Professional photographers Daniel and Rachel of Mango Street have published a helpful video that covers the 8 most common mistakes that they see beginner photographers make. In other words: these are the 8 reasons why your photos suck, and how to fix them.
This isn’t the first (and it won’t be the last) advice video for beginners that we’ve seen and shared, but there’s good reason to revisit some of these points over and over again. Not only because there are always fresh faces discovering their passion for photography, but because even experienced photographers can lose sight of the basics from time to time.
And it’s the basics that Daniel and Rachel cover in this video: from planning your shoots, to prioritizing lighting, to editing your photos in a “timeless” way that doesn’t follow short-lived Photoshop trends.
In short, the 8 reasons discussed in the video are:
- You Don’t Plan Your Shoots – Take the time to plan out what you’re trying to capture and how you’re going to do it. There is no substitute for good planning.
- You Follow Trends Too Closely – It’s fine to imitate photographers who inspire you, but try to draw inspiration from multiple sources and add your unique perspective to each shoot.
- Your White Balance is Wrong – It might seem basic, but issues with white balance are one of the most common mistakes Daniel and Rachel see online.
- You Don’t Prioritize Lighting – Lighting is “hands down the most important element” in your photography. Don’t forget that.
- Your Photos Don’t ‘Say’ Anything – Great photographers capture photos with a message or story embedded in that frame. Find a subject you’re passionate about, and photograph that.
- Your Composition is Boring – Good composition “leads” the viewer’s eye to the focal point of the image. Bad composition lacks structure, confusing the viewer.
- Your Subject Doesn’t Stand Out – Think about how your angle, focal length, aperture, and composition will affect your subject and their relationship to the background.
- Your Photos are Under (or Over) Edited – Try to edit your photos using “timeless” techniques. Strong HDR, crushed blacks, and other photo editing trends will immediately “date” your photos to when those trends were popular. On the flip side, if you shoot RAW, leaving your photos unedited simply isn’t a good idea.
Check out the full video up top to dive into each of these points in detail—including example photos of the “Do”s and “Don’t”s. And if you want to go even further down this rabbit hole, you can find many more helpful “common mistakes” videos for beginners by diving into the PetaPixel archives.