax and give you much more feeling and emotion to capture in your portraits.
Mistake #3: Not Taking Lighting Into Account
Lighting is the most important aspect of photography.
Yet many beginning photographers don't take the lighting into account when they take a photo.
By that I mean, a lot of beginners just start firing the shutter at whatever their subject might be without thinking about how the lighting in the scene impacts the shot.
When taking photos outdoors, you have to consider the type of light the sun is giving off at that point in time.
For example, if you're shooting under the midday sun, you'll find that the light is very bright, has a fairly cool color temperature, and produces very harsh shadows.
That's not a recipe for a very good photo, as you can see above. Note how every person in the shot is squinting, and how the intense midday lighting has washed out their skin, as well as cast harsh shadows.
Instead, a much better type of natural lighting occurs after sunrise and before sunset during Golden Hour.
The lighting at this time of day is much softer, and the color temperature is much warmer too.
Looking at the image above, you can see a stark difference in the quality of light between that photo and the one that precedes it.
The harsh shadows are gone, the image is warmed up, and it's a much more pleasing photo to view.
If you can't wait until Golden Hour to take your photos, simply find some shade.
By placing your subject in the shade, you can take advantage of softer lighting without worry of heavy shadows to distract the viewer's attention.
For even more detailed instruction about how to avoid these beginner photography mistakes, have a look at the video below by Mango Street: