The biggest beginner photography mistakes I made in my first year, and how I fixed them
My first year of photography was an amazing year. It was full of collaborations and crazy learning experiences. With that said, I also made plenty of beginner photography mistakes without realizing it. I’ve learned from these experiences, and I know I’ll do my best to keep them to a minimum in the future.
1. Too many blurry images
Rushing to shoot so many photos, I forgot to check to make sure they were in focus. I have since learned to use my focus modes on my Sony a7ii and also I slowed down a bit to help frame my subjects and make sure everything is in focus. I was also shooting wide open with a f/1.4 lens, and I was missing focus with the very small depth of field.
Solution: It took a few shoots to learn the best distance I needed to be from my model and subjects so I could shoot wide open. I love the great bokeh you can get with shooting wide open so I recommend practice, patients, and a lot of shot checks.
2. Shooting in harsh light
There is nothing wrong with shooting in harsh light or in the middle of the day, but as a beginner, I recommend avoiding it. I ended up having models with dark circles around their eyes and heavy sharp shadows running across their faces. This can be utilized for a specific look, but it was not the look I was wanting. I am sure this is common with beginner photography mistakes.
Solution: If I had a choice, I would shoot early in the morning, or later in the evening for natural light shoots. Golden-hour worked best, but you can get away with all times. If the sun is directly above and you have harsh light, move the model to a more shaded area. Use buildings that bounce light as natural reflectors for your shots.
3. Posing models too much instead of letting them move naturally
When I first started, I thought I needed to tell the models how to pose and I heavily influenced the positions of the models during shoots. This led to the models looking stiff, and me getting shots that looked very unnatural. I really didn’t know what I was doing.
I give some general direction now at the beginning of the shoot, and I ask the model to move around in natural poses that compliment her form and body. Music is a great tool to have on hand to give the model confidence and let them get into a good groove.
4. Not communicating enough with the model
I worked very hard to pose the models, but I didn’t communicate with them very effectively during the shoot. There is feedback I could have given like when hair was out of place, or wardrobe didn’t look positioned well. I just kept shooting.
Solution: I am in constant communication with the model, and turned my shoots into more of collaborations. I show the model the back of the camera or a I move a few sample images to my iPad/iPhone for review. This allows the model to see herself and the poses. It instantly makes the shoot go better.
5. Too much time in Photoshop for post-processing
When I first started photography, I thought the skin and hair of my subjects needed to be flawless. I would spend hours on a single image and this kept me from enjoying post-processing.I would take weeks to deliver a set of photos, and I was constantly behind.
Solution: I got faster with photoshop, and learned to be very selective in my post-processing approach. I found ways to retouch skin faster, and overall found a great balance with image quality and post-processing. It took some studies and a lot of Youtube videos, but I found some very effective techniques.
6. Purchasing too many presets
I wanted to make my photos look like some of the best on Instagram, and I quickly was spending money left and right to do it. I was purchasing presets from anyone I thought that could help my photos look professional. Social media played a huge part in this mentality but I soon learned to develop my own style and rid myself of this distraction.
Solution: I archived all my presets, and deleted all but 5 settings for my ACR (Adobe Camera Raw). This limited the distraction of so many options and allowed me to concentrate on one particular style of edits. I recommend finding a style and sticking to it. Don’t change styles too often with popular trends, but always allow yourself to experiment. Find a good balance and you will be just fine.
7. Spending too much time on social media
Social media plays a heavy influence on my photography. I was spending hours a day browsing profiles and looking through comments to see what gear and settings my favorite photographers are using. I should have used this time more wisely, but I was more interested in gaining followers, and not making progress on my photography.
Solutions: Social media is more of a portfolio for me, and a platform for finding collaborations with groups and local creatives. Social media is still a slight distraction, but I no longer let it guide my learning. I appreciate the art of other photographers, but I don’t have to mimic everything I see online.
8. Not learning from or assisting more seasoned photographers
I look back, and I wish I had reached out to more seasoned and experienced photographers for help. In the beginning, I thought that assisting another photographer on a shoot was a downgrade to my skills. I wanted to be the lead, and I let my ego get in the way.
