How to Take Good Photos: Avoid These Mistakes

VD November 11 2021

Every photographer, no matter how great, started out small at some point and everyone made mistakes at the beginning.  You just never stop learning and that's a good thing!

Fortunately, we left typical beginner mistakes behind us relatively quickly and you should do that to us right away.

On the off chance, you still make these typical beginner mistakes, we've compiled a list of them for you and what to do instead.

So today we're going to tell you typical beginner mistakes so that you can avoid them in the future when you learn how to take good photos.

Mistake # 1 Take pictures in automatic mode only

How to take good photos depends on your focus. Mistake # 1 is one of the classic rookie mistakes. You buy an expensive SLR camera and just start taking pictures, in automatic mode of course. It's really easy and the pictures even look pretty good.

If you want to take good photos, you inevitably have to deal with the functionality and manual settings of your camera. From your feedback on our photography articles, we have learned that many people fail precisely because of this camera technology. The technology is actually not that complicated and can actually be a lot of fun.  

Our tip: If you are just starting to learn how to take good photos, deal with the technical basics right away. The result is that your camera will soon collect dust on the shelf and that would be a very unfortunate thing. Understanding the technology of your camera is not as difficult as you might think and you will not regret it and you will quickly have more fun taking photos.

Mistake # 2 Take pictures without thinking

Many beginners tend to just snap a shot with their new cameras without worrying about how the picture should look in the end. No thought is wasted about what the optimal background for a subject looks like or what the best image section is.

When sorting out at home, there is often a rude awakening when the pictures don't look the way you imagined.

If you're lucky, you might be able to crop the picture and get something out of it. Most of the time, you can just throw the picture away.

Our tip: When you have found a motif, think about how the finished picture will look beforehand.

Mistake # 3 Boring composition

Study the rules of composition. If you want to take good photos, the composition is a very, very important topic that you shouldn't ignore when you learn how to take good photos. If you have overcome mistake # 2, that is still no guarantee of great pictures. Very often we see pictures of really beautiful subjects that are not badly photographed, but are still incredibly boring.

Especially when you are photographing well-known sights, you have to come up with something special to give the motif a personal and new touch.

Most photographers are familiar with the fact that the main subject is not placed in the middle. Nevertheless, every now and then it takes a little more sophistication to get a good picture. 

Our tip: look for extraordinary perspectives. Lie on the floor, climb up somewhere, work with reflections, photograph a detail or look for an additional element that enhances your photo.

Mistake # 4 Picking up too many pictures

Who does not know this: You come back from a photo tour or a trip and have a mountain of hundreds or even thousands of pictures in front of you that want to be viewed and sorted out on the computer.

 Now is the time to radically sort out. Again took 20 pictures of the television tower, all of which are quite similar and only differ in nuances? Then away at 18 and only keep two of them. Everything else is unnecessary ballast and only takes up storage space pointlessly.

Our tip: be radical. Delete pictures that are not special or have no emotional value for you.

If you don't have the heart, then at least make a selection with the best pictures and create archive folders where you store all the other pictures. You will never look at them again, but you don't have to take the difficult step of deleting them.

Mistake # 5 Too much photo editing

This is the attitude of many photographers and beginners who are very receptive to it. Photoshop, Lightroom & Co. are without question great tools, but you should use them with care.

Our tip: First work on the technical basics and your image composition before you deal intensively with the possibilities of image processing.

Another typical mistake, by the way, is to re-sharpen blurred images with the help of an image processing program.

Better take your time and get to know your camera well so that your pictures don't get blurry in the first place. You will not regret it and you'll save yourself a lot of time while enjoying taking pictures.

Mistake # 6 Not knowing the features of your camera

Many photographers plead not guilty: How should I know what functions my camera has if no one tells me about them? But it is so easy, so why do you have to start with things that you really need once in a while - especially when it comes to automatic modes.

Our tip: Take the time and familiarize yourself with your camera's functions or read about it in a manual from time to time. This will save you a lot of unnecessary shots, but also light up new creative options for your photography in the long term.

