Photographing for Beginners, Lesson 1: Your first 10,000 photos are the worst, you can throw them in the trash.
Too hard? Possibly, but that’s what Henri Cartier-Bresson said. Allegedly. Many blame this photograph quote on Helmut Newton as well. No matter who said it first, I think that every photographer who arrives at 100,000 photos has made enough mistakes to come to exactly the same conclusion. I count myself in any case among them 🙂
But what exactly is a “mistake” in photography?
Is there such a thing at all?
Yes. But maybe they are different than you think now.
At some point, we all had no idea about photography, except that we’re tempted to have a clue and become really good. This motivation and this enormous energy boost are usually also the main reason why you survive the early days and don’t give up frustrated and demotivated.
I think, if you know the worst photography mistakes at least from the beginning and don’t pay attention to fall into these traps, then you save a lot of nerve-wracking time and you have longer and more energy left for the learning process.
Therefore I would like to list the 7 most painful mistakes you can make in photography at the beginning. And of course, ways to avoid them and to make photography for beginners much more effective.
1. Photography for beginners fundamental: Take your time and defeat the fear sweat
Sure, when you learn something new, you want to be quick, you want to take better pictures tomorrow than today and you want to feel good about it. Admitting a series of mistakes, starting from scratch and taking time for every camera shot doesn’t feel very good at first.
“What do the others think when I turn my camera around forever, I look like a beginner?
Yes, and that’s ok, why not?
It’s better to spend a few seconds or even minutes more with it, but calmly and concentrated when you get good pictures at the end than fast, hectic and with a sweat film on your forehead waving at the camera and not getting a good result.
Photography for beginners is a marathon, not a sprint. So take the time to learn the basics and really understand them and then – just as importantly – take the time to apply them to every shot.
Quickly you will become by yourself with time!
And please don’t be afraid of “mistakes”. Always be aware that you are not a pilot or a doctor, there are no human lives in your hands. When a photo gets bad, nothing happens except that you get an opportunity to learn something from it.
A very simple saying helps to slow things down and not to rush – “Photography takes time. If you don’t want to take them, you can take pictures.
A great exercise that will help you as a beginner, I have summarized in this article. Also here it is about basics, although not technical (but much more exciting)
2. The most expensive mistake: investing too much money in technology
Of course, we love photography because of the beautiful pictures, but the great cameras are the ones that promise us that automatically better, more beautiful photos come out of it. Decades of marketing have taught us that.
But that’s not true.
Quite the opposite.
Photography for beginners is a bit like motorsport.
Cameras are like racing cars. A Formula 1 car doesn’t have any of these cosy and pleasant functions that make driving easy and pleasant for you. On the contrary. In order to drive a Formula 1 car at high speed, you need experience, skill, knowledge, you need to be fit and so on.
I haven’t heard yet that you have to go to the gym to drive a Family Van. Try this with a Formula 1 car 😉
It is similar to high-end cameras. The more professional the camera, the more the one who operates it must be able to do. No high-end camera will take pictures for you, no matter how much you suspected this because of the enormous price.
So you better start with what you already have or a cheap reflex camera for beginners or mirrorless cameras.
First focus on the basics of technology, on your own eye, your perception, around all the other countless areas of photography. In short – learn to photograph, not learn what equipment there is and hope that it does it for you.
Expensive equipment will only be needed much later when you are really “underchallenged” with your equipment. A good photographer can satisfy his customers with a cheap camera. A bad photographer can’t get good photos from the most expensive camera.
What is the minimum you need to get started?
Would that have been better technically with an expensive camera?
But is that the most important thing? Certainly not.
Everything that takes pictures nowadays works. And you probably have at least one smartphone with a camera with you all the time. Photography for beginners also works with it.
You can take care of the most important element in photography: Your eye, your perception, and attention.
Much more important than the camera.
If you already want to buy a new camera – Before you put too much money into a new camera, ask yourself these questions I have put together for you here to find out want to buy a new camera but don’t know what to look for.
3. No more zooming, movement is required!
Of course, a zoom on the lens is practical. If the image section doesn’t quite fit, you can easily help yourself by simply rotating it and changing the section.
Zoom makes sense.
But if we are talking about taking pictures for beginners, I would recommend doing without it.
Actually, the zoom should only be used to work with a different focal length. A photo with a wide-angle lens looks different than one with a telephoto lens. Shorter focal lengths create more intimacy in portraits, longer focal lengths more distance. Longer focal lengths also create more depth of field, etc … And there are a lot of rules for that other than just cropping the picture.
After that, you should use the zoom. Not out of comfort.
If you only want to change the detail, you’d better move. That’s why I always recommend buying a fixed focal length (e.g. 50mm). This simply forces you to move, so that new perspectives emerge again. This not only keeps you fit but also makes your photos more lively and varied.
