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Posts Tagged ‘Mistakes’

Beginner Photography Mistakes to Avoid

12 Jan

When you’re just starting out in photography there are so many things to learn it can be overwhelming. Here are two videos with some tips on common photography mistakes and how to avoid them.

Mistakes to avoid as a beginning photographer

This video by Serge Ramelli will give you 6 things to avoid doing as you start out in photography.

  1. Shooting during the daytime instead of sunset or sunrise.
  2. Not using an ND filter when shooting the ocean.
  3. Not using a tripod for night photography.
  4. Putting too many elements in your photo, not telling the story well.
  5. Shooting JPG instead of Raw.
  6. Not using Lightroom or its presets.

10 More beginner mistakes to avoid

If you’ve got those things covered, here are 10 more beginner mistakes to avoid including:

  1. Forgetting something at home.
  2. Not arriving early enough to the shooting location.
  3. Not scouting the location ahead of time.
  4. Shooting in the wrong lighting (see mistake #1 above from Serge!).
  5. Not moving around enough.
  6. Images that aren’t sharp (use a tripod, etc.)
  7. Going home too early. Stay later than you planned.
  8. Forgetting to set your camera back to zero (default settings, ISO, exposure compensation, etc.)
  9. Don’t worry so much about shooting in Manual mode.
  10. Not getting close enough to the subject, being too shy.

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Video: Four common composition mistakes and what to do instead

19 Sep

When you’re first starting out, the great big world of photography composition can seem like a long list of rules and a bunch of videos where photographers paste grids on top of iconic photos. It’s all a bit abstract. So if you’re looking for concrete advice, this video by photographer Evan Ranft is a much better place to start.

In the video, Evan discusses four common composition mistakes many photographers make, and then shows you how to fix them. Each tip is accompanied by a very useful “do this not that” before and after, and the advice is genuinely a lot more helpful than slapping a bunch of grids and golden ratio spirals on top of famous photos.

You can check out the video up top for a full rundown with before and after images, but the tips (in short) are:

  1. Double Subject – Don’t place your main subject side-by-side with an interesting background feature, it will split your viewer’s focus. Emphasize a single subject instead.
  2. The Look Out – If your subject is on one side of your photograph, have them look into, not out of, the frame. A subject looking out of the frame divides your photo in half, leaving a bunch of confusing negative space. If they’re looking into the frame, their gaze will balance out your composition.
  3. Tangent Lines – Avoid having anything in your background draw lines through your subject and scene. Use the lines of your photo to lead your viewer’s eye TO your subject instead.
  4. Being Lazy – Not the most obvious composition tip, but it counts: don’t be lazy. Once you’ve picked a subject, find an interesting composition. Don’t just take the easiest, most convenient photo in that moment

There you go: a few simple but effective tips that help create photos that emphasize your subject and lead your viewer where you want them to go. As Ranft says in the video, these are easy mistakes to correct, you just have to be aware you’re doing them.

To see more tips and how-tos from Evan, head over to his YouTube channel. And if you have your own simple composition tip (or common mistake) to share, drop it in the comments!

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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How To Avoid 4 Photography Mistakes That Will Hinder Your Development

21 Aug

Teaching photography workshops has made me aware of four mistakes people make which hinder their development as photographers. If you can learn to avoid doing these four photography mistakes you will become a much more creative photographer and find more enjoyment in using your camera.

4 photography mistakes 01

Mistake #1 – Always thinking your camera is not good enough

Most people who join our workshops come with DSLR or mirrorless cameras and have made a reasonable financial investment in this equipment. They have researched what to buy, carefully chosen and purchased a camera they decided will be right for them.

But many people still are stuck on the idea that if they upgrade their equipment their photography will improve dramatically. This can be true in some cases, but generally, it’s a mistake to be easily avoided. It’s most often a mistake to think like this because you are telling yourself you cannot improve unless you get new gear.

4 photography mistakes 02

Changing your thinking about wanting new camera equipment is the best way to avoid getting stuck in a photographic rut. Sticking with the camera you have, getting to know it and love it will enable you to become a far better and more creative photographer. I’ve had my main camera now, (a Nikon D800,) for over five years – a long time for any digital hardware, and I am more than satisfied with it. I have come to know it well and therefore, use it easily. I’ve been using Nikon cameras for over 30 years so am pretty familiar with the way they work.

Sticking with the camera you have, and getting to know it well will enable you to concentrate more on composition, lighting, and timing. You will not be distracted trying to figure out which dials and buttons to use to set the camera the way you want. Making these settings will become second nature once you are intimate with your camera. By upgrading your camera too often you are not as likely to get to become truly familiar with it.

4 photography mistakes 03

Mistake #2 – Not studying how to use your camera

Another mistake I find people often make is not learning how to use their camera. We had a customer recently who had studied photography in high school and also taken courses in photography at university, but they did not really know much about using their camera. I was shocked!

One of the easiest ways to avoid frustration and undoubtedly help improve your photography is to study your camera before you study anything else about photography. Learning how your camera functions and how to control it should be the first step you take in your photographic journey. Unless you are confident with your camera and can use it with ease, you will be distracted from the more creative aspects of photography.

4 photography mistakes 04

Picking up most camera manuals it’s not difficult to understand why people so often do little more than skim a few pages before putting it down again, as they are notoriously challenging to make much sense of. There are other ways to learn about your camera settings.

Getting online and using Google and Youtube will typically result in an incredible amount of good information about most camera models. Many top brands have authors who write independently about their cameras and the information in those books is often far easier to digest.

By deciding to enjoy the camera you have and learning how to use it, you will be avoiding two of the biggest mistakes I find people make that hinder their growth as photographers.

Mistake #3 – Using your camera infrequently

Hopefully, if you are committed to avoiding the first two mistakes you will naturally avoid this third one I find many people make – not using your camera frequently enough.

4 photography mistakes 06

If you only use your camera when you go on vacation, or for family gatherings or to photograph your kid’s soccer game, you are not using it enough to become a really proficient photographer. This is an easy mistake to avoid if you build a healthy habit of taking your camera everywhere, (and you don’t just leave it in your camera bag).