Mistake # 7 Not carrying a tripod with you

Just in case, this is something we should recommend to beginners very strongly: Carrying a tripod with you does not have to be an obstacle when taking pictures! They are much more flexible than they appear at first glance and very often well-suited for unexpected motifs that only come into view fleetingly.

Our tip: Use your camera in the automatic mode and the image stabilization function. The result is often better than with a tripod because many tripods are too wobbly or have poor conditions for very light cameras.

Mistake # 8 Not using RAW format

You want to save some space on your memory card? Then shoot in JPEG! Well, you should really know better! For fast or not-so-fast-moving motifs, this format does an acceptable job after all - but only then. All other times, shooting RAW pays off handsomely if you have sufficient working space on your memory card. Our tip: Switch on the RAW setting on your camera whether you are starting out as a beginner or advanced amateur. Shoot in Matrix metering mode and with the automatic white balance mode if necessary.

Mistake # 9 Uncontrollable blinking in pictures

This is a typical problem in many situations: A beautiful picture with a beautiful model, but with small eyes in some of the pictures! This may be due to involuntary eye blinking or because there was too much light when the photo was taken.

Our tip: If you want to avoid this, then do not shoot wide open at F1.4 and choose an appropriate aperture for your lens instead (using a large aperture means lots of bokeh / blurred background - which is great). In addition, always make sure that your subjects don't have bright sunlight behind them or directly into their face. Use a diffuser disc on flash units or larger light diffusers instead.

Mistake # 10 Not using filters

Just like tripods, many photographers look down on filters at first glance. This is not the case with polarizing filters, for example: If you make enough use of them, then they will quickly earn their money back tenfold - better said, you can save yourself countless shots by taking advantage of these little filters helpers.

Our tip: Use the polarization function (a filter that blocks certain light rays selectively) to darken images that are too bright or to bring out certain colors more strongly. In addition, a graduated neutral-density filter reduces brightness in areas that are too dark due to high contrast in your image - always when it comes to landscape photos!

Mistake # 11 Not using timer functions

Using a self-timer or remote control has its advantages when shooting pictures, especially in the case of shots that require some patience (for example for timer photography) and long exposures with slow shutter speeds.

Our tip: If you use this kind of technology often enough, then choose an automatic mode in the menu - so that you can place your camera at any angle or distance later.

Mistake # 12 Not using a lens hood

Lens hoods can be pretty expensive and you often do not think of them at first - but the problem is that most lenses suffer from the flare. Flare is an uncontrolled reflection of light rays inside your lens, which looks like scattered dots in the picture.

Our tip: The use of a lens hood, however, is an absolute must for this kind of thing. In addition, they protect sensitive coatings and thus influence the quality and color reproduction of your photo quite significantly!

Mistake # 13 Overusing flash units

There are many situations where using flash units makes sense - but only if the automatic mode selects the right exposure time for you. Otherwise, flash photography should be avoided at all costs.

Our tip: Automatic flash units are great helpers - but only if they use the correct exposure time (and not an excessively fast one). So always make sure that you select a suitable aperture, shutter speed or ISO value on your camera first! If possible, then shoot with studio strobes instead of standard flash units designed for everyday use, because these can be controlled more precisely and offer better results.

Mistake # 14 Macrophotography

Macrophotography is not a bad thing - but many people take pictures of small things with large magnification. In this case, you should know whether the effect looks good or not before shooting!

Our tip: If you want to take macro shots, then that's great! Just make sure that your subject is at least as big as a portrait photo and that it doesn't become unrecognizable because of excessive close-ups. Macro photography usually only has a place in nature photography, for example when photographing insects or flowers.

Mistake # 15 Predicting the weather

No matter what those TV weather reports say: You can never be sure how sunny or cloudy your day will actually turn out.

Our tip: The best way to avoid this mistake in advance is to take a look at the weather forecast for the next few days in advance - and then always pack accordingly in order to be prepared.