When you’re new to photography, you’re bound to make mistakes. Everyone is a beginner once, and making errors is part of the process. To move past the beginner stage, you must be aware of common photography mistakes and learn how to fix them.
I’ve put together a list of the 5 most common mistakes made by beginner photographers and to correct them. Apply these tips to dramatically improve your photos!
1. Bent Horizon
One of the simplest ways to turn a mediocre image into a solid image is to straighten the horizon. Unless you’re trying to achieve a specific effect and want a decidedly crooked horizon, it’s always best to straighten it.
When you’re caught up in the moment of a shoot, you may not be thinking about the horizon the whole time, which is okay. Even when you are conscious of the horizon, you may need to tweak it a bit during editing to get it perfectly straight. Straightening the horizon is a very simple post-process fix. As you get more comfortable with taking and editing photos, fixing a bent horizon will become second nature.
If you want to minimize your time spent editing photos and get the right shot straight (pun intended) out of your camera, you can either use a tripod and level up your camera or if you don’t have one with you, your camera might have a virtual horizon built in so you can use it activating live view. Otherwise activate the grid and use it as a guide to get your horizon straight.
2. Not Applying Basic Rules of Composition
Basic rules of composition are not the most exciting aspect of photography. However, regardless of the type of photography you’re pursuing, a general understanding of basic composition rules will help you perfect your craft. The two rules to start with are the rule of thirds and leading lines. When you break a photo into thirds both horizontally and vertically, you have four key intersections. Striving to place your subject at one of these intersections will help you create balanced images.
Leading lines refers to using lines to lead your viewer into the photo or to draw attention to the subject. Choosing a subject with obvious leading lines is a great place to start working on this technique. Railroad tracks, bridges, long fences, and rows of street lights are perfect for practicing your leading lines technique.
When you’re comfortable with the rule of thirds and leading lines, start paying attention to the balance in your photos, working to deliberately to center or off-set your subjects. Consider the foreground versus background balance as well as how you’re framing your subjects.
You can find more about the rules of compositions here Photography Composition: The Best Guide
3. Shooting at the Wrong Time of the Day
Golden hour refers to the periods shortly after sunrise and before sunset. Photographers often refer to golden hour as “magic hour” because the light takes on a certain magical quality these times of day.
Shooting in the middle of the day is much more difficult as the sun is directly overhead, creating harsh light with deep shadows.
The sun’s angle is very flattering right after sunrise or before sunset, bathing subjects in beautiful diffused light. When you’re planning a portrait session or photo outing, do your best to shoot for golden hour or close to it. Learning how to take advantage of the golden hour will immediately bring the level of your photographs up.
4. Overediting Images
Overediting images is very trendy right now, particularly oversaturated or “HDR” images. HDR is a photography technique, but most photographers don’t use it correctly.
It’s important to edit your photos to turn your good images into great images. It’s also important to know when to stop editing, which is a tricky balance. It doesn’t help that overediting is so popular.
Many people assume it’s a must or don’t feel like their images are finished until they reach a certain saturation or contrast level. Unless you’re going for a very specific aesthetic, you don’t want to edit your images so heavily that they don’t look real anymore.
5. Taking the Obvious Shots
Becoming a good photographer involves training your eye to see an unusual composition or angle for a shot. When you arrive at a new location, take a few minutes to be present in it before you start snapping.
You’ll get a better sense of your surroundings and will get more interesting images than you would if you spent the entire time with the camera to your face. Don’t be afraid to move to get the shot you want.
You’ll often create a better perspective on a subject when you get above or beneath it or right down at its angle. For example, instead of snapping a picture of pretty flowers and moving on, squat down so you can photograph them straight on.
Every photographer starts as a beginner. You will make mistakes, and that’s okay. It’s important to learn from your mistakes and strive to keep taking and editing better images.
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Stefano Caioni is the founder of Pixinfocus. His passion for photography helps him discover new places and live new adventures.