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True statement: I am not perfect. *Gasp!* Not only that, but some of my imperfections have trickled into my photographic life. **Double gasp!** So, luckily for you, I will share my mistakes with you in the hopes that you can learn these lessons before you make the same mistakes. Or, maybe, if you have already made them, or still continue to make them, you will sleep better knowing that you are not alone!
1. Incorrect settings “Wow, I am getting some amazingly fast shutter speeds today.” That is because your ISO is cranked up from the night before when you were shooting a low-light photo without your tripod. It has happened far too many times to count. Also, if you switch from RAW to JPEG for some reason, make sure you switch back. White Balance? Exposure modes? Exposure compensation? AF modes? Metering modes? Check and re-check your settings before you shoot.
2. Distracting background objects I might classify this one as another “rookie mistake,” but I am as guilty of it as anyone else. If you are taking a photo of your friend, family members, favorite pet, etc., pay attention to what is in the background. Moving your feet just a few inches might make the difference between a great portrait and a portrait of your subject with a street lamp post growing out of his or her head. Scroll through your Instagram or Facebook feed to see how many portraits feature such undesirable visual elements.
3. Dirty optics It honestly takes a lot of dust or smudges on a lens’s front element or filter to affect the image captured by your camera. Sometimes a small scratch might catch the light just right and cause some flaring, but your lens never has to be perfectly clean to get the perfect photo. However, once upon a time, I was out photographing an abandoned industrial site and I noticed a strange flare going on in my images when I reviewed them on my LCD. I checked the lens filter. Clean. I checked the sensor. Clean. I sent the image to friends and they were befuddled. Then, I looked at the lens’s rear element. A huge smudge. Whoops. Keep your optics clean.
4. “Accidental” memory card formatting Before you format your memory card, feel free to listen to that little voice in the back of your head that says, “Hey, why don’t you take a minute and make sure that you uploaded the images from this card onto your computer before you format it.” I ignored that voice once and lost images. Thankfully, a data recovery application that I downloaded saved the majority of them, but it could have been a lot worse. If you format your card, the information may still be there until you overwrite it with more images, but don’t count on it! Ever. Just listen to that voice.
5. Perspective change We all view the world from eye level. I often preach changing perspective to give your images a fresh viewpoint, but I often fail to do this on my own. This isn’t necessarily a mistake, but I am sure there are times when I could have improved my imagery by changing perspective. Not only am I confessing my sins here, I am writing this to remind myself to practice what I preach.
6. Out of power / memory Two totally different things, but definitely showstoppers. In the olden days, you used to run out of film. Today, you run out of photo storage or battery power. A friend of mine used to tell me that when he packed for a trip he would assemble all the clothes he thought he would need, and then he would put half of it back. This does not apply to photography. A word to the wise, bring more batteries and memory cards than you think you will need; and then, add one more of each.
7. Blurry photos from a tripod The tripod can sometimes give you a false sense of support. Just because your camera is mounted on a sturdy tripod does not mean that it cannot shake while capturing an image. Use the tripod, tighten everything down, but then make sure your DSLR is in mirror lock-up mode or set your mirrorless or point-and-shoot to timer mode, or use a remote shutter release. If you want to be extra careful, put a delay on the shutter while using a release so that you can let go of the release before the image is taken. Wind is a tripod’s enemy, as well. Weigh it down in high winds, or try to shield your gear from the wind. And, for goodness sake, don’t kick the tripod while the shutter is open! Yeah, I’ve done that plenty of times.
8. Obsessing over the misses This could be better discussed with my therapist than you all, but try not to dwell on what you failed to capture. I love to live in the past, and mistakes haunt me. Pull up a chair to the campfire and I can tell you more stories about photos I missed than photos I captured. Note to self: Go make pictures of the now and not worry about what was missed.
Feel like you need to confess some mistakes, as well? Feel free to comment below, so that I have some company! Thanks for reading!