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The best cameras of today can cure some of the most common photography mistakes you can make, but advances in camera technology cannot protect you from taking bad shots. And sometimes, the blunders you make could have easily been avoided had you bothered to learn a bit about your camera.
That said, if you want to avoid returning home from a photography walk or photography excursion with a storage card filled with missed opportunities, take note of the common mistakes photographers make and how you can avoid them:
AF done wrong
The beauty of autofocus (AF) is in the name itself: it does the job for you. But just because a camera offers the function doesn’t mean you can trust it 100%. Yes, even the lenses and cameras of today can’t help you achieve the shot you want if you don’t put in a bit of effort.
Apart from flicking on the Autofocus switch, you also need to choose how the camera will focus. One-Shot AF or Single-Servo AF is best for stationary subjects while moving subjects are best handled by AI Servo AF or Continuous-Servo AF.
The actual autofocus point you choose matters as well. This is you choosing where the camera will focus. It could be a single point or multiple ones – the choice is yours. That said, it’s always best to focus on the eyes when taking portraits.
Shaky and un-sharp photographs
Cameras and lenses already have image stabilization built in, but an incorrect shutter speed setting can still ruin a what was supposed to be a perfectly good shot. Some shaky and blurry photographs are hard to fix, so it makes sense to get everything right from the settings to the way you hold your camera.
A good guideline to follow for getting sharp photos is the reciprocal rule. This involves setting the shutter speed equal to the lens’ focal length. But not all sensors are the same, and some maths will be needed to calculate your ideal shutter speed setting. What you can do instead is use a shutter speed equivalent to the maximum focal length.
Using a tripod can help with stabilization issues (and shots where you need to really slow it down) but if you want to shoot handheld, make sure to find something – a wall maybe – that can help stabilize your shot.
Really dark photos and blown highlights
Sure, there are ways to fix this when shooting in RAW but it can’t save you all the time. Knowing how the different elements of the exposure triangle affects each other can save you time correcting mistakes in post.
Not understanding how light works
There might be camera’s that can shoot well even in low-light conditions, but that’s not an excuse for not wanting to understand how light affects the scene or subject. For example, the soft, warm light a little after sunrise or sunset is ideal for landscape photos. On the other hand, the diffused light from overcast days make for better food photos.
Yes, there will be times when the conditions of the day don’t match what you’re trying to accomplish with your photographs. But you can still take good landscape images on overcast days and great food pictures on a bright and sunny day. It just takes understanding how light works.
Tripods can cure issues with horizons, as can editing in post but you also run the risk of losing some detail while doing so. So the trick to achieving straight horizons is to really focus on getting it right and always ask yourself: “Does this look straight?”
Photography isn’t something you get right by purchasing the best equipment. It takes practice to understand how everything works. And if you keep at it, you will find yourself making less mistakes and producing more quality images.