CHAPTER 12-: This is the twelfth chapter of “A Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Professional Photographer.” – The motto of a professional photographer is to always strive for perfection. Your pursuit of perfection is what will determine your calibre as a photographer. People who accept mediocrity and average standards can never make sound progress in the field of photography.

This is a profession that demands you to be on your A game all the time, and bring out the best cards you have in every round. The moment you slacken your motivation and let go of your determination, you will find yourself drifting far away from the path of success in the field of photography. Without the thirst for perfection, you will find it very difficult to survive in the world of photography. With that being said, there are times in your career, especially during the early stages, when you have to make peace with your limitations and accept the fact that mistakes are inevitable regardless of your perseverance and passion.

How to Learn from Your Photography Mistakes

Everybody makes mistakes in their career as a professional photographer. To err is to be human. This saying could not be any truer for photographers. Mistakes will be a part and parcel of your journey towards attaining photographic glory in your life. Do not be ashamed, embarrassed or fearful of these mistakes. Each and every single mistake that you make holds the potential to make you a better photographer. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes as long as you learn from them and develop yourself to the extent where those mistakes are not repeated under any circumstances. If anything, mistakes serve as great avenues for learning in the field of photography. You will not always have a mentor to guide you along the path. You will not always have an e-book or a manual to instruct you on how to deal with difficult or tricky situations. The only thing that you can count on during the darkest days of your career as a professional photographer is your undying and enduring zeal to improve yourself and rectify your mistakes.

How to Avert a Recurrence of Such Photography Mistakes

Prevention is better than cure; this is the principle of medicine. The same rule applies to making mistakes in the field of photography. Sometimes, you can save a tremendous amount of time and headaches by simply acquainting yourself with the common mistakes that are made by other photographers. By doing this, you do not even have to commit the mistakes to learn from them. This gives you a distinct competitive edge over your competitors and rivals who will find themselves struggling to understand their errors and address their mistakes. A good photographer is one that learns from his or her mistakes. A smart photographer is one who learns from the mistakes made by other people.

Don’t Let Mistakes Bother You

There will be cases when you will end up making the mistakes even after being informed about them. That is completely okay. You do not have to feel like a loser just because you fell victim to problems that you knew were coming your way. Sometimes, it is easier to be susceptible to predictable problems than those which are of an unpredictable nature. However, if you get to know about the mistakes from beforehand, you will be in a better position to understand how to deal with the mistakes and reverse their ill effects. This is why it is so important as an aspiring professional photographer to go around and ask people about the possible errors that you may end up committing while trying to pull off the perfect photography session.

10 Common Photography Mistakes That Can Kill your Photography Career

For now, you do not have to interrogate anyone and bother them with questions on photography mistakes. All you have to do is watch out for the 10 most common photography errors listed below. This list is a compilation of both technical errors and conceptual flaws.

1) Highly Intense and Unrealistic Colours

Portraying realism is the true essence of photography. There are times when you will be required to edit photographs to accentuate the finer details about reality and enhance their magnificence or visual appeal. That however does not give you the right to come up with photographs that are bursting with highly intense and unrealistic colours. This is where photography is different from painting. When you are drawing a picture on an empty canvas with your coloured paint brush, you have the license to let your imaginations run wild on the canvas and produce an image that will grab the attention of people in the most spectacular manner possible. The same cannot be said about photography. Here, you need to rely on your ability to uphold the elements of reality in your picture. The more real the colours are in your picture, the easier it will be for the viewers to relate to your picture.

You will come across certain photographers who use intense and vibrant colours intentionally. But there is a difference between being deliberately artistic with your photography, and showcasing poor colour management due to lack of knowledge, expertise and experience. Do not make the mistake that new photographers do i.e. to turn your photographs into brightly coloured paintings. If you want your picture to be colourful, then photograph a bright subject that is encompassed by muted tones. You should also shoot during the hours of sunset and sunrise to ensure that the colours intensify naturally. You can also try to photograph a subject with subtle colours, print the photo and then shed external light on it to amplify the colour effects.

2) Lack of Sharpness

This is another common mistake that is made by a large number of rookie pro photographers. Blurry pictures can be a huge turn off. When you eliminate the finer details from the subject, the charm of the photo is ripped away. All you are left with is an unclear mixture of colours that seem to blend with each other in a disorderly fashion. Much like colour intensity, a degree of blurriness is often incorporated into the pictures by the more experienced photographers to create an artistic appeal. Then again, this is something that you should avoid during the initial years of your career. Focus solely on producing sharp images that reveal the depth of your photography skills.

