3 Common Beginner Photography Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Photography beginners listen up, because we’re about to drop some knowledge. This quick video by Mango Street Lab covers three of the most common mistakes photography beginners make, and then turns around and shows you what to do instead.

After their successful YouTube debut a few weeks back, LA-based Daniel Inskeep and Rachel Gulotta are back with another short tutorial, this one aimed at people who are just getting started with photography.

In the 3-minute tutorial, they tackle 3 mistakes they say “all beginner photographers” make. Let’s take them one by one.

1. Blowing out highlights

This one really depends on your camera and the situation you’re shooting in, but if you’re photographing a scene with certain very bright spots—a window, for instance—metering for the interior and blowing out your highlights makes it unlikely you’ll ever recover any detail from those highlights.

Better to expose for the highlights (within reason) and then pull the shadows/exposure up in post.

This advice could be better summed up as “think before you meter,” or: try to keep as much recoverable information in your shot as possible.

2. Posing instead of directing

Our favorite tip of the bunch, Inskeep and Gulotta suggest you stop “posing” your subjects and instead “direct” them. Instead of using pictures of a favorite pose to move people’s head, arm, and body until it fits, “direct” your subjects to portray an emotion or think about something that makes them sad, happy, or pensive.

Directing, especially for a beginner who isn’t familiar with the subtleties of posing, will yield more natural results.

3. Disregarding your light source

Last, but certainly not least, beginners have a tendency to seek out specific subjects, backdrops, or locations, disregarding the most important ingredient: the light.

Great light—created or natural—is the first and main ingredient to great photography. A mediocre location or backdrop can be transformed into something special given great light; even an amazing location or backdrop can fall totally flat in harsh or unflattering light.


These are, of course, far from the only great tips for beginners out there. More advanced readers, help our unexperienced friends out and weigh in or offer some more tips in the comments.

And if you liked these tips, keep an eye on the Mango Street Lab YouTube channel for more.

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