10 Common Beginner Photography Mistakes With Tips To Avoid Them

When you first start out in photography, there is so much to try and remember. From learning how your camera works, where all the buttons are, how to frame your shots, and figuring out what are the best ways to improve your pictures. Most beginner photographers get so caught up in what you need to do, that you forget to consider what you are doing. Before you know it, your photos are screaming ‘amateur’ and you aren’t sure what you can do about it. This is when people start to experience these common beginner photography mistakes.

In this guide, I’ll be sharing 10 common beginner photography mistakes and the tips you can implement to avoid them. There’s a lot to learn in photography and improving your photos can feel like a long process. By implementing some of the tips discussed here, you’ll be able to spot and resolve any beginner mistakes popping up in your photography. Let’s get started!

The Common Mistakes Of Beginner Photographers

Below outlines 10 of the most common beginner photography mistakes people make when starting out in photography. Some of these tips may be easier to spot in your images than others, so it’s important to really consider which of these are actually showing up in your work. Once you learn how to solve each of these photography mistakes, you’ll notice a big change in the quality of your work!

#1. Using Your Camera’s Flash

Now let me preface this by telling you there’s nothing wrong with using your cameras flash. However, there is something wrong with using your cameras flash all the time.

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A common mistake with beginner photographers is that they use the on-camera flash for every photo they take. Whether it’s a picture of a lake, a family member, or a macro shot, that camera’s flash is still popping off like fireworks.

Your camera’s flash should be used in extreme moderation and only when you seriously need it. The reason is that flash often washes out your subject and gives them weird coloring that can be distracting. Not only that but in outdoor scenes, it casts an unnatural and unflattering light on anything nearby in the foreground.

Many beginner photographers end up using their cameras flash because there isn’t enough light to take a picture without it. The reality is, there are a ton of ways to brighten your photos without the need for your flash. For example, you could use a different shutter speed, open up your aperture, or increase your ISO setting. All are totally viable options to brighten your photo without a flash!

If you’re new to some of these settings, be sure to download my free Photography Essentials eBook that covers each of these settings in-depth! It’s an excellent resource for those looking to understand their camera settings and learn how they all work together. If you’re not a manual shooter, be sure to check out the best camera settings for beginners.

#2. Not Paying Attention To Light And Shadows

It’s extremely common for beginner photographers to ignore how the light is hitting their subjects. Depending on the time of day, how much shadow they’re in, or the orientation to the sun can make a massive difference between a good and bad photo. The primary goal is to avoid things like patchy light or raccoon eyes.

Avoiding Patchy Light:

Patchy light is something you’ll find when the sun is shining through something like a tree branch, for example. The shadows it casts are random and non-uniform, which make them a bit distracting and unappealing. Also, with varying intensities of shadow, you can get hot spots on your subject that are hard to deal with. Instead, try to find shadows that have more defined edges and cast an even shadow across your subject. These will work much better for your images!

Raccoon Eyes:

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Racoon Eyes occur when a light source is above someone’s head, and it casts dark circular shadows around their eyes, similar to a raccoon! These are easy to avoid just by repositioning your subject to face the light or lift their head up. You’ll be surprised by how small differences in body positions can make a big difference!

#3. Crooked Horizons

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All photographers have been guilty of this mistake at one point in time. It’s easy to get so caught up in the subject of your photo (i.e., a person, car, animal) that you forget to look at the horizon. It’s easy to forget about how you’re holding the camera and accidentally slant is to one side of the other. The result is a crooked horizon that looks extremely unprofessional, especially when you decide to print your photo.

It’s always best to get the horizon straight in-camera, so you don’t have to do any additional cropping later on in post-processing.

Yes, you can adjust your horizon with photo editing, but it can often change the composition of your photo. Particularly when your horizon is extremely slanted, the corrections can make such a large crop that your subject has less space in the frame, or it cuts out essential aspects of your image. Just like anything in photography, it’s always best to get it right in-camera!

#4. Not Establishing A Clear Subject

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A lot of beginner photographers make the mistake of including too much in their photos. If you want to capture everything, it really means you’re just drawing attention to nothing. Every photo you capture should have a clear subject (what your picture is about), and the composition should work around solely that.

To make your subject more clear, it’s really important to remember the rules of composition in photography.  By utilizing these easy rules, there are a ton of ways you can draw more attention to your subject without a ton of effort.

