Photographers, Stop Making These 10 Mistakes Once And For All


Some Mistakes Are Bigger Than Others

These 10 are probably some of the biggest mistakes of all. This list comes from an article written by our friends over at Digital Camera World.

I don’t believe I will ever become the perfect photographer or, take the perfect photo. I do know that it’s about progress and that if I just don’t bungle these 10 mistakes I have pretty good chance of taking a great image.

Here they are-

01 Not taking control of the AF point

Don’t leave it up to the camera to decide where to focus. It won’t know which feature you want to be sharp in the picture, and if there’s something in front of the main subject, or the background is detailed, or there’s not a great deal of contrast between the main subject and the rest of the picture, then your camera may focus on these and not the subject.

You’ll get more consistent results if you tell your camera which part of the frame you want to focus on. For absolute precision, choose a single AF point. The centre spot is the most sensitive, although not best-placed for the most dynamic compositions.

For an off-centre subject, you’ll need to use the ‘focus and recompose’ method: point the central AF point on the subject, half-press the shutter release to lock the focus, and then recompose the shot.
Alternatively, use an off-centre AF point that corresponds with the positioning of the subject in the frame.
This is the best option if you’re taking pictures at close quarters; if you opt for the focus-and-recompose method instead, the shift in camera position can mean that the point you locked focus on is now at a different distance relative to the position of the sensor, and may actually be blurred.

02 Not keeping an eye on the shutter speed

The rule of thumb for handholding is to set a shutter speed equivalent to (or faster than) one divided by the focal length you’re shooting at, so that’s 1/50 sec when shooting at 50mm, 1/400 sec at 400mm and so on.

But your hit rate may vary when it comes to keeping a lens still at these shutter speeds. Vibration Reduction (VR) lenses make a difference at slower speeds, but will have no effect on any subject movement.

If in doubt, use a shutter speed that’s twice as fast – you may need to increase the ISO, but better to have a sharp, grainy shot than a blurred one.

If your subject is moving, you might have to go even faster – even if you’re able to eliminate camera shake, if the shutter speed isn’t fast enough to ‘freeze’ the movement, your subject will end up looking blurred.

03 Not working hands-free

A tripod is the best way to ensure sharp photos at very slow shutter speeds, but even the sturdiest set of legs may not prevent details from looking smudged if the camera isn’t perfectly stable.

The action of pressing down on the shutter release button can jog the camera, so it’s worth triggering the shutter with a remote release, or using the self-timer or exposure-delay function for pictures that aren’t time-sensitive.

Vibrations caused by the mirror moving (to expose the sensor to light) can also lead to soft shots. To remedy this, use the camera’s mirror lock mode or activate Live View, as the mirror is moved out of the way in Live View.

04 Not using the optimum aperture

Although there will be situations when you want to use a large aperture to help you separate a sharp subject from a blurred background, there will be other times when you want more of a scene to appear sharply focused.

It might be tempting to reach for the smallest aperture on the lens, but this actually leads to softer pictures due to the effects of diffraction – essentially incoming light rays being bent out of shape by the aperture blades, which is more noticeable at small apertures.

It’s often preferable to sacrifice some depth of field in order to deliver an image where details are pin-sharp. This is often in the middle of a lens’s aperture range – typically around f/8 to f/11, although this varies from lens to lens.

05 Zooming the lens after you focus

Most of the zoom lenses made today aren’t in fact true zooms, or what are known as ‘parfocal’ lenses; rather, they’re ‘varifocal’ lenses. One of the drawbacks of this type of design is that the focus shifts as the lens is zoomed.

This means that if you zoom in to lock the focus on a detail within a scene and then zoom back out to take a shot, there’s a good chance that the detail you want to appear sharp will now be blurred.

If the zoom range isn’t too great, the change in focus may be subtle. Using a small aperture to give a large depth of field – the amount of front-to-back sharpness in a picture – can also mask any focus shift.

But the easiest way to prevent this is to get into the habit of only focusing after you’ve zoomed. Once it becomes part of your shooting regime you won’t even have to think about it.

06 Not making the most of manual focus

When you use autofocus, there are a number of links in the chain that can break, leaving you with soft pictures.

For instance, a lens may suffer from a back-focus or front-focus issue, where the sharpest focus is actually fractionally behind or in front of the edge that your AF point has locked onto.

For this reason, for critical work where focus is everything, such as macro photography or landscapes, manual is the way to go. Live View potentially makes this a piece of cake, allowing you to magnify details to 100 per cent.

However, some cameras use so-called ‘interpolation’ to create the magnified view, resulting in a Live View image that’s not particularly sharp, and therefore harder to judge accurate focus on. One option here is not to magnify the image too far.

Alternatively, shoot in RAW and then fine-tune the Picture Control setting to produce a sharper, higher-contrast preview image that’s easier to judge focus ‘snap’ on – shooting in RAW rather than JPEG means the image will be unaffected by the effects of the Picture Control setting.

07 Not using the correct AF mode

Many DSLRs have three autofocus modes: one for stationary subjects, one for moving subjects, and a mode that automatically switches between the two, depending on whether the camera detects movement and decides that your subject is mobile.

However, cameras don’t always get it right, so for absolute peace of mind, always set the correct mode manually.

08 Not using exposure compensation

Matrix or Evaluative metering does a fine job of producing balanced exposures for the majority of day-to-day photo opportunities.

However, faced with an overly bright or dark subject or scene, the camera can get things wrong. Despite Matrix metering essentially applying its own exposure compensation to deliver what it determines is an optimum exposure, it may not be accurate.

Manually dialling in exposure compensation at the time of shooting is far better than trying to rescue an under- or over-exposed image later.

Pushing the brightness of an image that’s very dark in Photoshop can lead to noise in shadows, while trying to eke some detail from burned-out highlights can lead to ‘digital’-looking results.

09 Ignoring the histogram

It’s easy to get caught up with composition and focusing, and to forget to check the histogram regularly. But getting the exposure right in-camera is far better than trying to fix things later.

Don’t rely on the image playback alone to judge the exposure, as the brightness of the LCD itself can give a false impression of the brightness of the shot, especially at night, or in bright sunlight.

If a histogram is cut off or ‘clipped’ at either end, this indicates there are areas that are pure black or pure white, and so contain no texture or detail (in other words, areas that are under- or over-exposed).

If you find that the preview of the image displayed alongside the histogram is too small, then try the Highlights display instead. With this enabled, areas that are potentially over-exposed will blink on the display.

10 Not keeping an eye on the dynamic range

Sometimes the dynamic range of the scene – the difference in brightness between the darkest and lightest points – may be too wide for the camera sensor to cope with in a single exposure.

The key to identifying this is to check the histogram: if it extends beyond both the left and right-hand ends of the graph, then exposure compensation won’t make any difference.

This is typically the sort of situation you’d encounter when shooting a backlit portrait, or a landscape at dawn or dusk. There are a variety of ways you can reduce the dynamic range of the scene so that it fits within the dynamic range of the camera’s sensor.

These include using flash to brighten up a backlit portrait, or a attaching a graduated Neutral Density filter (ND grad) to darken a bright sky in a landscape shot, bringing its exposure level closer to that of the land.

With stationary subjects you could also try taking two or more pictures at different exposures and then blending the best bits of each in software.

You can read more on the original article over at Digital Camera World

Source: Digital Camera World


About Johnny Yakubik

Johnny Yakubik is the Founder- Editor- Publisher- Chief Cook and Bottle Washer at Modern Lens Magazine. He's a professional family and portrait photographer living in Southern California. You can see some of his work at

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