Photography, just like life, is not black and white. And yet, there are so many rules and blanket statements that seem to be blindly accepted by both amateur and experienced photographers alike. Most of us have fallen for one or more photography myths at some point, especially in early photography days, when you frantically follow every tip given by those (seemingly) more seasoned.
From the equipment you must have to the content your photography website needs to include, we have selected ten of the most common misconceptions shutterbugs easily fall for. Let’s shed some light on how many of them are actually true, and take out the lessons learned from the myth.
Being a photographer is sooo easy
Taking a picture is easy, being a photographer is most definitely not. Anyone can press the shutter, but capturing truly appealing images requires quite a lot of experience, skill, and dedication. The complexity of photography might be something that only photographers realize, as its challenges usually go unnoticed to the untrained eye.
And let’s not even talk about how difficult it is to start a photography business. Everyone seems to believe you make a living out of taking a few photos on the weekends, without even thinking about all the managerial skills, marketing efforts, and editing hours that are behind it all.
Great photos require expensive gear
Just like buying an expensive piano will not make you a good musician, spending a lot of money on an expensive camera will not make you a good photographer. As Ansel Adams said, ‘The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.’ While professional gear provides more flexibility and consistent results, which can help make the job easier, the final result comes down to the photographer’s skills and knowledge and you can take great photos with low-tech gear.
Before spending thousands of dollars on that fancy camera or lens, exhaust your current gear. Master every single function and feature, and invest into expanding your education. You don’t need to look far to see countless bad photos taken with very expensive gear and stunning shots captured with a smartphone.
Shoot as many photos as you can
Known as ‘spray and pray’, this technique assumes that shooting thousands of consecutive pictures will increase your chances of getting that one outstanding photo. This may sound like a good idea, but in reality it usually leads to less interesting shots and a lot more processing work. Limit yourself to a number of photos per day, as if you were shooting film instead. Carefully considering every exposure will result in much better images, and of course it will take less time to review and process them.
You need a huge portfolio
You might be tempted to upload hundreds of images to your photography website so customers can see all that you do, but when it comes to showcasing your work, go for quality over quantity. Select only your best work on the genre or style you want to shoot. That is, don’t create a newborn gallery if you are just interested in being hired as a sports photographer, no matter how cute those babies are.
Customers don’t want to scroll over dozens of landscapes or portraits, they just want to see what you’re capable of doing. If you have an extensive portfolio, share your photos on social media and link those channels to your website so that visitors can head over there if they are interested in seeing more of your work.
Manual mode is the best mode
You are not a real photographer unless you only use manual mode. Ever heard that one before? Here’s the thing: you should definitely learn how to shoot in manual mode. It’s part of mastering the use of your gear and will dramatically improve your technical skills. However, that doesn’t mean that you should glue your camera dial to this mode to avoid using any of the other settings.
Every scene and subject comes with a specific set of requirements, and sometimes that includes quick responses to rapidly changing conditions. Don’t hesitate to switch to aperture priority or shutter priority if the situation requires it, the best mode should be picked according to each situation.
Avoid shooting in bad lighting
‘Bad lighting’ itself is actually a myth – all light is good light. So when people say “I cannot shoot today because it’s rainy/cloudy/too sunny”, what they are really saying is along the lines of “I cannot be bothered to learn how to make the most of this weather”. Don’t look at lighting conditions as a limitation, but as a new challenge to take your photography skills further.
For example, cloudy or overcast days are great to shoot landscapes and portraits due to the lack of contrast. Shooting in harsh midday light? Focus on the shadows, both shooting in the shade and capturing the hard contrast against the light. If you are facing the sun, look for interesting silhouettes.
Always keep the horizon straight
“What?! This is not a myth! Keeping the horizon line straight is essential!” – you might say, and we have to agree. Indeed, most of the time your horizons should be sitting straight. But there are quite a few exceptions to this ‘essential’ rule.
Horizontal lines steady the composition, which in some cases may result in motion loss. This is a big issue when it comes to sports and action photography, as capturing movement is a main factor in these kinds of shots. These compositions can really benefit from camera tilt, as a diagonal horizon results in highly dynamic images that will perfectly capture the subjects’ nature.
Don’t put the subject in the middle
Rule of thirds, golden ratio, Fibonacci… all these guidelines are amazing assets when it comes to learning how to arrange a great shot – but you should not be afraid to experiment with your compositions. And yes, that might include placing your subject in the middle. Patterns and symmetry are part of nature and a huge eye-catcher, don’t miss the chance to capture a stunning shot just because you’re too focused on following the rules.
You must shoot with a tripod
A tripod can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Using one will have a great impact on the sharpness of your photos, and will let you explore new perspectives, shutter speeds, and even genres. But relying too much on it might have a negative impact on your work. Sometimes photographers tend to set their tripod before planning the shot, which significantly narrows down their possibilities. In other cases, they simply leave the camera behind whenever they cannot carry the tripod with them, missing out on numerous photo opportunities on the way. Don’t be scared to simply hand-hold your camera or use a wall or rock when you don’t have it with you.
Post-processing is cheating
There’s a widely spread misconception that image post-processing was born with Photoshop, but it was actually created hand-in-hand with photography itself, over two centuries ago. In the early days, photographers used a number of techniques to edit their images in the darkroom – including dodging and burning, scratching the negatives, blurring, airbrushing, and coloring.
Most images require a bit of post-processing to bring out their full potential, especially if you are shooting in RAW (which you should be) – where the results are usually quite bland. Those who claim they “get it right in camera” are most likely shooting in JPG, which actually just means that the image was automatically processed within the camera. Post-processing is part of the digital photographic process, just as the darkroom is part of the analog photographic process. Just make sure not to over-process them!