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10 Things to Avoid in Photography

May 19, 2012

Here is a list of ten things to avoid in photography.  By knowing some things to avoid doing in your photography, you will be able to take better pictures instead of getting stuck in some common “ruts.”  Some of the following photo examples of what to avoid are actual “mistakes” that we’ve made, and others were created and exaggerated just to make the point really clear!  The “better” photos are in no way meant to be examples of stellar photography, but rather to show how a slight change can make a big improvement in how your photos look.

1) Boring composition (centering everything, always shooting from above, always shooting too close).  If you find that you tend to compose your photos the same way often, make it a project to switch it up, and take pictures of your child from many angles (in front, using rule of thirds, from the side, centered, from above, from their level, etc.)

2) Blurry/Out of Focus photos (shutter speed is too slow, aperture is too wide-depth of field is too narrow )  Make sure to use a high enough shutter speed for the situation.   If your shutter speed is high enough, the problem might be because you are shooting with an aperture that is too wide.  This would mean that your depth of field is too narrow.  If you change your aperture to a bigger number-close your aperture down- your depth of field will be bigger, and more of your photo will be in focus. If you have to, break out the flash.  It’s better to use flash than to have a blurry photo.  The pop-up flash on your camera does create harsh lighting, but if my choice is between a “flashy” picture or a blurry one, I’ll take the flashy one any day!

3) Poor exposure (either by using automatic or semi-manual modes and the camera can’t make the proper decision for your photo, or by using manual mode incorrectly).  Learn to read your camera’s meter, learn to read histograms, and learn how to manipulate ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed to create proper exposure.

4) Having poles, sticks, trees, flowers, branches, flagpoles, etc. “growing” out of people’s heads.  Always pay attention to backgrounds.   If you can’t get away from a busy background, use a zoom lens to cut out some of the clutter, and use a wider aperture (smaller number) to blur away some of the foreground and background.

5) Poor lighting.  Avoid dappled lighting (common in areas with trees, as the sunlight filters through and has patchy areas of very bright light and shade right next to each other).  Also avoid posing directly in bright sunlight.  You will often get very harsh lighting on one side of the face and dramatic shadows on the other side.  Possing in direct sun also will usually cause the “model” to squint.  Either find a spot in open shade or use backlighting and meter off of the skin.

6) Over-processing eyes.  A little bit of an “eye-pop” is nice, but don’t go overboard with it in post-processing.  Always try to get enough light in the eyes when you are taking the photo and make sure the eyes are clear.  Sometimes people get carried away and eyes can look “alien”.

7) Over-processing skin.  People are not barbies, and shouldn’t have plasticy skin.  Take a light approach if you choose to smooth skin in your photographs.  Leave freckles, moles, etc.  Removing temporary marks (scratches, bruises, dried food, acne, makes sense, but there’s no need to go overboard with skin smoothing.  It’s nice to see some texture.)

8) Heavy vignetting.  Over-use of vignetting in post-processing almost always looks a bit cheesy.  Many photographers will “burn” the edges of a photograph in order to bring the eye inward, but usually if it’s done well, you can’t even tell that it’s been done.

Notice how the effect really makes those above images look dated.  Below you can see the original photo.  Notice how the sky at the top edge of the photo is really bright?  By adding a very slight vignette (or burning the edges very faintly) your eyes are drawn into the image, but you don’t really notice an obvious vignette.

9) Selective colouring.  Very rarely does “selective colour” look good in photographs.  You’ll have seen this before where the baby is in black and white, and just the hair bow is in colour.  It often draws more attention to the editing than to what the subject should be; the child in the photo.   Don’t rely on it to make your photos special.

10)  Always waiting for the “perfect photo opportunity” and thus not taking enough photos.  You miss capturing the memories for fear of not being perfect.

We hope this has been helpful!  Any questions or comments?  Please comment on this blog post and we will be happy to respond!

~Sonja

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