What's Your Worst Habit as a Photographer? Here are Seven That Could Be Holding You Back

What's Your Worst Habit as a Photographer? Here are Seven That Could Be Holding You Back

It's easy to pick up bad habits in anything you do, and photography is no different. Here are seven that you ought to check for and make sure they haven't crept into the way you work.

We all have bad habits, beginners and veterans alike. Whether it's something you've picked up from somebody else, or something that has wheedled its way into your work flow over years, we've all got some lying around. Make sure you leave yours in the comment section below. Meanwhile, here are seven of the most common I have seen (and in many cases, done!)

1. Chimping

We'll start with the classic that every photographer is guilty of at one point or another. Chimping is when you spend too much time looking down at the back of your camera at previous shots you've taken, and not just concentrating on taking more shots. If you're not completely confident with getting your settings right straight away, then spend some time chimping at the start to make sure they're correct, then concentrate on shooting. It's easy to miss great shots because you were admiring a good one.

2. Playing it Safe

Speaking of good shots, this can be another bad habit, and again, one we're all guilty of from time to time: playing it safe. Once you get to a level where you can create images you like and that might be well received, you can easily stagnate. Make sure you are always pushing yourself to improve and don't allow yourself to play it safe with your photography. I wrote an article on this premise earlier in the year and the title summarizes what I mean: To Take Your Photography to the Next Level, Push Past the Safe and Risk Missing the Shot.

3. Holding the Camera Incorrectly

Photo by Ekaterina Belinskaya from Pexels.

It's remarkable how easy it is to get something so simple, wrong. And very little is ever said about holding a camera, so many new photographers presume it to be intuitive and obvious. This can lead to a number of mistakes. There are a few that are particularly common. The self-portrait above displays one of those errors, though it's worth noting that I believe this image had the subject holding the camera that way for creative reasons rather than by mistake. When the camera is in portrait orientation, the shutter button ought to be at the top of the camera with your hand craned over it.

The second common error I see is when shooting in a standing position, people will have their elbows point outwards. You want your elbows tucked against your torso for extra stability; leaving your elbows floating either side of you will create far more movement in the camera. In many situations, you won't notice, but it's a bad habit to get into as there are times when it will cause shots to have movement blur.

4. Standing Still

One of the key reasons I prefer shooting with prime lenses is that I can't adjust the frame without moving my feet. It sounds like a throwaway point, but moving around boosts your creativity more than you'd think. Once you have an idea of the shots you like, it can become all to easy just to stand still and take the shots. By adding a more dynamic approach to how you shoot, you will not only improve the shots you were intending to take, but you will find new angles and ideas as you move around.

5. Throwing Money at Problems Money Can't Fix

This is one of the most common bad habits and it has the potential to be particularly damaging. Many times when a photographer's work isn't at the standard they want, or they can't achieve a certain look, or they feel in a rut, they'll buy new equipment. This will seldom solve problems and if every time you get stuck, you spend money to become unstuck, you're in for an expensive hobby. Instead, spend time learning and practicing; find your weaknesses and then learn how they're overcome.

I will add one caveat: there are occasions when buying a new piece of equipment can be just the push you need to get your creativity flowing again, just make sure it's not your go-to move!

6. Living off of External Validation

We all do this to varying degrees — feed off external validation — and I think that's normal. But a slippery slope, particularly in the early days of being a photographer, can be chasing likes and engagement. Gauging your success by your number of followers, views, comments, and so on is not an effective practice for growth or your own happiness. If one of our photographs does well and another tanks, it can be hard not to start judging your work by how they are received on social media, but it's a bad habit to get into. Not only can it take your art down a street it ought not to go, but it leaves your sense of fulfillment at the will of social media algorithms.

A shot of mine from a wedding some years back. And people did like it, so there!

7. Rushing

This is without question the area that affected my work the most in the early days. When I arranged my first shoots with amateur models, I would rush everything. I'd rush composition, I'd rush the shots, I'd rush through different poses and locations. I was insecure about my skill level, I suffered from imposter syndrome, and I didn't take the time to relax and get what I wanted. This can be the case with all genres of photography and that sort of unnecessary pressure isn't helpful, and if you're not highly experienced, damaging to the quality of your work. I don't know what I thought being quick proved, perhaps I just didn't want to be seen as taking up too much of someone's time because my images weren't worth it, but slowing down how you shoot and really thinking about each composition is nothing but beneficial.

What are Your Worst Habits as a Photographer?

We all have our own little idiosyncrasies which we drag around and that do nothing but limit us and hold us back, so what are yours? Did I miss any key bad habits many photographers suffer from? Share them in the comments below.

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38 Comments

Nitin Chandra's picture

Think you will get some comments on these...I'll hold back for now :)

James Jones's picture

6 is probably my toughest. I'll go out and take what I think is a great photo and it just doesn't land with others for some reason.

Jerome Brill's picture

I've had plenty of photos that people have liked in person when I showed them a completed project and they were ones I thought were only "ok". The opposite will happen as you mentioned also. Probably more so.

Chasing general validation on the internet will only net you the false sense that your mediocre work is good. It's the odd ball stuff, the out of your comfort zone and creative stuff that ends up being really good. Those get recognized by people that know photography and still think it was something unique or captivating. Once you recognize those images yourself you can build on it. Less need for validation.

Hunter Chan's picture

Same problem with me :(

Robb Armstrong's picture

Shooting exclusively at ISO 100. I've started boosting my ISO lately and have been getting great results.