Using your camera frequently, every day preferably is the best way to integrate what you have learned about your camera into practical experience. Taking up what’s known as the 365-day challenge is a great way to help form a creative habit which will do more for your development as a photographer than any other method I know. Choosing to pick up your camera and take at least one photo a day, every day of the year, is a commitment destined to shape and speed your development as a photographer.

4 photography mistakes 07

Mistake #4 – Relying on auto exposure

Most people who join our photography workshops have their camera’s set to one of the auto modes, typically aperture priority, at the start of the day. Before we are through the first hour, most have their cameras set to manual mode. I am very good at convincing people to make the switch to manual because I passionately believe it is a big mistake to allow your camera to make the creative choice of setting the exposure. Your camera is smart, the artificial intelligence in modern cameras is incredible, but your camera is not creative.

4 photography mistakes 05

By taking control of your exposure using manual mode you are avoiding one of the biggest mistakes people make. Knowing how to use manual mode on your camera will empower you to become so much more creative, but you must first overcome the mindset that tells you it’s too difficult. It really isn’t, especially if you are avoiding the first three mistakes I’ve written about in this article.

Camera manufacturers love to promote all the new technology in their cameras and you never see much encouragement from them to use manual mode. I believe learning to use your camera in manual mode is a lot less complicated than learning all the auto settings. Learning to set your exposure manually you have control over the way your photographs will look and you will truly be able to develop your own unique photographic style.

4 photography mistakes 08

Take creative control

By making the mistake of relying on the camera’s AI and using your camera on auto you are relinquishing creative control to a piece of equipment manufactured to return standardized results. If you want to avoid all your photos looking like most other people’s I would encourage you to switch to manual mode and take creative control of your photography.

This is a big step for many people and does require practice to learn the principles of exposure. We have had so many people leave us lovely reviews and thank us for encouraging them to make the switch to manual mode.

Conclusion

4 photography mistakes 09 4 photography mistakes 10

Even if you can avoid making one or two of these mistakes you will notice an improvement in your photography. Managing to avoid all of these photography mistakes will take some time and commitment, but to excel in any creative expression does not happen easily for most people.

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7 Common Mistakes That Every Photography Business Needs to Avoid

11 Aug

Everyone makes mistakes. When growing your photography business, you will make more mistakes over than the years than you can count – and some of them you will even look back on and cringe.

Mistakes are all part of the process. But also part of the job of being a photographer is figuring out how to minimize these mistakes, especially the ones that can set you back a long way. Learn from your peers so you can avoid their mistakes.

Photography Business Marketing

Here are some of the main pitfalls that plague photographers. Just fixing these alone can save you a lot of money, and even more importantly, a lot of time.

Mistake #1 – Not Charging Enough

When you are first building your portfolio, certainly you might have to do some jobs for free or at a reduced rate as you build your skill level. That part is fine, but once you have that portfolio and are a full fledged business, you do not want to sell yourself short.

Photography may seem to others like a passion job – that you just show up for an hour or two, take some photos, and send them over. But it is about so much more than that. It’s about building your skills, learning about light, composition, fixing mistakes on the fly, editing, and learning how to work with clients. It’s traveling to and from the location, paying your expenses, spending the time to market yourself to get the job, paying the bills to keep the lights on, and feeding your family. And it’s about having some time left over to enjoy yourself.

Photography Business Marketing

Create a spreadsheet and calculate these costs so you know what you have to make per job to survive and thrive. This will give you the confidence to ask for what you are worth. If you’re not able to cover all of these costs, then you’re not running a true full-time business, you won’t survive in the long run, and you’re lowering the value of the work itself.

Stay away from the cheap jobs and the cheap clients. They will just suck your time away and demand more and more. If the requirements for a client on a particular job suddenly change halfway through, ask for more money.

Sometimes you will want to do work for less than you are worth if it is the right type of job or the right type of client, but this should only be situational. There will be many points in your career where it will be more valuable to spend the time on your marketing and business development than on the job itself.

Mistake #2 – Not Reaching Out to People and Being Proactive with Marketing

Photography Business Marketing

Jobs are not going to come to you at first, no matter how good your work is. You will have to go out and find your clients, so create a list of your ideal client types and of the best ways to reach each of them.

Work within your personal network, canvas local businesses, attend events and offer your services to individuals. The more you put yourself out there, the more business will come to you. But at first, every job you receive will come as a direct result of you proactively contacting someone or figuring out a strategy to get your work in front of them.

Mistake #3 – Not Collaborating and Working With Other Photographers in Your Space (i.e. Your Competitors)

Photography Business Marketing

Other photographers can be one of the biggest helps to you along your journey. They’ve been there before, they have a lot in common with you, and they could become great friends. Learn from them and offer to help them.

Often you will get some of your first jobs from other photographers, whether it be assisting them or taking some of their overflow. Many established photographers still have a portion of their income come from helping out other photographers in their community.

In addition, accountability can be extremely important for your growth. Find a photographer in a similar place (level and business-wise) as you and work together. Have strategy sessions and share what is working and what is not. Having someone in your life like this can be integral to your success and for getting you through the hard times.

There will be a portion of photographers who see you as a competitor. They will not want to talk to or worth with you. That’s their problem, and the collaborations that you do with the willing photographers will help you both jump ahead of the ones who don’t.

Mistake #4 – Not Responding Quickly Enough

Why don’t photographers respond as quickly as possible to job inquiries? Either way, it makes things easier for us when the competition is slow to respond. I hear it all the time, how surprised people were by how quickly I responded to them, both at the beginning and throughout the entire job process. This shows a level of dependability, and in addition to helping people to want to work with you, it will also make them want to refer you. The more dependable you are, the more your clients will want to help you out however they can.

Even if it’s not a job inquiry, respond quickly. You never know when a casual conversation or advice that you give will turn into a job or reference. Often, it will turn into nothing, but when those one or two out of 10 turn into jobs, in the long run, those will add up.

Mistake #5 – Not Spelling Out the Terms of a Job from the Very Beginning

Photography Business Marketing

Being a skilled photographer is not just about creating beautiful pictures. A big aspect of the photography business is how you handle the job from start to finish, and often the most important part is the very beginning when you spell out the terms and requirements.

