5 Common Photography Myths Completely Debunked!

Common Photography myths

Image by Jeff Leonhardt

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Common Photography Myths – Here's My Take On This

How many of you were told things as children that you later found to be, at best, inaccurate; at worst, entirely untrue? I would venture to guess everyone has experienced this.

It just seems unavoidable that we will be exposed to all sorts of myths and questionable ideas. Some ideas are surely more dangerous than others, but we find them in nearly all areas of life, even in photography.

If you’ve never stopped to think about what some of those photography related myths are, below you will find a small sampling to mull over.

1. Technical Perfection Creates Better Photos

Quite simply, this is so often not the case.

Exposure, composition and sharpness are undeniably important qualities but they are not the ultimate measure of what makes a good photo. The belief that technical perfection is inextricably tied to crafting a worthwhile photograph is something I’ve addressed previously:

“The ability to create compelling photos relies most heavily on vision and instinct; it’s about capturing a moment. Moments — if we were to somehow think of them as being sentient things — don’t care about your f-stop or ISO setting.”

It seems too many modern photographers obsess about buying the perfect camera (when it’s arguable that there are no bad cameras on the market today) as a means of creating the perfect image.

Photographers of yesteryear, with their comparably crude cameras, made photos that have lasted the test of time. One of the many lessons that we, with all our technological dependence, should glean from the masters is that memorable photos aren’t necessarily perfect photos.

Try one of Photzy's popular guides on the essentials of “Understanding Composition”. It's a learned skill we can all improve on in order to make our photography, just better. Without a clear basic understanding of composition, your photography is highly likely to suffer as a result. No on wants that!

Corridor
Photo by Jason Devaun

 

2. You Should Always Use the Lowest ISO Setting

If “always” comes off as being a bit hyperbolic, that’s because it is. Shooting at ISO 100 all the time in an effort to get the cleanest images possible just isn’t necessary in an era when more than a few digital cameras are capable of spitting out high quality images at ISO 3200 and higher.

You’re handcuffing yourself trying to stick to the lowest ISO setting in every situation. There absolutely are times when using the lowest ISO is preferable: landscape photography, long exposure photography and studio portraiture to name a few.

Otherwise, you should do whatever you need to do to get the shot; if that means boosting ISO, do it. A little noise won’t do any harm.

Black swans on frozen lake
Photo by Matt Biddulph

 

3. Less Depth of Field Means More Attractive Photos

Shallow depth of field and the bokeh that comes along with it, are surely pleasing to the eye, but these are not qualities that alone determine whether you’ve got a compelling photo. Not everything needs to be shot at f/1.8.

I understand that it’s tempting to constantly shoot wide open when you get your first fast prime, but it can easily be overused. One of the skills you have to develop as a photographer is assessing the relationship between your subject and the environment; once you figure that out, you’ll know that there are situations that call for f/1.8 and situations that call for f/11.

sooc
Photo by Nasser ..

 

4. Manual Mode is the Best Mode

Championing the idea that manual mode is the ultimate measure of one’s expertise or that pros only use manual mode is painfully shortsighted. Possessing the know-how to manually control your camera is valuable, no question. But with that skill in your pocket, the shooting mode becomes a matter of choice.

Plenty of pros use aperture priority and shutter priority; there are even those who unabashedly use program mode. Why? Because as a photographer you adapt to your environment and do whatever it takes to get the shot.

Having a preference for one mode over another isn’t a problem; suggesting that one mode is invariably better than another is. Your best bet is to learn what each mode is generally most useful for and choose accordingly.

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5. A Photo is a Reflection of the Truth

No, a photo tells a version of the truth. Even before you get into all the controversy surrounding images that have been heavily manipulated in Photoshop, it’s important to realize that a certain degree of filtering occurs before a shot is snapped.

A street photographer, for instance, might proclaim she simply captures the world as she sees it — which is true, but “as she sees it” is the operative notion here.

Another street photographer will interpret and capture the same scenes in different ways. Photographers must:

  • Decide how they will portray their subject,
  • What they will include in the background, and
  • How they will present everything to the viewer.

The truth, then, immediately takes on a certain degree of subjectivity. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just something to be aware of next time you raise the camera to your eye and press the shutter button.

 

Conclusion

Much of what we learn about photography might easily be taken with a grain of salt — meter for “proper” exposure, use the rule of thirds, don’t shoot against the light.

I’m not suggesting that these are useless ideas but they are just that: ideas, guidelines that can — and often should — be ignored or reworked for greater artistic effect.

A proper exposure is whatever you need it to be to convey the desired mood; there are a multitude of ways to compose a shot; you can’t make a silhouette if you don’t shoot against the light.

Just remember, rules were made to be broken; myths exist to be debunked. Learn all you need to establish a solid foundation of fundamentals, then blow it all up and unleash the artist within you! These common photography myths are just that…myths.

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Try one of Photzy's popular guides on the essentials of “Understanding Composition”. It's a learned skill we can all improve on in order to make our photography, just better. Without a clear basic understanding of composition, your photography is highly likely to suffer as a result. No on wants that!

Further Resources

About the author

Jason D. Little

Jason Little is a photographer (shooting macros, portraits, candids, and the occasional landscape), writer, and music lover. You can see Jason’s photography on Flickr, his Website or his Blog.

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