Avoid These 10 Newbie Photographer Fails

There’s an awful lot of things to learn when you get your very first camera, especially if it’s an ultra-modern, sophisticated DSLR, with shed-loads of features. So, it’s not surprising that mistakes will be made by many a newbie photographer.

Here’s a short list of ten common mistakes:

1. Flashing from a Distance

Flash can be useful even on a bright sunny day, such as to illuminate subjects when they’re backlit by the sun (to avoid their features disappearing into silhouette). However, while external or pop-up flashes can be exceptionally bright, they’re not going to do anything for subjects that are too far away and beyond the reach of the power of your flash (e.g. mountains).

fill flash

Fill flash can be useful in the right situation. Photo by Ryan Blyth

2. Getting ISO Wrong

In dark environments, you can turn your ISO up to lighten your image; in light environments, you can turn your ISO down to darken your image and improve image quality. If you’re unsure of what ISO to use, just choose Auto ISO and let the camera figure it out for you.

3. Mode Dial Confusion

The Mode Dial is usually the largest dial on the top of the DSLR, often stamped with various letters or symbols. The most common of these are Program mode (noted by the letter P); Aperture Priority mode (A or Av); Shutter Priority mode (S or Tv – Tv = Time value); Manual mode (M). Some cameras will let you set one or more Custom mode settings (so you may see C1, C2, etx.). More sophisticated DSLRs might even let you record video (so expect to see a video camera symbol amongst the other mode letter symbols).

4. Mounting Lens Hood Backwards

lens hood

photo by Pixel Drip

For convenient storage, you can usually keep your lens hood mounted the opposite way on your camera. The mistake comes when you begin shooting and you’ve forgotten to take your lens hood off to have it fixed on properly. The lens hood for your camera has been designed especially for your camera to avoid unwanted light affecting your image (e.g. you might get lens flare in a situation where you don’t want it).

5. Forgetting to Change White Balance

White balance ensures that anything with white in your frame appears white in your photo. Forgetting to change the white balance can cause unwanted discoloring of your photos (e.g. whites can appear blue, orange, or even a green).

6. Not Turning Off Image Stabilization with a Tripod

This one is a very easy mistake to make. Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) works by calculating the movements you make while hand-holding your camera, and then it attempts to counteract those movements to give a smoother appearance while looking at your LCD or Electronic Viewfinder, as you steady yourself to take a shot. Apparently, the OIS feature on some cameras and/or lenses can introduce movement when stationary on a tripod, so it’s best practice to try and get into the habit of turning off the OIS feature, before you attach your camera to said tripod.

7. The MF-AF Switch

Switching to MF (Manual Focus) enables you to fine-tune your focus manually with the focus ring; AF (Auto Focus) lets the camera do the focusing for you. The mistake might come, for example, when you’re in MF mode to take a close-up or Macro photo of a plant, and then you go to take a “Selfie” and forget to switch the camera to AF mode, so all you’ve got to do is press the shutter button and let the camera focus on you and your mates. The result, without the AF switch on is typically a blurred image.

8. Forgetting to Insert a Memory Card

This can happen if you’ve been transferring images from your SD Memory Card, to your computer, and then for whatever reason, you find yourself caught short for time and having to rush to get the images loaded, either for processing immediately, or for storage for later. When the image transferring process is done, you proceed to shut down the computer but, in a rush, you forget to remove the memory card and return it to your camera (to be formatted, ready for its next use). You rush off to do whatever it is you’ve got to do, and consequently forget that you’ve not returned said memory card to your camera. The next time you go to use your camera, you’re confronted by a warning message on the LCD, telling you that there’s no memory card, so images won’t be recorded. This is fine, if you’re still at or close to home. But, not so good if you’ve travelled far with your camera to shoot an event only to discover you’re minus a memory card as you forgot to re-insert it after transferring that last batch of images.

9. Wrong Choice of Lens

telephoto lens bird photography

photo by Yeti-legs

Imagine setting off to take photos of wild animals out in nature (a safari, or some other awesome trip); you arrive at your destination and discover a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shoot a rare animal with her new born; you go to grab your camera and discover you’ve left your ultra-wide angle lens on the camera. By the time you’ve managed to open your camera bag, grab your telephoto lens, take off the wide angle lens, pop on the telephoto, switch on your camera and begin to compose your shot and… oh, darn… you’ve lost that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Don’t make this kind of mistake.

10. Forgetting Tripod for Nighttime Photography

When you go to take photos at night, you’re going to be forced to use longer / slower shutter speeds, in order to give your camera’s sensor enough opportunity to capture the light detail that’s out there, but lost in the relative gloom.

It’s almost a certainty that the slow shutter speeds you’ll need to use won’t make it possible to hand-hold your camera, without introducing unwanted blur into the resulting shots. If you know you’re going to be shooting in low light, especially at nighttime, ALWAYS make sure you take along a sturdy tripod.

About the Author:
Graham Wadden created and maintains the Creative Commons photography website, WaddenCCPhotography.com, specializing in creating stock photography primarily for home educators and those in education.

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  1. Wendy says:

    “The lens hood for your camera has been designed especially for your camera”

    I think you meant to say, “lens.” It doesn’t really matter what camera a lens is on (as long as it’s compatible with the lens), and a camera has no means of even being aware of the presence of a hood. But using a hood meant for a telephoto lens on a wide-angle lens would give you some pretty serious vignetting, and putting a wide-angle hood on a telephoto lens might not do anything about blocking flares.

    • Rick says:

      Maybe they were thinking of a camera with no interchangeable lens…

  2. elwel says:

    uh, you could leave “Newbie” out of the equation. Everyone does most of this, even professional photographers!

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