4 Crazy Things Photographers Do :: Digital Photo Secrets

4 Crazy Things Photographers Do

by David Peterson 5 comments

I’d like to start by saying I don’t want to pass judgment on anyone. By drawing attention to these issues, I’m not saying any one person is “bad” or doomed to be a horrible photographer for the rest of his or her life. In fact, I used to do many of these things myself. They drive me nuts because it’s so easy to change them for the better. All it takes is a little more dedication and a willingness to think outside of your comfort zone. Are you guilty of one of these 4 things?

Who is the subject of this photo? What is the theme?
Can you tell, or is it just too distracting?
Photo By Eric Chan

Improper use / overuse of Flash

Flash just drives me nuts because it makes the light too extreme. The worst offenders happen in dimly lit rooms at night or at parties. When you use your flash really close up, it turns your subjects’ faces pale white. You get people who look like deer in the headlights of your camera, oftentimes with red eyes to boot.

The problem is that you need flash in a lot of situations. It’s really dark at night. Your camera won’t capture your subjects unless you use some kind of extra light. So I’m not saying you shouldn’t use your flash. You should exhaust all of your other options before doing so. Turn on all of the lights in the room so you don’t need to be as close to your subjects to illuminate them with your flash.

Also consider dialing up the ISO speed on your camera. This makes your sensor more receptive to light, thereby giving you better shots at night - sometimes without the use of flash. Sure, there’s a tradeoff in image quality (high ISO speeds produce noisy images, although it's possible to remove some noise in a paint program), but sometimes that’s better than using flash.

If you can avoid using flash, do so. Take portraits during the early morning or twilight hours when the light is more natural. Always make sure the sun is facing your subjects so you don’t need to use flash as a fill. If you can afford to get an off-camera flash, jump on the opportunity. They produce a much more natural looking light (when used properly), and it eliminates 99% of the problems you get with flash.

Center-composing your subject

It’s the first thing most of us do before getting some kind of photography education. We take our subjects, and we place them in the exact center of the frame, oftentimes thinking nothing of it. Now there are situations where you can get away with this, but it typically leads to dull and boring photographs that do nothing for the eyes. It drives me crazy because it’s so easy to fix.

The parrot in the photo is looking to the left of the shot,
but there's no 'space' there for the bird to look into.
This would have been better by placing the parrot to the right.
Photo By Tambako

If you’re taking a picture of someone’s face, think about where that person is looking, and give him or her a space to look into. This gives the picture a direction, making it much more visually interesting. Oftentimes, just moving a person’s face a little to the left or right can have a huge impact on an image.

In photography, there is the rule of thirds. It basically states that you should place your subject one third into the frame, either from the sides or from the top and bottom. I say forget about the rule of thirds for now. If you’re used to center composing, it’s time to break that habit. Do something, anything, other than putting your subject in the middle of the frame. It’s so easy, and it will drive me a lot less crazy.

Photo by: modenadude

Being too far away from your subject

Hello? Can you hear me from over there? Yeah, it’s me. Your subject. You don’t know I’m the focus of your image because I’m far away in the middle of this crowd of people and distracting things. I want to be the center of attention, but I need your help.

The art of photography is about honing in on something and highlighting some kind of detail. Your subject needs to be the center of attention. When you include a bunch of things other than your subject, your image loses its focus. It’s a picture of something, but it’s sort of blasé because it has no theme.

This is one is so incredibly easy to fix. You don’t need a fancy zoom lens or anything. You’ve got your own two feet. Just walk a little closer to your subject, fill the frame with it, and take the picture. That’s it. (Okay, you might need a better zoom lens, but only if there’s a giant ravine between you and your subject.)

Shooting landscapes out of car windows

I’ll admit that this one is a personal pet peeve of mine. I’ve seen it happen all the time, so I’ve gotta give this one its fair due. It’s funny because it’s just such a lazy way to take pictures. Why not just stop the car and enjoy the scenery! As if the chance to take a good photo isn’t reason enough to pull over and smell the roses?

Even though it’s a picture of a road, I can guarantee the photographer got out of the car to take it.

If you want to take a great landscape photo, you’ve gotta take a little bit of time to frame the shot. You want to get something in the foreground, and that usually means getting down a little lower than your car will allow. You’ll also want to have a stable shooting platform so you can avoid camera shake issues. Call me crazy, but stopping the car and walking outside might solve that problem. It also helps when you don’t have a glass window between you and the thing you’re trying to photograph.

Alright, enough ranting. These things do annoy me, but it’s not really my place to call people out for it. A lot of it comes from not having enough experience in photography, and some it’s just lazy (more the latter than the former). In any case, I’ve made peace with it long ago. What’s your photography pet peeve?

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  1. Posey says:

    REALLY stupid of me to use a twin lens reflex, Mamiya C33, standing on a stool, looking down a stairwell for a yearbook shot in college. NEVER, EVER, do this as it is not safe. Image is reversed left/right on the ground glass making ballance a real problem. I lived to enjoy the photo BUT, PLEASE, never take this type of chance. NO photo is worth it.

  2. Aldis says:

    Well. Must agree regarding the flash and "central composition". Unfortunately point-and-shoot users cannot do much about that flash, just try and frame their pictures better than the example provided here.
    But I have a different approach regarding the image subjects. I dislike images that kind of centre on the (travelling) person and leave all the rest the role of a backdrop. So, hi, this is me, and below my armpit you can see the fragments of the beautiful Taj Mahal... No. I prefer taking picture of the object. And add into the composition someone I know - to prove that we were there.
    To Barbara: it all depends upon the camera you use. And the flash, mostly the flash. If it is any kind of a built in one, just move away from the wall, so that the shadow loses its intensity and moves further away from you subject by simple laws of optics. In case you own an SLR with a hotshoe - buy a flash with a moving head and try bouncing (explained above). You'll love the results - if the ceiling is not painted red (actually any colour other than white...) and neither too high nor too low. If you are into more sophisticated gear - buy a soft box or a diffuser for your flash. Or both. And check which one of the two you like more. If you are no pro (something makes me think you are not) start with checking eBay - you do not need the expensive gear just to try out what it can do for you. And even the cheap Chinese items are not that badly made these days (maybe because nearly everything is now produced in China?...).

  3. Linda says:

    My pet peeve is crooked horizons. Most shots should have straight horizon lines and it's such an easy fix with most software.

  4. Dave says:

    To avoid the shadows, which I assume you're getting from offsetting your flash (off camera), try using the cealing (if white or near white) as a giant reflector & point your flash up at it (bounce flash). If cealings are not white, try having someone hold a reflector up high angled halfway between your flash & the direction of your subjects. If these are not possible there are commercial diffusers & small "umbrellas" that can attach to a flash for better results than directly aimed flash units.
    By the way, great article! Even if we think we know it already it's best to keep reading the basics once in a while. That way they become automatic.

  5. Barbara Potts says:

    I have trouble taking pictures inside where a shadow shows up behind the person I'm taking the picture of. What am I doing wrong.

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