Everyone has some bad habits, photographers included. Over the years we’ve had the chance to meet lots of people who are passionate about photography, and noticed a few recurring habits which are not so useful in becoming a better photographer. So, being January and all that, we thought we’d share them. By shaking off some of these non-helpful behaviors, could you become a better photographer in 2016?
Here’s the list, in no particular order:
1. Not Moving.
A true story: A group of ten photographers is taken down a narrow alley which opens out into the most fantastic location for photography. As soon as they arrive, nine of the photographers plonk down their tripods and start taking photos, all within 1 metre of each other. Only one of the photographers takes the time to explore this new found location to look for the most interesting angles and best positions from which to take well composed photos. Who gets the best photos? The one who moves.
Moral of the story: After your head and your camera, your legs are the next best photographic tool you have. Use them to move around a location to find the best photos before you even put your camera to your eye. Always look for different angles of view and try to get a more interesting perspective.
2. Worrying Too Much About The Small Stuff.
Which brand of lens cloth should I use? Should I use a UV filter? Do I need 2 million more megapixels? The answer to these questions is either don’t know, who cares or don’t worry about it. The big things you should be worrying about when you start out are composition, shutter speed, exposure and depth of field. Don’t get bogged down in the minor details until you master the basics.
3. Reading Too Many Internet Forums.
Related to the above point. Some photographers spend too much time reading posts on certain internet forums which have probably been written by people who spend more time writing dodgy internet forum posts then going out and taking photos. Internet forums can of course be a great source of knowledge, but don’t take everything your read as the absolute truth. One of the biggest internet related photography myths is that you’ll get stopped from taking photos in lots of places, particularly around London. Really? We’ve taken photos around the City and Canary Wharf and no security guard has ever batted an eyelid.
4. Buying Stuff That’s Not Fit For The Job.
There’s an old adage which says buy cheap and you’ll buy it twice. This is very true in photography. It seems to be particularly true of tripods (we’ve seen so many tripods that are sop flimsy and wobbly they might as well not be used). Another common mistake is an low quality lens on a top of the range camera (it’s like putting wooden wheels on a Ferrari). There are bargains to be had in photography (see point 7) and we’re not saying that you have to invest in the very top end of gear, but usually the very bottom end will leave you wishing you’d spent a bit more in a very short amount of time.
5. Thinking That Buying A New Camera Is Going To Make You A Better Photographer.
It’s not. It might help you get photos in certain situations that you couldn’t before, but it’s not going to make you a better photographer. In certain circumstances upgrading your camera will give you much more scope for better photos e.g. if your camera is more that 5 or 6 years old you will notice a huge difference is things like dynamic range and high ISO noise, and the move to full frame can also change the look of your photos. But changing your camera isn’t going to help much if you can’t compose a good photo, or don’t know how to control exposure.
6. Not Shooting In Raw.
Shooting in raw gives you so much flexibility in editing that we think it’s a mistake not to use it. The ability to recover shadow and highlight details cannot be underestimated, especially with modern sensors which can capture so much information. Shooting in raw and learning to use an editing programme such as Lightroom is not difficult and will make a positive difference to your photos.
7. Not Owning A 50mm Prime Lens.
If you only have your camera’s kit lens, i.e. the one you got with your camera, save up £130 and buy a 50mm f1.8 prime lens. For the money it’s the best return on investment you’ll get from any photography upgrade. The large aperture is great for low light and shallow depth of field, plus the image quality is noticeably better than your kit lens.
8. Thinking That A Certain Mode Is Always The Best One To Use.
You should never use auto mode. Manual mode is the mode you should use. These are both rubbish statements. In terms of the settings on your camera there is never an always. Every mode and setting has a use in certain situations depending on what you want to achieve, and as long as you get the result you wanted it doesn’t matter which mode you used to get it. It might help to understand why that mode or setting gave you that result, so try to learn about individual settings and modes so you know when to use them.
9. Being Afraid To Experiment.
You can’t break your camera by trying different settings so just give it a go. Use different settings and look at the results. Try to see what difference it makes to each photo. This is best done in a controlled environment, just changing one variable at a time e.g. shutter speed, and comparing the results so you have experience of what happens. Making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn, so don’t be afraid to do it.
10. Not Having A Goal.
As with anything, if you set yourself a goal it will make you more likely to achieve and improve. Setting yourself a photography goal is a brilliant way to make yourself a better photographer. Goals can be short term e.g. I’m only going to use shutter priority today, or I’m going to take photos with a shallow depth of field. Or, they can be long term e.g. I’m going to take a photo every day during my lunchtime, or I’m going to have photo published in a magazine. Big or small, whether beginner or advanced, having a goal is the perfect way to further yourself as a photographer.
That’s it! Do you have any of these habits? Do you think we’ve missed anything?