It can be so disheartening when you pour your heart and soul into photography, but no matter what you seem to do, your images just don’t turn out the way that you want them to, or how you thought you’d captured them!
I know, I’ve been there too 😁
That’s why I wanted to write this blog post today, so you can know the MOST likely reasons why your images just aren’t turning out like you see in your head, and so you can go and do something about it!
The key to anything you read on this blog is ACTION. Have a look through these five reasons and see whether you are already doing the recommendation. If not, start to implement it as soon as possible to start seeing an improvement to your images!
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
#1 - You don’t know how to set the correct exposure for the scene
There are generally two different types of photographers who fall into this category - those who are still on full AUTO mode, and those that are using one of the semi automatic modes.
So as you probably know, exposure is simply how light or how dark your scene is, and we control it via the three elements of the exposure triangle - shutter speed, aperture and ISO.
When you shoot in AUTO mode, the camera chooses all three of these for you. Now this sounds like it should be a good thing, since it saves you having to think about it at all, but I beg of you, think about what you are doing here! You are letting a piece of equipment - basically a bunch of wires and sensors and receptors - make a decision for you on how you would like the scene to look. Since it doesn’t have a clue, it will aim for middle of the road, catch all, “hope for the best” settings and hope that it hits the right exposure. (Actually, it won’t hope, it’s a wire 😁)
Sometimes it will get it wrong, and you will get images that are too bright or too dark. Other times, the exposure it picks might actually be technically correct, but that varies GREATLY from an “artistically” correct exposure of the exact same scene.
And this is where even those who have moved onto one of the semi automatic modes may experience problems.
Although you are helping your camera out by choosing your aperture or your shutter speed, you are still leaving the camera to balance and decide the final exposure for you - again, it might be technically correct, but that doesn’t necessarily give you the image you see in your head!
Understanding exposure is key to getting your images to look the way you want them to.
And as shooting in Auto mode doesn’t allow you any control over these settings, and the semi automatic modes only a little more, the only thing left for you to do is switch to Manual mode. Understanding each setting, and how to expose correctly for the scene opens up the opportunity for getting the scene to look exactly the way you want it to! You can read this recent blog post, How to Get Started Shooting in Manual Mode to tell you what you need to do next 😁.
You can also grab a free manual mode cheat sheet right here, to help you get your settings right as you move through manual mode.
#2 - You don’t understand light
Light is key to getting a great photograph. It’s the special ingredient that can lift an image and make it into a work of art. (It’s also the thing that can make a beautiful moment or scene feel flat, bland and uninteresting!)
Unless you are brand new to photography, you will have heard about shooting in the golden hour (the hour just after sunrise, or just before sunset) as that is when the light is incredibly flattering to pretty much every subject on earth, so this is a great place to start.
Then, spending your time learning about light and how to place your subject in relation to it is WELL worth your time and consideration!
In fact, you can make a start here, by learning 5 Natural Light Tips for Beginners.
#3 - You’re going too fast
One of the best things you can do to improve your photographs is simply slow down.
Instead of approaching a scene and immediately beginning to snap away, try taking a few moments to try to figure out the best place for you to stand, where the light is coming from, any distractions that could be in the background, and what the best settings for the scene are.
Think about what is in the frame that you could use for composition - are there lines that you could use, or shrubs that could frame your subject?
If you find yourself stepping outside or into a room and taking photos immediately, stop.
Don’t worry about missing a moment (unless it something you will never get the chance to take again!) as taking a few minutes upfront will really help you nail the photos that you DO take, and they will more than make up for the handful that you might miss out on at the beginning because you were getting ready.
#4 - You don’t know your camera well enough
I totally get that your new camera can seem a bit overwhelming. There are so many dials, buttons, functions, options and menus that you find it so much easier just to keep using the AUTO (or semi automatic!) functions for everything, and hope for the best.
But learning your camera is a MUST for getting correct exposure (as we just heard!) but also for other things, such as getting tack sharp images, or images that have the right colour from the white balance setting.
My advice is to take it one step at a time, moving from one AUTO function at a time, and not moving onto the next step until you have mastered the one before it. Break it down into small, manageable chunks, and work on something until you crack it. All the while layering on the knowledge, moving away from AUTO and linking everything together.
(If you want me to be there with you as you do it, check my Auto to Awesome course - everything you need to know, broken down step by step. AND you get access to our private FB group where you can ask me anything if you get stuck, so you are never alone)
Once you get to know your camera, it takes you seconds to set it up correctly for the scene as you’ll start to more instinctively know what settings to use, and your images will have better exposure, and you’ll get tack sharp images more times than not.
This leaves you free to think about OTHER things that can improve your photos, such as composition and interesting light.
So, set up a date with your camera today, and get to know it a little better 😉
#5 - You think more about buying new gear more than you think about learning
I remember when I first started out in photography, my main concern was the camera body I was using, my lenses, and what the ‘pros” said was essential pieces of kit. I’d also scour blogs to see what lens my fave photogs swore by, or what lens they used for a particular image.
Don’t get me wrong, gear can be important, but nowhere NEAR as much as learning how to use the damn things!
So, yes, good gear is (always) nice to have, and it does help give you more flexibility, but I absolutely promise you that you can take amazing images with an entry level cropped frame camera body and kit lens if you learn how to use it properly.
You might find this next statement a little harsh, but the reason we all clamour over new gear is because it’s much EASIER for the answer to great photos is just to get a new lens, or a new camera body. That means the problem can be solved pretty darn quickly, rather than the one thing that will actually improve our photos - spending the time required to learn it.
If you currently think that your images aren’t good because your gear is holding you back, I want you to take a look at this recent blog post, and check out the images in it - all taken with a entry level DSLR and kit lens!
If you are currently eyeing up a lens and thinking that will help, please don’t do it unless you are already shooting in manual mode, understand light and all the settings on your camera. (If you can, you are allowed 😂) We go over ALL of that and more in Auto to Awesome, so be sure to check it out before you go - it might just be the very thing you are looking for.
Spend your money on education, not gear, and your images will improve in just a few weeks, I promise, and you probably won’t even need the new lens after all!
(Image credit: Katie Lynn)
There you go! If you implement these five “tips” , you will be well on your way to a growth spurt and getting the images you want!