10 Common Photography Mistakes and How to Overcome Them | Digital Photography School

You’ve got your DSLR and you are excited to test it out. You might have gone out for the first few days or perhaps weeks and then all of a sudden the excitement wears out.

Why?

Because you don’t seem to get what you want out of your mighty DSLR, right? You may have spent countless hours in your college, office, or at home in search of a best DSLR that can take the best photographs you want. All your efforts have gone in vein and you have a frustrating backlog of your actual work.

1. Wrong White Balance (WB)

The first and foremost mistake is setting the wrong White Balance. We see white as white under all lighting conditions, but the camera doesn’t. You have to guide the camera to know the light source of the current scene you are photographing.

Say you are shooting in daylight; if you set the camera’s White Balance to Cloudy then the scene will have orange cast. On the other hand if you are shooting in cloudy light and the camera White Balance is set to Daylight then the scene will have blue cast.

Here’s an easy way to remember this:

  • White Balance Temperature (K) setting = Actual light source = No Cast
  • White Balance Temperature (K) setting < Actual light source = Blue Cast
  • White Balance Temperature (K) setting > Actual light source = Orange Cast

Solution: Set the correct White Balance in the field or shoot in RAW mode. If you shoot RAW, you have a choice to set the correct White Balance in post-processing.

2. Overexposed Highlights

Remember that the dynamic range of your eyes is far greater than the camera’s dynamic range. Dynamic range is the ratio between the brightest elements to the darkest elements in the scene.

You might see the details in both brighter as well as darker regions, but the camera wouldn’t be able to record those details. As a photographer, it is your responsibility to make an exposure that is pleasing to the viewer’s eyes.

Humans are more sensitive to the highlights than the shadows. Overexposed highlights (white patches in a photograph) are more unacceptable to our eyes than underexposed shadows (black patches).

Solution: Expose for the highlights so that nothing gets overexposed, unless you are doing it intentionally. Almost every DSLR will have a blinking indicator (highlight warning, also simply called The Blinkies) that shows overexposed regions in your photograph on the LCD monitor during image playback.

If there are blinkies, then go ahead make exposure compensation (underexpose the scene by the required amount) to get that right.

3. Subject in the Center

It is a common tendency of a beginner photographer to keep the subject in center of the frame, which yields a boring, static composition. The viewer has nothing else to look for his/her eye goes straight to the subject and is stuck there.

Solution: Use the Rule of Thirds and keep the subject out of the middle of the frame. An off-centered subject makes the photograph dynamic and uneven negative space creates interest.

4. Wrong Focus

No matter how good your photograph is technically, if the focus is not sharp enough, then your photograph doesn’t work. The main subject of interest needs to be in sharp focus, otherwise viewers will get distracted and will not find a point to rest on in the image.

We see objects sharp in reality so we expect them (at least one) to be in sharp focus to make any sense.

Solution: Make sure you check the focus by zooming in on your subject after you take a photograph (zoom feature in playback mode). Make sure there is enough light or color contrast between the subject and the background so that autofocus is able to lock the focus properly.

If you are making a portrait, then focus on the eyes of the person (or bird or mammal), because the viewer needs to make eye contact.

5. Breathing Space

It is quite common to fill the frame with your favorite subject so that it looks big in the frame. But how often does it feel that they are squeezed in the frame? They look suffocated because there is no place to move, forget about the movement there is no place to breathe!

Sometimes there will be enough space around the subject, but in the wrong direction – which is no good either.

Solution: Rule of Thirds is the best composition technique that helps you to give enough space around the subject. Think about the image border as a concealed box where there is no ventilation, you don’t want your favorite subject to suffocate.

6. Cluttered Background

This is probably the most common mistake of all. Why? Because, it’s a common tendency to take photograph the moment you see something beautiful or interesting. So, what’s wrong with that you may ask.

Nothing. But have you paid attention to the background? Probably not. You are so overwhelmed by the subject, that you hardly notice anything around it.

A cluttered or distracting background plays the major role in ruining photographs.

Solution: The real photography starts after you choose your subject. Once you’ve done that, forget about it. Pay attention to the rest of the scene; include only those things that complement your subject and exclude everything else.

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