And don’t worry too much about which focal length might be the right one. I allow myself to tell you – if it is completely unclear to you which focal length you want to use, everything between 24mm and 80mm will be good for the start.
50mm lenses are usually quite cheap despite the good speed. Or just take what you already have. The main thing is that you move.
4. Shooting for Beginners: Getting Out of Auto Mode
I don’t really need a whole paragraph here anymore. The Auto mode is the error itself. The easiest way would be to abolish it. Of course, this is not possible. And you find me now much too strict. I know that. But what can I say, the automatic mode is nothing that makes photography easier for beginners.
On the contrary, it actually makes it even more difficult.
If you want to develop photography only in the least (that you only read this article is enough there already) you should ban the automatic mode immediately.
It promises you to do everything yourself and get the best possible result out of the camera. But this will only happen in very few cases and only by chance.
The camera can’t make your decisions.
It always tries to calculate a middle ground somehow and it only fits in the rarest cases. Learn how to use aperture, ISO and shutter speed and leave automatic mode behind until you have done that, nothing you can learn about photography will ever really get you anywhere.
(Because there seems to be some confusion – automatic mode is not the same as semi-automatic. AV/TV/S etc. are fine because you leave a part – aperture or exposure time – to the camera and do a part yourself. I’m talking exclusively about the fully automatic or program automatic).
The same applies, by the way, to the autofocus function. Autofocus is ok, you press the shutter release button halfway and let the camera focus. But choose the focus point WHERE the camera should always focus manually, never automatically. The camera doesn’t know exactly what you want to have in focus, you have to decide that all by yourself.
Does it sometimes take longer? Yes, back to point 1 – take your time!
5. Flash on or inside the camera
I would like one euro for each scene I have observed when tourists have photographed a building or even a mountain and have flashed from full tubes with their compact camera. It’s like trying to water the garden with a straw.
It just doesn’t work. No matter how hard you try.
And even if you don’t count yourself among these extreme cases, sooner or later we all had this moment where we tried to take a good picture with the internal flash of the camera (or in the best case still with an attached one). But that won’t work. Internal flashes are “emergency lamps“. With them you can make sth. bright what was dark before. When it’s close enough. Done. You can only get really good flashed photos if you deal with this topic.
But if you are still at the very beginning, I would advise you to ignore the flash completely for the time being and to learn how to use the camera properly first. Later on, you can learn about the subject of lightning and you will see that it will be much easier for you to do so!
6. Postprocessing? Certainly not, this must come from the camera.
A terrible misunderstanding in digital photography and especially when we talk about taking pictures for beginners. I don’t know who started it, but you can hear the internet roaring again and again that a good photographer doesn’t post-edit but takes the good photo directly in the camera.
It is difficult to bring this to a truthful level. Because yes, of course, a good photographer does as much as possible in the camera. That’s to say, he thinks about the composition of the picture beforehand instead of cutting it afterward. He thinks about the colors that are in the picture and what information is in it, instead of retouching or repairing for hours afterward. Above all, a good photographer knows how to deal with light, because there is not really much room for repair in processing.
Nevertheless, a certain amount of elaboration is necessary. In the past, the choice of the right film was the deciding factor for the coloring and the mood in the photo. Later, during the elaboration, one also reworked with the laboratory, thus some areas in the picture were brightened or darkened, they were given more or less presence in the photo, etc. It’s simply a big mistake that results from half-knowledge that “everything used to be better because nobody worked on it”. That’s just not true. Photography mistake deluxe.
Here’s a good example of an old, analog photo
Dealing with Lightroom and adding a little editing to the image is not only allowed, but it’s also necessary. This kind of editing has always been a part of photography. What comes out of the camera is just a raw image, like the negative in the past, which simply isn’t finished yet.
7. Too much in the picture
Yeah, well, what’s “too much”?
At this point I’d like to throw in a few words – you can’t argue about taste things. I just want to build you a kind of “scaffold” here, on which you can orientate yourself when the frustration grows and the pictures don’t get better. Never forget – rules are always there to break. Only in order to break them properly, you first have to know them.
As already mentioned in point 6, a good photographer considers in advance what comes into the picture and what doesn’t. A classic mistake for beginners is the “overfilled” photo. If you have a lot of information in one picture, too many people, too much distraction in the background, etc. in the picture, then the viewer’s gaze is not clearly directed to the main motif.
The less in the picture, the clearer the attention, the better the viewer perceives the photo. In this case, less is actually more. Later you can bring content into the picture after the series and you will also learn that with the “great old masters”, even if there was much to see in the picture, not a single part was there by chance, but planned and intended very precisely.