7 Common Beginner Photography Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Whenever you try your hand at anything new, you are bound to make a few mistakes along the way! And learning photography is definitely no exception.

Although making mistakes can a good thing, as it helps us grow and learn as photographers, that doesn’t mean you have to make them all 😉

You can take advice from people like me, who have spent years learning and practising photography, and in my case, also spent the last seven years teaching OTHER folks how to do it too. That way you get a bit of a leg up so you can reach your goal more quickly, and with waaaay less frustration than the rest of us.

Without further ado, let’s crack on with 7 of the most common mistakes that new photographers make, so you can avoid them.

Beginner Photography Tips | Tips for new photographers | Photographer Mistakes

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Mistake #1 You’re shooting at the wrong time of day

When I was first starting out with photography, I did the same thing you are probably doing now: only shooting at the brightest times of the day, like midday.

Fear of not having enough light and having bump up my ISO (and getting grainy images in return!) meant that I would seek out the area with the MOST light, and shoot there.

The problem is, shooting in really bright light, for example at midday, will not give you the beautiful images that you want! At that time of day, when the light is coming from directly above, it is incredibly unflattering to your subject, because it gives them raccoon eyes and bright “hot spots” on your subject’s skin.

Like this:

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It’s also much harder to get good exposure at that time, as the contrast between the light and dark areas is much more extreme, and that confuses the beejesus out of your camera if you are still shooting in Auto or one of the semi-automatic modes like Aperture Priority Mode.

Don’t get me wrong, midday sun can look great too, so if you are more experienced you definitely don't have to avoid it - in fact I love the challenge of full sun these days - but when you are starting out, it is actually best to keep out of it’s way until your skills can deal with it.

Instead, start by learning how to shoot indoors - the light is much easier to control, so it’s much easier to practice with.

Mistake #2 You’re sticking with Auto White Balance

You know when your images look all yellow, or too blue? That’s having the WRONG white balance in action!

Auto White Balance can be amazing at times, and get it totally spot on…..but other times it will get it very, very wrong and instead of beautiful skin tones, your son looks like he could audition for a role in the latest Smurfs movie.

The good news is, it’s easily fixable - either in post processing using software like Lightroom, or by setting the white balance in camera when you are taking the image.

Of the two, it’s really so much better to set your own custom white balance when taking the image, instead of relying on trying to fix it in processing, as that way, you’ll begin to see when your white balance is too blue, yellow, magenta or green. It’s notoriously difficult to “see” the correct colour when you are first starting out, so getting it right in camera saves you hours of frustration and banging your head off the computer screen.

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Mistake #3 You’re staying on AUTO or Aperture Priority Mode

I get it: it’s so much easier to have the camera do the hard work for you when it comes to exposure, either by leaving it ALL up to the camera (when you shoot on AUTO) or just have it make the final decision for you in a semi automatic mode like Aperture Priority Mode.

There is whole host of problems with this, but the upshot is you will never get the images you dream of if you stick on these automatic modes too long!

You really do NEED to shoot in manual mode in order to get them images to look they want you want them to, as you’ll be able get more creative with your images, and be able to take images in all sorts of lighting situations, such as low light and sunny days, which in turn helps you get more dramatic images.

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If you are on AUTO now, start by making the switch to Aperture Priority Mode, and THEN ONTO MANUAL MODE.

I know it’s tricky at first. You won’t get it right first time. You will stuff up, and you will want to give up. But don’t let that you put you off - if you gave up on something every time you didn’t get it right at first, you’d still be crawling along the floor.

Truly: once you truly understand which settings you should use, and how to meter for the scene correctly, after a bit of practise you’ll never, ever want to go back.

(If you feel a little queasy at the thought of shooting in manual mode and would like someone to walk you through it step by step, then be sure to get on the waitlist for my Auto to Awesome course! We cover this in depth, plus a whole lot more. It’s your step by step framework for amazing images!)

Mistake #4 You’re always putting the subject in the centre of the frame

Many photographers when starting out will point their camera in the general direction of the subject, but leave lots of space around them on either side, so that their subject is slap bang in the middle of the frame.

Whilst a centre composition can absolutely work sometimes, more often you want a more dynamic composition. And the good news is it’s super simple to do!

All you need to do is place your subject nearer one side of the frame using the rule of thirds grid, like the image below! You can read more about rule of thirds here.

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Mistake #5 You’re photos are all blurry

This is super common with new photographers!

When shooting in AUTO or one of the semi-automatic modes, your camera will frequently give you a slower shutter speed than you need for your subject. I’ve seen my camera give me shutter speeds of 1/30, which means I’ll get motion blur just from MY movement - never mind what my subject is doing.

In Auto to Awesome we have an entire module devoted to getting tack sharp, in focus images, but for now, check out this blog post that has the three main culprits for blurry photos. Why do my images look blurry?

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Mistake #6 You panic when you’re taking a shot

You’re in a position where the light is lovely, your little angel looks particularly angelic AND they are doing something so darn stinking cute that you just have to capture it, so naturally, you panic.

Everything you have learnt goes out of the window whilst you fumble nervously with your settings, willing your child not to move until you can get it right…

Sound familiar?!

Yup, we’ve all been there.

The main antidote for this is actually to know your camera instead out - once you know what you should be doing, coupled with having it done it 1000 times before, you don’t panic as much as you used to!

But for now, the best advice I can give you is to be prepared as much as possible BEFORE you even lift the camera to your eye. Let the kids run wild for a moment whilst you think about the light, your settings and your composition. Yes, you may miss a few moments whilst you get yourself organised, but you’ll take so much better photos AFTER it that you’ll forgive yourself.

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Mistake #7 You’re not committed to learning how to use your great camera properly

When you purchase a DSLR camera, it means you have an amazing piece of equipment that is capable of taking stunning photos……but only if you take it off the AUTO settings. If you never do, you would have been as well shooting with your camera phone or sticking with a point and shoot camera.

The camera does not make the image - the photographer does. That big fancy camera that you shelled out a lot of money for is basically a big, bulky point and shoot if you stick with the AUTO settings. The only reason you can get better photos with a DSLR is because it allows you to change and control your settings - if you never learn how to do that, you have wasted the camera.

So I’d love for you to commit right now to actually learning your camera, so that you never use ANY of the AUTO features again.

If you are not sure what you should be learning, then be sure to download my free 90 Day Photography Learning Blueprint. Just click on the image below to get yourself onto our mailing list (which is worth it it itself!) and grab your free download:

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BONUS Mistake! You might give up because it’s way too overwhelming

Here’s the thing - everything in photography is connected. That’s why learning photography can sometimes feel like a never ending merry go round: because you learn one thing, and that immediately leads you to something ELSE you don’t know.

If you don’t have a solid system to follow, it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s also easy to miss out on the few critical elements that help tie it all together, which is why photography can also seem incredibly confusing!

That’s exactly why I created Auto to Awesome: so you don’t have to spend 3 years (like I did!) trying to find all the information you need, and hoping you can get it to fit together in a way that makes sense. The course will be open for enrollment soon, so if you want to make sure you hear all about it, and get exclusive early bird bonuses, get yourself onto the waitlist here.

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