Six Photography Mistakes You May Not Realize You're Making

Six Photography Mistakes You May Not Realize You're Making

Just like learning in any practice or aspect of life, the more you learn, the more you realize what you don't know or haven't learned. It's natural; it happens. There's so much for all of us to learn. Here are a few mistakes that I couldn't believe I was making during my photography career.

1. Fix That Chromatic Aberration

An example of chromatic aberration. See the cyan-ish color along the fringe of the hat? This is most frequent when hard contrasting colors like black and white meet.

Ever zoom in on your photos and see those cyan-ish and magenta edges fringing along your photo's subject? This is called "chromatic aberration." Don't worry, this is very easy to fix. What chromatic aberration actually is, to put it simply, where contrasting areas of the image meet and a lens is unable to bring all wavelengths of color to the same focal plane. In turn, this causes purple or cyan "fringing." Removing chromatic aberration is one of the first adjustments I make when editing a photo. Here's a quick fix for this issue below:

2. Adjusting Your Lens' Fine-Tune AF

Here's a textbook example of front-focusing. While her hands are sharp in the image, her face is apparently not sharp and is out of focus. This is a scenario where the autofocusing of a lens needs to be fine-tuned.

After purchasing a brand spanking new lens back in my amateur years, I could not wait to try it out! I mean, it was new so there shouldn't be any issues out of the box, right? Wrong. I kept finding my photos "front-focused" on my subject's hands instead of their eyes. After becoming frustrated, I began to research and figured out that this is not uncommon. In fact, it's rare to find a lens fine-tuned out of the box. Here is a simple way to properly fix your "Fine-Tune AF" setting for your lens using a ruler:

3. Auto-Saving Your Photoshop Files

You save your precious Photoshop files every five minutes while retouching in case it crashes, right? Nope, me neither. While we should all make a habit of this, we do get into the zone while editing at times, and it'd be nice for Photoshop to have our back in case our computer crashes. Luckily, they do with their automatic file recovery feature, but you must activate it. Here's how:

4. Retouching Using a Wacom Tablet

If you haven't picked one up yet and intend to step up your editing/retouching game, you need to today! I used to dodge and burn with my mouse (yes, my mouse). No, I will never make that mistake again; I picked up my Wacom and never looked back. Retouching is an art form in itself; a Wacom tablet is an essential tool needed to get the job done. While it may take a week or two to get used to, it will eventually speed up your workflow twofold. Thousands of photographers and retouchers would concur; it's simply a tool they cannot live without! 

5. Remove 'Banding'

Banding in photos is a common nuisance that is found in images where the transitions between colors are not smooth; this is often found in images that include the sky or a gradient from lighting in studio. Some people won't even notice, but some will, and if you're like me, this will drive your OCD or the perfectionist in you nuts. So, how can this be fixed? There are many different ways to accomplish this. However, I have found that adding noise to your image renders the best results. 

6. Backing Up Your Files Using RAID

Beyond that expensive camera, lens, or that speedy desktop,your images are priceless. You can replace equipment; what you cannot replace are your images. Simply backing them up to an external hard drive is not enough. There's a chance that your external hard drive will fail, which can leave you in a messy situation that could be avoided. This is why using a RAID hard drive in RAID 1 gives you peace of mind when backing up your data. RAID 1 is where you have two copies of the same file; therefore, if one of your hard disks crashes, your data will still be safe in the other. 

These are mistakes that could be quite easy to overlook, or you simply may not have discovered yet. There's so much to learn as you grow as a photographer. I am guilty of discovering these mistakes during different points of my amateur years and even some professionally. With that being said, are there any easy mistakes that you took a while to realize? Let us know in the comments!

Lead image courtesy of Jason Vinson.

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38 Comments

Marius Weber's picture

Shure some helpfull tips! Might have to finetune the autofocus soon...

Not leveling the horizon line in post is the mistake I see most often in my old work and in new photographers. It makes the world of difference in my eyes.

Is Photoshop crashing a Mac issue? I've been using it on a PC since 2000, and can't recall it crashing on me. And if I reboot without closing, it shows me the recovered images.

Nick Pecori's picture

I've had my MacBook crash in unique circumstances, in those situations it has saved me hours of PS work.

