Today, we’re diving into what I think are some of the biggest mistakes that new photographers make when trying to learn how to take successful images. Honestly, these are mistakes that I’ve seen tons of new photographers make over and over again - and I did most of them too so I'm pretty familiar with them :-)
In no particular order, here are 5 common mistakes, along with what you can do to avoid them.
Mistake #1 - Learning things in the wrong order
Have you ever noticed that when you learn one thing in photography, it invariably means you need to learn something else first?! It's like a never ending merry go round! Before you know it you are going down the rabbit hole and wandering down paths that won't actually help you that much in the beginning. Although there are some things that need to be learnt in tandem, for the most part, you can actually follow a learning path, layering on the knowledge. When you skip ahead, and haven't quite learnt everything in the steps before, you make the process longer and harder than it needs be.
Work on your getting your foundations right first - starting with exposure - and everything else can be layered on top once you have the basics down. Try not to get side-tracked onto anything else until you feel really comfortable with the three elements of exposure (Aperture, ISO and Shutter Speed) both with what they do with regard to exposure, and the affect they have on the look of your image. I strongly suggest learning to shoot in manual mode - it's hard to begin with for sure, but it really gives you a great foundation on which to build from.
Mistake # 2 - Using tips that you found in 20 different blog posts and trying to hack them together
We are all guilty of this one - for everything. We hop onto Google, read 12 different blog posts from 12 different sites, then try to patchwork all the information together in a way that makes sense......and then wonder why we are not not seeing much in the way of results.
Of course, this approach does work to a certain extent (and the internet is a wonderful thing!) but with photography, where you have so many different moving "parts" that you need to bring together to create a successful image, it's simply easier (not to mention quicker) to try to follow a more logical learning path.
There a numbers of courses out there that will already have this laid out so all the hard work is done for you (including my step by step program Auto to Awesome) but you can of course do this yourself, it's just a little harder, and will take you longer. (It actually took me three YEARS to learn everything I put into into Auto to Awesome!!)
If you cannot afford to invest in your learning, then try to create a learning "curriculum" for yourself. If you need a guide to what you should be learning when, check out this post A Guide To Your Photography Learning Path which should help you put one together.
Mistake #3 - Trying to do it alone
Something that I see in a lot of with new photographers is that they don't engage with others who are in the same boat as them. Usually not on purpose, but more because it's just not something they considered. Talking to people who have similar goals or ambitions can really help you on your photography journey, as they can help you come up with a plan for your photography, give you feedback on your images, and give you ideas or just point you in the direction of something useful they have found on the web. Although it doesn't seem like a big deal, it can be really very helpful.
One of the best things I have done was find a little support group. (Actually, the support group kinda found me, and I'm so glad it did!) It really is so nice to have a group of individuals who are interested in the same things, and who are in the same situation. We all give each other advice on our images, camera gear, help each other out when we get stuck, share things we found on the web that we think the others would like and just generally bounce ideas off one another. Having that kind of support is truly invaluable.
With the internet it is so easy to open up the doors to new friendships - it doesn't matter where you all live since you only ever need to meet online. In our little group we are pretty scattered, to the point that in three years we have never met face to face, but that doesn't make the group any less important or helpful.
If you feel you would like to find and connect with some like minded individuals, you can find loads of different groups online just by searching - something like Flickr is good- and there are also many photography forums that offer the chance to connect - Clickin Moms and The Bloom Forum are just two that spring to mind that both have women specifically in mind, but men are welcome too!
If you are struggling with this one, let me know - I'm thinking of setting up a Facebook group for us!
Of course, if you prefer to go it alone, that's fine too - and you've always got me :)
Mistake #4 - Giving up too soon!
It's so easy to look at successful photographers and wish you could achieve that type of images, and when you don't, feel like you will never get there. I know many people who started with great enthusiasm and then got overwhelmed by how much there is to learn about photography, or simply feel their confidence waning since they can't yet get the image they see in their head into the camera. So they give up, or the fancy camera gets left on AUTO.
I think this actually links back to all the elements I've gone through here - with the right learning structure, you will actually see small improvements each time, which in turn grows your confidence and you'll find you are eager to get to the next stage. Without that gradual improvement, it can feel like you are going nowhere fast.
It also ties back to the last "mistake" - going it alone. Being in a group who are having the exact same doubts and fears can help you when you feel like giving up, as they can support you through the times when you are feeling less than stellar :)
The bottom line is this: You won't be able to pick up a camera and instantly be able to create some images or get instant results, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong! It just means that you need to persevere and keep moving forward, even though you have doubts. What I often find is that people suddenly have a lightbulb moment, where everything just seems to click - keep going and i'm absolutely positive that it will come together.
Mistake # 5 - Investing in gadgets rather than learning
This was a big one for me!! I physically shudder to think about how much I spent on various tools and gadgets that didn't help my photography one bit (or at least not much) My particular guilty purchases? Photoshop Actions.
Oh, how I threw loads of money at these and saw not a jot of real difference to my images! Let me be brutally honest here, it's wasn't the actions that were poor, it was the images I was using them on! You need to have well lit, in focus, well composed images to run these actions on, and that all happens in camera, not in the editing suite. Editing should simply be the cherry on top, or a way to bring your final vision to life, not a way to try to "rescue" a mediocre image.
Your particular gadget addiction may be different. You may think that the $$$ dollar lens you are eyeing is going to be the ticket to great images. (Oh, wait, I had that addiction too!!) I'm sorry, but it's not. I am not for one second saying that gear doesn't matter, but I am saying gear doesn't matter RIGHT NOW. I can take images that I am proud of with an iPhone because I know my stuff. Actually, I use my iPhone more than I do the $$$ lens I forked out on way back at the earlier stages.
This leads me neatly back to point one - get your foundations right first. All you need to do that are a camera, a lens, a memory card, and ideally, a grey card (see the list here) and anything else can wait. When you are about to purchase something, ask yourself if it helps with getting the key foundations right - if it doesn't, my advice is to leave it on the shelf and invest in something that does. It will still be there in a few months time if you feel you need it then.