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Top 3 Common Mistakes Beginner Photographers Make

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.

Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.

Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.

All Beginner Photographers Make Mistake

Most beginning photographers make mistakes; even professionals make mistakes every so often. But the vast majority of those just starting out make these simple mistakes which can be easily avoided with some practice and by being aware of the situation that leads to the mistakes in the first place.

Top 3 Beginner Photography Mistakes

  1. Focusing on the Wrong Point
  2. Unnatural Posing
  3. Forgetting the Light

1. Focusing on the Wrong Point

The first one is really simple, and it is not because the photographer is not paying attention but rather that the photographer is paying too much attention to the main point of focus that some areas that fall within the shot are often overlooked or ignored.

  • Pay attention to hot spots. These are areas within the composition that are usually much brighter than the rest of the scene. If you are shooting a model and the room where you are has a window, light is going to enter the room, and more than likely, this area will be much brighter than any other areas, especially the farther they are away from the window.

In the final shot, you will see a bright spot (hot spot) that lacks definition and detail because the camera or the photographer metered for the main interest point. Instead, meter for the bright spot and fix the issue later in post-editing, This is much easier than trying to fix a hot spot.


2. Unnatural Posing

The second is trying to pose your models. Unless they are professional models, they will probably not give you usable poses.

  • It is much better to ask them to think of something that evokes an emotion like something that makes them happy, not look at the camera and pretend that you are not even there. Natural, unposed images always look much better than forced expressions.
  • Simply direct your models to act a certain way without giving so many instructions that they forget what you want in the first place.

This is not to say that posing a model is always bad. But posing takes practice, and models can often understand what you are trying to do, but they can also not get you.

3. Forgetting the Light

The third is that most beginners focus too much on the setup, location, and other elements within the scene that they forget about the light, and without light, there is no photography.

  • Pay attention to the light source, its direction, its strength, any shadows, and so on. Build or compose your shot around the light to make it work for you. Do not force a set up if the light will not help you. Also keep in mind that natural light is always better than even the best flash unit or set up.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Of course, there are a lot of other simple mistakes that most beginners make, but these three always seem to be the most present and repeated ones.

With practice and by being aware of your surrounding and your composition, and by following some basic photography rules, you can avoid making them over and over again.

  • Learn as much about photography as you can, look at copious amounts of great shots, and learn from them.
  • Try to improve each and every consecutive shot, and soon you will be on your way to making great photos instead of just capturing mundane shots.

Last Tips

  • One final piece of advice for newcomers—always do your best to ensure that your shots are sharp.
  • Most come upon a subject like a bird, butterfly, or nice scene, and because of time constraints or simply because the subject won't stand still, tend to hurry the shot.
  • Autofocus sometimes is not fast enough, and manual mode can lead to small discrepancies. I always use the auto mode simply because I don't trust the autofocus mechanism to be fast enough or to focus exactly where I want it to be (it tends to try to focus on the brightest spot in the scene).
  • Do use the manual mode as much as you can, brace yourself as well as you can, and use a shutter speed that is always faster than the focal length of your lens; if your lens focal length is 80mm, for example, then use a shutter speed of no less than 1/100. This will most always increase the chances of reducing camera shake.

© 2017 Luis E Gonzalez


Dianna Mendez on February 19, 2017:

Another valuable article on photography for beginners!

Luis E Gonzalez (author) from Miami, Florida on February 04, 2017:

MarleneB: Thank you

Marlene Bertrand from USA on February 04, 2017:

I have to admit I have made just about all of these mistakes. I'm learning. Thank you for all of your helpful information.