Do this simple test below. For every bad habit, give yourself a test score.
The best camera is the one you have with you – even if it’s on your smart phone. Not every photo you take is photography contest material, or is of commercial value. Regardless, a huge megapixel count and optimum lens quality on a DSLR is useless if left at home.
02. RELY ON A SINGLE MEMORY CARD
Those small storage cards are hugely expensive, but the temptation to be frugal will bite you on the bum. Murphy’s Law states your memory card will fill up exactly when you are shooting that’money shot’; if the light is right; or when the whole group is smiling at you. The remedy?
I know a buddy who fills up a memory card with graphics, then buys another, fill that up, then buys a second – a dangerous habit! He recently confessed he has lost some of his precious photos. Personally, I have experienced the pain of having a hard drive fail, losing over a year’s commercial photography work. To be super-secure, you really should store your photographs in three different locations.
Constantly checking your images on the LCD screen is called chimping. Nothing wrong with it, except in the event that you’re into street photography, or in a wedding or celebration. You will miss that critical moment, as you’re too engrossed in the perfectionistic tendency of chimping.
05. SHOOT FROM EYE LEVEL
Amateur shutterbugs tend to hold the camera in head-height. But this will produce predictable outcomes. When shooting in a place, learn to’work the spectacle’. Drop to your knees, or lie on the floor, searching for fresh angles. An aerial perspective can be stunning. Remember that the best tool of makeup is your feet.
06. FAIL TO CONSIDER THE BACKGROUND
Look for a simple background behind your subject. By way of example, avoid having a telephone pole (in the distance) that seems to protrude from someone’s head. For those who have a long lens, you can use a narrow depth-of-field to blur the background. This will isolate your subject from the clutter beyond, achieving a level of separation.
Ignore the rules of composition at your peril. If you would like your photos to stand out, learn and use the Rule of Thirds, rather than place your focal point rush in the middle, like most folks do, (in blissful ignorance). Don’t forget to try different types of framing: portrait orientation versus landscape orientation. Or even a really wide panoramic crop.
08. SHOOT ONLY IN BRIGHT DAYLIGHT
Confession time… I am guilty of this. Since I trained back in the bad old days of movie, when powerful light was necessary to capture great images, I became a fair-weather photographer. I also used compact digital cameras for a decade, which were hopeless in low light situations. So I was infatuated with clear, blue skies, as cloudy skies often washed into a white haze.
But under a harsh, midday sun, shadows are short and therefore objects do not seem three-dimensional, lacking form. Human subjects may squint in the sun, or blink. Worse, they may have an ugly’sun-dial’ effect under their noses! Better to present people in the shade.
Landscapers should learn to work with softer, diffused light – that is mandatory for waterfall scenes. Thunderclouds overhead will introduce a sense of foreboding that blue skies cannot. Golden hour lighting will exude warmer tones and more shadows.
09. DON’T READ THE CAMERA MANUAL
Same old story: you purchase a new camera, put the box away and the camera’s manual stays inside the plastic bag. Perhaps you were too excited to use your new gadget. Well, now it is time to dig out the manual, and attack it with a highlighter pen.
Be methodical, and diligently work through every function of your camera. You might discover features you didn’t know existed!
If you haven’t read the camera manual, your photos may suffer from the restrictions of shooting in Automatic mode. Modern cameras are amazing, and can produce great results on Vehicle, but not consistently. Better to take control yourself. Learn the semi automatic shooting modes, such as Shutter or Aperture Priority. Then, if you’re brave, try shooting Manual.
It’s far better to have a shot right in-camera, including the right exposure, as blown-out highlights cannot be retrieved later. Another consideration is ensuring that the horizon is straight, or you will lose the edges of your image when rotating then cropping it on a pc. Use the 3×3 grid on your LCD display, or a soul level fitted onto the hot shoe.
If you shoot landscapes, purchase some ND and ND Grad filters. The most useful filter is the Polariser, the effects of which cannot be replicated using software. Finally, it’s better to do a little gardening, removing distractions from a spectacle, than be made to replicate them out in Photoshop – tedious work!
Unfortunately, this narrows the dynamic range of your photographs, and changes the color, according to the camera’s presets. This can’t be undone. Shoot using the RAW file format, as it is more forgiving. RAW allows you the latitude to adjust exposure and color, in addition to sharpen the image, on computer software. Consider RAW files as digital negatives, that require processing and fine tuning.
We all take bad pictures, badly exposed or blurry… but there’s no need to inflict these on the unsuspecting public! Carefully select only your best images, then process these on the computer.
Also, display a variety of images on social media, or online galleries, but limit these to 3-5. Essentially, do not submit minor variations of the exact same shot.
So, what’s your score? How many bad habits can you identify with?
Tick these habits and tally up your total.
1-3 habits. Wow! You are disciplined, and must have done a few photography classes.
4-6 habits. Not bad. But there’s room for improvement.
7-9 habits. Do not despair; there’s still hope for you.
10-13 habits. You need professional help!