It is really tough to know exactly what a client is envisioning for the job, so it helps to ask a lot of questions. This will even help them figure out what they want, as many of them will not have any experience with hiring a professional photographer. It will also help you justify your price when you talk out the steps of a job with them.

Make sure they know that if the parameters of the job change (through their decisions), you will have to charge more for the extra work. Most clients will think it is not a big deal to add something that was not specified ahead of time, but this is just more work they are giving you that was not spelled out originally. It happens a lot of the time, so it’s very important for your photography business to learn how to handle it correctly.

Mistake #6 – Not Having a Contract

Similar to the last point, while you both need to come to an agreement on the scope of any photography project, you also need to spell out those terms in a contract. Without a contract, you can easily be screwed over, and many photographers learn this the hard way. Hire a lawyer to give you advice, and look into thelawtog.com, which provides a variety of photographer contracts. These can save you a lot of time and money.

Read this on contracts: The Biggest Legal Mistake Photographers Make

The contract is important for setting the boundaries of the project. It will be easier to ask for more money if the scope of a job changes when you have a contract that spells out the exact requirements that were drafted.

Mistake #7 – Not Having an Efficient Workflow

Photography Business Marketing

Efficiency is one of the most important aspects of running a photography business, and unfortunately, speed is something that is learned over time. Create a speedy and organized system for how you work. Import a job, cull the selects, crop, do the post-production work (light, color, contrast, etc.), export, deliver, and invoice. The more efficient you are with this, the less you will procrastinate. There is nothing that will cause a photographer to procrastinate more than staring at a mountain of unedited images.

While this tip may sound simple, jobs that might take beginning photographers three hours to edit, can take an experienced photographer an hour. It took me much longer to edit a job when I started, and this organization and efficiency can give you so much more time to spend on everything else.

Also read: Photography Workflow Tips – From Memory Card to Computer and Beyond

Always tell a client that you will get a job to them a couple days later than you think you can. This will allow you time to screw something up and still get the work to them on time. Usually, you will get it to them early which will make you look even better (this is called under promise, over deliver).

Mistake #8 – Bonus Tip: Learn When to Say No

Photography Business Marketing

It’s hard to say no as a photographer, especially if you are growing your business and are under booked, but some jobs or some clients are just not worth it. If you are not being paid enough and the job is not good for your portfolio, if the client is tough to work with and overly demanding, save that aggravation and pass.

Some of these clients will prey upon young photographers to squeeze as much out of them before the photographer wises up. Just avoiding these jobs alone will save you so much time, and allow you to put it towards marketing and business development efforts that will set you much further ahead than by taking a less than desirable job.

Your time is very, very important, so don’t waste it. Saying no can be one of the best decisions you make.

If you have a photography business and have any other tips for newbies just getting started, please share in the comments below.


For even more business help – join the Focus Summit 2017 Online Business and Marketing Conference for Photographers on Sept 26-28th 2017. We will cover marketing, business development, law, SEO, branding, blogging, and much more. Use the code “DPS” for a $ 50 discount.

 

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Avoid These 5 Common Camera Setting Mistakes Made By Beginners

31 May

Over the years, I’ve taught many new photographers and observed how they used their cameras. I have noticed a handful of common mistakes that many of them make. While there is a lot more to learn about photography, if you can avoid or fix these issues alone, you will find that your photographs will be much sharper and of much better quality.

Avoid These 5 Camera Setting Mistakes Typically Made By Beginners

1. Not raising the ISO high enough

It used to be commonly taught that you always needed to go as low as possible with the ISO for digital cameras. This was because early digital cameras had horrible noise at higher ISOs. These days, that has completely changed. Newer digital cameras can shoot with incredible quality at ISO 800, 1600, 3200, and even 6400 for higher end cameras. The noise is much less noticeable than it used to be, and it is much more pleasant looking.

Avoid These 5 Camera Setting Mistakes Typically Made By Beginners

This has changed how we can shoot. While your ISO should still be as low as possible when the camera is on a tripod when you’re shooting handheld you will often want to raise your ISO up much higher. Unless I am purposely shooting with a very large aperture such as f/2.8, I typically keep my ISO at 400 in sunlight, 800-1600 in light to dark shade, and 3200 and 6400 when handheld at dusk or at night. This allows me to use a faster shutter speed to offset handheld camera shake or motion in subjects, along with a decent depth of field. My shots are much sharper because of this.

Unless you are shooting in Manual Mode, I suggest taking your camera off of auto-ISO. You never want to let your camera choose two of the three settings (shutter, aperture, and ISO) because it will mess up your photographs a lot of the time. The camera should only be choosing one of those three settings for optimal use.

2. Using a shutter speed that’s too slow

Avoid These 5 Camera Setting Mistakes Typically Made By Beginners

To offset the handheld camera shake, the shutter speed always needs to be ONE over the focal length of your lens. So if you are shooting with a 50mm lens, your camera will need to be at 1/50th of a second (or faster) to make sure the image is sharp. This comes even more into play with a zoom lens because a 300mm lens will need a 1/300th of a second shutter speed in order for the image to not look blurry. This is because slight vibrations are much more noticeable when you magnify a small area in the distance. This is also why I will often raise my ISO when zooming at far distances.

For subjects in motion, you will need a fast enough shutter speed to freeze them. I prefer a minimum of 1/250th of a second to freeze people walking. You will need an even faster shutter speed as you get to subjects such as cars.

3. Not using exposure compensation (+/-) or the right meter mode

Avoid These 5 Camera Setting Mistakes Typically Made By Beginners

If you are using Aperture or Shutter Priority mode, Exposure Compensation is your best friend, particularly in scenes with tricky lighting. Your camera’s light meter is not creative – it wants to make everything look a neutral gray, but that is problematic in images with lots of dark or bright tones. Maybe you want those tones to look gray for creative purposes, but most likely, you will want them to be true to the scene. This is where Exposure Compensation (+/-) comes into play.

For instance, in scenes with lots of bright snow or a bright sky, this could trick the camera into thinking that it needs to overly darken the image to make those white areas look gray. Or if you are shooting at night, or in a dark alleyway, the camera’s light meter will try to make those dark tones look like a lighter gray, thus brightening the image too much. Similar problems can also appear when shooting in areas with both bright highlights and dark shadows, or if your subject is backlit.

