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?
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.
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.
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?
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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