Jenna Kvidt is the creator of the website, Wander The Map, which focuses on travel, adventure and photography. She has a passion for the outdoors, music and art and seeks them out both at home and while traveling. You can find her tweeting from @wanderthemap or on Facebook.
When you come home from a trip, you will soon want to flip through your photos to remember all your great adventures, but unfortunately you aren’t always happy with the results. Many are the photography mistakes that should be avoided. Sometimes the images don’t truly reflect the amazing experiences you had while exploring the world. Instead, they resemble the same old photographs you see in every other traveller’s Facebook photo album. Here are some common mistakes all beginners make and details on how to fix them, so next time you travel, you will come home with stunning photographs to share!
Photography mistakes to avoid
1. Always shooting from a boring perspective
Don’t just take all your photos from a straightforward perspective—it can get old and repetitive. Try climbing up high or get on the ground for a new, interesting view on your subject. We love to get images from street level views especially when the streets have special characteristics such as the stone and overgrown grass along the riverside in Ghent, Belgium.
2. Not paying attention to scale
It’s hard to tell the size of a waterfall, mountain, etc. if there is nothing in the frame to show its scale. When shooting a landscape scene, try to include a person or other object to show the size of the landscape. For example, in our photo of Iceland’s Skogafoss waterfall, you wouldn’t be able to tell how tall it stands if there was not a person in the lower right hand corner.
3. Ignoring composition
Avoid taking photographs where the subject of your image is in the center of the frame. Apply the rule of thirds, to create photographs that are well balanced and interesting. The rule of thirds means to break your image into thirds both horizontally and vertically and place the focus at one of the four intersection points. Also, make sure to watch your horizon line—unless it’s intentional, keep the horizon line level in the background.
4. Not being in the right place at the right time
Don’t go out in the middle of the day with the intention of taking photographs with great lighting. The best time to shoot is during the golden hour (around sunrise and sunset)—your lighting will be softer and warmer, and it won’t create the harsh shadows that can show up during the middle of the day. While in Norway, the lighting around the fjords was creating harsh shadows during the day, so we decided to wake up early the next morning to catch the warm lighting coming over the mountains.
Also, if you want to photograph a place such as a busy market, make sure to go during the busy time of day. For example, you wouldn’t want to show up to empty streets when you are intending on taking photographs of a street festival. Do your research to make sure you are showing up at right place during the right time.
5. Not using light to your advantage
Don’t forget to use lighting to your advantage. Instead of blowing out the background and losing all the background detail, try another approach and backlight your subject to create a nice silhouette and mood during sunset.
Another way to take advantage of backlighting is adding sun flares to your image for a warm glow.
6. Being unprepared with your equipment
Not knowing how to use your gear is a surefire way to miss a photo opp. Make sure you know how to use your specific equipment so you don’t miss an opportunity because you are adjusting settings. Just think—you are trying to take a photograph of an amazing firework display, but you can’t figure out how to expose properly, so you miss the shot and end up with a blurry dark photo.
Also, bring along extra batteries and memory cards so you aren’t caught unprepared. If using a smart phone, download and play with apps ahead of time. Some of my favorite photo apps are Pro HDR, VSCOcam and Snapseed.
7. Not connecting with your subject
Don’t just snap random photographs of people on the street. If you want to take a photo of someone, ask for their permission to gain a connection with them–sometimes no words are needed and just a smile and nod are enough. The engagement with your subject can make or break a photo. Also, don’t just take a photo of a person standing in front of a landmark, get your subject to interact with the environment. Sometimes a reaction to an event tells the best story.
8. Not paying attention to cropping and framing
Don’t forget to pay attention to your framing and how you crop your image. Plan your shot and use your space wisely. Make sure to have the entire subject in your frame unless you are purposely cropping out a portion—nothing is worse than chopping off the top of a person’s head unintentionally. Also try leaving negative space in the frame for a strategic impact.
9. Forgetting the details
Don’t always take photographs from far away. Focus on capturing unique details and get in close to your subject. Zoom in on a beautiful souvenir, animal, food, or flower for a visually interesting photograph. These types of shots help tell a story and little details can make a big impact. For example, when we went orange picking in Orlando, we chose to focus on the oranges that had fallen from a tree in addition to wider shots of the entire tree itself.
10. Ignoring your background
Not using signs or backgrounds to help tell a story can be a mistake. If a sign will add humour or create a context for your subject, make sure to include it. But, if part of the background or a sign disagrees with your image’s story, leave it out of the frame. We took advantage of adding a little humour to our photo at a restaurant in Northern Ireland.
11. Don’t take pictures, make pictures
Instead of snapping photos randomly everywhere you go, take your time and create photos with intention. Determine the story you want to tell and create a picture to reflect what you want to say. Different lenses help tell your story; for example, a wide angle lens tells more about the space and environment, while a telephoto lens tells more about a specific subject. The Grand Canyon is a perfect spot for a wide angle lens as you can really capture the entire environment.
12. Following all the rules
Learn all of the rules, and throw them out the window. Once you know the rules, you know how to break them. Get creative, get inspired and remember it’s not always the quality of the photo, but the moments you capture.