On a related note, many photographers keep their camera on the wrong metering mode. There are three main metering modes; Evaluative, Center-weighted, and Spot metering. Evaluative will expose for the entire scene, Center-weighted will expose based on the spot that you focus on and an expanded area around it, and Spot metering will measure the light based on only the spot that you point to. I personally find Evaluative to be too broad and Spot to be too focused, so I mostly use Center-weighted metering mode.

Read more here: Cheat Sheet: Understand Metering Modes On Your Camera

4. Not getting the focus point right

Avoid These 5 Camera Setting Mistakes Typically Made By Beginners

Some photographers leave their focusing completely up to the camera. This is a terrible idea as the camera will often focus on the wrong point, ultimately ruining your image. You need to be in control of your focusing and put the focus on the most important subject in the image.

On a similar note, it is common for photographers to get that new 50mm f/1.8 or f/1.4 lens and immediately think that they need to shoot everything at f/1.4 because they can. Some situations will be good for f/1.4, but it’s important to realize how shallow the depth of field is at that aperture.

If you are shooting with a really shallow depth of field, the focus needs to be perfect and exactly right on the most important subject. If you are photographing a person and you put the focus point on the person’s ear or nose instead of their eyes, it will be noticeable and it will mess up the photograph. Often, I prefer to shoot portraits like this at f/4 instead of f/1.8 or f/2.8. There is still a beautiful background with bokeh, yet more of the person is in focus. This minimizes any focusing mistakes as well.

5. Using image stabilization when using a tripod

Avoid These 5 Camera Setting Mistakes Typically Made By Beginners

The image stabilizer in your lens or camera will make your photographs sharper when handheld. However, it can also create minor vibrations while keeping the camera steadier, and these vibrations can actually backfire when you are on a tripod. Sometimes they will introduce blur. So always make sure to turn the image stabilizer off when you are using a tripod. If you ever notice your photographs on a tripod are slightly blurry, this issue and wind are the most likely culprits.

Conclusion

There you have it. The bottom line is that if you can learn to conquer and avoid these five common beginner mistakes, you’ll be on your way to better photography.

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9 Mistakes That Can Cause Blurry Photos

09 Feb

While I agree that sharpness is a bourgeois concept, to become a better photographer you will need to learn how to take sharp shots. The key to capturing these sharp photographs is to learn about all of the pitfalls that can cause blurry photos. Once you know all of the ways you can make a mistake, the only thing between you and sharpness is your hand-eye coordination.

The 9 Mistakes That Can Cause Blurry Photos

1. Back focus

Back focus is the bane of almost every photographer’s existence. This occurs when you think you are autofocusing on your main subject, but the camera misreads the situation and focuses on what is behind them instead, ruining the image. This happens primarily in situations where the focus is placed near an edge between your subject and the background.

Gowanus, New York Street Photography

The only way to fix this is to be aware of situations where it could happen. If you are photographing near an edge, be more careful, or lock the focus in a safer area before recomposing. Constantly pay attention to whether you think the focus is accurate or not, and if you have a keeper image, it can’t hurt to capture a couple photographs just to make sure the focus is correct.

2. Shutter speed too slow for shooting handheld

The rule of thumb is that your shutter speed must always be ONE divided by the focal length of your lens to offset handheld camera shake. So if you have a wider angle lens such as a 30mm, then you need a slower shutter speed of 1/30th of a second to guarantee sharpness. If you have a telephoto lens such as a 200mm this tip is even more important since you will need a 1/200th of a second to offset the shake in your hands.

Photographers shooting on aperture priority mode often get caught by this when they do not pay attention to their shutter speed, which can easily dip below the acceptable number.

The 9 Mistakes That Can Cause Blurry Photos

Keep in mind that if you have a cropped or micro 4/3rds sensor, you will need to figure out your full-frame equivalent focal length to calculate the minimum shutter speed necessary. For example, if you have a cropped sensor with a factor of 1.5x, and you are using a 200mm lens – the minimum shutter speed required is:  200mm x 1.5 = 300 or 1/300th of a second.

3. Shutter speed too slow to freeze motion

To freeze motion you need to use a fast shutter speed. The number that I use is 1/250th of a second for people who are walking. Running and sports can be between 1/500th and 1/1000th depending on the speed, but it all depends on how fast your subject is moving. Make sure to pay closer attention to your shutter speed when photographing something in motion (especially if you shooting in Aperture Priority mode).

4. Not focusing on the eyes in portrait photography

The 9 Mistakes That Can Cause Blurry Photos

If you are photographing someone’s face, particularly with a shallow depth of field and close up, the focus needs to be on the subject’s eyes (unless you decide otherwise due to creative reasons). The nose or the chin is not good enough – it needs to be on the eyes. I can’t tell you how many portraits I ruined early on where the person’s ear was sharper than their eye.

5. Not raising your ISO high enough

The 9 Mistakes That Can Cause Blurry Photos

In situations when you are not trying to capture a shallow depth of field, raising the ISO is often a very good strategy, even up to 1600, 3200, or 6400 depending on your camera and the light. Raising your ISO will allow for a faster shutter speed to offset handheld camera shake and freeze motion, and for a smaller aperture so you can have a larger depth of field. The added grain/noise will usually be very worth the added sharpness in the scene.

6. Not stopping fully to take a photograph

The 9 Mistakes That Can Cause Blurry Photos

This is my biggest pet peeve, and I see it done particularly when people are traveling and overstimulated by their environment. If you are going to take a photograph, make sure to stop yourself. Take a second to frame the photograph before you shoot it. If you capture a photograph while you are in motion, it will be slightly blurry unless you are using an insanely fast shutter speed.

7. Not cleaning the front of your lens

Smudges on your lens will reduce the sharpness and can ruin some of your photographs. Carry a lens cloth or use a thin soft t-shirt to clean it.

8. Missing the focus in dark situations

The 9 Mistakes That Can Cause Blurry Photos

Your camera’s autofocus capability, particularly with entry-level cameras, will diminish significantly in darker places. Make sure to pay even more attention to where the camera is locking its focus, and try to look for white, shiny, or contrasty objects to lock the focus on. If all else fails, go to manual focusing.