Solutions: I quickly learned some humility from other photographers. I knew I was not the best, and that it was ok to ask questions. I assisted on a few shoots, and also took some other photographers under my wing. They taught me photography skills, and I helped them with design skills. It was a great trade!
9. Shooting too much, and thinking too little
Burst mode was my best friend. I thought this was the best way to make sure I was getting the best shot. Even when my model was stationary, I kept my finger on the shutter button and I quickly filled out my SD cards. I thought the more photos you took, the better photographer you would be. This was one of the biggest beginner photography mistakes I made.
Solution: More thinking and selective continuous shooting was eventually the answer. Finding a balance between single shots and continuous shooting was a challenge but I managed to work through it with some practice. I was able to get beautiful portraits and great lifestyle shots with dynamic movements all within the same sessions. I learned the different modes on my camera and learned to switch these modes quickly depending on the circumstance.
10. Shooting too often and getting behind
Practicing shoots and doing TFP model sessions was a blast my first year, but it was also attributed to one of the hardest lessons I learned as a creative. Too much practice was wearing me down. I kept scheduling shoots and after shoots and I become very overwhelmed very quickly. I thought I needed to work with everyone that messaged me, and this turned out to be a mistake.
Solution: My TFP model shoots are very selective now, and I only work with people I know are serious about the creative industry. I shoot a few times a month, and I concentrate on quality over quantity. I developed a good balance between shooting and editing times, so I could enjoy other hobbies other than photography.
Beginner photography mistakes mean you are learning
If I hadn’t made these mistakes, I would not be the strong photographer I am today. I have more confidence in my work, and I know I have a better appreciation for the industry. I am constantly learning new techniques, and I know I have much more to learn.
Making sure to learn from my mistakes was a big lesson that I am sure many people do not do. I recommend taking a hard look at your photography and making sure you are growing as an artist. Mistakes will happen, but they should not keep you from your passion for photography.
Checking out new Gear
If your interested in starting your own photography journey, I recommend checking out some of these great resources and gear!
Great Sony Full-Frame Cameras for Portrait Photography:
My Sony A7riii Mirrorless Camera – High resolution Sony Mirrorless Camera
The Sony A7rii – High resolution Sony Mirrorless Camera (2nd Generation)
Sony a7iii Mirrorless Camera – 3rd Generation Sony Mirrorless Camera
Sony a7ii Mirrorless Camera w/IBIS – 2nd Generation Sony Mirrorless Camera
The Sony A7 Mirrorless Camera – Great full-frame starter camera for beginners
Sony Full-Frame Lenses for Portraits: (e-mount)
Sony 85mm f1.4 G-Master – Best 85mm portrait lens
Batis 85mm f1.8 – Lightweight 85mm portrait lens
Sony 85mm f1.8 – Smallest 85mm portrait lens
Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8 – Small, sharp, lightweight portrait lens (my favorite lens)
The Sony 50mm f1.8 – Cheap starter nifty fifty
The Sony Zeiss 35mm f1.4 – Great wide option for portraits and lifestyle images
Sony 24-70 G-Master f2.8 – Sharp and versatile zoom lens
Sony 24-105 G Lens f4.0 – One of the best zooms for Sony
Wide Angle 16-35mm F2.8 – G-Master wide angle lens
The Sony 70-200 G-Master Lens f2.8 – Long range telephoto zoom
Great Sony Starter Cameras for Portraits: (crop-sensor)
Sony a6400 Mirrorless Camera – Amazing eye auto-focus detection
Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera – Sony mirrorless camera (2nd generation)
The Sony a6000 Mirrorless Camera – Great affordable interchangeable lens camera
Sony a6500 Mirrorless Camera w/IBIS – Amazing photography and video camera
Affordable Crop Sensor Lenses for Portraits: (e-mount)
Sigma 30mm f1.4 – Great for blurry backgrounds
Sony 50mm f1.8 OSS – Made for crop sensors and shallow depth of field
Sigma 16mm f1.4 – Amazing lens for Vloggers and video
Sony 35mm f1.8 – Super walk around lens for travel
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My name is Jason, and welcome to my photography blog. I’m a Sony Portrait Photographer located in the Dallas area. Make sure to check out my site, and thanks for stopping by.