Beginner photography tips: the most common mistakes and how to avoid them

Beginner photography mistakes (and how to avoid them): take control of your DSLR

In our latest Shoot Like A Pro series we take an in-depth look at some of the most common problems that plague new photographers and explain some simple methods and jargon-free beginner photography tips for avoiding them.  This week we de-mystify your DSLR and look at some of the beginner photography mistakes with camera settings.

Beginner photography mistakes (and how to avoid them): take control of your DSLR

Mistakes aren’t anything to be ashamed of. Just ask any photographer and they will be able to reel off a list of them. From the slightly embarrassing error of simply forgetting to take the lens cap off to the costly and irritating mistake of dropping a camera or lens, everybody is guilty of at least some of them. But the key to mistakes in beginner photography is to learn from them so you don’t keep making the same errors again and again.

That’s where we can help you out. We’ve compiled all the common camera, exposure and composition errors so you can go one better and learn how to avoid them before you have even made these mistakes.

Each week we’ll post a new set of solutions to common beginner photography problems so you can start taking control of your camera.

Beginner photography tips for problems with camera settings and gear

Experimenting with the different modes and features available on your camera is a great way to get more creative results. But when you have altered these settings, it’s all too easy to leave the camera with a set-up that is completely wrong for the next shot you want to take.

This isn’t a disaster if you realise your mistake, and have time to change the settings back. But in the worst cases, it could mean missing that once-in-a-lifetime shot, or coming back with unusable images.

Remember to reset
The best way to avoid these problems is to get into the habit of resetting your camera to your most used settings as soon as you’ve finished shooting, or before you put your camera back into your bag. They may not be perfect for every shot, but at least you will know the basic settings, such as ISO and drive mode, will be OK for most subjects.

Along with the camera settings, it’s also worth having the same routine of checking the switches and settings on other gear such as flashguns and lenses, so that they are ready to use without having to change any settings. But if you forget, here are the most common settings to check.

Beginner photography tips for setting up your camera

Metering mode set to Spot metering
If you find that the exposure is varying unexpectedly between shots, especially when you move the camera, then check that the metering mode isn’t switched to Spot, rather than the Standard metering mode.

Dust spots appearing on images
This is caused by dust or dirt on the sensor inside your camera, rather than on the lens or any other area of the camera. It will be most noticeable when you are shooting at small apertures such as f/16, and on plain areas such as the sky.

Camera or lens set to Manual Focus
If you go to take a shot and the camera doesn’t make any attempt to focus, then chances are that you’ve left the camera or lens switched to Manual Focus mode.

Leaving the Drive mode on self-timer
After you’ve been using the self-timer, it’s always a good idea to switch the camera back to either single or continuous drive mode. Otherwise, you could miss out on a shot, as all you get is a beeping camera and flashing light instead of firing when you press the shutter.

ISO too high or too low
Forgetting to reset the ISO after you’ve been shooting in a darker location isn’t the end of the world, but it can reduce the quality of the images and limit the range of shutter speeds or apertures that you can use in brighter conditions.

Memory card not formatted
It’s all too easy to take a few shots, only for the memory card to be full because you haven’t deleted old images or formatted the card.

It’s a good habit to download your images at the end of each day or as soon as possible after you’ve finished shooting. Once you are sure that the pictures are safe, you can format the memory card in your camera so that it is ready to go.

Flare when shooting into the light
This can either reduce the overall contrast of the image or appear as bright marks on your shots. Both types of flare are often caused by dirt, dust or marks on your lens or filters. You can minimise the effects by making sure that your lenses and filters are clean, although even the cleanest optics can suffer from some flare if you shoot directly into the sun.

Forgetting the exposure compensation
Using the exposure compensation is the best way to override the metering in most exposure modes. But if your images are consistently under or over-exposed, the first thing to check is that you haven’t left the exposure compensation set on a + or – figure.

PAGE 1: Beginner photography tips – common mistakes with setting up your camera
PAGE 2: Beginner photography tips – common mistakes with exposure and colour
PAGE 3: Beginner photography tips – common problems with focus and sharpness
PAGE 4: Beginner photography tips – common mistakes with composition and framing


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