Using a lens with a larger aperture (like the 50mm f/1.8) will help, as will using the center most focusing point in your camera. It is a cross-point type and as such is more accurate and can often focus better in lower light situations.

9. Tripod mistakes

When using a tripod, you want to make sure to never touch it while a picture is being taken. Even holding it to keep it steady will introduce blur. Use a remote shutter release or set your camera on a 2-second delay before you take the photograph.

The 9 Mistakes That Can Cause Blurry Photos

Pay particular attention to your tripod when photographing on a windy day. The wind can also shake the camera and add some blur. To combat this, try to capture your photographs in-between wind gusts and even consider raising your ISO up so that your shutter speed will be faster. It is much easier to take a 10-second exposure in between wind gusts than a 30-second exposure.

Finally, make sure to turn your image stabilization off when photographing on a tripod. This might not matter with certain newer cameras, but it is always a good habit to get into. The stabilizing system has the potential to add minor vibrations to the camera when it is fully still.

You may also want to read: 5 Tips to Get Sharp Photos While Using a Tripod.

Conclusion

If you follow these nine tips you should be better equipped to avoid getting blurry photos. Do you have any other tips to add? Please post them and any questions you have in the comments section below.

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5 Common Post-Processing Mistakes to Avoid

01 Feb

For today’s photographer, post-processing is a critical element of image making. Sure, when you first get started with digital photography, you might shoot in JPG mode and allow the camera to make decisions about things like color and contrast. But when you’re ready to take control of your images, it’s time to shoot in RAW format and make the important decisions about how you want your final image to look yourself.

Estuary in Campbell River BC by Anne McKinnell - 5 Common Post-Processing Mistakes to Avoid

When you first start shooting in RAW, you might think your images look a bit gray and bland. That’s because the decisions that the camera was making before are now left up to you. That can be a bit daunting! But here are some tips to help you avoid the most common post-processing mistakes and make sure you are helping your images and not hurting them.

Remember, the purpose of post-processing is not to fix bad photos, but to bring out the best in good photos.

Mistake #1 – Lightening shadows too much

Always try to get the best exposure possible in camera. You’ll get a better result when you start out with a good exposure rather than relying on the highlights and shadows sliders in post-processing to balance it.

That said, sometimes you will still want to use the shadows slider to lighten your shadows to bring more detail in the darker areas of your image. Just be careful not to overdo it, or you’ll end up with an image that no longer looks natural.

This is overdone, the shadows have been pulled too far here and it no longer looks natural. Notice it also introduced noise into the sky.

Convict Lake, California by Anne McKinnell - 5 Common Post-Processing Mistakes to Avoid

Shadow adjustment in moderation is better.

If you try to equalize the brightness of the highlights and shadows, you’ll end up with a photo that not only looks unnatural, but the lack of contrast will make the image look boring. Contrast is a good thing! This is especially true when you have a scene with a reflection. The reflection should always be darker than the scene it is reflecting, as it is in nature.

Mistake #2 – Over saturation

Another way to create an unnatural looking image is to over saturate everything. It’s a tempting thing to do because a little bump in saturation and vibrance makes such a big difference. Again, just don’t overdo it. A little goes a long way.

Before you touch those sliders, spend a bit of time thinking about your image and the colors in it. Sometimes adding saturation globally is not the best idea, especially if you have a scene that contains many different colors. Instead, consider using the HSL (Hue/Saturation/Luminosity) panel, choose Saturation, and use the target tool to add saturation to one color in your scene. For example, you might want to add saturation to the main subject to draw attention to it.

Over saturation leaves the colors looking odd.

Yellow flower with bee by Anne McKinnell - 5 Common Post-Processing Mistakes to Avoid

Better saturation levels.

Mistake #3 – Over sharpening

First of all, never use sharpening to try to fix a photo that is out of focus. It just doesn’t work. Sharpening cannot fix blur. However, if you have an image that is in focus, adding a bit of sharpening can make it extra crisp and realistic.

Again, consider adding sharpening locally (to one select area) not globally, especially if you have areas of your scene that are purposely out of focus, such as when you have a shallow depth of field. Also, the sky usually looks better when it is smooth, so you don’t want to add sharpening there. Keep in mind that adding sharpening will increase noise, which is another reason not to add it globally. Rather, just add it to the main subject or areas of your scene with a lot of detail.

This has been over sharpened, you can see artifacts throughout the image here.

Deer by Anne McKinnell - 5 Common Post-Processing Mistakes to Avoid

Better level of sharpening.

In Adobe Camera Raw, use the Detail panel to add sharpening. Then, hold down the option (or alt) key and use the masking slider. As you move the slider, the areas that appear black do not have sharpening applied and areas that are white do. This is an effective way to add sharpening to the areas of your image that have details. Another option is to use the adjustment brush to brush sharpening on where you want it.

Mistake #4 – Over cropping

The crop tool is a handy way to refine your composition, remove unwanted elements on the edges of the frame, and make sure your horizon line is straight. But don’t use it to remove all the “negative space” in your scene.

You don’t need to fill the frame with your subject. A little breathing room keeps the image interesting. Think about creating a balance between the space taken up by your subject and the space around it. This is not necessarily an equal balance.

Cropped too tight on the subject.

Bisti Badlands, New Mexico by Anne McKinnell - 5 Common Post-Processing Mistakes to Avoid

Cropped to leave negative space and lead your eye to the subject.

Mistake #5 – Too much Noise Reduction

Sometimes the nature of the light requires the use of a high ISO. Perhaps you need both a small aperture and a high shutter speed for your scene, so increasing the ISO is the only way to get a good exposure. That’s okay. The noise caused by using a high ISO can be reduced in post-processing using the noise reduction slider.

But nobody said that all images must have no noise. Not all images have to be perfectly smooth looking. Especially if there is a lot of detail and texture in your subject. Using too much noise reduction can create blurry splotches in areas that were previously sharp.

Too much noise reduction has been applied here and overall the image now looks blurry.

Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona by Anne McKinnell - 5 Common Post-Processing Mistakes to Avoid

Noise reduction scaled back.

You may have noticed a theme in these common mistakes. Don’t over do it! Small adjustments go a long way to bringing out the best qualities of your images, but taking it too far can just as easily ruin them.

