Ten Common Outdoor Photography Mistakes
What with the increasing availability of affordable digital cameras that come with countless automated features, there are a lot of people these days trying their hand at outdoor photography. But it's not just these newbies that sometimes make the mistakes listed here.
Not Learning to Use Your Camera
Most cameras these days have far more controls and settings than did cameras of the past. If you limit yourself to just pressing the shutter release after adjusting the more controls, you're not making the most of that camera you invested in. While you are unlikely to need every gadget and setting provided on your camera, you should at least learn enough of what they do to intelligently decide what you should know. Take the time to read the manual that came with your camera. If there's anything in it you don't understand, a quick Internet search will probably help fill in the blanks. Third-party books have been written on many popular camera models too.
Assuming That the Camera Takes the Picture
I often run into people that feel they could take better pictures if they had a better camera. That may well be true, but few such people are truly doing all they can with the camera they've already got. Even the best cameras are no more than tools. It's the photographer that makes the picture. The number one requirement for consistently getting good images is seeing the potential of a subject in the first place. And that means you.
Crossing a Location Off Your List After Visiting it Once
There are countless places you might go if you're a photographer, and some photographers feel they have to go to as many as possible. Photography and travel magazines play on this desire by tempting you with new and exotic destinations. It can become almost a competition with some aspiring photographers — if someone else has visited more places than they have, they're winning. Don't fall for it. The truth is you are more likely to predictably end up with good images if you go someplace you are already familiar with. If you know a good location, make sure you work it for all it's worth.
Sleeping In Late or Calling it Quits Too Early
When the first glow of impending sunrise first appears on the horizon, I'm generally shooting alone. By the time the sun later makes its grand entrance, a couple more photographers may have shown up depending on the location, but it's not until I'm packing it in for the morning that I start to see very many other folks out on the trail or in the parking lot. But you need to get up early if you want to be there for that magic light. The same holds true at the end of the day. If you're willing to stick it out till dark you be able to witness sights and capture images others can only dream of. With outdoor photography, nature sets the schedule, not mealtime, and not bedtime. Figure out what works for you, but come up with some way to work around the timing of the sun.
Hurrying Too Much
Most of the photographers I run into in the field seem like they're in a hurry to get the shot and move on to try for the next. If you're willing to slow down, you may not end up with as many images, but you just may end up with better images. It takes time to get in tune with rhythms of a location and find the best shots. Relax, get comfortable. And when you do find a shot, pay attention to the details, and make it count.
Only Shooting When the Weather is Nice
Dramatic weather often leads to dramatic lighting. If you only shoot when the sky is blue, you'll miss some great opportunities for unique images. Be prepared for the weather, but don't let it stop you from going out shooting.
Not Paying Attention to the Light
The word "photography" comes from the Greek for "painting with light." You probably already knew that, but do you use it to guide your photography? Sunrise, sunset or mid-day, clear skies or brewing storm front, pay attention to the direction and quality of the light, and shoot with it in mind.
Failing to Articulate a Subject
Just because you are in a photogenic location doesn't mean you can point your camera any which way and get a great image. Try to find a definite subject and articulate it if you can. You can go with a definite subject such as "Mt. Rainier," something more abstract such as "the wind" or just "the color green" if you want. But try to make your photography about something.
Forgetting About Composition
Once you find a great subject, resist the temptation to bulls-eye it in the center of the frame. I find it's particularly easy to fall in this trap with wildlife photography. The excitement of coming across a wild animal actually in the wild can make people forget everything else. They aim their camera lens as they would a rifle in order to guarantee they get it in the frame at all. There's nothing worse than recognizing after the fact that in your rush to make sure you get the shot you've forgotten completely about good composition.
Not Being Willing to Risk Making a Mistake
But perhaps the worst mistake to make is to avoid challenging yourself. If you're not willing to make a few mistakes along the way, you'll never grow and learn as a photographer. Thankfully, digital photography makes it easy to keep your mistakes to yourself. Any images that don't turn out the way you hoped can easily be deleted with no one else knowing. Try something new. Go for it.