Since I have taught so many photography workshops, I’ve seen all kinds of problems photographers regularly encounter. Some are minor problems, while others are really big deal total show-stoppers! I decided to pull together this list of 10 common problems. Trust me, there are more, but 10 just seems like a good number to discuss for now. 🙂
- Shutter speed was not fast enough for a hand-held shot and the result was a photograph that was not sharp. It looked like it was maybe out of focus, but the real issue was motion blur because you can’t possibly hold the camera still enough to shoot at a slow shutter speed. This is by far the biggest problem I see photographers encountering. The solution is simple. Make sure the shutter speed is fast enough by using this as a guideline: Keep the shutter speed faster than 1 / focal length of your lens. (So, if your lens is zoomed to 200mm, make sure your shutter speed is at least 1/200th second.) That is an approximate rule, but it really will make a difference. If your shutter speeds are not fast enough, shift to a higher ISO and that will allow you to shoot at faster shutter speeds.
- Image Stabilizer/Vibration Reduction was not turned on. If your camera supports this feature, by all means USE IT! But only use it when you are shooting hand-held. When using a tripod, turn it off (and then the real killer: remembering to turn it back on again when you take the camera off the tripod).
- The camera did not focus where YOU wanted it to focus. This is usually because you are trusting the camera’s auto focus system to always make the right decision of where to focus. You can help it focus on precisely where you want it to focus by changing its configuration to focus on only one focus point instead of having all focus points active (check your manual). Focusing with a single active focus point gives you the ability to always ensure you focused EXACTLY where you wanted to.
- As you take a series of photos, you might encounter the brightness of each photo varying wildly from light to dark, even though it is the exact same scene. Even just small movements of the camera might produce exposures what are way off, sometimes really bright, sometimes dark. If this is happening, you are most likely shooting in “Spot Metering” mode and don’t realize it. If you don’t know how to use spot metering, read up on it in your manual, and in the meantime, switch your camera’s metering mode to something more general purpose such as Evaluative Metering on Canon or Matrix Metering on Nikon.
- Let’s say you take a photo and it appears at one brightness. Then the next shot of the same scene appears brighter. Then the next shot appears darker. Then the next shot appears normal again, and it seems to keep going through that sequence. If you see that happen, your camera is probably set in a mode called “Auto Exposure Bracketing”. Check your manual to turn it off, if were not intending to exposure bracketing!
- Your image appears to be too yellowish/amber when shooting indoors. If that happens, it is most likely because your camera’s Auto White Balance feature just didn’t quite do its job well enough. In that circumstance, you could change the white balance setting over to the light bulb (“tungsten”) setting. That should clear up the problem. Remember to set it back to Auto White Balance for your other shots though (or always set the white balance setting to the appropriate lighting option, if you want to always manage it).
- You point the camera at a scene and press the button to take the photo but your camera refuses to fire the shutter. Whenever that happens, it is a problem with the focusing system! It is trying to prevent you from taking the photo because it can’t figure out where to focus! That usually happens if you are pointing at smooth surface like a smooth wall, or maybe blue sky. It might be because you only have one focus point active, and that point happens to be over an area that is smooth and has no edge details to focus on. Your camera’s focus system needs to see edges and details to be able to focus (usually).
- Your camera may seem to be malfunctioning and not be able to control the aperture of the lens or the focus system. If that happens, make sure the lens is properly mounted on your camera and firmly “clicked” into position, locked onto the camera body. Also this might happen if the electrical contacts on the lens are a little dirty or corroded. You might try cleaning then by simply rubbing a pencil eraser on them for a little bit. Ultra Important: Be careful if you do that, to blow away any of the eraser particles. You do NOT want to get any of those particles inside your camera body!
- If you keep seeing soft dots in certain parts of the photograph, especially noticeable in the sky, and they keep appearing in the same positions from shot to shot, you have dust on your sensor. Your camera probably has a built-in sensor cleaning capability which helps some, but it can’t keep all the dust off the sensor. If it is particularly bad, you can send it off to the camera manufacturer to have the sensor cleaned, or some camera stores do this. You can also clean the sensor yourself, but be REALLY careful if you do that. Read up on how to clean your sensor yourself, and make sure you take all precautions to not damage your camera.
- If your photographs consistently are turning out to be a little too bright or too dark, and if you are shooting in Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or Program Exposure Mode, check to see if you might have inadvertently shifted your camera’s Exposure Compensation setting. If you don’t know where that is on your camera, check your manual!
So there you go. Those are 10 common problems photographers encounter.
If you haven’t taken any of my workshops, I invite you to do so! We cover a lot of these topics in some of my classes.
Happy Picture Taking (with fewer “oops” moments)!