After you process your image, take a break from it and look at something else. Maybe even give it a day to settle. Then, when you look at it again, it will be more obvious if you have taken the processing too far.

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10 of the Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes Photographers Make

01 Dec

James ebook Creative Freelance Marketing is on sale now at 50% OFF over at Snapndeals (only until December 13th, 2016)

Photographers can be some of the best business people around or some of the worst. But realistically, if you’re building a photography business, you probably didn’t get into it because you enjoyed business and marketing. This is why some photographers struggle at being successful. They got into it for the passion, and then wake up one day to the reality that it is a business like any other.

The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Dancer Portrait

However, fear not. The business and marketing aspect of photography can actually be rewarding and interesting. It’s necessary to learn it to be able to succeed, but once you start to see it work, it becomes empowering. It’s a way to guarantee your success as a photographer so you can continue to do what you love.

But you can’t do that if you make too many mistakes. Here are the biggest mistakes that I see photographers make (and which I have also made myself).

Mistake #1 – Not charging enough

Business Portrait Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Business portrait photography

How much you charge is going to be the backbone of your entire business. You cannot let clients lowball you over and over again. By doing that you are lowering the perceived value of the work for the entire industry, and you are not even giving yourself a chance to succeed. By not charging enough, you will inevitably go out of business. Even if you feel desperate for a job, know that it will take up time that would be better spent on marketing yourself to get jobs that pay what you need to survive and thrive.

Many young photographers are afraid of losing jobs, but that’s a regular part of the business. You should not feel bad about it if the client cannot afford you. If they can’t afford you, then it was never a real job in the first place. How can you do good work or create a portfolio worthy piece if you’re not being paid enough to have your heart in it? In addition, these cheap jobs always end up to be the biggest headaches anyway. Every photographer has a story from when they were starting out about that client who just wouldn’t go away.

Commercial Photography

Commercial Photography

Even worse than a client lowballing you, are situations when you do not charge enough! Sometimes you will have no idea that a client has budgeted much more than you quoted them. A simple and fantastic question to ask to help you handle confusing pricing situations is, “What is your budget?” This question is sometimes not appropriate, but there are many ways to say it, such as telling them that you offer multiple levels of service based on the cost and asking what their budget is for the project. Or if they say they are tight on budget, you can offer to help them and simultaneously ask what they can pay. When introduced in the right way, this can get your client to lay all their cards on the table.

Mistake #2 – Not responding to inquiries quickly enough

Musician Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Musician photography

Every ounce of business development and every second of time spend on the tedious aspects of building a business serves the specific purpose of getting someone to contact you with a job. Well then answer them! I get nervous if it takes me 24 hours to respond to an inquiry, and the clients usually come back thanking me for responding so quickly. If you answer your emails and calls efficiently, then you immediately put yourself ahead of the majority of photographers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that we were able to have a whole back and forth and book a job before a competitor even replied.

In addition, responding regularly and efficiently will add to their comfort in working with you. Showing that you are responsible enough to do this also shows them that you are probably responsible in all aspects of your business. It is a great way to set the tone for what working with you will be like and can be excellent for gaining referrals in the future.

Mistake #3 – Not having a focused business plan

Business Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Business or corporate photography

You need to know how you are going to make money. Having a focused plan with an income target, price per job needed to reach that target, and a strategy to reach clients will become the basis for your entire business. The more focused that plan is, the more focused you will be. Figure out the strategy with the most potential to help you make a living and start with that. Focus on that before you waist your time on anything else. You do not want to fragment yourself too early in the building process.

Mistake #4 – Not setting aside enough time for personal work

Fine Art Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Fine art photography

Personal work is what you do to renew your passion for photography. Without that, it will be very difficult to succeed in the photography business. However, it is also the way that you get jobs and build your portfolio. It’s where you test out new strategies and ways of photographing, and it is a way to improve overall at your craft. If there is a type of job that you want to start booking, then build a portfolio of work that will help sell you as a photographer to those clients. They don’t have to know that this portfolio wasn’t made of paid jobs, and in many cases they will enjoy knowing how passionate you are in pursuing your personal work.

Mistake #5 – Not researching colleagues/competitors

As a business owner, you need to know what’s out there. Learning from your competition and even your friends is incredibly important. Go through their work and figure out what you like and what you dislike. Try to figure out the different ways that they market themselves and where their jobs come from. See how they use social media and where they get press from. Learn their pricing and test out their website.

All of this information is so important to helping you find your way. Take the best aspects of everyone you research, and put them together into your own plan. All of the information is out there for you to be successful, it’s just up to you to find it.

Family Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Family photography

Mistake #6 – Not having a plan for editing and delivering

One of the biggest problems that I see newer photographers have is that they take way too much time editing. They end up missing deadlines, wasting their time, and worrying too much. This is not a good situation for anybody and is one of the quickest ways to hold your entire business back. Learn to cull your images from a job quickly. Right away, knock 800 images into the top 200 or 150 as fast as possible and work from there. Organizing and attacking a job’s editing in an efficient matter will make your life so much better, and it will make your clients very happy.

Always tell a client that you will deliver a job to them a couple days after you plan to (under promise over deliver). That way you will look very good when you deliver the work early, and if you have some unfortunate setback or issue in your life, you will still have extra time to complete the job.

Mistake #7 –  Not doing enough local networking

Writer Portrait Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Writer environment portrait

Friends, family, and colleagues are your first line of people who can help you gain work. The second line is your local area. Figure out the businesses and people in your community that might need your services, and figure about the best way to reach them. Find business meet-up groups, local meet-ups, and trade shows that occur in your community and become a part of them. And this tip doesn’t mean that you should only show up once and never again. Become a regular part of them. Spend more time socializing within your community and that will come back to you business-wise.

Mistake #8 – Not using a mailing list

Business Portrait Photography- The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Business portrait photography

Social networks come and go. They all change constantly and hold you at their whim. While they are necessary to be a part of, social networks are in it for themselves, not for you. Diversify your marketing and build up a mailing list of all your contacts, clients, and friends. This way there is nothing between you and reaching them with important news. Mailing lists have a significantly higher open and click-through rate than social networks, and won’t charge you (per email) to reach your list.

