- Check the full specs, photos, and video of the KOBRA Flash Modifier
- How to Take Control of Your Off-Camera Flash
- Beginner Photography Tip: Advanced Controls That Will Take Your Photos to the Next Level
- Why You Need to Shoot in Program Mode
Sometimes, getting better results with your camera is as much about what you avoid as it is about what you actually do.
There are tons of mistakes that we've all made along the way, some big and some small.
And though making mistakes is a great way to learn, it's even better to learn from the mistakes of others. That's the whole point of this post!
If you can avoid these 19 embarrassing photography mistakes, you'll end up with much better photos.
Using Direct Flash Without a Modifier
I see so many photographers struggle with using artificial lighting.
Some opt to use the pop-up flash on their camera, which is a huge no-no.
The pop-up flash produces extremely harsh light that washes out subjects. In a word, the lighting is terrible.
I also see a lot of photographers use a hot-shoe mounted flash or an off-camera flash, but without a modifier.
Without a modifier to soften that light, you end up with the same problem - harsh, unflattering light that washes out the subject and creates deep shadows.
There are a lot of flash modifiers on the market today, but the one I recommend is the KOBRA Flash Modifier.
There's a lot to like about this little gadget, but for me, the biggest draw is the sheer impact it has on the look and feel photos.
One look at the images above, and you can see the dramatic difference between the light from an unmodified flash and the light from a flash that's using KOBRA.
Additionally, KOBRA is small, lightweight (just 4.5 ounces!), and it's actually foldable too, so you can slide it into a pocket in your camera bag to save space, and then when you get it out again, it'll go right back to its original shape.
In other words, you can easily avoid having harsh, unflattering lighting in your images. All you have to do is modify the light with a KOBRA Flash Modifier.
Leaving Your Camera at Home
This is a cardinal sin because the best way to get better at photography is to take a lot of photos, and to take a lot of photos you need your camera with you!
Granted, there are some situations in which you might not want to take your big DSLR, but you have a great camera right in your pocket - your smartphone.
That means there are zero excuses. Take your camera - any camera - with you to shoot at least a few frames each day. With time, that practice will pay off!
Shooting Landscapes Only in Horizontal Format
Sure, most landscapes probably benefit from shooting in horizontal format, but sometimes, they look even better in vertical format.
By switching things up and shooting landscapes in a vertical orientation, you can incorporate much more sky and foreground into the shot.
That's especially advantageous at sunrise or sunset, or when there are interesting elements in the foreground, as seen above.
Not Cleaning Your Gear
I took a great shot of Yosemite back in the day. It was perfectly composed, I had great light from the sunset, and I was sure to include foreground interest in the shot to invite viewers into the image.
Unfortunately, I hadn't cleaned my camera or lens for a good, long while, so my "great shot" ended up having dust specks and smudges appearing all over the place.
Cleaning your gear isn't just necessary for the best shots, either. You want to keep your gear in good working order, because who wants to pay all that money to buy new stuff?!
Never Leaving Full Auto
Full auto is a great learning tool when you're just starting out, but to stay in full auto isn't going to do you any favors.
Instead, challenge yourself to learn aperture priority mode, shutter priority mode, program mode, and, eventually, manual mode.
The more you know how to use your camera, the more confidence you will have, and that will mean you'll be able to take better shots in more varied conditions.
What's not to like about that?!
Not Adjusting Your Shooting Angle
If you take all your photos at your eye level, your collection of images will look a little boring.
Instead, vary your eye level a bit to find unique and unexpected ways to portray the subject.
Get up high. Get down low. Look up and look down. Even if it means laying down on the ground, give it a try!
Not Using a Tripod
Something that will kill the mood of even the best-composed images is if they're blurry due to camera shake.
Though there are plenty of ways to try to avoid camera shake, the easiest one for beginner photographers is to use a tripod.
It'll give your camera the stable base it needs to get the sharp results you want. Plus, using a tripod helps slow you down a bit, so you have a few more seconds to pay attention to things like your camera settings, the framing, composition, and so forth.
Overediting Your Photos
Photoshop, Lightroom, and other photo editing programs exist to help you make them look better, not to help you make them look like they've been edited to death.
