10 Common Beginner Photography Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

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beginner photographer mistakes.

As a new photographer, it’s inevitable that you’re going to make mistakes. Some of the most common photography mistakes beginners make are also the easiest to fix. When you first start taking photos, your images may be:

  • underexposed,
  • overexposed,
  • out of focus,
  • poorly composed,
  • or just plain old dull, and boring.
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Don’t let it get you down or stress you out because it’s all part of the process you need to go through to learn photography. With digital photography, you can take as many images as you need and make as many mistakes as necessary to perfect your craft.

Your attitude towards the photography errors you inevitably make is the most important Your attitude towards the photography errors you inevitably make is the most important factor. It will either propel you to become a better, more creative photographer. Or it will drag you down. Remaining positive and analyzing your photography mistakes will help you grow and improve the pictures you take.

Be Patient When You Make Mistakes

It helps to approach photography with realistic expectations. You can’t expect to learn everything all at once or with one course. It takes time to learn about the different qualities of light, exposure, timing, composition, and flash. We recommend beginning your journey by building a solid foundation. This starts with learning how your camera works.

Many beginning photographers start off with minimal knowledge of how to properly operate a camera. Don’t stress out if you don’t know how to use every single feature on your camera. Begin with the fundamentals and work from there.

Constantly Develop Your Skills

Mastering the essential camera functions so you can control your exposures and focus will help you avoid common mistakes. New photographers are best to ignore many of the other camera settings. Concentrate on learning to control your exposure using manual mode. Practice getting your main subject in focus. Then move on to more advanced aspects of digital photography.

Don’t tackle mastering the rule of thirds or post-processing techniques when you’re starting. Instead, concentrate your efforts on creating well-exposed, sharp photos. Make sure you are confident with your camera, and then you’ll find you will see fewer photo errors.

Remember that photography is a craft, and you have to constantly work on improving and developing your image-taking skills.

Most Common Photography Mistakes

Photography is a never-ending learning process. It takes time and dedication to master. Making mistakes in photography is a natural part of the learning process.

1. Not Knowing the Settings on Your Camera

Chances are you’ve spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a new camera. You may be surprised to see the user manual is a difficult-to-understand, black and white book that you can’t read without a magnifying glass.

Fortunately, most camera user manuals are now available online and in PDF format. Your camera may include a disk with the manual, or you can download a PDF version of the manual from the camera manufacturer’s website.

Before you take another photo, read the user manual from front to back!!! And when you’re done, read it again!

While you’re going through the manual, be sure to learn how to change these key settings on your camera;

  • Shutter Speed
  • Aperture
  • ISO (you may have manual, presets, and automatic options)
  • White Balance (auto, preset, manual)
  • Depth of Field
  • File Type (JPEG & RAW)
  • Exposure Compensation
  • Internal Camera Menu (learn how to navigate)
  • Flash (learn to turn the built-in flash on and off)
  • Focusing – Automatic Focus (AF) and Manual Focus (MF)
  • Focusing Modes (Single-servo AF, Continuous-servo AF)
  • Drive (or Burst) Modes (Single, Low Continuous, High Continuous)
  • Format the memory card (it erases your images, so learn to back up your photos)
  • Self Timer
lens close up.

Memorize the location of key settings on your camera until making changes becomes second nature. Changing the Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO should be natural as flipping a light switch. If your camera user manual is not sufficient or too difficult to follow, read our article on how to Build a Resource Library for your Camera.

2. Not Learning the Basic Photographic Terms and Concepts

You must learn to crawl before you can walk, and photography isn’t very different. One of the most common mistakes beginner photographers make is not learning the basics or the basic terms. You have to learn the basics, so you have a solid foundation to build upon. You can go from zero to Ansel Adams overnight. Great photos are made with a combination of skill and creativity.

So, take some time to learn about light, the different types of light, and the significant role light has in creating an image. Learn all about ISO, and how changing ISO affects exposure. Get to know the shutter controls and how to stop action or show motion blur. Learn how ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed are the foundation of photographic exposure.

