Common Misconceptions Beginners Have About Photography

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Photography is a complex beast, so it's no wonder that some beginner photographers start out with a few misconceptions about the craft.

Heck, it was a decade or so into my photography career before I felt like I had a pretty good handle on things, and I'm still learning.

But that's what makes photography so great - it's always evolving and there's always something you can learn to step up your photography game.

In the video above, the folks over at Mango Street throw in their two cents regarding a few common misconceptions that some new photographers seem to have.

Have a look to see what they have to say, and read on below for a more detailed discussion of each topic.

Misconception #1: Professional Photographers Only Shoot in Manual Focus


There are two things that photographers talk about when they discuss "shooting in manual."

One is manual focus. As the name says, that's when you determine how the lens focuses rather than relying on the camera's autofocus system to do it.

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Manual focus takes some skill to master, but it can definitely be a god-send in situations that are challenging for many autofocus systems, like shooting in low light conditions.

However, the misconception here is that most pros shoot with manual focus when what they're really talking about is shooting in manual mode.


Manual mode gives the photographer all of the control over the camera settings. It's the antithesis of shooting in full auto.

So, in manual mode, you decide things like the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to use.

Again, that takes some practice to master, but once you learn how to use manual controls, you'll be free to take better photos in more challenging conditions than what you can capture with the camera in charge of the decision-making.

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Misconception #2: If You Use the Same Camera Settings as the Pros, Your Photos Will Look Similar


Though it's obviously important to learn what camera settings work in what situations, using the same settings as someone else doesn't mean that you'll capture an image that looks the same as theirs.

What helps define an image are other factors - the lighting, composition, location, colors and textures, and so forth - that give the image life and vitality. And, here's a head's up - those factors will be different for the pro photos you admire online and the replicas you try to take anyway!

In other words, asking another photographer what camera settings they used doesn't really get you very far because the settings are specific to the time and place of the shot.


Having said that, there are a few tips for choosing camera settings that will keep you on the straight and narrow.

First, whenever possible, use a low ISO value. The higher the ISO, the more digital noise that appears in the photo, so keeping that setting on the low side (i.e., below 400) will help get you cleaner shots.

Second, if you're taking portraits, try keeping the aperture nice and wide, like f/2.8 or below.

This does a couple of things: it minimizes the depth of field, giving you a nicely blurred background while also allowing in tons of light which will help you keep the ISO low.

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Lastly, keep your shutter speed sufficiently fast so that if you're handholding the camera, you can avoid camera shake, which makes photos blurry.

A good rule of thumb is that anything below about 1/50th of a second will be in the danger zone. That depends on tons of factors, though, so don't take that as gospel.

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Misconception #3: Using Other Photographers' Presets Makes Your Photos Unoriginal


When Photoshop first came out, plenty of photographers grumbled that using it was cheating.

Today, the grumbling seems to have focused more on presets that photographers are putting out there for use by others.

That doesn't make a ton of sense, though, because today's photo presets serve the same function that different types of film did back in the day.

In other words, different presets give your photos different looks, just like different films produced different looks.


Granted, there are plenty more processing capabilities available to us today in digital photography than there were when film ruled the roost.

However, you'd never claim that a film photographer was cheating because they didn't make their own film, so why make that claim against photographers today that use other people's presets?

As long as you're using those presets to fulfill your creative vision with images that you took, there's no problem. Taking inspiration from others is part of the game, and will help you find your creative voice and create better photos, too.

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