Photography Mistakes: Stop Screwing Up Your Shots!

Hi everybody, Josh Cripps here with Professional Photography Tips. In my years as a photographer I’ve made a lot of mistakes and screwed up some pretty great photos as a result. (Wait, I’ve been at ISO 84000 this whole time??? Nooooooo!!!!!!!)

As a consequence I’ve developed a shooting checklist that helps me take the best possible photos. Now this list won’t necessarily make you a better photographer but it will prevent you from making the painful mistakes I have, and stop you from screwing up that great shot right in front of you.

Before The Shoot

Before you go out to shoot you should always make sure you have a charged battery in your camera and a spare in your bag. Also check that you have a sufficiently empty memory card loaded, again with a spare or two in your bag. Sounds ridiculously obvious but I guarantee you it’s only a matter of time until you forget one or the other so it’s always best to double check.

You also want to make sure your camera is set to shoot raw (plus jpeg if that’s your thing), that the image size is set to Large, and that you’re in the picture control you like. I’m a neutral guy myself.

It’s always good to ensure you’re in the right mode, like manual or aperture priority, and your shot type is set to single release, or mirror up, or whatever floats your particular boat. There’s nothing like pressing the shutter button at the critical moment and not realizing you’re in self timer. You’ll also want to use a remote to minimize camera shake.

Lastly, because I’m a set it and forget it type of guy, I’ll put my ISO where I think it needs to be, usually 100, and only change it during the shoot if conditions warrant.

During The Shoot

Here’s where things get a little more interesting. Once you have your composition set up make sure your tripod legs are locked down, your ballhead is tight, and your camera plate is secure so that you don’t get saggy camera syndrome.

Also make sure to check your focus and depth of field. If you’re not paying attention it’s way too easy to bump your focus ring and poof, there goes your razor sharp landscape.

Before you take a shot inspect the front of your lens and filters for any dust or water drops and clean those off. This is especially important when shooting at high f-numbers, or when shooting into the sun. You’ll also want to clean your image sensor and the rear element of lens regularly to minimize problems there.

Now take your shot. No matter what metering mode you used or whether you’re in aperture priority or manual, you need to double check your histogram! Also check out the highlight warning (officially called The Blinkies) and adjust your exposure as necessary. If you can’t get the whole dynamic range captured in one shot then bracket a few exposures to blend later.

Next, zoom in on your image and check around the corners and edges of your frame for distracting elements or important elements that are being cut off. Adjust your composition if needed. You also want to look out for lens flare; if you’ve got it, block the offending light source and take another shot to blend in later.

I also like to bracket a few shots for white balance. Even though you can easily adjust WB in post changing it in the field can make you approach the scene in a different way and you want the opportunity to change things while you actually can.

Lastly, if you’re shooting something that’s moving like water, try different shutter speeds to see what different looks you get.

Once you’ve done all this make subtle changes to your composition and repeat the whole process. Then make big changes to your composition and repeat the whole process. That way you’ve got a multitude of different shots to choose from, all of them as good as can possibly be. Oh, and always stick around until the light is completely gone, because you never know when it might blow up!

After The Shoot

Celebrate because you nailed it! I know some of these seem painfully obvious, but I actually have made every single one of these mistakes, so hopefully you can learn from my errors.

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Until next time have fun and happy shooting! And for more photography instruction:

In-depth Lightroom and Photoshop tutorials:

Lightroom: Master Raw Processing
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5 replies
  1. Christian Hoiberg
    Christian Hoiberg says:

    Great video Joshua, good to add some humor into these rather annoying situations! I’ve been there many times myself, shooting with a unreasonable high ISO during the most intense sunset or at a hard to reach location. One thing I’ve implemented in my shooting now is that I always set the settings back to normal when I am done shooting. To make sure that I didn’t forget, I also check the settings before even mounting on the tripod when I start shooting. This have helped, but still once a while a realize I was shooting with an high ISO or similar!
    Keep up the good work,
    – Christian

    Reply
  2. Rick Stamm
    Rick Stamm says:

    Ever the patient teacher, you never cease to amaze me with such down to earth humor that covers a topic spot on. Great piece of advice Josh for anyone beginner to pro. We have all been there and following such advice will only ensure more fine art for the world enjoy. Shalom… ~ r ~

    Reply
  3. Brian Carey
    Brian Carey says:

    I’ve taken my old cards and put one or two in each of my bags. That way when I grab a bag in a hurry I’m not without a spare card. This has saved my ass on one occasion!

    Reply
  4. James
    James says:

    Great advice Josh. I like your letter. Good advice mixed with entertaining humor. Well done! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put the camera to my eye to grab that perfectly timed shot only to have to wait 10 agonizing seconds for the shutter to release! LoL! I enjoy your advice and writing style. Keep up the good work!

    Reply

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