It’s often said that we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. That’s certainly the case with photography, where I’ve made plenty of them. However, I’ve learned that there is always something to be learned from my past errors, which sometimes have the benefit of helping others. Here are 7 mistakes that I’ve made that you may or may not have made already, but which should be avoided whenever possible.
Buying Gear I Didn’t Need
Most photographers have suffered from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and I’m no exception. I was less driven by the desire to improve image quality, but by the thought that the purchase of the lens, camera or accessory would inspire my photography. More often than not, it might result in a short spurt of new imagery, but within a short time it was just another thing to carry in my camera bag.
I’ve learned that I don’t need the excuse of another purchase to inspire my photography. I can often achieve great results with the equipment, I already have. My money can be best spent on taking a day trip or a vacation where a new and fun experience provides the point of inspiration.
Working Without a Contract
Spending money on unnecessary gear is not the only a way to lose money. Working without a contract can result in another costly loss. Agreeing to produce work with nothing than more than a handshake will eventually result in a bad situation, which leaves both the client and the photographer dissatisfied.
Even if it doesn’t’ result with a day in court, miscommunication results in a client not completely understanding what the photographer can or will deliver. It’s not enough to agree on a price point, the details of the job including the kinds of images, deadlines, quantity and the rights associated with those images have to be spelled out in writing. A written estimate which breaks down these details is often good enough. Once it’s in print and both parties have read and agreed to it, the document can eliminate the problems that can result from false expectations from both sides.
Not Backing Up Immediately
When you’re rushing, it’s easy to put off backing up the images that have been saved on your memory card or your hard drive. However, it only takes one media card corruption or hard drive crash to realize what you stand to lose. Data recovery after the fact isn’t cheap and even then there is no guarantee that you’ll recover those precious files.
When traveling or when I’m on location, I will immediately backup my images to my laptop’s hard drive as well as an external hard drive. I will not delete the card until I return home and have confirmed that the files have been copied to my main computer and external hard drives. The one time I didn’t do this was the one time that I lost some critical files.
Not Checking My Gear Bag Before a Shoot
Assuming that I have everything that I need in my bag can and has been a big mistake. It’s easy to forget that an important cable or lens was used for another shoot and not returned to it’s proper place. The sudden realization that some critical piece of kit is not where it should be can make even the easiest shoot a challenge.
Going through the bag the night before and making sure that each camera, lens and accessory is in its place is a big part of my preparation for a shoot. It’s often the small things such as cables, adapters that I have to pay special attention to as they are the easiest things to overlook.
Not Charging Batteries
Part of checking my equipment before a shoot is to charge all the batteries for my cameras, flashes, meters and other electronic devices. I may think that I charged the batteries just a week before, but I might have not. There are few things as frustrating as beginning a shoot and quickly realizing that the battery in the camera or flash doesn’t have enough power.
I will charge all my batteries that night before and install them into each device. I will then place the back-up batteries in a specific pocket in the bag, where I can quickly access them.
Not Checking My Settings Before the Shoot
It can quickly throw my game off if I start a shoot and suddenly realize that my images are severely underexposed or the white balance is way off. It’s often the result of settings from a previous shoot being applied to my new circumstances. Because, I had forgotten to check my ISO, white balance, exposure mode or other settings, my first few shots can be completely worthless.
So, I will go over all my critical settings and make sure that they are appropriate for the new scene and subject I am currently shooting. I won’t rush into the shoot and will make the time that all my settings are correct so that I don’t miss a critical shot, because of rushing or laziness.
There are many contests or exhibitions where I could have submitted my images, but didn’t. It would begin as procrastination, but would eventually result in my missing a critical deadline and possibly, a good opportunity.
If there is a contest or event for which I think my images will be appropriate, I will make a note in my calendar a week before the official deadline. That often gives me enough time to pull together all the material together in time. It also ensures that I do it correctly and don’t make a bad mistake as a result of rushing to submit it before the deadline. Some of my best recent experiences have been as a result of taking advantage of such opportunities.
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