When you start learning a new skill, most of the time you are going to make mistakes along the way. Photography is no different! I still make plenty of photography mistakes, and I’m sure if you asked any professional photographers they would say the same.

That said, in the beginning there are some mistakes that really can be avoided if you know about them beforehand. In this article I’m going to list the most common beginner photography mistakes, and how to avoid them. 

The information in this article comes from a combination of my own experiences as well as useful information sourced from across the internet. I hope you find it useful!

1. Focusing on the wrong part of the image

This is a very common problem for people using Autofocus mode for taking their photos. For example, say you’re taking photos in a forest and you take a photo where you want a flower in the foreground to be in focus, and the background blurred out. But, the camera keeps focusing on the trees in the distance, annoying!

Using the ‘manual’ setting on your camera can take a bit of getting used to. So, the easiest way that you can help address this issue is by using your camera’s spot autofocus mode. Now you can choose your focal point and lock it in.

2. Underestimating the importance of lighting

Lighting is SO important in photography. It can literally make or break your photo. Since this is a website for travellers, I’m going to assume your photos are going to be taken outside. 

Many beginner photographers will just stroll outside and start snapping away. While this may generate good results, if you are taking photos in the midday sun when it’s so bright it blows out the image, then you are going to struggle to get a ‘professional’ image.

The same can be said for taking images when it is too dark, especially if your camera doesn’t handle low light well. You will end up needing to let so much light into the camera that the quality of the image will not be good.

picture of a couple in the desert at sunset
In the desert it was so bright that we waited until sunset for it to be less intense! (Plus who doesn’t love a desert sunset).

The best time of day for photos is generally early morning or early evening (here’s how to take the perfect sunset shot). At these times the sun isn’t quite so strong, but it’s still light enough to get nice, detailed photos.

Of course, it goes without saying that this doesn’t always apply, and depends on what you are shooting and what you want to get out of your photos. But as a general rule it will help you out for sure.

3. Not getting a crisp image

You’ve set up your camera settings properly, you’ve found the right spot, the lighting is on point… but your image comes out a bit blurred. ?!?! 

A simple answer could be that you weren’t holding the camera still enough. It is so important that when you take the photo that the camera is still. The best way to get around this is to use a tripod. You don’t need an expensive one, just something that is going to fix your camera completely still.

If you don’t have a tripod with you, check out this article to learn how to keep your hands super still when snapping.

Another tip can be to just rest your camera on something around you. Maybe a wall, or a bench, anything that can steady the camera will improve the clarity of the image.

4. Not backing up your images

This is a big one and something that applies not just to photography but to all content you produce. You really don’t want it stored on just 1 memory card or computer, because if you lose it then everything will be gone!

Whether you use an external hard drive, cloud storage, or even an old school CD, make sure you back up your photos!

5. Not waiting for the right moment

A great photo doesn’t just come from setting up the camera properly. You have to capture the right moment! Whether it’s waiting for the right lighting, for the wind to drop or the clouds to move, it pays off just sitting and waiting for the perfect scene for your photo.

If you have made the effort to get to a unique, extraordinary location then surely you want to get the best possible photo from it?

One tip I can give you is, while you are waiting for the opportune moment it can be a good idea to play with the settings in the camera. Take a few photos with different shutter speeds, aperture etc., and find the combination perfect for where you are.

But don’t wait too long! You don’t want to miss the opportunity completely.

6. Not framing the image properly

Don’t just point the camera at something and click. Really pay attention to framing the image properly. By this I just mean make sure that the picture is well positioned, its not at a funny angle etc.

People love straight photos so a big photography mistake is having a slanted image! Also, if you have a very clear focal point in your image, make sure it’s in the middle and is an obvious central point.

man stood on rocks in middle of beach, demonstrates focal point
One of my pictures from 2018. An example of good framing.

7. Not getting unique pictures

You go to a world famous landmark, stand at the viewing point and take your photo. Great! It can be added to the millions of identical photos taken before you.

Even when you go to a famous spot, try to make your picture unique in some way. Try getting the shot from a different spot, maybe try and capture an animal or person in front of it, maybe edit the photo a different way. Get creative with it! Anything you can do to stand out from the masses will help a lot.

One tip I have picked up for getting unique content while travelling, is to look out for special events. Especially events that are only on whilst you are there.

For example, while in Amsterdam in 2018 I was lucky to catch the light festival. Beautiful lights and art are placed along the canals, which come alive at night. Because of this I was able to get a more unique picture of the Amsterdam Western Canals (below).

unique light show picture over canal in Amsterdam
One of my pictures from the Amsterdam Light Festival, 2018.

8. Going too crazy with the edit

This is one of the biggest photography mistakes you can make and it’s actually really easy to do. Whether you’re new to Lightroom or an experienced pro. Sometimes you just get carried away with the edit and end up with something that just looks unrealistic and confusing.

Now it is worth noting that different people use editing to achieve different things. Some want to completely transform the image, add birds and moons or whatever, and some (me) try to make the image look as good as possible without looking unrealistic.

Some photographers don’t even edit their photos and argue that it just creates a false reality. While there is an element of truth in this, I see photography as more of an art and so I love to see what I can do with a raw photo. But if that’s not for you then that’s fine too!

The most common photography mistake that people seem to make is going too crazy with the Saturation and Hue of the colours. A good tip (if using Lightroom) is to regularly compare what you have edited to the original photo. You can do this by pressing ‘Y’ on your keyboard and it will bring up a side by side view. By doing this you should be able to see if you’ve gone too far with the edit, and can tone it down etc.

9. Not having fun!

If you want photography to play a part on your blog and social media, you want to enjoy it! Think for yourself, express your creative side and have fun with it.

While there are certain rules and guidelines that can help you enhance your images, photography is all about expressing yourself in a creative way. If you start thinking of it as a chore that needs to be done for your blog, then apart from not enjoying it you probably won’t want to go the extra mile for the perfect shot. 

One piece of advice I have for this is, get prints done of your best photos and get them framed. I don’t know about you but seeing my own work hanging on the wall, or gifting them, or even selling them feels so much better than just seeing it on a screen. I don’t know if that’s just me but it’s definitely something that’s inspired me to keep taking better photos.

Khardung la pass, Himalayas, photo example
This picture I took of Kardung La Pass, Himalayas is now on my wall!

So there you have it, 9 of the most common photography mistakes beginners make. Let us know what you think and if there’s anything else that you think should be added by commenting below!

Ready to get creative with your photos? Try using a lens ball! They’re cheap and really fun to use. Here’s 5 tips on how to use a lens ball.

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One half of People of the Planet. Sharing our adventures, best travel tips and travel photography! We created People of the Planet to provide a place for all travellers to learn, explore and find travel inspiration.

Author Christian Larby

One half of People of the Planet. Sharing our adventures, best travel tips and travel photography! We created People of the Planet to provide a place for all travellers to learn, explore and find travel inspiration.

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