Let’s face it…
When it comes to creating an incredible photograph, a lot can go wrong along the way.
There’s the creative aspects of photography to think about like composition.
But there’s also the technical aspects of photography that can trip you up – understanding exposure, for example, or knowing how to use your camera’s controls to get the best shot.
It’s a lot to take in, but sometimes the simplest of mistakes are the ones that most commonly cause your photos to be a little lacking.
With that in mind, let’s have a look at four mistakes – all of which are camera settings – that you can fix to get better photos.
Using the Wrong Focus Point
Many photographers – especially beginners – rely on the camera to get the shot in focus.
Though this can work in some situations, in others, the camera gets it completely wrong, focusing on something other than the subject.
You can guess what happens when the focal point is wrong – the subject isn’t in focus.
The fix: To ensure that your images are sharply in focus, you need to tackle selecting the focus point and ensuring it is on the subject yourself.
Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find your images are in focus more often. This is a little easier said than done, though, because each camera system will vary regarding the process of selecting the autofocus point.
Consult your owner’s manual for specific instructions. Otherwise, learn more about autofocus points in the video above by AdoramaTV.
Using the Wrong Aperture
A related issue to having a subject that’s out of focus is using an aperture that’s simply far too large.
I know when I got my first prime lens (a 50mm f/1.8) I immediately shot every portrait at f/1.8.
The problem with doing that is that it minimizes the depth of field so much that if you’re photographing a couple or a family, you run the risk of one person being in focus and another not being in focus.
What’s more, you might find that parts of a person’s face are out of focus too.
For example, at f/1.8, even though you have the focus point over the person’s left eye, their right eye or their nose or ear might be out of focus due to the shallow depth of field.
The fix: Shoot at a smaller aperture.
You don’t have to go to f/22 either…
Try shooting at f/2.8 or f/4. That should give you enough depth to avoid the focus issues mentioned above while still giving you a large enough aperture for nice background bokeh.
Learn more about aperture and how it impacts depth of field in this guide. Also have a look at the video above by PhotoFonz.
Being Afraid of Boosting the ISO
For years, photography writers have railed against using a high ISO because the higher the ISO, the more digital noise (or grain) that appears in the photo.
This was due in part to the terrible ISO performance of older digital cameras. But that’s now changed.
Today’s cameras offer excellent ISO performance, even at levels that were once unheard of. Yet, photographers still fear boosting the ISO.
This is a mistake because there are situations in which you need to shoot handheld, and doing so means you need to use a shutter speed that’s fast enough to avoid motion blur.
One of the ways you do that is to boost the ISO value, thus making the camera’s sensor more sensitive to light.
The fix : Be bold and use a higher ISO.
In sunny conditions, you can shoot up to about ISO 400 without any issues. In the shade or at dusk, try pushing it to ISO 1600. At night, go to 3200 or 6400.
You’ll likely find that the presence of noise is much less than what you might expect. You might even find that the quality of the noise adds a pleasing dynamic to your images.
What you’ll certainly discover is that your images are sharper as a result of being willing to use a higher ISO. If you need a refresher on ISO, check out the video above by Kingston Technology.
Not Using Exposure Compensation
When tricky lighting situations arise, exposure compensation (indicated as a +/- on your camera) should be your go-to camera setting to correct any issues.
Yet, many beginning photographers don’t use this handy feature.
Basically, your camera’s light meter reads a scene and tries to make everything appear as neutral gray.
In a lot of situations, this works just fine.
However, when lighting is challenging, such as when there are a lot of bright or dark tones, the meter can be fooled into thinking that the scene is much brighter or much darker than it actually is.
For example, if you’re photographing a snowy landscape, all that white will trick the camera into thinking the scene is extremely bright. The result is that it will darken the image, making the snow look gray instead of white.
The fix: Use exposure compensation.
In a nutshell, exposure compensation allows you to quickly overexpose or underexpose your images. Think of it as veto power of what the camera wants to do.
For example, if you want to make an image brighter, just use positive exposure compensation to brighten the photo. To darken an image, dial in negative exposure compensation.
How much you can compensate the exposure depends on the camera. Some give you wide latitude while others are more restricted.
Learn how to use exposure compensation in the video above by Spyros Heniadis.
Wrapping It Up
So, that’s four simple mistakes you might be making that negatively impact your photos.
Give each of these tips a try, see how they change the quality of your images, and make them a part of your normal workflow when you take photos.
I think you’ll find that you won’t be making these mistakes ever again!