Common Beginner Photography Mistakes to Avoid

Common Beginner Photography Mistakes to Avoid

No matter what you’re a beginner at, you’re bound to make a few mistakes. In this article, we’re talking about the biggest mistakes that beginner photographers make, and how you can overcome those bad habits and start your journey to becoming a professional. Cover photo by: Lukáš Rychvalský 

These are the most common photography mistakes that beginners make:

Bad Exposure

One of the biggest tells of an amateur photographer is an exposure that is either too high or too low. Even when shooting in RAW, there’s only so many things you can do about an image that has blown out highlights or buried shadows. Trying to balance them will result in grainy shadows and highlights that have no recoverable detail. Beginners should pay special attention to their exposure. Don’t just snap a shot without looking. Make sure you take enough time to look through your viewfinder and make sure you have a well-balance image. If you are taking a photo with a lot of shadows and highlights, try to underexpose slightly so that the highlights are not blown out. Then in editing, you can bring up the shadows. Yes, they may have some grain to them, but it’s easier to get details out of shadows than highlights when the exposure is off.

Forcing a Pose

Many amateur photographers want to show off their portrait skills by asking friends and family to model for them. However, these inexperienced models tend to pose unnaturally, and the beginner photographer doesn’t know how to direct their models properly. Instead of trying to force a pose you saw in a famous photo, instead let your models act naturally. Engage them with some friendly conversation, set your camera on a tripod, and take semi-candid photos.

Be Mindful of Your Background

Even in your portrait shots, in which the background is heavily blurred, you need to be aware of what’s happening in the background. You don’t want a random object coming out of the subject’s head. You don’t want a bright red car in the background behind your subject that stands out. The most popular example of this is trees coming out of your subject’s head – it just looks weird. This goes back to taking more time to frame your shot. It’s easy for beginners to get caught up in their subject while ignoring the background. Make sure that the background isn’t distracting in any way. After all, the subject is the important part – the background shouldn’t draw any focus, in most cases. Being more aware of your background also means you can use it to your advantage by framing your subjects creatively.

Poor Composition

Composition is one of the most important aspects of photography – even an overexposed or out of focus photo can be redeemed as a piece of art if the composition is on point. Beginners tend to just aim their camera at a scene and take the photo without a lot of thought to what a viewer should be looking at. The rule of thirds is the most basic way to compose a good-looking photo. The rule of thirds uses a 3×3 grid concept to place subjects along the 4 intersection points. An easy way to compose photos better is to turn on an on-screen grid if your camera has it. You can also re-compose photos by cropping them in editing. Try doing this on some of your photos to practice and see what a well-composed photo looks like. Here’s another thing to think about: if something is in your shot that doesn’t actively add to it, then remove it from the shot. You don’t want people viewing your photo to be confused about what they’re looking at.


Making photos unique to your style using filters or certain edits is totally fine, but most beginners are a bit too heavy-handed with their edits. One of the most common mistakes is to add too much saturation. This results in unrealistic colors that are far too bright. Too much of this can make an otherwise good photo look like it was edited by a beginner. Using vibrant colors is perfectly fine, but it’s easy to push a photo too far and blow out your colors.

Shooting in Auto Mode

Shooting in auto mode makes everything easy, and it’s helpful for beginners who just want to get out there and take photos. You can take a solid looking photo in auto mode, but there are many advantages to slowly learning the other modes. Aperture Priority lets you set your aperture, so you can get those sought-after blurry backgrounds, but it leaves all of your other settings on auto. Try playing around with this mode and seeing how adjusting your aperture manually changes a photo. This is a good gateway for getting into the other manual settings on your camera. Take your time learning, as it can be overwhelming, even to longtime photographers.

Shooting at Eye Level

If your first impulse is to take a photo of something at eye level, then congratulations – you just took a photo that hundreds of other photographers have probably already taken. Taking photos like this can feel ordinary. There’s nothing special about them. If you’re able to, take your shot from above or below eye level. This will make your photos more interesting and make them stand out from the rest. Look at some of your favorite photographs taken by professionals. Many of them add additional interest by not being taken at eye level.

shooting at eye level

Photo: StockSnap

Going too fast

To sum up everything we’ve said so far, many of these problems can be avoided by just slowing down and taking time to get the perfect shot. Move yourself or your subject to get a better composition. Learn your settings and pay attention to your exposure. Pay attention to the other things happening in your shot. Set up a tripod if you need it. Wait until the perfect time of day to get the best lighting. Photography is not a fast hobby by any means. The best photos are often taken at the perfect moment with a lot of planning. While some great photos can happen completely by change, that is less likely to happen than a great photo taken after careful planning and arrangement. So next time you’re out taking photos, take a deep breath, slow down, and take your perfect photo.

We hope you enjoyed these 8 photography mistakes that beginners make. If you’re a beginner, let us know which one of these you’ll be working on first. If you’re a professional, let us know your best tips for beginners.

See also – How to Start Earning Money as a Photographer

One Reply to “Common Beginner Photography Mistakes to Avoid”

  1. Lisa says:

    I just watched this a few times and tried pausing it and giving each step a try as you go. Helps me pick it all up! Thanks for sharing!

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