Correcting Common Photography Errors
Suggestions on how to improve the quality of your photographs by eliminating common problems and by implementing helpful techniques.
Common mistakes occur frequently in photography as well as in everyday life. Some mistakes are unavoidable but this does not mean that you can't learn from them and prevent them from happening repeatedly. Even experienced photographers make mistakes from time to time so don't be intimidated if you are a beginner. This list is designed to help explain ways to identify and correct some of the more common errors.
1. The subject is too light/dark but the rest of the photograph is exposed properly. With most inexpensive cameras, the light meter measures the amount of incoming light and averages it across the viewfinder, which is fine to do under normal conditions. However, this doesn't work well if the primary subject is lighter or darker than the rest of the picture. For example, a person standing in front of a sunny window will appear darker than his background or a person standing in a spotlight will appear brighter than the background. To compensate for this exposure problem you may move in closer to your subject and adjust your shutter speed or you could use a fill-in flash to brighten your subject.
2. The picture was correctly focused when I took it but everything came back looking blurred. This is most likely to be a problem that results from camera shake. Camera shake occurs when you are unable to hold the camera perfectly still for the amount of time the shutter is open. The movement becomes magnified by the focal length and is most likely to occur when using telephoto lenses or very slow shutter speeds. Faster shutter speeds can eliminate this problem. Another way to reduce camera shake is to use a tripod to anchor your camera down. Use of a flash in low light situations may also increase your shutter speed and decrease the effects of camera shake.
3. Some things in my picture are clear and other things are blurred. This is a problem that relates to your picture's depth of field range. If you are using a small aperture you will have a larger depth of field. If you want everything in your picture to be in focus, reduce your f-stop and use a slower shutter speed. The longer focal length will increase your depth of field and more things will be in focus.
4. The picture came back more cluttered than I remember it looking when I took it. Better composition of your photographs will solve this problem. The camera sees everything, even things the human eye doesn't pay attention to. You tend not to notice some background clutter when taking the picture because you are looking through a very small viewfinder. When your print comes back the clutter is more obvious because it appears larger then. Using a wider aperture to blur the background or pulling in close to your subject will eliminate some clutter from the background of your pictures. Zoom lenses may also give you the ability to crop out unwanted objects with out making you reposition yourself to take the picture.
5. My pictures look dull and boring. Better composition can help remedy this problem as well. Using techniques like the Rule of Thirds, framing, implicit and explicit lines, choice of backgrounds, lighting, viewpoint, balance, and contrast may help your pictures become more alive and eye-catching.
6. The subject of my portrait does not look natural. Do your best to try and put your model at ease. If the model is constantly worried about the camera then he or she will appear uptight and uncomfortable. If possible, go outside or to an informal setting where the model will relax. Using telephoto lenses will allow you to get a good picture without standing so close to the model. Let your model act naturally and don't suggest poses that look artificial.
7. The colors in my pictures are too bright and washed out. Polarization filters will allow you to selectively cut down on the amount of reflected light so you can adjust how much light reaches the camera lens. These filters are relatively inexpensive and are easy to use. They will give your photographs darker and bluer skies, reduced glare off of water, reduced reflections off of metallic objects and more. A polarization filter will also allow you to take a picture of a house and see a person standing by a window inside.
8. The shutter speed and aperture don't seem to be working together in my pictures. For most photographic conditions it is recommended to use an aperture of f8 and a shutter speed of 1/125. Faster shutter speeds will allow you to freeze the action while slower shutter speeds may require use of a tripod to avoid camera shake. Changing the aperture will change the focal length and depth of field. It is important to understand how these two features interact so you can use them together in an effective manner.
9. My black and white pictures don't have much contrast. It is hard to see something in color and visualize how it will look in black and white. The human eye may be able to easily distinguish between different colors however, everything appears in graduated shades of grey in black and white photography. Color filters will help tremendously in giving your subject definition and contrast. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. For beginners, it is recommended to try red and yellow filters first to become familiar with how to use them and to see if they like the results.
10. No matter how hard I try, my pictures still don't look good. Practice is the best advice for this problem. Record what you are doing and trying to achieve when you take your pictures and review your notes when you view the prints. Note any similar problems that keep appearing in your pictures and try to determine why this is happening. Careful composition and proper use of photography techniques will assist only to a certain degree. If a problem is not identified and corrected it will keep appearing over and over. Think about what you are doing and try different approaches to your pictures until you find techniques you like and that work for you.