If you are struggling to achieve sharpness in your images, here’s what you need to be doing. Make sure that the shutter speed in your camera is at the minimum one over your focal length. For example, if you have a full frame camera with a 50mm lens in your hand, then your shutter speed has to be somewhere around 1/50th of a second if not less. Make it a little faster just to be on the safe side. You don’t want to waste your camera batteries and memory card on blurry images. Another way in which you can take your sharpness up a notch is by elevating your ISO. This works particularly well in low light environments such as a club in the night. With that being said, it’s a trick that is quite effective during daylight hours as well. What a higher ISO does is that it ensures you have a faster shutter speed and a smaller aperture like the f/16 which helps your camera to focus on the subject to the best of its ability.

3) Skewing Pictures

Unless you are a world renowned photographer who is recognized all around the globe for his or her energetic effects in photos, you should not be skewing your images in the least bit. A lot of beginner professional photographers struggle to keep their photos straight, which is of utmost importance when you are starting out your career. Clients may probably reject your photograph if they see that you cannot even keep your photos straight. This is indeed a cardinal sin in the world of photography.

The simplest and the easiest way to straighten up your images is by searching for a reference through your viewfinder, usually in the form of a long, narrow, vertical figure. This could be anything from a tree to a lamp post. Pay close attention to the positioning of the image that you can see through the viewfinder and figure out whether the camera is tilting towards the right or the left. Most of the times, skewed pictures go unnoticed. Noticing skewed pictures and correcting them during editing can make a big difference to your photography resume.

4) Lacking Closeness

Photographers are not snipers. You are not meant to take a picture from miles away. Sometimes, you just have to get up close and personal. If your photographs are not making the cut, it’s probably because they are simply not close enough. Get close to the subject, without compromising your convenience or that of the subject (in the case of a living being), and make sure that you are using a wider angle lens. This works wonders for most forms of photography including landscapes, portraits etc. The key is to identify the subject that is most important, get as close to it as possible and capture the image without shaking your hand.

5) Ignoring Contrast, Exposure and B&W Levels

Keeping a perfect balance of the tones in your image is of great significance if you want to make the most out of your photography sessions. One of the very first things that you need become deft at as a professional photographer is working with the contrast, the black levels, highlights and exposure. You must try to attain perfection with the exposure in order to ensure that your photos turn out as good as you expect them to be. The exposure can be adjusted later during the editing session but it is always preferable to get it right from the get go. You need to also make sure that your images do not turn out to be too dark or too bright.

Nailing the contrast is not a piece of cake by any stretch of the imagination. Going overboard with the contrast is a bigger mistake than completely ignoring it. The amount of contrast you add to the picture will vary depending on the light exposure of the scene. Therefore, it would be quite silly to keep the contrast level the same in every picture that you take. Remember to incorporate a little bit of the black and whites in your pictures. Add some details in the shadows and use the areas of white to draw in the attention of the viewers.

6) Going Overboard with HDR

When it comes to digital photography, you will soon realize that less is certainly more. This is the reason why you should never go overboard with your HDR. Similar to the first mistake that dealt with unrealistically intense colours, HDR takes away the element of credibility from your photography and makes it look more like a computer generated image more than anything else. If you have to do HDR, then do it as subtly as possible. That brings out the best in the feature and makes the photograph look absolutely stunning.

7) Lack of Consistency

You are free to explore and experiment with your photography skills, but keep in mind that you must maintain a certain degree of consistency and coherence in your pictures. If you are photographing too many different subjects and trying out too many different styles, then your photography collection will turn into one big hotchpotch that will carry little to not storytelling. Learn how to categorize and compartmentalize your photos on the basis of an overall feel and related visual content.

8) Excessive Photos

As a professional photographer, you are expected to take far more photographs than the casual users of camera. However, there is a certain limit to the number of photos that you should be taking. Having a massive collection of photos does not reflect your brilliance as a photographer. Instead, the best advice would be to shrink your collection by sorting out the best pictures, editing them and deleting the ones that fall below par.

9) No Subjects

This is a very common conceptual flaw shared by rookie photographers. Your job as a photographer is to highlight one particular subject and then allow the surroundings to complement the subject. If your pictures contain a myriad of different subjects that have little to no purpose of being photographed, then your photo is indeed a failure.

10) Being Obsessed with Travel Photos

Your photos do not necessarily have to be all about you travels. The best photographers in the world are those who are able to take breathtaking snaps that are close to home and a little less exotic than photos of Hawaiian beaches. Keeping it simple and local will do you a world of good.

Ajaero Tony Martins