For every bad habit, give yourself a test score.
The best camera is the one you have with you – even if it’s in your smart phone. Not every photo you take is photography contest material, or is of commercial value. Regardless, a huge megapixel count and optimal lens quality on a DSLR is useless if left at home.
02. RELY ON A SINGLE MEMORY CARD
Those little 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’re shooting that’money shot’; if the light is right; or when the entire group is smiling at you. The remedy?
I know a friend who fills up a memory card with graphics, then buys another, fill that up, then buys another – a dangerous habit! He confessed he’s lost some of his precious photos. Personally, I have experienced the pain of having a hard drive fail, losing more than a year’s commercial photography work. To be super-secure, you really should keep your photographs in three different locations.
Constantly checking your images on the LCD screen is called chimping. Nothing wrong with it, except if you’re into street photography, or at a wedding or celebration. You may miss that decisive moment, as you’re too engrossed in the perfectionistic trend of chimping.
Amateur shutterbugs have a tendency to hold the camera at head-height. But this will produce predictable outcomes. When shooting in a place, learn to’work the spectacle’. Drop to your knees, or even lie on the floor, searching for fresh angles. An aerial perspective can be stunning. Do not forget that the best tool of makeup is your feet.
Look for a simple background behind your subject. For example, avoid having a telephone pole (in the distance) that appears to protrude from a person’s head. For those who have a long lens, you can employ a narrow depth-of-field to blur the background. This will isolate your subject from the clutter beyond, achieving a degree of separation.
07. CENTRE THE SUBJECT
Ignore the principles 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). Do not forget to try different types of framing: portrait orientation versus landscape orientation. Or even a very wide panoramic harvest.
Confession time… I’m guilty of this. Because I trained back in the bad old days of movie, when powerful light was necessary to capture great images, I turned into a fair-weather photographer. I also used compact digital cameras for a decade, which were impossible in low light conditions. So I had been infatuated with clear, blue skies, as cloudy skies frequently washed out into a white haze.
But under a harsh, midday sunlight, shadows are short and therefore objects do not look three-dimensional, lacking form. Human subjects may squint into the sun, or blink. Worse, they might have an ugly’sun-dial’ effect under their noses! Better to pose people in the colour.
Landscapers should learn how to work with softer, diffused light – that is compulsory for waterfall scenes. Thunderclouds overhead will introduce a feeling of foreboding that blue skies cannot. Golden hour lighting will exude warmer tones and longer shadows.
09. DON’T READ THE CAMERA MANUAL
Same old story: you buy a new camera, put the box away and the camera’s manual remains 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 strike it with a highlighter pen.
Be methodical, and diligently work through every function of your camera. You might find features you didn’t know existed!
When you haven’t read the camera manual, your photos may suffer from the restrictions of shooting in Automatic mode. Modern cameras are amazing, and will produce terrific results on Vehicle, but not always. Better to take control yourself. Learn the semi-automatic shooting modes, such as Shutter or Aperture Priority. Then, if you’re brave, try shooting on Manual.
It’s far better to have a shot right in-camera, for instance, 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 computer. Use the 3×3 grid on your LCD display, or a spirit level fitted on the hot shoe.
If you shoot landscapes, purchase some ND and ND Grad filters. The most useful filter is that the Polariser, the effects of which cannot be replicated using software. Finally, it’s better to do a bit of gardening, eliminating distractions from a spectacle, than be made to clone them out in Photoshop – tedious work!
12. SHOOT ONLY JPEGS
Unfortunately, this narrows the dynamic range of your photos, and changes the colour, according to the camera’s presets. This can’t be reversed. Take using the RAW file format, as it is more forgiving. RAW allows you the latitude to correct exposure and colour, as well as sharpen the image, on computer program. Consider RAW files as digital negatives, that need processing and fine tuning.
We all take bad pictures, badly exposed or blurry… but there is 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.
Tick these habits and tally up your total.
1-3 habits. Wow! You’re disciplined, and must have done a few photography courses.
4-6 habits. Not bad. But there’s room for improvement.
7-9 habits. Don’t despair; there is still hope for you.
10-13 habits. You need professional help!