5 Beginner Photography Mistakes We All Make

Photography has a pretty steep learning curve if you've never picked up a camera before. Especially if you've just put down your iPhone or a point and shoot camera and picked up a DSLR or mirrorless digital camera for the first time. You might be keen to get stuck into landscape photography, portrait or even pet photography, whichever style you’d like to pursue it’s worth paying attention to and learning from the mistakes that even the most professional photographers have even made!

Here are 5 mistakes you'll make as an amateur...

1)  Memory card lock: Memory card lock will eventually catch us all out but we are most vulnerable when we're just starting out. You’ve gone to take a photograph and your camera flashes the error message “Card Locked”, you’re now left scratching your head wondering if you can lock a memory card?

Well as it happens there’s a tiny plastic switch on the left-hand side of SD cards that does just that. It usually goes ignored until you need to switch it from lock position, rendering the card useless, to the unlocked position. Of course, by then you’ve likely missed your shot. 

2) Dioptre: Cameras with viewfinders have this wonderful thing called a dioptre. It is intended to allow shutterbugs that wear glasses to do away with their specs and view a corrected image using just the viewfinder. However, due to the position of the wheel, I frequently catch the adjustment dial.

Not realising this was a feature at first I would panic. The image looked totally out of focus despite the camera’s AF indicating otherwise. Upon learning about the dioptre dial on my camera I was eventually able to breathe a sigh of relief. If you’re wondering if you’ve got this dial focused correctly just make sure that the viewfinder text details are in focus and then you’re all set to get snapping again!

3) Back-button focusing: This may be a little advanced for a beginner but I, like many, went down the pre-owned route when I bought my first camera. When my camera arrived I half-pressed the shutter button expecting my camera to focus but nothing happened… I tinkered with the camera, tried again and still nothing. After scouring beginner photographers forums I read of a button at the rear of the camera that could be reassigned to focus the camera. I pressed the button on my own camera and, hey presto, it worked! My camera began focusing.

So a top photography tip for beginners, make sure you check the button on the back of your camera labelled AF-ON or A-EL/A-FL. Read our blog post on how and why you should use the back-button focusing method.

4) AF/M switch: This is an annoying mistake like back-button focusing that’s sure to catch out the newcomer, and many others! Most DSLR/CSC cameras and lenses have an AF/M switch; this allows you to quickly change from auto to manual focus. However, when it’s on both the lens and the camera body you’ll inevitably switch one and not the other.

I can recall countless occasions where I became frustrated with my camera only to realise I had switched the body but not the lens or vice versa. Always check that both the camera and lens. 

5) Collapsing tripod:  All the previous mistakes involve the camera body or lens, but I have administered myself more than my fair share of sudden shocks by way of a tripod. Virtually all tripods nowadays either come with lever-lock legs or twist-lock legs, they both have positives and negatives subject to personal opinion.

Regardless of your preference make sure you lock the legs fully! Picture this: in a rush to set-up for sunset over the bay you absent-mindedly under tighten the locks, then place your camera on the tripod and all of a sudden your tripod leg collapses and both tripod and camera go tumbling toward the water… sheer panic. The best test is to give the top plate a good ole push and any loose legs will show themselves before you damage your expensive camera equipment.

If you’re a newcomer to photography these tips might save you from the frustration I experienced as an amateur starting out on his own photographic journey. There are plenty of other photography courses available all over the internet and whilst useful, sometimes you can’t beat just getting out there and learning the basics through good old fashioned, trial and error!

If you’re ready for the next steps in developing your photography skills - sorry, no pun intended, then make sure you have a read of some of our other blogs, including ‘White Balance Explained’, ‘An essential guide to understanding depth of field’, ‘Using fast shutter speeds with flash’ and ‘Aperture Explained: What is an F-stop?'. 

We hope this blog on 5 photography mistakes has been of some use to you and will go some way in helping you to turn a good photo into a great photo! If you’ve got any other tips or mistakes please feel free to share them with us on Facebook or Instagram.

  • By Daniel Merchant-Watkins
  • 8 Jun 2018

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