Photography Course has plenty of lessons and courses to help you master the basics.

beginner photography mistakes.

3. Being Too Afraid to Try Something New

We’re going to start this section with a brief Doctor Phil moment. It’s human nature to fear the unknown. Mastering a new skill can be a frightening experience. You may get overwhelmed as we introduce you to all this complicated photography stuff. Just remember one thing – your camera won’t bite, we promise. It won’t talk back, and it won’t break (unless you drop it). So, take a deep breath and jump in with both feet.

Humans are creatures of habit, and it’s no exception when it comes to photography. We find a lot of new photographers learn a few basic settings. Then they stop learning new techniques as soon as their pictures start turning fairly decent. Complacency can make a potentially great photographer an average one.

Our response is to overcome your fears and be a BADASS! Aim high and set your sights on learning one new skill a week. Get outside your comfort zone, turn off all those automatic settings, and try something new. Don’t worry about making mistakes.

Once you have the essentials of exposure and focus down, begin to advance your digital photography. Use laser focus to learn everything you can about flash, night photography, depth of field, or white balance. We promise you’ll be glad you did.

photographer on the top of a mountain.

4. Staying in Automatic Mode

There are automatic settings for nearly everything on your camera (Exposure, ISO, White Balance, Focus, etc.). Automatic settings can make your life easier because they help you take okay photos. The downside to using automatic settings is they can become a crutch. They will hold you back from developing your photography skills and style. It’s like keeping training wheels on a bicycle; at some point, you have to take them off.

If you’re apprehensive about turning off automatic settings, we recommend taking it one step at a time. Going from fully automatic to manual may be too much, too soon. You may want to start with automatic focus. Or, try setting your ISO manually. Once you have grown accustomed to using one manual setting, move on to the next.

As you start to migrate from automatic to manual settings, you will notice you have greater creative control of your photos.

5. Being a Fair Weather Photographer

Everyone loves a day in the great outdoors with warm dry weather and bright sunshine. And you may think sunny days are ideal for photography. But as you become a more experienced and creative photographer, you will soon learn poor weather can be the best time to take photographs. As a matter of fact, photographing in direct sunlight is less than ideal because you have to cope with the harsh sunlight and dark shadows.

Try taking some shots on a cloudy or partially cloudy day. If you’re an early riser, photograph the sunrise, or capture a sunset at the end of the day. Don’t be afraid to head out into the snow or on a rainy day.

Take some time to learn about the light and how it impacts your photos. As you start to explore light you will soon learn how soft light is more flattering than direct sunlight. Number five on our beginner photographer mistakes list is to get out in all types of weather.

photographer in the snow.

6. Not Using a Tripod

Certain situations call for the use of a tripod. Generally speaking, a shutter speed at or below Certain situations call for the use of a tripod. Generally speaking, a shutter speed at or below 1/60th second requires the use of a tripod. A longer lens focal length and a longer exposure will increase the probability of camera shake. This will result in blurred images. You need a tripod if your shutter speed is longer than the reciprocal of your focal length. For example, if you’re using a 50mm lens and your speed is 1/50th or below, you should use a tripod.

Tripods are usually required for:

Tripods are a “must-have” in your photography bag of tricks. Using a tripod will make a difference in your photography because it slows the photo-making process. Since you’re taking the time to set up a tripod, you’ll be more conscious of the image you’re taking. When you slow the image-making process down, you will make better decisions regarding composition and exposure. This results in better-quality photos and fewer digital photography mistakes. So use a tripod whenever you can.

photographer leaping through the air with a camera and tripod.

7. Not Changing Camera Settings

If you rely on automatic settings, then you probably don’t change your settings unless your photos are not turning out. If you’re changing locations, the weather changes, or you’re taking photos at different times of the day, you may need to change your basic settings.

One example is white balance. Many beginners use Auto White Balance (AWB) because they don’t understand exactly what the setting does. White balance sets the color temperature of light in your camera that will be used to take your photo. This setting calibrates your camera so it produces an accurate rendering of color based on the lighting conditions. White balance is represented in Degrees Kelvin. The white balance in bright daylight is around 5500K, dark shade is 9000K, and interior lights are about 3000K.

