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Learning to be a good photography takes time, patience and lots of learning, most of it through trial and error. There seem to be countless books, classes, tutorials and blog postings how to do, create, setup, finalize, post-process, etc. to yield the best possible image and get that killer shot. Less talked about is what you should never do as a photographer though, and this article will hopefully help you cut down on some of the errors while you are still in trial phase.
Never disrespect your camera equipment. Treat it with care and respect at all times and try your best to keep it out of harms way. Utilize protective, quality UV filters on the end of your lenses to aid against scratching and a lens hood whenever possible as a first barrier to it bumping into something. If there is even a chance of rain while you're shooting outside, get a proper rain guard for your camera. Get a properly padded bag that will hold your gear for transport and to work out of. Never leave your camera gear in a car overnight, no matter how safe your neighborhood is. Not only could it be an easy target for a thief, you could do internal damage to the gear. Most all electronic gear, from digital cameras to computers, have a very narrow margin of tolerance for how they work without issue. The general rule of thumb is, if you are uncomfortable because of heat, cold, dust, dirt,smoke, etc., so are your digital components.
Respect the hired photographer. If you are attending a friend of family members wedding and were not hired to shoot the event, respect the photographer that was. Also understand that most places of worship have fairly strict rules about flashes and where you are and are not allowed during the ceremony. During these instances, it's best to approach the hired photographer prior to the event and ask them if they have any issue with you shooting, as you'd like to get some snaps of the wedding and your friends during the reception. Chances are, they won't mind and will thank you for showing them the respect. Remember, they were hired to do a job, let them do their job and don't interfere.
Don't copy the work of others your own. This is somewhat open to interpretation though. It's nearly impossible to photograph something that hasn't already been photographed, and one of the best ways to learn is to recreate the style or lighting of someone else. Just don't claim it as your own original idea if you are only re-creating it.
Don't judge a photographer based on the gear they use. We all have gear envy from time to time, of that guy who has the newest body or the longest lens, but I'm sure just as much judgment has been passed for someone using what you might assume is inadequate gear. Famed photographer Terry Richardson was notorious for shooting cheap point & shoot 35mm film cameras because his vision is so terrible. His work appears monthly in nearly every major fashion magazine and often graces the cover!
Don't rely on the preset modes of your camera. While you may have a dozen or more presets for snow, action, party, inside and sunny days at your disposal, don't expect them to give you the best possible result. There are three main variables to photography at the camera level:
- Shutter speed
While other variables come into play such as focal distance, flash and subject matter, learning how those three settings interact within each other is crucial to becoming a good photographer. The three main modes most photographers shoot in are:
- Shutter priority
- Aperture priority
Rarely are one of the presets used because understanding the basics will allow you to recreate their presets.
Don't be afraid to ask for help. Swallow your pride and ask for help if you don't understand something. If a tutorial on this site doesn't make sense, utilize the comments section. If you can't find an answer by searching Google, stop in your local camera shop, they are often a wealth of knowledge.
Don't assume your way is the best way. No matter if it's photography or post-processing, if you taught yourself or someone showed you how to do something, chances are there are still better, different or more efficient ways to do the task at hand. Be open to how others work and ask what their work flow or thought process is, it could be very enlightening.
Don't be defensive of your work. Posting your photos to Flickr, DeviantArt, message boards or even your own website / blog could lead to some less then positive comments. Don't dismiss them as slants to you personally, be open to critique and inquire what you perhaps could have done better to make the photo more appealing to the viewer. Soliciting feedback without restrictions is hard for many shooters to swallow as negative comments can crush your feelings, but they can also point out areas to focus and improve on in the future.
Don't ever stop learning. One great thing the Internet has allowed us to do is continuously learn through blogs, news articles and video demonstrations. Don't limit yourself just to the Internet though. One and two day photo workshops are becoming increasingly common in cities across the country, often hosted by a local photographer. Most are limited to only a half dozen people with the focus being on one specific niche, such as fine art nudes or macros. They are often very affordable and a great way to meet fellow photographers. Photo walks are also another way to learn and chat with other photographers, these too are becoming more popular in both urban and country settings.
With so much emphasis on what we should be doing, hopefully these tips on what not to do will enlighten you in a different way.