Calling yourself a photographer too early
Excessive use of wide angle lenses
Centering the subject
Shooting from eye level all the time
Poor understanding of light
Calling yourself an artist
Going to the wrong workshops
Using black and white wrong
Relying on gear too much
Having no business skills
Shooting an assignment when you’re not ready for it
Doing it for free
Waiting for the right light
Being too emotionally attached to some photos
Having too much gear
Thinking of other photographers as enemies
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There’s a lot of talk on forums, in online and offline communities about mistakes, dos and don’ts in photography and a general tendency from everyone to give advice to rookies. Now, some of that advice is legitimate and it comes from somewhat experienced photographers. But most of it is just hot air and you could be doing yourself a favor by ignoring it. There is no recipe for success in photography and the list of mistakes that should be avoided is a lot longer than 19. Even if you avoid the following mistakes, plus a few more , it still doesn’t mean you’re going to end up a hot shot with three assistants and a production crew that rivals most low budget movies. Luck has something to do with it too, as does karma, if you believe in that stuff. Anyway, here are 19 mistakes that I personally have something against. It’s no bullet proof advice and I’m not saying you should follow it, but it’s not intended to damage your path towards a successful career either.
It’s not wrong purely because of the idea of labeling yourself too early, but because it will alter the way you see things and the way your percieve your own value. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be confident in your own potential. On the contrary, you should do your best to build that confidence. However, a certain dose of humbleness can do a lot of good. Especially in the first days after you buy 3000$ DSLR.
Wide angle lenses are awesome tools, but only when used for the right subject and in the right way. I see a lot of rookies investing in top of the line wide glass and when I ask them way, I usually get an answer like “you know, it gives you a different perspective”. Yes it does, but don’t you think you should be looking for that by yourself, without the external help of a lens? Don’t get me wrong, for some things you just can’t beat a 14-24mm f2.8. Just don’t use it for portraits because you want a cool, different look. All you’ll be doing is distorting someone’s face to the point where their own mother will have doubts.
Actually, this is one thing I like to do. But it’s not because I don’t know any other way of doing it, it’s a personal thing. Most beginners will frame their subjects right in the middle because they’re either afraid of screwing things up or because they totally lack imagination. Don’t be like that. Shoot different compositions whenever you have the time and don’t ever stick only to what you know.
I’ve said this multiple times, if you want be a good photographer, you have to learn how to bend, crawl, jump and generally put your body in uncomfortable positions. Stick to shooting from eye level if you’re fine with being mediocre.
This should speak for itself. Light is key in photography, more than anything else. Before starting anything else, you need to study how light works. Read about it and take lessons from the masters of painting and movies. Those guys rocked when it came to using light.
The debate whether photography is really art or not is ancient and I’m not going to address that issue now because I simply think it has no relevance whatsoever. Who cares what you are or what people call you as long as your work speaks for itself and makes people feel different emotions. If you really are an artist, don’t name yourself, let the others do it.
Getting bad education in the early days can be absolutely toxic. I know what you’ll be asking next: how do I know which workshops to go to? Simple. Do some research! Go online and Google the heck out of that photographer Find out what other people are saying about his workshops and most importantly, have realistic expectations about how it will benefit your progress directly.
By wrong I mean trying to turn a bad photo into a good one by canceling color. No, you won’t be making it any more valuable by doing that. Black and white is amazing and I believe the day it dies, photography dies. However, the subjects that are good for black and white are everywhere you look and usually you can tell before clicking the shutter if that photo will look better without color.
Be inspired, have photographers you love, change those photographers every now and then, just don’t ever imitate. There is a fine line between copying and giving a personal interpretation to something. Photography is self-expression. When you imitate somebody else’s work, it’s like yelling the same line some else yelled before you.
Having quality equipment feels great and makes everything a lot easier. But as soon as you rely on that more than yourself and your creative thinking, you’re doomed. The camera is a tool. Just like a pen, an oven or a guitar. Actually, I heard guitar quality is pretty important. But anyway, think of your pro body and lenses as means of doing something you could have done with lesser equipment and a little bit more effort.
Once you get your stuff together and start getting paid assignments, you should have some sort of back up for your gear. It’s a tough situation when you’re about to shoot your first important commission and some part of your gear fails you. It has the potential of giving you a bad name in the area before you can even make one for yourself. Back up, even if it’s with cheap stuff. Better safe than sorry.
If photography is your passion or if it you want to pursue it as a fine art (good luck with that!), than business skills are of no particular interest to you. If, one the other hand, you hope to one day earn and honest living from photography, you better start buying some marketing books and going to a few seminars.
Just like turning a photo into black and white, mercilessly mutating it in Photoshop or Lightroom will just turn it into digital junk. Develop your eye and taste first. Learn how to use each tool at its best and if you have any doubts about the outcome of an editing session, it’s probably best to delete and start over.
There is a difference between challenging yourself and pushing forward and playing in a higher league. The thing is, when, by chance, you are given an assignment you know for a fact exceeds your level of experience, you should walk away for at least two reasons. Number one, the client will obviously not be satisfied and they will feel like they just threw money out the window by taking a shot with you. Number two, the potential damage to your self-esteem and confidence if you get it wrong can be fatal.
A wise man once said: ”if you’re good at something, never do it for free”. I’m not saying you should charge your own brother for a couple of head shots, but you shouldn’t be doing favors for people that aren’t family either. When people buy your photography, they buy your talent, your value and experience and they ultimately get a quality product. At least that’s the ideal way for things to go. It’s pretty much like everything else. When you go to a restaurant, you pay for the food you eat without expecting it to be free. With photographers, things somehow got out of hand throughout the years, but having the right attitude can change the attitude around you.
Sometimes waiting for the perfect moment will cause it to pass you by. Ideally, you should benefit from good light and good weather, but when things don’t go the way you would have wanted them, don’t sit around feeling sorry. Improvise! There’s always something to be created, even in the roughest conditions like 12PM sun.
Sometimes, the photos we love most are not the best we take. It’s a sad thing, but it’s the truth. We don’t always have the clearest eyes when it comes to our own work, so it’s best to hear outside opinions once in a while.
Less gear than you need is sometimes better than more. Not when shooting for a Fortune 500 client, of course, but when seeking full creative potential, the more gear you have with you, the less you will focus on actual photography. The more choices you have, the harder it is.
If you think that whenever you get an assignment you are taking someone’s bread of their table, you are absolutely right. It’s the way things are because there so many of us in the world. But if you think that the fellow photographer is an enemy, you’re doing yourself a lot of damage. Sharing and being part of a community is one of the coolest things photography has brought in my life. You would be passing out the opportunity to meet incredible people, to gain experience and grow as both as a photographer and as a person. Not all photographers are cool people, in fact some are scumbags, but like most creative people, they sure are interesting and if you think about it, there is something to learn from everyone.
Written by: Sergiu Aursulesei
Image credit: elnur / 123RF Stock Photo