If you start taking photos on a sunny day and you’re using a white balance of 5500K, then you move indoors, you need to change it to 3000K.

The same holds true for ISO. If you’re taking photos in the bright sun, you’re probably using the lowest ISO of 100. If you’re still photographing at dusk, you may need to increase your ISO to 400. The bottom line is you need to get into the habit of checking and adjusting your white balance and exposure settings before each photo. This is more important to do when the lighting changes or you move to a different location.

8. Only Shooting at Eye Level

It’s human nature to photograph standing up with the camera at eye level. It is, after all, how we see the world when we’re not sitting or lying down. Photographing at eye level can seem natural and ordinary, but it can make your photos boring and uninteresting. Changing your perspective can have a huge impact on your images.

Try raising the camera above your head or taking photos of your subject from over 10 feet. Or, crouch down close to the ground and capture pictures from a low angle. Taking photos from different perspectives can have a profound impact on your images. Number eight on our list of beginner photography mistakes is photographing from different angles.

photographer getting a low angle photo.

9. Out of Focus Images

Taking images that are out of focus is a common photography mistake. Images end up blurred because of camera shake, failure to focus on the right spot, or using a shutter that is too slow to freeze the action. If your images are not consistently sharp, you may have an issue with focus.

A key skill every photographer must master is taking photos that are in focus. Learn how to use the auto-focus settings on your camera. Choosing to use single point auto-focus, rather than multi-point, will help you take sharper photos. Practice manually focusing too.

Check your initial test photos by previewing your images on your camera’s screen. Be sure to zoom in so you can see whether the detail of your images is in focus. Post processing cannot fix an out-of-focus photo, you need to get it right in the camera.

10. Expecting an Expensive Camera to Make You a Better Photographer

For new and experienced photographers, getting a new camera is fun and exciting. A new camera can motivate you to get out and test drive new features. It can also help you be more creative. A larger sensor will produce better quality images, but it won’t make you a better photographer.

Regardless of the camera you’re using, you still need to wean yourself off all those automatic settings. Learn to master the basics of exposure and composition.

Before going out and buying expensive gear, first work on advancing your knowledge of photography. Learn how to fully utilize the features of the camera you have before buying new gear.

Don’t Be Over Reliant on Post Processing

Make sure you get as much as you can right when you are taking your photographs. Don’t be lazy and think you can fix mistakes you make later when you’re sitting at your computer.

Digital photography is easier because you have a lot more flexibility to manipulate photos. Sure, modern software allows you to make changes to so many aspects of photos and cover up photography mistakes. But it’s still better to have a well exposed and sharp image to start with.

The better you make your photos when you are taking them, the more effective your processing will be. Whether you manually process your photos or prefer to use presets, the better they are to start with, the better the final images will be.

photographer with lap top face palming because he has made a beginner photographer mistake.


When you’re starting out in photography, sometimes it’s difficult to know where to begin. Photography mistakes can be corrected by learning the fundamentals. Study how to use the settings on your camera. This will help you gain confidence.

Get comfortable using your camera. Then you can move on to experiment with composition techniques like the rule of thirds and others. But first, concentrate on the essential camera controls.

Focus on mastering one skill at a time. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Be fearless, and most of all, have fun!!!

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Kevin bought his first camera in the early 1980s and started working in the photography department of a daily newspaper a few years later. His whole career is focused on photography and he’s covered a multitude of subjects. He loves to photograph people the most. During the past decade, Kevin has begun to teach and write more, sharing his passion for photography with anyone who’s willing to learn.
Kevin bought his first camera in the early 1980s and started working in the photography department of a daily newspaper a few years later. His whole career is focused on photography and he’s covered a multitude of subjects. He loves to photograph people the most. During the past decade, Kevin has begun to teach and write more, sharing his passion for photography with anyone who’s willing to learn.

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