"hours" ??? You should save more often then ;-)
I've seen plenty of PS crashing on PC.
I save often enough but very rarely one of those crashes corrupts the PSD file then all your work is gone. That may happen once in a year but it's still anoying as hell. So the solution for me has been to have a backup program running in the background saving versions of my file on another disk.

"In fact, it's rare to find a lens fine-tuned out of the box"
Is it? I got a bit scared and checked all my lenses(70-200 f/2.8 IS II, 17-40 f/4 , 24-105 f/4, 100 f/2.8, 50 f/1.4 and 85 f1.8) and all of them are spot-on. 50mm is second hand and pretty old and 100mm once took a nasty drop and the filter thread is chipped so am I lucky or is this statement not really true?

Nick Pecori's picture

Every lens I've purchased has needed a little tuning (Nikon), I've even had to do it for friends of mine with new lenses. Maybe 'rare' was a strong word to use, but it is certainly not uncommon

Cristian Canessa's picture

Hi how do I do it with a zoom lens? All way out or all in? Specifically with the 24-70 2.8 nikon. Regards

Michael Comeau's picture

+1

I've owned 10+ lenses (including some used and refurbished) and they were all perfect out of the box.

I've got at least a dozen Canon lenses, and no issues. But an older Sigma in Canon mount was terrible.

Sean Molin's picture

With lenses slower than about f/2 it's usually hard to tell, but there are manufacturing tolerances to take into account. Almost every lens I've ever owned needed some amount of AF fine tuning. I also shoot almost exclusively with fast primes wide open where you can certainly tell. I shot an 85mm f/1.4 out of the box for a couple years and thought it was just fine. Until I actually used it against a Lens Calibration chart. It was consistently front-focusing very, very slightly. So while it was acceptably sharp before, it was critically sharp afterwards.

stir photos's picture

Removing or not having disturbing elements in my shots was a big problem when just starting (still sometimes happens 4 1/2 years later).

Daris Fox's picture

RAID is not a back up solution, it's an uptime solution. If you are looking at back up solutions then you should have separate drives as if you have corruption on an array it will propagate to all drives and ideally you should also have off-site back ups and/or offline storage.

I have seen a drive fail which corrupted the whole array and was unrecoverable. Not a good situation to be in. Back ups should ideally follow the Rule of Three or at the very least Grandfather-Father-Son routines.

Sean Molin's picture

Came here to say exactly this. Very, very important to know. Not only is it not 100% safe as Daris said, but you'd be surprised how often two drives in an array fail before a recovery can be made. I worked in corporate IT and saw it more than once.

RAID is also slower to write than using just a single drive (or JBOD configuration) so it's not good to be running RAID on a primary working drive even if you think it's a backup solution anyway. I have RAID on my backup, but it's on an actual backup. My working drives get backed up to a NAS. Then the NAS is configured in RAID 5. At no point does RAID ever come close to my main machines.

Nick didn't specially say RAID *is* a backup (he said it's peace of mind with your backup, which it is), but I want to be absolutely clear to anyone who may be confused!

**EDIT** I just realized the article is talking about RAID 1, not RAID 5. Everything I said applies to RAID 5. RAID 1, as Nick said, is just a byte-to-byte copy from one drive to another. My point about performance still applies, so I would still suggest only using RAID (1, 5, or any other) on your backup. That is... have a primary drive NOT in RAID and backup that up to a drive that has more drives for redundancy. Yes, that means you'd need two backup drives for one drive worth of data in RAID 1.

If you are properly storing 3 copies of everything with one of those being off-site (cloud or physical), then RAID 5 is going to be plenty for your local backup solution. You can store more data with less drives and still have redundancy. In this case your three copies would be WORKING -> LOCAL BACKUP (RAID) -> OFF-SITE

And yes, off-site is really that important. Houses burn down. Basements flood. Robbers steal. Earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes are real.

Pete W's picture

"if you have corruption on an array it will propagate to all drives"

I agree! As I am sure you know RAID setups are a great way to protect one from single hard-drive failures but that certainly is assuming a stable RAID setup.

That said many moons back I implement a new hardware RAID setup but it's firmware (v 1.0 - stop laughing) was seriously buggy. It wasn't too long before the problematic firmware corrupted all my drives giving me the infamous Blue-screen-of-death!

Needless to say without the proper backups I would have lost everything! So, yes indeed as great as RAID is it can be yet another point of failure (as any hardware/software can be) thus one needs to be always ready with a good 3-copy backup plan.