Always try to keep the distractions in your photo to a limit. If it’s not improving your composition, you probably don’t need it in the shot.

#5. Shooting In JPEG Instead Of RAW

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If you have any intention of editing your photos at some point, you’re doing a major disservice to yourself by taking pictures in JPEG. JPEG is a compressed file format that doesn’t have as much information to edit later on in post-processing. This makes it a lot harder to push your image in post and can even reduce the quality as you make further adjustments.

RAW, on the other hand, is uncompressed and can be pushed much further with photo editing. The result is a better quality photo that can be heavily adjusted without issues. Whether it’s to significantly change your exposure or change the color hues in any way, RAW files are the answer.

You can learn more about the difference between RAW and JPEG by clicking here.

#6. Taking Photos At The Wrong Time Of Day

Yes, you can take pictures at any time of day, but that doesn’t mean you should. As the sun moves across the sky, the light changes significantly. In the middle of the day, the sun is shining from overhead, which casts dark and unflattering shadows. In mid-day, colors appear flat and there’s rarely any ‘wow’ factor to your shots.

If you have the time and opportunity, always opt to shoot earlier or later in the day when the sun is lower in the sky. The best time to shoot is during golden hour when there’s the most color in a scene. It’s pretty incredible how much your photo will improve just by changing the time of day you take a shot.

#7. Not Using The Right Camera Modes

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Another common mistake beginner photographers make is choosing the wrong camera mode for the situation. Now for those of you who are manual shooters, this mistake doesn’t apply as heavily. This is more geared towards automatic shooters using Auto, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or Scene modes.

Not everything you shoot can be captured with the same camera mode. You should choose your camera mode depending on how fast your subject is moving, how much depth of field you want, and what time of day you’re shooting.

Before you take a picture, consider what aspect is most important to you. Do you need to freeze motion, are you wanting a blurry background, do you want motion blur, or do you not want to have much grain in your photos. All of these aspects are important to consider before you choose your camera mode. Click Here to learn more about the best beginner camera modes and settings.

#8. Capturing Blurry Photos

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Just because your photo is in focus, doesn’t mean your final image won’t be blurry. Other aspects play into how sharp your picture is like your aperture and shutter speed settings.

If you are using too wide of an aperture, it’s possible to have such a small depth of field that most of your image is out of focus. With a shallow depth of field, you can have someone’s left eye in focus while the right one is blurry. If you’re using a wide aperture setting like F/1.8, for example, this is an issue to be aware of! Shallow focus is excellent, but only when your subject if fully in focus.

Your shutter speed also plays a role in how sharp your final photo is. If you are using too slow of a shutter speed, the small movements of your hands can translate into a blurry picture. A good rule of thumb to follow is never to use a shutter speed less than 1/60. If you’re using a lens longer than 100mm, don’t use a shutter speed less than the focal length. For example, with a 100mm lens, I shouldn’t use a shutter speed slower than 1/100. This way, you can ensure you keep a sharp photo at all times.

#9. You Haven’t Spent The Time To Learn Your Camera

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One of the biggest common beginner photography mistakes is not fully understanding how your camera works. When you don’t know how to get the most out of your camera, how can you expect to capture the best photo?

If you don’t know your way around your camera like the back of your hand, I’d highly suggest spending some time playing around with it. While you have spare time at home, try flipping through your menus, changing certain settings, and see what happens. As you get more and more proficient with the layout of your camera, the faster you’ll be at making an adjustment in the field. This way, you can ensure you’ll never miss the shot when that perfect moment comes!

#10. Not Backing Up Your Files

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Many beginner photographers make the mistake of not properly backing up their files. Whether you have images stored on a hard drive, your computer, or some sort of cloud storage, there is a chance that that storage device fails. If that device fails, there go all of your photos you’ve been saving. That’s why it’s so important to back up your files.

As the saying goes in the world of photography, ‘one is none‘. Get an additional hard drive to backup your most important images or use an online service like Dropbox or iCloud instead. However you go about it, try to keep everything as redundant as possible with file storage. Electronics can fail, so be sure to back up your images!


So those were 10 common beginner photography mistakes to help you identify if you’re making one of them. There’s a lot to learn with photography, so don’t feel bad by making mistakes as you grow. I’ve made some of these mistakes myself when I first started and learned the hard way in many cases. By using the tips outlined here, you can avoid the same common beginner photography mistakes I and many others have made before you.

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