1. Include too much in picture
Photographers are to prone add compositional elements to their initial creative vision- more foreground, the trees over there, the sky, that barn, the tree tops- but it is invariably a bad choice to make. The strongest photos are ones that can be described by a phrase; these are simple and obvious compositions. The weakest photos take a paragraph to describe because there is too much included in the composition.
2. Make uncomfortable crops
People have feet, so do wild animals (domestic ones too!) so don’t crop your critters at the ankles. Either include the feet or crop well above the feet. Don’t crop at a joint. Same for tails and ears- either include all of them or none but don’t show us just a little.
3. Don’t ‘work’ a subject
There are always more than one image to take of any subject and yet most photographers are content to get one and then pronounce “I’ve got it, what’s next?” Try changing your perspective by getting lower or higher or moving left or right. Change lenses, change f-stops, change shutter speeds, change your attitude. Each will lead to better pictures.
4. Shoot everything at their eye level
The most compelling images are those in which you enter the subject’s world. You do this by photographing at the subject’s eye level. This is especially true for wild animals, pets and children. Knees do bend, try it. Here’s a trick: if you can’t get eye level low than shoot the subject at a bit of a distance. The farther away the more the angle looks like an eye level perspective.
5. Put their subjects dead center in composition
A subject in the dead center is a deadly dull composition. If the subject is moving place it to the side so that it has space to move into. If the subject is looking one direction give more space to that side so the subject has space to look into. If the subject is an object include other parts of it to make the composition asymmetrical. If the subject is just a blob doing nothing, don’t take its picture. BTW, if your name is Lisa Cueman ignore all of the above.
6. Don’t shoot enough verticals
Many subjects look best in a vertical format rather than in a horizontal format especially ones with strong vertical lines. And don’t confuse cropping a horizontal to make a vertical with shooting a vertical. One is a lazy afterthought and the other a good creative choice.
7. Think they can fix every problem in their computer.
If you fix your composition before you take the picture you won’t have to fool around with it in your computer. It is almost always much easier to fix a picture in the field than it is to do it in the computer so reach in and remove that stick or hide that bright spot or level the horizon before you push your shutter.
8. Don’t pay attention to the quality of the light
It’s all about the light- dull light = dull photo no matter what, no exceptions. but if you get great light, even a dull subject can look great. So be patient and wait for good light before you push your shutter. And no you can’t create good light in your computer. You may be the best photographer in the world but only god does light. Sorry.
9. Don’t look for the best subjects to photograph
Not every subject is created equal. Some are faded, some are marred, some aren’t yet ready, some are discolored, some are soiled, some have been chewed on, some lie next to foot prints, some have bad backgrounds, some are just plain butt ugly. don’t pick any of these to photograph. God does light but you get to pick which one to photograph- choose wisely!
10. Photograph people in direct sunlight
Unless you like pictures of your friends and family with little squinty eyes and wrinkled up faces don’t photograph them in direct sunlight. Find some open shade and your friends and family will appear human again. And no, a hat doesn’t work- it just throws a really dark shadow across the face. If the picture is worth taking then move the people into a situation worthy of your friendship.
11. Avoid interacting with people before photographing them
Yes, you can sneak a picture of that person across the street without them knowing it but really, is that how you would like to be treated? Isn’t it just a wee bit rude and rather unfriendly? The alternative is to actually interact with your potential subject. Yes, this means making eye contact and smiling and taking some time before you take the photo but your results will be much, much better.
12. Don’t check their histograms often enough.
This is one of the biggest advantages of digital photography. Your histogram tells you what your exposure is going to be. It makes your exposures predictable. No more guessing! So why wouldn’t you check your histogram after every shot? Buehler? Buehler? No good reason, sorry. Make it part of your photography routine.
13. Carry too much equipment
I did my last two books with two lenses- 16-35mm and a 28-300mm. I did my farm book with a 12-24mm and a 24-120mm. I went to Bhutan, Antarctica, New Zealand and South Africa with three lenses (I either added a the 24-120 as a back-up or my 200-400mm for wildlife). In my bag there is one split neutral density filter and one polarizing filter. Oh and I have some lens hoods for photographing when it rains. Less gear makes it easier not harder to take great compositions because you concentrate on the picture not the stuff you are carrying.
14. Spend too much time reading blogs and product reviews
Go outside, I’m begging you. Get some color. Talk to someone. Figure out what season it is. That warm bright thing in the sky is the sun. You’ll like it.