RAID is NOT BACKUP. RAID is AVAILABILITY!

If you want a backup, frequently make copies to media that are not powered and not connected to your system, and store off-site as required.

Tyler Newcomb's picture

I'm not a raid expert, but I thought it was backup depending on the level of raid you use?

Pete W's picture

You are correct, a RAID system can be configured for "mirroring." This where the contents of one drive is copied or mirrored to another. Therefor if one or the other drive fail the system will automatically draw from the working drive.

Anders Madsen's picture

RAID is not backup regardless of the level. RAID just makes it less likely that a defective drive will cause data loss, but if you delete a folder by mistake, RAID will not help you at all - the folder will be gone.

A good way to improve both working speed and data integrity is this:

Working data:
4 disks in RAID1+0 (sometimes called RAID10) in your workstation. You will be writing to two disks in parallel and reading from four - that will improve performance quite a lot.

If one disk fail, your primary data is still OK and you can continue working in a pinch (however, losing another disk may cause your data to be lost and need to be recovered from backup). Still, replace the defective disk as soon as possible, and if you can, keep a spare disk around for this purpose.

Backup:
3 or 6 disks in RAID 5 in a NAS or similar, used for backing up your data. Write speed will be a little slower than writing to a single disk (probably even slower since you are writing across the network), but read speed will be pretty good since you are reading from 3 disks in parallel - that will improve restore time if you have lost your original data.

Always have backups happen automatically at least once a day and always keep backups for a week and have an archive where no backed up files ever are deleted. Sometimes you will not realize that you have deleted a file for quite a while and then your archive will save your bacon.

Pete W's picture

My post was NOT a recommendation as it was more a definition!
Don't see the value of being lost in the semantics?

One very vital point of a backup is to have protection from one's own stupidity, i.e., "nah, I don't need that folder ever again. Ooops." We're all human, we will all have such a moment eventually, and no active and easily reachable storage will help you when it happens. It also won't protect you from malware.

For something to be called a backup, it should really be removed from easy access by a certain level of cognitive work, and it should be well outside your everyday actions.

A single, cheap (but brand) external USB disk that you make a point of only ever attaching for a backup run and then immediately unplug it and put it back in a closet or fireproof safe can be better at that than an expensive rack of online disks. Yes, there's a chance that it will die too, but it very likely won't be affected by whatever nukes your work environment because it will have a vastly different workload.

Not sure about the wacom. Been doing it for 20 years and rarely found the wacom any more helpful or faster. Thou I do own a xl intous. I don't see not owning one as a common mistake. Not every photographer does fashion or headshots. But i can see it as a recommended tool to consider in their setup.

Tyler Newcomb's picture

For me, it's an excessive extra cost for now at least. For $200 i could upgrade my camera significantly to something worth $500 used! (I'm on a really tight budget, and have a really old entry level dslr, do upgrading isn't difficult)

I ended up giving my wacom away, i couldn't get into. It wasn't without several attempts using it in post. Been using a trackball for about 15 years now, hard habit to break? It seems the key is to find the tool that best fits your minds eye.

Nick Pecori's picture

Interesting. I purchased a Wacom, because I bought one that was too big (couldn't fit in my backpack) I returned it and just never got another one. A year later, I gave it another shot and never looked back. It has a 'drawing' quality that you won't get from a mouse. It's essential for my retouching.

Tyler Newcomb's picture

But raid is so expensive! There should be a program you can run on your computer that will backup files to two connected hard drives. When you save to one location, it will also copy it to a second one. That would also be better because the program would only write, so if one drive fails it won't be immediately copied as a blank drive. Any programmers or coders out there? We could launch a startup, contact me ;)

There is way. You can do a daisy chain of drives. firewire800 or thunderbolt will do the trick. I basically have a simple setup. one mirrors itself to another drive while a third drive acts as a back up. These are firewire800s. at the time it cost me $600.00. You can do the same setup now for less. But you are still spending a good $400 to $600. a 8tb raid will cost you about $800.

you also build up to it. as you grow, so does your system and equipment. to expect someone to start their journey as a photographer with a complete setup is unrealistic. Unless you have extra money to throw away. Which the majority of people don't.

Mac OS does this with the built-in Drive Utility. You simply setup what they refer to as a "Software Mirrored" set of drives and all data written to one is also copied to the second.

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