Here are a few tips to help while shooting on the job. As I train my second and third shooters, these are the mistakes I see the most often.

10 mistakes photographers make:

  1. Forgetting that clients should touch. Clients can stand far apart, hold a prop, and in some cases no touch is appropriate. However some poses feel “off” simply because of the lack of touch to make the connection. If you see limbs that look like they should be doing something, tell them to hold hands to complete the unity.
  2. Overexposing and losing detail in your subject. I like to overexpose slightly in camera and I love light like any photographer but be careful of just plain overexposing your image that you lose detail in their face and colors.
  3. Shooting too tight. I once giggled after I took a shot because my bride looked topless. She was wearing a strapless dress but then suddenly looked topless because you couldn’t see any evidence of clothing. I took a step back. Show necklines, not just heads.
  4. Using a wide angle for portraits. If you can understand lenses and what each lens can do for your portraits, be aware that wide angles are not for portraits. It distorts noses, foreheads faces in general. Use the correct lens.
  5. Not understanding how light bounces. I love green fields if I can find them here, but if you notice, the grass bounces green light everywhere. Or using a gold reflector brings drastic warm hues in pale skin. Correcting skin in post is rather time consuming and if you don’t know how to do it, it never looks right. Shoot in areas where there’s a neutral palette to bounce white light, like a path through the meadows or use a reflector to help bounce the light or cover the brick wall that’s bouncing red hues.
  6. Overlooking unflattering angles, squished noses, double chins. Avoid squished noses that makes them look wide, they’re laughing so hard they have triple chins, or I only see the top of his receding hair line, oh no. Candid moments are great, but some times, they can turn awkward.
  7. Forcing the awkward. That’s what I call it, those contorted poses we make our clients do that seem unnatural. Some are artistic, others just look like their arm isn’t supposed to bend that way.
  8. Not checking backgrounds. Stay away from trash cans, city signs, or exit signs in doorways.
  9. Putting backgrounds too close to the subject. Sometimes that door or wall of flowers didn’t need to be right behind my subjects turning it into more of a foreground than much of a background. Tell subjects to take a few steps closer to you, away from the background, if you want to use the background as a bokeh canvas.
  10. Showing the awkward expression. Not all candids are good; and not all expressions are good or framable. Only show what a couple would frame – a crying baby being held by a terrified new dad isn’t really in the Top 10.


I have been guilty of all of these and it reminds me to constantly push myself to not do these things the next time. Training your eye to think of the client and how they would like to be remembered will help you direct your clients in more flattering poses and also help you cull your images more effectively to help strengthening your brand.