Beginner Photography Mistakes, and How to Fix Them

Beginner photography mistakes, and how to fix them | Laurenda Marie Photography | Business Tips & Advice

I've made a lot of mistakes in photography, especially when I was first starting out. These are likely errors we have all made when first getting acquainted with our cameras, and it goes to show how a little practice + education can really train the eye to view images in a whole new light. Below I will show you 3 sets of images I took in my first few months of photography, and compare them side-by-side to more recent images after learning a few basics. The differences are dramatic, and I hope this gives all you aspiring photographers out there some hope! All photos are of my first son {and muse}, Sawyer. 

Before I begin, let me take you back to MY beginning...

I always had an interest in photography, and for the arts in general, but if you were to tell me 3 1/2 years ago I was going to be a published photographer booking everything from newborn lifestyle sessions to weddings, I would have laughed uncomfortably...and followed that with a "yeah right".

Not that I didn't WANT to be that, but because I was clueless, a beginner, the epitome of amateur.

Four years ago I was pregnant with my first baby. I was excited, but also terrified. I was terrified of the unknown. I was terrified of how my life was about to change. When my baby boy finally arrived, I knew I couldn't go back to my full-time day job. I knew I needed to be at home with him. So, our family made some sacrifices, like losing my full-time income, so we could make that happen. 

I was doing some part-time work from home for my brother's blogging business, and some of our work required higher quality photos. Always dreaming of owning a fancy camera and taking pretty pictures, I purchased my first DSLR camera, the Canon Rebel t3i.

I couldn't wait to take all these fabulous photos of my babe, because how hard could it be right? I had a fancy new camera that takes amazing photos! I just needed to press the shutter and wa-la! Stunning, frame worthy photo!

Wrong. All wrong. It didn't take me long to realize that is NOT how it works. PEOPLE take great photos, not cameras.

If I was going to take photos I was proud of, I needed to learn my camera - but I didn't even know where to begin. I was extremely overwhelmed. I had NO idea what aperture was, and I had never even heard of ISO. That brings me to example one...


E X A M P L E  1.

PicMonkey Collage.jpg

LEFT IMAGE: This was one of the very first images I ever took with my new camera. My baby looks cute, but there is a lot wrong with this photo. My camera was set to "auto" because I didn't understand my manual settings. See that orange tint to the photo and tiny dot of light in my baby's eyes? That discoloration is due to tungsten light, and the speck of light was the flash going off. Yikes. You can also see some harsh shadowing around my son's cheek and jaw line from the flash. The composition is a little wonky, and it was shot at an awkward angle. I didn't have any editing software, so this was SOOC (straight out of camera). Basically everything about this photo screams amateur. I actually remember loving this photo when I first saw it. I was viewing it with my Mom goggles, and not yet with a photographer's eye. 

RIGHT IMAGE: The second photo is a breath of fresh air compared to the first. After countless hours practicing with the exposure triangle; shutter speed, aperture and ISO, I was finally feeling comfortable with my manual settings. Here I was really taking advantage of aperture, creating a shallow depth of field so my subject (my son Sawyer) is the main focus, and the background is blurred out. I had all the lights off in my house to avoid mixed light sources, and positioned his highchair near a window so he was evenly lit - also giving him catchlights in his eyes. I invested in editing software (Lightroom + Photoshop) so I could adjust white balance, exposure, + other tweaks in post processing. The composition is a lot stronger and the photo is more fun and emotive. 


E X A M P L E  2.

Beginner photography mistakes | before and after

LEFT IMAGE: Again, my son is a doll {maybe I'm a bit biased} but this image has a lot of technical issues. I remember taking this photo near the middle of the day, so the sun was high and harsh. I did try to position him in the shade, but you can see there is a bit of dappled light hitting his face and unflattering green and yellow color casts from the greenery around him. This photo is also completely out of focus. I was shooting in manual and using a wider aperture for a shallower depth of field (good), but was not mindful of focusing on my subjects eyes {or focusing anywhere for that matter). When shooting a portrait, typically you'll want to aim to have those eyes tact sharp!

RIGHT IMAGE: This image was taken right around golden hour, when the sun was low, shielded by the trees behind my subject. I learned the importance of WHEN to shoot and WHERE to place my subjects to yield the best results. Typically you'll want to shoot when the sun is low, right after sunrise and right before sunset. I try to book 99% of my sessions during this time. Weddings are one of the only exceptions, which is why it's important to understand light as a lot of the time you'll be doing portraits in the middle of the day! Circling back to this photo, at this point I had also mastered back-button focusing, and set my focus right on my subjects eyes, making them pop and tell a story.


E X A M P L E  3.

Beginner photography mistakes | before and after

LEFT IMAGE: There isn't a ton wrong with this image, but the main thing I want to touch on is editing. What stands out to me in this image is my son's overly processed skin. I primarily use Lightroom to edit, and I would bet you all my money I had the skin softening slider at -100 clarity, basically eliminating any detail and realness from the skin. The eyes are also a tad over-sharp, which stand out even more against that over-processed skin. 

RIGHT IMAGE: I choose this image to compare because they're so similar, but the right image was executed better start to finish. My son looks less like a porcelain doll, and more like a chubby-cheeked little rugrat {which is exactly what he is! ;)) When I use the skin softening brush in LR now, I like to keep the clarity around -30, where I'm able to retain more of the skins natural detail. Editing is extremely subjective, and everyone has their own styles, but I know from experience it's easy to go WAY overboard on the post-processing. Editing programs can be a bit daunting at first, but there are A TON of excellent resources out there to help guide you. I recommend starting with the basics, learning how to adjust your white balance and exposure, then build on different techniques and styles from there. 

I feel vulnerable sharing images I'm not exactly proud of, but I want people to see that taking pretty photos does not happen over-night, but more than achievable if you have the passion and drive to learn! I would attribute my growth to education + research + lots and lots practice. The book Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson was critical in helping me become acclimated with shooting manual, and I highly recommend it to those who do not feel confident shooting this way. I was also lucky to have a handful of talented photographers I could turn to for advice when I felt stuck. I love the idea of "community over competition", and make myself available to lend support when others seek it too.

I'm far from perfect, and I don't have all the answers, but what I do have is a passion for my craft, and a drive to continually want to improve upon it. Sometimes we need to look back at where we started to appreciate how far we've come! Happy shooting!