Mistake #9 – Trying to do too much all at once

Event Photography - The 10 Biggest Business and Marketing Mistakes That Photographers Make

Event photography

There are so many strategies to market yourself in photography. Every situation is unique, and every marketing plan should be different. It is important to learn as much as you can about marketing, but at the same time you need to prioritize. Five strategies done with a small amount of your attention on each will be much less effective than one strategy with all of your attention focused on it. Spend some time to figure out which strategies will have the most potential for your situation and rank them. Then start with the first one and over time move down the list.

Mistake #10 – Not putting yourself out there

Artist / Writer Portrait Photography focused

Artist / Writer Portrait Photography

Nobody is going to give you an opportunity if you don’t ask. The biggest difference between the people who make it and the people who fail is that the ones who succeed will wake up tomorrow and take these steps. None of this is rocket science – it just takes dedication, organization, and follow-through.

Many people won’t give you an opportunity the first time you ask. Learn to take rejection because rejection isn’t that bad. It means you’re pushing yourself and it’s inevitable along the way. Keep a thick skin and pride yourself on trying. Marketing is a grind at first. The photographers who can dive right in despite every frightened feeling their brain gives them will be the most successful.

James ebook Creative Freelance Marketing is on sale now at 50% OFF over at Snapndeals (only until December 13th, 2016)

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Avoid These 5 Common Mistakes in Black and White Photography

29 Sep

Black and white photography has been around for nearly 180 years, ever since Louis Daguerre introduced the daguerreotype process to the world. It is still hugely popular despite the rise and ease of color photography. And yet, whenever I look at other people’s black and white photos, I see the same mistakes over and over. Are you making any of these? Let’s find out!

Black & white photography mistakes

Mistake #1: Shooting in JPEG format

Ouch! This is a big one. It’s the single worse thing you could do.

The difference between RAW and JPEG

To understand why, you need to appreciate the difference between Raw files and JPEGs. Raw files contain all the information captured by your camera’s sensor. A Raw file is not a finished picture file. It has to be processed (using software like Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw) and converted to a JPEG or TIFF file in order to be usable.

You can think of a Raw file as the equivalent of a negative (as in from film photography). You can’t send a Raw file to a photo library or a magazine any more than you could send a negative. You need to process the Raw file (or scan and process the negative) first.

JPEG files are created by the camera. It takes the information captured by the sensor, processes it (much like you would do with a Raw file in Lightroom, but according to the camera’s built-in parameters), compresses it, discards the unused information, and saves it as JPEG. They don’t necessarily need processing in software like Photoshop or Lightroom, although most can be improved by doing so.

Advantages of shooting RAW

Using the Raw format gives you the following advantages.

  • Control: You process the file yourself, rather than letting the camera do it. You can process it to your taste from a stylistic point of view. Using Raw lets you interpret the file as many ways as you want. Using JPEG means the file gets interpreted one way only – the way the camera does it.
  • More data: The Raw file contains much more information than a JPEG, especially in the highlights and shadows, that you can draw out when you process the file. The extra information helps prevent banding in areas of smooth continuous tone like clear skies.

Black & white photography mistakes

Black & white photography mistakes

Using Raw helps you get from the before image shown above to the processed version here. With Raw, you can increase contrast and make the sky darker without introducing banding in the sky or halos along the edges of buildings. You can’t do this with JPEG files.

More advantages of shooting RAW

  • Adjust sharpness: JPEG files created by your camera are sharpened. The sharpening limits the amount you can change tonal values before introducing halos and artefacts. Yes, you can turn JPEG sharpening off in-camera – but how many people bother?
  • RAW format keeps the color info: Raw files contain all the color information captured by the sensor, so you can create a color version of the photo in Lightroom, Photoshop, etc., as well.
Black & white photography mistakes

Using Raw let me create both a color and black and white version of the same image in Lightroom, without any loss of image quality.

  • Improvements: The software gets better every year. The version of Lightroom or Photoshop you use in five or 10 years time will be much better than the current one. With Raw, you can take advantage of these new improved tools and reprocess your images in the future.

So please, don’t use the JPEG format any more for black and white photography. There are, however, advantages to using your camera’s monochrome mode, as discussed in my article Mastering Monochrome Mode.

Mistake #2: Trying to save photos by making them black and white

Black and white is not a method for rescuing poorly crafted color photos. If your photo is bad in color, it will be bad in black and white too (although there are always photos that work better in black and white for compositional reasons).

There is nowhere to hide in black and white. In color, if the lighting or composition isn’t as good as it could be, the emotional impact of the colors in the photo may rescue the image (or, depending on how you look at it, cover up its shortcomings). Black and white images rely on factors like tonal contrast, textural detail, line and strong composition to work.

That’s why some photographers consider black and white to be a kind of higher art form than color photography.

Black & white photography mistakes

The texture in this photo is essential to make it work in black and white.

Mistake #3: Not processing the photos properly

Before digital cameras and Lightroom came along, many pro photographers used a professional printer to print their images. Creating top quality black and white prints in the darkroom is hard, and it was often outsourced to professionals.

This was a beneficial arrangement that let photographers concentrate full-time on photography and left printing to the specialists. Perhaps the best known pro printer in the UK is Robin Bell, who has worked with big names such as David Bailey, Terry O’Neil, and Eve Arnold.

Nowadays it is much easier to create beautiful black and white images in programs like Lightroom, Photoshop, or Silver Efex Pro 2, than it is to master the chemical darkroom process. But, sadly, many photographers don’t get to grips with the basics. The result is that their black and white photos are not nearly as good as they could be.

Take the time to learn how to use your software properly and your photos will get better.

Black & white photography mistakes

Black & white photography mistakes

This before and after example shows the photo how it looked straight out of the camera compared to the final version, processed in Lightroom. Learn how to get from one to the other in order to get the most out of your black and white images.

Mistake #4: Not shooting in the best light

One of the advantages of black and white is that you can often shoot in lighting conditions not suitable for color photography. For example, on a cloudy day you can create beautiful black and white seascapes with a tripod and neutral density filters (this is called long exposure photography). Yet, in color, you would really need to shoot close to dawn or sunset to make the most of the scene.

But what some people do is use black and white to shoot in lighting conditions that are simply unsuitable for the subject. Using black and white isn’t the solution. The important skill is in matching the light to the subject. This takes a while to learn but it’s very important. Don’t be lazy just because it’s black and white.

