Photography Tips: What NOT to Do

How to take awesome photos: What NOT to do!

I'm so excited for a new little section on my blog devoted to sharing photography tips! I've learned a lot over the years (and will always continue to learn,) but thought it might be helpful to some to share a few little tidbits of knowledge along the way.

Afterall, it's more fun to learn and grow together right? Right!

I've made a lot of mistakes along my journey because that's just a part of learning and becoming a better photographer! Here's 12 tips on what NOT to do!

1. Use Auto Flash all the time.

Just no. It can easily blow out the details of your photo, make the color not as lovely and make the whole picture look harsh and unnatural. See this kitty?

Parts of the fur are blown out and it just looks "blah." So turn off that flash and use natural light!

Ahhhh, much better. See how there's more detail and the kitty looks exactly like how she actually looks in person? (Trust me.) Softer photo, better colors, better detail, better everything.

2. Shoot in direct sunlight.

Shooting people outside on a bright sunny day when no shade is available can be a real challenge some times. Bright sunlight directly on the face translates into unflattering blown out highlights and funky shadows on the face:

it can also translate into squinty, watery eyes! (Much to the dismay of your subject.)

Unless you're shooting at the exact time of day when the sun is directly overhead (the worst!) have your subject turn their back to the sun, and backlight them instead!

This gives a pretty dreamy glowy effect, the skin tone is nice and even and the subject no longer has squinting, watery eyes!

3. Shoot in blotchy shade.

Nooo no no. It creates funky sun and shade spots all over your subject. Parts of the face might be slightly blown out, while other parts remain slightly dark from the shade.

By having your subject move usually just a couple steps away you can almost always find a nice "even" patch of shade!

Notice how Michelle's face is lit evenly? All it took was her moving 3 steps backward to get her out of the blotchy shade and into the even shade!

4. Cut people off at the joints.

Try not to cut people off right at the joints; the ankles, wrists, neck etc. It will give the person you are shooting a nice and amputated look! Instead, if you are not going to include a part of the body/limb, crop in the middle. Like ... the middle of the shin as opposed to the knee. Or the middle of the forearm instead of the wrist ...

5. Ignore your color composition/background details.

Some times we're so focused on the main subject of the photo that it's easy to forget about and/or ignore the background.  This can result in lots of frustration later! Have you ever taken a fabulous photo of something before only to realize later that there's something really distracting in the background? Maybe it's something that's out of place, or perhaps the background is too busy and is distracting from the subject.

6. Crop everything later.

Why crop later when you can crop in camera? Compose the shot the way you want it to look before clicking the shutter. It saves time later and also encourages you to think more about your composition before taking the photo! In the picture on the left, the shot is not how I wanted it. Part of the shower curtain is showing in the corner and Weston isn't positioned quite how I wanted. Instead of trying to fix it later I recomposed and retook the shot!

7. Forget about the details.

To me, it's the little details that make life so beautiful! They also help to tell the story, so don't neglect them. Zoom in and get those shots that together make the bigger picture! Maybe it's the bubbly foam that you enjoy sipping off of your latte, or the crunchy fall leaves gathered in the street gutters. Maybe it's the wrinkles on the hand of a loved one, or the new socks you just bought!

8. Post every photo you take.

We all know those people on Facebook or other social/picture sharing sites that upload every single photo from their latest adventure. Hundreds of photos that include blurry photos, photos that clearly didn't turn out, photos that haven't been rotated, a million shots of the same thing, etc. Take the time to narrow your photos down to the best highlights. Trust me, most people would rather look at an album of 65 photos that have been specifically chosen and narrowed down by the photographer than to look at an album of 400 images that haven't even been weeded through.

9. Be trigger happy.

It's easy, especially when just starting out, to rapidly take a bunch of photos of the same shot just so that you can "be sure you got it." Instead of just clicking away in hopes that you'll get the shot, take time to focus. Compose your shot. Make sure the subject you're shooting is in focus. Pay attention to detail. If you're shooting a person or animal, watch closely. Wait patiently for the expression you're after or emotion to come out and then BAM. Press that shutter button.

10. Post your photos online and then forget about them.

This one makes me sad, and I'm guilty of it way too often! It's so easy to just share some photos on Facebook, your blog or Flickr and to then just forget about them! They're floating around on the internet and that's it. I've made it a point to actually print my photos into something tangible, whether it's a large canvas for my wall, prints to frame, a book to share or magnets for my fridge! And there are so many easy ways to do it now too!

Printstagram is awesome for printing your Instgram photos, and Artifact Uprising makes beautiful books out of them! (The two photos below are from their sites.) And there are a million sites for making your regular photos into beautiful wall art, books, gifts, etc.

11. Focus on gear.

Yes, having the latest and most expensive photography equipment is great. But so many people believe that if they just have the "best" camera that they will take the best photos. I believe that the photographer takes the best photo, not the camera. To me, photography is a very personal form of art and expression and when I was growing up I carried around a cheap 'ol point-and-shoot  with me every where I went and took some beautiful photos that were filled with meaning to me. Heck, for awhile all I had were disposables! Whether you're shooting with a high-end DSLR, a phone camera or a disposable camera, make the best with what you have. You can create beautiful art from any of these!

12. Stick with what you know.

Never stop learning. There is always something new to try! Plus, how boring would it be to just stay where you are forever? Learn, grow and have fun. Share and experiment. Trust me, you'll never run out of things to learn.

Hope these tips help! Have fun, and happy shooting!