Thursday, January 26, 2012

Photography Errors That Make You Look Dumb

Previous blog posts here have tried to give some tips on how to take better photos.  Now for the reverse of that - here's what NOT to do. Making these mistakes are a sure-fire way to take mediocre photos.

Cluttered Photos

Professional photographers know that less is more (Secrets of Professional Photographers #2), and a photograph with too much going on is a sure sign of an amateur.  In a cluttered photo, the eye bounces around from subject-to-subject, and leaves the viewer unsatisfied.

Times Square has a lot going on, and it can be hard to choose what to shoot... focus on small details for a better image.

Instead of trying to take in everything, take in only one thing - and do it well.  You can take more than one photo of a location, so take your time and get each one right.

Always shooting from eye level

Interesting photographs often come from interesting angles.  If you're taking a photo of a boring scene, changing the point of view can make it much more interesting.
A bucolic scene, but not very interesting.

Getting down low leads to a much more interesting picture.
Get down on your hands and knees, climb a ladder, or seek a higher natural vantage point.  Whatever  you do, consider what your subject would look like from another angle.


No Sense of Scale

Photography is two-dimensional and can often lack context - so it's up to you to give it some.  A photo of an impressive building or mountain doesn't look nearly as impressive unless the person viewing the photo understands just how big it is.
I can almost make out that this is Easter Island.

Putting a person in the picture helps the viewer to infer scale.

You can add context by demonstrating a sense a scale. Putting a person in the photo, or a common object like a bicycle, helps the viewer to understand what they're seeing.


No Clear Subject

Before you take a photo, you need to quickly decide what is important in the image and make sure you're framing it in the best light.

This photo has no distinct subject.

There's no doubt about the subject of this photo.

If your subject is only a small part of the image, or if your photo doesn't seem to have any subject at all, don't take the photo. Wait a few seconds, give it some thought, and try again.

Poor Composition

There are some basic rules of photographic composition that you should follow (unless you have a good reason not to). I've written before about the Rule of Thirds, the Golden Spiral, and the Golden Triangle, and those rules of composition are good ones to follow. 

Subject centered and looking away? Not good.

Off-center, looking at you, and from an interesting angle? Brilliant.

Additionally, if your subject is a living thing, try and capture it looking at the camera with a glint of light in it's eyes, or capture it interacting with something else so that your photo has a sense of movement.