Six Mistakes I Still Make and How You Can Avoid Them

March 7th, 2011 by Bret Edge

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Earlier I wrote about the best advice I’ve received from other photographers during the last 12 years of my career.  I thought I’d go the opposite direction and share a few mistakes that, after all that time in the field and great advice, I still can’t seem to avoid.  Some are humorous and others are just downright annoying.  What mistakes do you find yourself making over and over again?

That Pesky Lens Cap - I can’t tell you how many times I’ll put the viewfinder to my eye only to see…nothing.  Yeah, I forget to take the lens cap off all the time.  Fortunately, I realize the error before pressing the shutter button.  I don’t feel too bad about this as years ago I read that Ansel Adams once forgot to put film in his camera during a workshop he was teaching.  Okay, so the great one only made such a silly mistake once. 

Invincible Tripod Syndrome (ITS) - We’ve all done this.  Some of us learned from our mistakes while others (me) still haven’t.  We set up our tripod, mount our camera and expensive lenses to it and then walk away.  Do this enough times and eventually gravity will rear it’s ugly head.  I’ve had cameras blown over in the wind, knocked over in the water and I’ve even tripped over my own tripod leg.  I saved that one from near death.  I know the consequences and yet I continue to roll the very expensive dice.  That qualifies for stupid, right?

Image Stabilization Times Two - What is a tripod?  It’s image stabilization.  There’s no such thing as too much image stabilization, right?  Wrong.  Many lenses that feature built-in image stabilization/vibration reduction are likely to produce blurry images if you leave the IS/VR turned on while your camera is locked tight on a tripod.  You see, when your camera is secure in a ballhead and IS/VR kicks on, the movement of the gyro inside the lens is enough to introduce vibrations that may result in blurry images.  I’ve blown more images than I care to remember because of this bonehead move.  Whether or not the IS/VR will cause blurry images is a function of luck, shutter speed and the lens you’re using.  Why chance it?  Make it a habit to turn off IS/VR before using a tripod. 

The Dust Magnet - Sensor dust is the bane of every digital photographer.  Most modern DSLRs have some kind of ultrasonic cleaning mechanism that does a remarkable job of keeping sensors virtually dust free.  Still, it’s never wise to leave your camera turned on when changing lenses – especially in the field.  Doing so exposes what is essentially a magnetically charged sensor to the environment, thus inviting dust to take up residence inside the camera.  I don’t do this often but every once in a while, when I’m rushing, it’ll happen.  It’s usually followed by a string of self-deprecating expletives.

Lens Envy - An illness I’ve never been able to overcome is gear envy.  If only I had that new lens/camera/computer/software/backpack/filter/truck my images would be soooooooooooo much better.  In fact, I’ve pretty much given up on even trying to beat this one.  I’m a gearhead.  Always have been, always will be.  I just need to realize that I don’t need to justify a purchase by pretending to believe it’s going to make me a better photographer. 

More is Better - In compositional terms, more is rarely better.  And yet, I find myself cramming more and more into a composition until it loses cohesiveness.  I’m usually able to realize this in the field and make adjustments on the fly to resolve the issue.  Occasionally, I don’t discover the error until I see the images on my computer monitor.  The best compositions and thus, photographs, are not usually those which contain everything.  Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Now that I’ve bared my soul it’s your turn.  Share some of the mistakes you still make.  I bet you’re not alone and perhaps we can all learn from them.

Learn more about Bret, view his images, check out his workshops and read his blog here.

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