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Tips & Tricks

How to Avoid the 15 Common Mistakes People Make When Taking Photos

By Hanssie on August 25th 2014

As a kinesthetic learner, when I face something new, I like to just jump in and get my hands dirty. So, more often than not, I will eschew the manual and try to figure things out on my own. Which means for me, lots of trial and error, and google searches, before I get things right. That’s basically how I learned to use my camera. I read parts of one photography book, and then went out and practiced.


When starting out in photography, there are many mistakes that novices tend to make, and in the following B&H sponsored video, Jeff Cable highlights 15 common ones. This video is part of Cable’s series with other videos including, “The 15 Features of the DSLR That Every Photographer Should Know,”and “The 15 Features of Photoshop That Every Photographer Should Know.”


Jeff discusses composition, light & shadows, lighting and flash, focusing, shutter speed, and other techniques to help a beginner improve their photography skills. This video is quite long, at an hour and 15 minutes, but is an entertaining and helpful resource for a beginner photographer to get better shots without going through some of the trial and error process that many of us go through.

Here is a quick list of the 15 mistakes. How many of them have you made?

  1. Combining Light and Shadow (guilty)
  2. Wrong Location (guilty)
  3. Focus in the Wrong Place (guilty)
  4. Wrong Aperture (guilty)
  5. Bad Composition
  6. Don’t Shoot Tight Enough (in my case, it was too tight)
  7. Wrong Use of Flash (guilty)
  8.  Not Aware of Shutter Speed (guilty)
  9. Bad Camera Basics
  10. Trying to Shoot at Night Without a Tripod (guilty)
  11. Looking in the Wrong Direction (guilty)
  12. Stand by Walls and Bushes (guilty)
  13. Take Few Frames
  14. Not Creative Enough
  15. Watch Your Horizon (guilty)

[Via ISO1200]

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Aidan Morgan

    I think I’ve only made 15 of these mistakes.

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  2. Jesse Rinka

    It’s no mystery. The only way to truly learn from mistakes is by making them. Get out there and shoot until you make every mistake possible…learn how to adjust….repeat.

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  3. Pete McWade

    Thank you for the tips. Getting back into photography has been a blast. I have no flash experience but know I don’t like the hard light of frontal flash. I don’t have it on my A7R. I have been getting in closer and getting the tack sharp images has been much easier. I like getting up close and personal. Never thought of following the action while taking the picture. I figured that the photo would be blurry. Now I know better. I’ll try some new things. My experience is with an old B&W Argus Rangefinder. Now I have a Canon T3i and Sony A7R and a hand full of some old lenses.

    Pete :)

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    • Hanssie


      I’m jealous that you have the Sony A7R. That is on my wishlist. Well, that or the Fuji XT1…

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  4. Ralph Hightower

    I watched this video earlier this past weekend. I want to watch it again to take notes.
    But I have to say that I’ve used #7 Wrong Use of Flash since I have a “potato masher” flash (Sunpak 522) and taking it out, I know its reach and that it will be used. I used the flash sparingly at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum-Udvar Hazy Center, of the underbelly of Space Shuttle Discovery and never against glass, I turned off my smartphone flash when shooting from inside a bus at night.
    Okay, I’m guilty of #10 Trying to Shoot at Night Without a Tripod. I had to burn a roll of Kodak Ektar (ISO 100) from 3-4 AM at a dimly lit parking lot, fluorescent lit inside, and inside a bus to load Kodak BW400CN that was exposed at ISO 1600 for the final Space Shuttle landing. It’s amazing that I got decent photos from Ektar in the nighttime; I was using my Canon FD 50mm f1.8.
    I’m also guilty of #13 Take Few Frames; I didn’t have high-speed motor drive on my Canon A-1 at an air show. I missed the US Air Force Thunderbirds knife-edge pass; all I got was smoke.

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  5. Kevin Nguyen

    I don’t feel so bad, I only feel guilty on 14 of them. I am good with #3. My camera is very high-tech and I don’t have to worry about where to focus ;)

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  6. Peter Nord

    An Ellis Island comment. He talked about thinking about the Ellis Island experience. We asked aunt Ida, “What was it like when you were there?” She was a girl. Said it was very important to be very quiet to so you could hear your name. Who knew?

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    • Peter Nord

      As I recall we had this conversation about 1984. She was there, I think, about 1904, +or_.

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  7. Harry Lim

    Sorry, I commented after reading the list but before watching the video. Hey SLR Lounge, how about giving us the ability to edit or delete our own comments?

    I still stand by the comment because the heading “combining light and shadow” is misleading. Sure, it’s possible to put a subject in bad light. But in his example, it looks like he placed the subject in even shadow and used fill flash. By using fill flash he combined shadow and light!

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    • Jim Johnson

      yeah, I don’t have an hour for the video. It would be nice to have the information presented in different/better summarized way.

      thumbs up for editing.

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    • Hanssie

      Hi there,

      I know there have been talks to add the ability in one of the future phases to allow editing and/or deleting of comments. For now, I’ve done so manually for you.

      I added the list, so it would be easier to follow, not so you could skip watching the video, haha. But yes, in the end of the video, he talks about how these are not hard fast rules of course, just general errors novices make when starting out. I’m sure an entire hour long video could be made on ways to combine shadow and light :)

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    • Rafael Steffen

      You can use light and shadow, but you will need some off camera flash to get it right.

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    • Rafael Steffen

      This is a great vídeo for all levels to just remind us the important things to remember before pressing the shutter. I love when says, that the Kid yelled to her mother, MOM HE IS A PHOTOGRAPHER! That’s the spirit when young kids have respect for people who really knows how to shoot.

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