Posted June 17, 2012 by Gavin Hoey in Articles

Five avoidable photography traps

From time to time every photographer I’ve ever met has fallen into one or more of these traps. I know that I’ve done all of these at one time or another and if you’re honest, so have you. In fact you’re probably stuck in one of these traps right now.

Any one of the things on this list could be preventing you from becoming the photographer you aspire to be and the more of these you identify with, the more you’re holding yourself back.

Here comes the good news… Once you’re aware of the traps it’s incredibly easy to amend your ways, bypass the problem and improve your enjoyment of photography. By the way, a happy photographer is a better photographer in my book.

Trap 1 – Not reading the manual
5-1Like most men it’s in my DNA to avoid reading anything that has the words “User Manual” on the front cover. I might flick through the “Quick start guide” if something looks very complex but lets face it, who has time to read a whole book? However I make an exception to that rule when it comes to cameras.

Digital SLR cameras are super complex things and although controlling them usually becomes easier with each new model the menus can hide a wealth of advanced features which could help you get more from your camera.

Things like mirror lockup for shake free tripod shots, flash exposure compensation and setting up custom menus for your favourite features could be just the ticket to taking your photography to the next level. Even if you don’t use those features now, by reading the manual at least you’ll know that a feature is there, so when the time comes that you really need something like second curtain flash, you can do what I do, hunt around in the menu muttering “I know it’s here somewhere”.

Trap 2 – Not filling the frame
5-2There will always be a time when you can’t zoom the lens anymore and moving closer isn’t possible. That’s not what I’m talking about here. No, what I mean are the times you see something that has the potential to be a great photo and then photograph the thing that caught your eye AND everything that’s around it.

When you’re taking the photo try and think about the story it will tell to someone else. A magnificent sweeping landscape needs lots of space, a photo of a flower does not.

Of course there are always exceptions to every rule but on the whole filling the frame will add impact, drama and interest to your subject. Remember, if it’s not part of the story you want your photo to tell, leave it out.

Trap 3 – Shooing at eye height
5-3Here’s what happens. You see something you really want to photograph so you grab your camera, frame up the shot and take the image. But when you look at other peoples photos of the same subject, they always seem to look different. Why?

One of the fastest and most effective ways to create a photo that looks different is to shoot from a high or low angle. Going lower is the easiest of the two and something as simple as dropping down to one knee is often all it takes to transform a humdrum image into something a little special.

Think about it. You always see the world at eye height so looking at photos taken at the same height really isn’t that different. Looking at the world from the height of a child is always more fun, as is getting a birds eye view.

Trap 4 – Going Stale
Writers get writers block and so photographers must get photographers block. At some time we all run out of creative enthusiasm and when it happens it can be crippling. The only way I’ve found to reverse the feeling is to force yourself to go and photograph something, anything!

Things that can make you go stale include…

5-4Visiting the same locations time and time again. The world is a big old place, go somewhere new for once and see what you can find to photograph.

Shooting on your own can be great but taking along a photo buddy will often make the experience far more enjoyable and what did I say about happy photographers?

Sticking to what you know is generally a good idea. You can become an expert landscape photographer or wildlife photographer. But every now and then venture outside your comfort zone and photograph something you’ve never done before. Sports, portraits, night shoots or whatever takes you fancy.

Still feeling stale? Book onto a workshop that will allow you to try something new, whilst meeting new photographers and visiting new locations.

Trap 5 – Being a virtual photographer
5-5I love the internet, it’s changed my world forever. I could spend all day on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube just following other photographers and learning new skills. Well that’s what I tell myself I’m doing but good as the internet is, you can’t beat a bit of real, hands on photography.

So grab your camera and go and take a photo of anything right now (no not a photo of your keyboard). Learning the theory is important but so is putting it into practice.

Putting your photos online is a great way of sharing your passion, but don’t get caught up in reading every comment, answering every question and passing judgement on every other photographers work you see. Step away from the computer every once in a while and watch your photography soar.

Gavin Hoey