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What makes a photograph look professional? Is it using one of the best DSLR cameras? Is it using the best 20mm film? Of course not! You can take amazing photos with an iPhone that would be worthy of sharing on Instagram.
Being a great photographer is all about skill and knowing how to pick the right subjects. Truth be told, it's a skill that can be improved fairly easily, even if you aren't the best at finding decent online photography classes.
The best way to become a good photographer is to avoid amateur photography mistakes people do. The difference is amazing.
Here are some of the biggest goofs you might not have realized you make, advice on how to fix the mistakes you have, and photos that show what happens when you actually get things right.
Forgetting to Compose the Photo
Photo composition makes a huge difference in how good your shots turn out to be. If a photo looks like it's just a slice of life or a tourist shot, it will look amateur by definition. Amateurs don't take time to compose a shot, they just take one.
Take time to come up with a concept shot. If you're not sure how to plan out a shot, take a look at some photography composition tips. You will find them easy to work with and will also notice that your shots will look more artistic.
If there was one single photography aspect that separated the good from the bad, it's lighting. Lighting makes or breaks your ability to create the mood and image you want.
That's why one of the most common amateur photography mistakes out there is choosing lighting that is really not good for photos. Even the most beautiful person will look gross in the wrong lighting.
Bright, harsh lighting tends to be the worst offender, so if you can, try to take photos in light that's soft and diffused. If you really want to get experimental, try color gel lighting setups like the one used in our example above.
Blurry photos are the calling card of an amateur photographer, and it can be due to a number of different amateur photography mistakes. Some just don't hold the camera still enough to get a crisp shot. Others don't lower the ISO to a reasonable level.
Most of the time, it's technical errors that are to blame.
Lower your ISO, and if you have shaky hands, consider investing in a tripod and taking the time to get the crisp shot you need. If things still aren't going well, polish your camera lens.
Not Close Enough to the Subject
Whitespace may be good for certain shots, but the fact is that there's a need to have some closeness to the subject. You want to create a focal point in your shots, and sadly, you can't do that if you're so far away that your subject blends into the background.
Get closer to the subject, or zoom in. Heck, consider doing macro photography if you want to. Make sure that the shot you take has the right kind of composition to work with your photo's goal.
Bad Exposure Levels
Nothing says "amateur" like the old school Myspace-style overexposed shots. Overexposed or underexposed photos don't look sexy or cool. They look stupid and just tend to obscure the details people actually want to see in shots.
This issue is one of the most common amateur photography mistakes you'll see, especially if you're looking at shots from the "Myspace Era" of selfies.
Fix your exposure levels and lower your contrast. There's no need to strain your camera.
The only thing that's worse than seeing a photograph that's poorly composed is a photograph that just doesn't have a subject at all. This is actually an amateur mistake that tends to be done by people who want to show off their artistic muscle, but don't really know how to do it.
Have a subject.
If you have a human as the subject of your photo, then be careful. They may inadvertently cause you to have a number of amateur photography mistakes without you actually doing anything wrong.
We have all seen plentiful photos that were ruined due to a "model" doing a duckface, slouching over shapelessly, or being unable to keep a facial expression. It's bad, yo.
Don't be afraid to coach your models and try to shoot from angles that could be more flattering. Hire models who pay attention to their posing if you can't get others to listen to you.
If you're the model and you're doing selfies, practice posing before you shoot.
Not Photoshopping Your Results
Even the best landscape photographers on Instagram will have things that need to be cleaned up in their shots. No shot is perfect right from the get-go, after all.
These days, if you aren't actually touching up your photos using Photoshop or other photo editing software, you're making a pretty bad mistake. People can and do notice.
Use Photoshop hacks to help spiffy up your shots. Otherwise, just pretend that you're refusing to do it as an "artistic statement."
Not Giving Other Lenses a Try
Don't get me wrong, your basic DSLR lens is a wonderful thing to have in your arsenal, but so are all the other lenses out there. Each lens will have a different effect, and some definitely tend to work better than others.
There are a lot of different dimensions you're missing out on by swearing on one lens for every shot you take. Trust us when we say that people notice, even if they can't quite put their finger on it.
Try out different lenses. A fish eye lens, wide angle lens, or macro lens can all do wonders for ya.
Not Knowing Your Camera
Did you just get a DSLR camera? Congratulations, you are now a person who has some serious photography equipment! The only thing is, you need to know how to use it in order to unlock all the power it offers you.
If you don't know your camera, your lighting, sharpness, and color setups will all go to pot. Even if you have a good model and decent Photoshop skills, you won't get done with much here.
Take a photography course, or just experiment with your camera for a day or two. The more you learn, the better you can avoid amateur photography mistakes.