Hunter Chan's picture

I shoot under ISO 400 and add noise in post ;-P

Kenyon Gerbrandt's picture

#7 all. The. Time!

Jerome Brill's picture

I think another is just not shooting enough. I got to a point where I was being too focus on certain shots that after I was done I didn't look around to see if anything else was interesting. You came to get a sunset shot, great, but what's behind you? Are there other people watching the sunset? What are they doing? With every session there are also mini sessions I find. Sometimes they end up being more interesting.

Richard Tack's picture

3. Holding the Camera Incorrectly

Yes, shutter should be at the top, hand draped over to operate the shutter. If the subject camera person in the photo is not just posing, but taking pictures, she is laying on her right side and the shutter would be on the bottom as shown (Photo is a 90 degree horizontal flip.). Because she is laying on her right side, her right arm right can not effectively be used to actuate the shutter at the top. The arm needs to be straight to keep her head off the ground and supply steadiness and support for the camera. I, and I assume most photogs, have gotten on the ground and shot just like the picture depicts.

Rick Rizza's picture

Some compact mirrorless has an AF assist light at the opposite side of the shutter button. So when you hold it vertically, the left hand that holds the lens will block this light. In some situation, this might be tricky to get a good focus. Therefor, shutter button at the bottom can be helpful sometimes. But it's rarely happened.

Hunter Chan's picture

Why is there this obsession with shutter buttons? Haven't anybody used a touch shutter? You folks all using tough DSLRs without touchscreens?

Deleted Account's picture

Most full frame cameras over the years haven't had touchscreens until relatively recently. Not everyone is using the latest and greatest. I don't think I'd use touch shutter anyways...

Rick Rizza's picture

Mine had touchscreen but I deactivate the touch shutter.

Michelle Maani's picture

I dislike the touch shutter and deactivate it too.

Charles Haacker's picture

I used to shift my grip when I went vertical so that I could trip the shutter with my thumb. I'd have my index finger on the baseplate and squeeeeze finger and thumb together. This technique allowed me to keep my elbows tucked tight to my sides, exactly as when shooting horizontally. But age and infirmity have taken their toll and I am more comfortable now with the classic hand-over technique.

Michelle Maani's picture

I have had to learn to hold my camera incorrectly instead of "the right way" because of the pain arthritis and tendonitis in my left hand have cause me. Sometimes it's intense. So when a photographer tells me how to hold a camera, I feel like telling them to go to hell.

Mario CRESPI's picture

A valuable post for both amateurs and professionals. Thanks. No. 7, rushing, is my worst habit [on almost everything.]

Rick Rizza's picture

My worst habit is touching my models with pencil when I need to fine tune their posture. It tickled them but no law suit so far.

Malcolm Wright's picture

My first is not checking my previous settings. Invariably my first shot is either under or overexposed, then I adjust.
My second used to be not taking enough shots until I sat in on a talk from a photography couple who tour camera clubs. Their presentation was on an African Safari. They had literally taken many thousands of shots in order to come up with enough that were good enough in their opinion to include in a 45 minute presentation.
Their hit rate based on the standards they set themselves was probably less then 10%.

Pradipto WP's picture

#2 Playing it safe. I always shoot portrait with EF 50mm F1.4 (APSC) for years. Next time, i'll try to shoot portrait with my EFM 22mm F2.0. But i feel a bit scared.

Scott McDonald's picture

Another one might be...Trying to be "just like (fill in the blank)"... Nothing wrong with learning from the masters or other pros, but I don't think we should intentionally copy anyone else's work. It usually ends up as a disappointment anyway that looks just as fake as it is. Number 2 is my own bad habit... ;)

Teresa Oldenbourg's picture

Rushing is definitely one of mine.

Grendel Khan's picture

Not taking enough photos.

jim hughes's picture

Number #6 is about me - I live for 'likes'. Here's my blog in case anyone wants to cruelly mock me by feeding my addiction:
www.jimhphoto.com.

Jahmella Simmons's picture

6 living for likes is the reason I remain stagnate. I have thousands of photos that I have never uploaded because I feel they are not good enough.

RT Simon's picture

My single worst habit back in the days of film was the practice of grab shots with a 21 mm lens, and not anticipating the distance being too large for that focal length.

John Hoppe's picture

Rushing? We travel with photography groups all over the world. Rush Rush Rush. When we go out on our own roadtrips, my photos are much better. Both compositions as well as technical skills.

RT Simon's picture

In my life, I was rarely in the habit of walking with other photographers, unless I had a press pass and we were forced to shoot together. Making personal photos has a meditative quality that cannot be achieved in a group. It is during a receptive and thoughtful state that to see something one feels is unique to one’s practice is the reason why we make images in the first place.

Paul Broomfield's picture

#3 would someone let me know why the shutter button should be at the top? I can't think of a single technical reason.

As this is pretty much frowned upon when shooting things where you're in a pack of other photographers, as your elbow that ends up above your head or out to the side gets in the way of people behind you.

Happy to be corrected though...

Sam Sims's picture

I find it a lot easier with the shutter button at the top as it is better to steady the camera with my hand holding it from the top rather then from the bottom. If I hold it with the shutter at the bottom, I’ll end up getting cramp in my hand and arm after a while (I’m using an A7III which is quite a small camera). Also I tuck my elbow in which some might think leaves my hand bent at a funny angle (it does) but it’s better than the strain I would get doing it the other way with the weight of the camera against my wrist, even when holding onto the lens.

I don’t think you need to be ‘corrected’ though. Do whatever feels most comfortable for you.

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