10 Mistakes I Made As A Beginning Photographer

Before I decided to get serious with photography (in other words, before I decided to go past the cell phone and the point and shoot) I did a TON of research on cameras, techniques, do’s and do not’s, etc.  Even with all of this knowledge I still made a few (okay more than a few) rookie mistakes.

10 Mistakes I Made As A Beginning Photographer

10) Crooked images in camera 
     I didn’t realize until quite some time into my photography journey that there is a feature in every camera I have owned that turns on a Rule of Thirds grid in the viewfinder.  Until I learned this little tidbit every single image I took looked like it was taken by a drunken college student. 

9) Underexposing for fear of grainy photos
     The thing about this (and I didn't learn this until quite some time later either) is that you actually get MORE grain in your photos when you have to boost the exposure way up in post-processing.  So my little trick was actually causing more damage than it was preventing!

Grain grainy grain grain grain
8) Over-processing eyes and skin
     I have yet to meet the photographer who didn't make this mistake when starting out.  You see all of these images online with creamy, beautiful skin and eyes that POP and you immediately think "I have GOT to make that happen!!".  But then you go way overboard because the more you do it the better it looks, right?  WRONG!

7) Limb chops galore
     This issue came about just from a lack of understanding composition and what makes a good portrait.  This was also one of the things that I learned but STILL did because I couldn't make myself think of the entire frame when I had the camera to my eye.  All of my focus was on making sure that the main part of my image was how I wanted it.  In the image below for example:  Phantom hands, anyone?

Over processed, limb chops
6) Relying on actions and presets without understanding them
     What do most of these images so far have in common?  Crappy, inconsistent editing.  Rather than digging in and learning how to use Lightroom and Photoshop I counted on presets and actions to do the work for me.  At one point I legit had over 300 presets saved in Lightroom.  300!  

5) Not leaving enough space at the edges of the frame
     This was a constant issue in my early photography.  I never, ever stopped to think about what would happen if one of my images was to be printed and framed.  Not only do most prints get cropped for printing anyway but also frames overlap the image edges as well.  And the way I cropped so close in my shots things were getting cut off left and right (and top and bottom).  

4) Not understanding light
     When I started out light was one of the hardest concepts for me to grasp.  If there's light there's a picture, right?  No.  I had no idea how to model light or how to use light to convey a story.  I didn't know how to adjust flash power or that it was even an option to do so!

3) Not following the "Buy Right, Buy Once" rule
   One of the most costly mistakes I made in the first year or so was buying the cheaper option because it was, well, cheaper.  This is the reason why I outgrew my first DSLR so quickly and it's also the reason that I lost my first zoom lens (I had it mounted on a cheap tripod and the entire rig crashed to the ground, breaking my lens and giving me a minor coronary).  Now I make sure that what I'm purchasing is going to suit my needs not just my pocketbook.  

Over processed, horrible crop, and wow that white balance just doesn't apply, does it?
2) Saving everything
     As a serious photographer you take hundreds of pictures a month.  Sometimes hundreds of pictures a week.  When I first started out I saved each and every one.  Even the ones that had missed focus or were just of the back of someone's head.  Because you never know when you might need it, right?  Well several years later and I can say I've never needed them.  I don't need fifty pictures of my son sitting in a chair with a crayon up his nose when a single well composed image that tells the story is more than sufficient.

1) Emulating other photographers
     This one is number one for a reason.  It is so easy to look at places like Pinterest and see the stunning work of photographers who have been in the field for years and think, "I want my work to look EXACTLY like that!".  So you start shooting like them, processing like them, etc.  But before long you are dissatisfied with what you are producing.  So you go back to Pinterest and find another photographer whose work you like and start the process again.  But again you are dissatisfied.  
    The reason is because the work isn't yours.  You'll never be content living in someone else's shadow when the reason you are drawn to photography is because you have your own voice and your own creativity that needs to shine.  You need to develop your own skill so that you can convey your own creative vision.
     It took me a year of shooting to realize this.  Now I can look at someone else's work and say "Wow, I love how he used the light in this image.  How would it look if I..." and put my own twist on it.  Take a concept that someone else used well and make it my own with my own voice and creativity.

St Paul Photographer
Much better...

Now check out 10 things I did RIGHT as a beginning photographer.

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