Black & white photography mistakes

A long exposure photo made on a cloudy day. The light suits the subject – it wouldn’t have worked in sunny weather.

Mistake #5: Not having a strong composition

Black and white is a true test of your compositional skills. The best monochrome images use visual elements like tonal contrast, texture, line, shape, pattern, and negative space. The emotional power of color can mask poor composition. But in black and white there is nowhere to hide. You have to learn how to use these building blocks of composition effectively.

That starts with learning how to see them. For example, you can’t use lines in your compositions if you haven’t trained yourself to see straight, diagonal, or curved lines in the scene.

The good news is that once you understand the fundamentals of composition in black and white, you will instinctively apply them to your color photos as well.

Black & white photography mistakes

I took a lot of care with the composition of this landscape photo. It has foreground interest and plenty of texture – important elements in black and white landscapes.

Have you made any of these mistakes?

Can you think of any other mistakes that photographers make when working in black and white? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


If you’d like to learn more about black and white photography then please check out my ebook Mastering Lightroom: Book Three – Black & White.

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5 Critical Mistakes to Avoid When Buying New Camera Gear

05 Sep

The day you’re finally in the market for a new camera gear is certainly an exciting one when you’re a photographer. Visions dance in your head of all the killer shots you’ll be capturing with a sleek new set-up. You get excited about finally having gear that not only meets your current needs, but that you can grow with into the future as well.

However, it goes without saying, that the buying process can be daunting to say the least. There’s a lot to choose from out there! You want to make absolutely sure that what you buy is actually worth the investment you’re about to make.

Buying New Camera Gear mistakes

In this article I’ll go over some of the most important (and most common) mistakes to avoid when shopping for a new camera or any other piece of photography equipment.

Mistake #1. Taking advice from the wrong person

It’s normal, and wise, to ask for other people’s advice before you finalize a major buying decision. However, it’s important to get it from the right sources. It’s not enough for someone to simply sound like they know what they’re talking about.

Do they actually know what they’re talking about? Is this someone that really knows their way around a camera, and could be considered an expert when it comes to photography gear? Do they actually understand all of the features associated with the item you’re shopping for well enough to have an informed opinion? You should be able to say “yes” with assurance to all of these questions. You need to make sure the person actually understands your unique needs, and the many ways they might differ from theirs.

Buying New Camera Gear mistakes

I need this camera for the work I do, but you may not need one so large. Get what’s appropriate for your needs.

Avoid buying anything just because another photographer you know has one, or because all the online reviews say it’s the one to have. Definitely don’t buy on the say-so of one person, who may or may not really understand photography. Ask for advice from trusted experts and take it for what it’s worth – a great tool that can help you make a decision. Even the best advice isn’t a proper substitute for research and careful comparison shopping.

Mistake #2. Assuming quality is equal to price

Yes, good quality gear should be considered an investment. It’s most definitely a purchasing decision that should be made with care, especially if you’re a professional photographer or hope to become one. However, it’s important not to simply assume that a higher price tag automatically equals a better item.

Buying New Camera Gear mistakes

Do your research and due diligence.

Even if money isn’t personally an issue for you, paying more money doesn’t guarantee that your purchase will actually meet your needs. It doesn’t guarantee you the spectacular photos you’ve been dreaming about either. Even great photography equipment is only going to be as good as the person actually taking the photos.

Focus less on the price tag, and more on whether or not a given item is right for you, especially when buying a camera. Does it fit your current skill level? Are you familiar with all of the functions and tools it comes with? According to your research, is it a good fit for the type of photography you do? Lots of bells and whistles, and tons of different settings won’t do you any good if you either won’t use them, or don’t understand them.

Buying New Camera Gear mistakes

Mistake #3. Failing to budget properly

Proper planning is the key to success when it comes to many endeavours, and shopping for a new camera or photography gear is no different. A big part of that is budgeting, and there are a number of ways people can stumble in that arena.

Many drastically overestimate what they’re likely to get in exchange for their money. An outrageously expensive camera won’t magically allow a beginner to somehow start pulling off National Geographic quality images. Nor will world class photography skills make up for a cheap camera, that’s incapable of taking professional quality pictures.

Buying New Camera Gear mistakes

A lot of shoppers also fail to factor the full cost of all the accessories they’ll need into their budget. Okay, so you did your homework when it comes to the camera you’ll need in order to take your landscape photography to the next level. But, did you also remember to consider the lenses you’ll require? What about the batteries, tripods, memory cards, and everything else? It’s important to be thorough from the get-go.

Mistake #4. Becoming distracted by bargains and specials

So you’re finally ready to walk into the photography shop and make your purchases. You’ve done your homework. You’ve figured out which camera is right for your needs, both present and future. You’ve even picked out the accessories and other tools you’ll need to go with it. You’re sure you know exactly what you’re looking for.

Buying New Camera Gear mistakes

Then you get inside, and see all the signs advertising special deals on this, and bargain pricing on that. Do you lose your focus, or do you remind yourself that item isn’t really what you went there for? Hopefully it’s the latter.

Never buy any piece of photography gear just because it’s displayed under a flashy sign, or a salesman insists that it’s what you really want. If something sounds way too good to be true, it probably is. Keep your eye on the prize, and make sure you walk out of that shop with what you actually need.

Mistake #5. Not being realistic enough

Buying New Camera Gear mistakes

Most of us entertain really big dreams that we hope will come true someday, when it comes to our interest in photography. However, it’s important to ask yourself whether those dreams are realistic as far as the near future goes, before you actually sink your money into them.

Are you brand new to photography, but already picture yourself traveling the world, making big money as a travel photographer within a couple of months? Are you shopping based on a desire to jump straight into professional photography with a ton of new, expensive gear, even though you’ve never used anything more complicated than the Instagram app on your iPhone?

Buying New Camera Gear mistakes

Make sure you’re not getting ahead of yourself when it comes to what you think you’ll accomplish, by spending lots of money on new camera gear right now. Shop according to what your needs and skill level are currently, not what you’re hoping they’ll be “someday”. You’re that much more likely to be happy with your purchases not only now, but in the years to come as well.

If you have any other gear buying tips, please share in the comments below. What is your though process?

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