my photo mistakes

I want to share the worst of my photo mistakes with you so that maybe you can avoid making them too. Like everybody else, I make mistakes. Beginning and even advanced amateur photographers have several common photo mistakes that they make.

Is there a secret to avoiding these mistakes? When I make mistakes taking pictures, it usually has to do with camera settings. Here are my top 4:


1. Using the wrong shutter speed.

When I do flash photography, particularly when I am shooting portraits, I use an external flash unit.

Two of my Canon DSLR cameras don't even have a flash as part of the camera, so I use a separate flash or strobe system to illuminate my subject. Before I switched to digital photography I shot with medium format cameras, usually a Mamiya 645.

Photo of Mamiya 645 Camera

The shutter speed dial was located on the side of the camera and had to be set at 1/60 of a second or slower in order for the flash to be "synchronized" with the camera's shutter.

If it is set to a faster speed, like 1/125 of a second photographs will come out looking like this photo on the left.  Pop-up flashes on point and shoot and digital SLR cameras will not give you this problem.

Bad Sync. speed will cause this mistake

It happened easily because of the location of the shutter dial and how easily it turned. It became a very big problem for the company I worked for.

They installed a permanent pin in the camera to prevent the shutter speed from moving. That stopped the mistake, but completely took away the ability to use that camera and adjust the shutter speed for other photography situations such as outdoor portraits.


2. Turning off the automatic focus.  Mistake: Forget to turn it back on.

Sometimes the automatic focusing mechanism of digital camera struggles to focus in dark or strongly back lit situations. I once photographed a family that was dressed in dark shirts posed in a dark room.

Resulting photography mistake of forgetting to foucs each photo when auto-focus has been turned off

The camera wouldn't focus, so I set the camera to manual focus so that I could photograph them in the desired pose I had created. I recomposed the group for another photograph.

Since I am so accustomed to using the camera's autofocus feature I did not think to re-focus the camera lens. My photo mistake: BLURRY PHOTOS.


3. Change the ISO setting.

This is the least bothersome of my photo mistakes. Frequently when I do portrait sessions at my clients home, I include inside portraits as well as outside portraits as part of the session.

Many times when I am shooting indoors I'll use my powerful Novatron strobes set on the lowest power setting, so that I can set my aperture wide open and get shallow depth of field.


When I move to the outside photos, I might forget to change the ISO setting to a higher number to get a properly exposed photograph with enough depth of field and a high enough shutter speed for a sharp image.

Forgetting to change the ISO is a mistake that is easy to occur. Typically, inside I shoot at ISO 100 when I am photographing high school seniors.  Check your histogram whenever you change locations or change lighting to make sure your exposures are still good.

Novatron Umbrella Lighting Kit

With my Novatron flash system set on it's lowest power setting, I am able to shoot at f-5. This large aperture gives me shallow depth of field so that my photo background is out of focus behind my subject.

Then I'll take my model outside and switch to ISO 400 or more, depending on the lighting. This gives me the ability to shoot without a tripod.


Because I am using a camera setting with the camera sensor needing less light for a good exposure, I can use a higher shutter speed.

Of my photo mistakes, this is the most harmless, because I catch it right away when it happens. When I am going to a new lighting situation, I do a new "white balance" so I am looking at the lcd screen on my Canon dslr and will notice if it's a bad exposure.


the dumbest of my photo mistakes


4. The worst photo mistake of all.

It's a doozy of a photography mistake. I was shooting a wedding on a Saturday. I had created a family portrait for a client the night before. My normal routine was to fully prepare and check all photo equipment the night before a wedding.

Mamiya 645 With a Through the Lens prism camera back attached

In addition, there was no way for me see my subjects and focus the lens. Fortunately, because of my experience with the camera, I was able to get enough good photos.

Literally I had to estimate the focus distance from the camera to my subjects. There was no autofocus back then!

Can you beat my photo mistake story?

Photography Van in a Hurry

Then I had to hold the camera up and aim it as best as I could at my subjects.

After the wedding ceremony, I drove like a maniac back home to get my Mamiya 645 prism to attach to the camera and I made it to the reception in time, with no additional problems.

I am hopeful that you can learn from my photo mistakes and avoid making these same mistakes.

I am also hopeful that you take advantage of all of the digital photo tips on this web site and learn how to take better pictures.


Keep shooting,

Bruce

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