Three Common Photo Mistakes and How To Fix Them

When you look at a lot of pictures, you begin to see trends in the mistakes.  Look at enough pictures over a long enough time and you’ll start to see the major trends fall into just three or four broad categories.

Anyone can take better pictures by following a few simple guidelines that will help you avoid the big three mistakes that are most common as you look across hundreds of images.

Get In Closer

wide shot
This is as close as I could get without getting wet

Probably the most common mistake I see in photos is that they were taken from too far away.  There’s a huge amount of background and right in the center is the little tiny subject.

The easiest way fix that is just to zoom with your feet and walk up closer to your subject, cutting down at the amount of background in the shot.   Sometimes, like when you’re shooting at the beach, you can’t always do that.

cropped surfer
Now the picture is more interesting with less background

For the times you can’t walk up closer to the subject, you can use your camera’s digital or lens zoom to frame the picture a little tighter.

Okay, you’re as close as you can get on foot and your camera lens is zoomed all the way and it’s still not close enough.  From there you can bump up the image size your camera is shooting to its absolute maximum, and then crop out parts of the picture you don’t want later on your computer.

Use Fill Flash During The Day

fill flash
The lighting is good but there are too many shadows around the subject

It’s ironic that most digital cameras are optimized to take their best pictures at a time of day that the light is less than perfect for taking pictures.  Well, it is what it is and you have to deal with the harsh shadows, ball caps, and squint-eyed subjects that are the result of direct sun.

Fixing direct sun involves a device called a scrim which is a lot of work to set up and take down.

fill flash
Fill flash, a little cropping and this photo is much better
Another option is just to move into a shady area and turn on your camera’s internal flash or use an external flash.

Remember to ask your subjects to remove their sunglasses unless you want them to look like mobsters.

The Point of Interest Does Not Go In The Middle

rule of thirds
The eyes are the subject of a good portrait and don't belong in the center of the photo

It’s called the Rule of Thirds and not the Suggestion of Thirds for a reason.  So many times people will zero in on the subject and want to put it right in the middle of the shot.

In a portrait, the eyes tend to be the point of interest, so make sure they’re not right in the center of the picture.  Put the subject or the point of interest at the intersection of one of the thirds and compose the rest of the shot around that.

If you follow just these three rules, your shots will be better than 90 percent of pictures ever taken.