image of a child holding a chickadee

8 Mistakes I Made as a New Photographer

When I first began my photography journey I made a lot of mistakes.  That’s okay, really! I truly think a person learns from making mistakes. A person can also learn from information and so I’ve gathered together some of the mistakes I made as a new photographer to give you a little food for thought.

1. Shooting at slow shutter speeds

This is probably the biggest mistake I made when I jumped from shooting in auto to manual mode. I didn’t quite understand the importance of a fast enough shutter speed.  Shutter speed controls motion in your images so it’s really important to ensure that you maintain a fast enough shutter speed to freeze not only the motion of your subject but your own movement as you capture your image. Rule of thumb when it comes to shutter speed is, try to keep that shutter speed above 1/160 if your subject is very still, like asleep still. Personally, I do not like to set my shutter speed below 1/200 and prefer 1/250 if I have a still subject. Now when it comes to a moving subject I like to keep my shutter speed at least 1/800.  I prefer to go higher if I can.

Now having said that playing around with shutter speed can be extremely fun and will introduce creativity into your images. You can try panning and other creative slow shutter techniques, like long exposure, as a means to feed your creativity.

Here are two examples of shutter speed. In the first image, the shutter speed was fast enough to freeze her motion and the movement in the drapery. In the second image, the shutter speed was slow which blurred the movement in the water and clouds in the sky. A tripod is a necessary tool when capturing long exposure landscape images.

ISO 640, Freelensed with a 50mm 1.4, 1/2000ss

ISO 640, Freelensed with a 50mm 1.4, 1/2000ss

ISO 100, 35mm, 13f, 127sec

ISO 100, 35mm, 13f, 127sec

2. Using a wide open aperture

I remember purchasing my first pro lens.  I saved my pennies and bought a Nikkor 50mm 1.4. I was really excited that I could now open up my aperture to 1.4 and so I did that. At the time I did not understand the relationship between aperture and depth of field.  Aperture significantly effects depth of field.  Depth of field is what is in focus or how big your slice of focus will be.  Another factor that impacts depth of field is how close you are to your subject and your focal length.  I’d open up my aperture to 1.4 and then I’d shoot a close up of my subject. I didn’t understand why my subject was not fully in focus and why only one eye or half the face was. I understand now that a large aperture (f1.4) will have a small area of focus and a small aperture (f22) will have a large area of focus.

Now shooting wide open has a purpose and is a wonderful creative technique to use when you want a small slice of focus to bring visual attention to only a part of your image.

ISO 400, 50mm, 1.4f. 1/800

ISO 400, 50mm, 1.4f. 1/800

3. Thinking that a high ISO would ruin my images

One of the reasons I was shooting at an aperture of 1.4, when I first started, was because I was concerned that a higher ISO would ruin my images. Yes, it is true that a higher ISO will add some noise, or a grainy texture, into your images however noise is always preferred over an out of focus or blurry image due to a poor choice in aperture or shutter speed.  There are noise reduction options in post processing that can really help reduce noise. I often shoot at ISO 2000 or even higher in low light in order to ensure I make good choices about my exposure triangle.  

ISO 5000, 35mm, f4, 25sec

ISO 5000, 35mm, f4, 25sec

4. Not understanding the relationship between light and mood

I had a big moment of learning when it was brought to my attention that there is a significant relationship between light and mood. I’ve always been fascinated by light but it was a long way into my photography journey before I understood that light impacts mood. Brightly lit images are more likely to evoke happy and energetic moods while low light is more likely to evoke peaceful or tension filled moods. It’s not only important to find and use good light within your images but it’s also important to think about the mood within the light.  A smiling happy child might seem out of place in a low and minimal light situation.    

ISO 800, 50mm, 1.6f, 1/500ss

ISO 800, 50mm, 1.6f, 1/500ss

5. Using actions or presets without tweaking

Actions and presets can be incredibly useful in post processing.  They can help a photographer cohesively edit a series of images, maintain a style and speed up workflow. However, very often actions are not one click and will likely need some tweaking. It is best to learn what an action or preset will do to your SOOC (straight out of camera) image before using it. It is also best to tweak most actions and presets.

ISO 640, 105mm, 2.8f, 1/400ss

ISO 640, 105mm, 2.8f, 1/400ss

6. Wishing for more gear

Gear does not make a photographer. It is the photographer that captures the image. Don’t get caught up in thinking that a different camera or a different lens will make you a better photographer.  Practise and learning the technical side of your camera is more valuable than any new gear.

A fun creative exercise to try here is to use a different lens then you’d normally choose in a situation and see what you can come up with!

ISO 500, 200mm, 3.5f, 1/1250ss

ISO 500, 200mm, 3.5f, 1/1250ss

7. Being afraid to ask for feedback

Putting yourself out there is really hard.  I understand this. However, asking for critique will help you learn and grow as a photographer.  Take the advice or leave it.  It’s up to you. Being open to the opinion of another photographer can certainly help you see differently.

ISO 500, 200mm, 4f, 1/640ss

ISO 500, 200mm, 4f, 1/640ss

8. Comparing

Theodore Roosevelt was absolutely right when he said, “Comparison Is the Thief of Joy". Comparing inhibits you from infusing yourself and your own unique artistic vision into an image. It’s impossible to create an image just like that of someone else. In the end you’ll only be doing yourself harm if you compare. Capture what you love in your own unique and beautiful way.  

GinaYeoPortfolio-32.jpg

all content and images © Gina Yeo Photography, 2019