Try making small adjustments first - enhancing colors, adjusting the contrast, cropping the image, and so forth - in an attempt to make the image more eye-catching but while also leaving the image's integrity in tact.
If your photo looks like the one above, with totally unnatural colors (and too much saturation, at that), then you might consider toning it down a bit!
Not Including People in Landscape Photos
Very few landscapes on earth haven't been touched somehow by humans, so it makes sense to include people or manmade objects in landscape photos.
By putting a human figure, for example, in a landscape, the image then becomes about that person's relationship with their surroundings.
In other words, by adding a person to a landscape, it can help you tell a more compelling story with your image!
Having a Crooked Horizon
Whether it's a landscape, a cityscape, an outdoor portrait, or something in between, if there's a horizon line, be sure it's absolutely level.
Many tripods have built-in bubble levels you can use, or you can even buy one to put on your camera's hot-shoe mount. Use the rule of thirds grid in live view on your camera as well.
In other words, there's no excuse for your horizons to be off-kilter.
Not Watching the Background
Whether it's a trash can or a car, a tree branch or another person, when you're taking a portrait outdoors, there's a ton of things that can ruin the shot if you aren't paying attention to the background.
All it takes is a couple of extra seconds to scan the scene through the viewfinder and adjust your positioning or framing accordingly.
That's a much easier approach than to try and remove an unsightly feature from a portrait in post-processing!
Only Taking Posed Portraits
There's a time and a place for posed portraits, but that's not the only kind of portrait you should take.
Candid portraits are typically more genuine and have more life and vitality to them than ones that are heavily posed.
Save the posed portraits for things like weddings and graduations, and the rest of the time, see what you can do to get a fun candid shot like the one shown above.
Failing to Do Something With Your Images
My mother loves taking photos, and she's actually pretty good at it.
The problem is, she doesn't do anything with them!
She doesn't print them out. She doesn't even process them. In fact, many of them stay on the memory card, and when it gets full, it goes into a drawer with dozens of other cards.
If you're going to take photos, actually do something with them, look at your work, share it with other people, and learn from that process so you can become even better at your craft.
Too Much Clutter
An easy way for a photo to go wrong really fast is if there's simply too much going on in the shot.
This can be a problem for any type of photo, too.
If you find that you're having trouble processing all the subject matter, shapes, colors, shadows, and so forth, do what you can to eliminate some of those visual elements from the shot.
After all, sometimes less really is more!
Taking Only a Few Shots
Earlier, I mentioned that you need to have your camera with you so you can practice.
Building off that tip, you need to take a lot of shots!
There's no reason why you can't keep firing away with your camera. Today's memory cards can hold thousands of photos, so when you go out shooting, keep shooting!
Shooting Without a Plan
Then again, even though you should keep shooting and shoot often, don't take a "spray and pray" approach.
Instead, develop a plan for each outing, develop some goals, and see how close you can get to achieving those goals each time a camera is in your hand.
The more you plan and execute your plans, the better skilled you'll become, and the more likely you'll be able to quickly adapt to changing situations in the future.
Shooting Without a Memory Card
There's nothing quite like taking the time to grab some great shots, only to find when you come home that you didn't have a memory card in the camera.
It's a rookie mistake, but one you'll likely only make once!
Or, if you don't want to ever make that mistake, check your camera's owner's manual for instructions regarding how to set the camera to not take a photo unless a memory card is installed.
Only Using a Zoom Lens
Zoom lenses are great because you have a range of focal lengths in one lens.
However, they typically aren't as sharp as fixed lenses (also called prime lenses), nor do they perform as well in low-light situations.
If you want to up your game, find a good prime lens like a 35mm or a 50mm and see how it challenges you to try new things!
Getting Hung Up on the Rules
It's easy to get overwhelmed with all the tips, tricks, suggestions, and rules of photography, so much so, that you might find that when you go to press the shutter button, that you're second-guessing yourself.
That, in and of itself, is a mistake!
In the end, use the tips like those I've outlined above as guidance, but don't think of them as hard-and-fast rules that if not followed will result in you being expelled from the photographer's fraternity.
After all, photography is an art form, and each of us has our own personal style and vision!