A Few Subtle But Critical Mistakes All Photographers Make (At Some Point)


Photography, just like most of the visual art forms, relies on perfect execution yet there are still those subtle mistakes photographers make from time to time (even if only as amateurs).

Let's take a painter for example, when he uses an incorrect color or composition, no matter how good his brush technique is – that painting sadly, just won't work.

The same principle applies to photography.

The more mistakes, the less value the photos have. Therefore, you've got to be really careful about what you photograph and the way you post process the photos.

subtle mistakes photographers make
Image by David Mark

Let us go over some of the more common and subtle mistakes photographers make.

Oversaturating Your Images

Having nice and vibrant colors in a photograph is every photographer’s dream. However, that is often over-compensated by cranking up the saturation.

This is especially prominent if you have been staring at the photo for hours. Your eyes get used to the excess of color and compensate for it, giving you the illusion that the photo isn't vibrant enough. In reality, however, it is probably oversaturated and you are tired.

The remedy?

Rest and have another look in the morning.

subtle mistakes photographers make
Image by Alexandr

As you probably notice in this example, the green is so saturated that it looks like it has been painted with a highlighter marker. This would look quite better if the saturation was in the “normal values.”

Additionally, saturation is best applied selectively.

The subject, in theory, should be slightly more saturated than the rest of the image. But that difference is better made by desaturating the rest of the image instead.

The biggest mistake to learn from is to try and add color in a scene that's not too vibrant. This will result in a weird color palette, and color noise will get really amplified, and posterizing will begin to occur.


To observe the damage, try saturating a shot in foggy or overcast weather. You’ll see that you can't boost color when there is none.

Basically, just try to keep things as realistic as possible.

Not Utilizing Available Light

Light is by far the most essential element in photography, period.

The only issue is that rookie photographers often fail to judge the light properly and end up with worse shots than the conditions allowed for.

One imperative is that the eye sees the brightest part of the picture first. Therefore it is wise to use this phenomenon to your advantage. In case the subject can't be brighter than the background, make sure that the background is simple and uniform, so the subject can stand out and attract the eye by contrast.

If the light is too harsh, or from a bad angle, it will ruin the photo. Never make compromises regarding light.

We have several tutorials on managing, shaping and choosing the right light, so make sure you give them a read if you feel like your light game is weak.

Remember, proper light makes the picture. No compromises there.

Light Needs Practice:

  • Start by analyzing light sources and how they affect the subject.
  • Experiment with distance and the size of the light source.
  • Just remember, the size of the light source is relative to the subject.
  • The Sun is bigger than the Earth, and yet it is a small light source because it is quite far.

Not Paying Attention to Your Composition

With great light, comes a great photo. Well, only if you don't mess up the composition and framing that is. You see, composition is pretty much as important as light since both work in unison to create a great image.

The most common mistake in composing a photo is making it too busy.

Having too many elements in the picture will confuse the viewer, therefore concentrating on one or two elements will result in a cleaner look and get you a more appealing picture. That's why portraits work wel with a shallow depth of field: when the other elements in the picture except the model are blurry, the viewer knows what to look at without any doubt.

subtle mistakes photographers make
Image by Jason Goh

Take this image above, although a candid shot of a street in Japan, the viewer's eyes are essentially all over the place.

Another common mistake is the skewed horizon. If the horizon is visible, it has to be straight. Uneven horizon looks amateurish from the get go and devalues the images a lot. It is an easy fix, so make sure it is captured properly.

If you're going to make the horizon skewed – it MUST be deliberate and look obvious to the viewer so that it does not distract but adds to the overall composition of the photograph.

Using compositional techniques is always wise, things like rule of thirds, symmetry, guiding lines, contrast, and so forth will always work well in your photography.


Mistakes happen. However, these subtle mistakes photographers make can quite often be remedied with a little care and analysis.

The problem occurs when certain mistakes occur quite often, and on a global scale. That is why working on those particular aspects is worthwhile. That will separate you from those who are ignorant towards it, and that is how the photographer grows.

Learn. Adapt. Overcome.

These mistakes are just three common, yet quite unnoticed things that affect many photographers, and yet they still persist. By taking these tips into account, hopefully, we will start seeing improvement in some of the basic areas of photography across all platforms online.

Further Resources

Further Learning

Understanding Light – an advanced guide you really must take a look at.
Why? Have you stopped and thought for a moment why your images are looking good but not really good?
This is “Your Chance to Truly Master Light And Produce Amazing, Inspiring Images.”

About Author

Photographer who loves challenging and experimental photography and loves sharing his knowledge about it.

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