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!)
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
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.
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.