What Makes A Bad Photograph (Common Photo Mistakes And How To Avoid Them)

If you often struggle to take pictures, you’re not the only one! 

What Makes A Bad Photograph (Common Photo Mistakes And How To Avoid Them)

For various reasons, many people struggle to take photos that look good. Being unfamiliar with basic photography, not having the right tools, or using the wrong settings for your camera can all translate into a bad photo. 

If you can relate, keep reading! 

This post will help you understand what things make a photograph bad, as well as how you can avoid these mistakes in your photography. 

These may seem like simple tips, but they are a lot more common than you might think! 

Blurry Photos

A blurry photograph occurs in two main ways. 

The first is when the entire photo is out of focus.

This may occur if your hands are shaking while you take the photo, if the manual focus isn’t set correctly, or if the automatic focus finds it hard to concentrate on the subject.

The second is when you’re taking a photo of a specific subject, like a person or item, but they are blurry and out of focus. The photo may also be clear behind or just in front of the subject.

This may occur when the depth of field isn’t set correctly. 

A blurry photo is often common with beginner DSLR photographers. Smartphones and point and click cameras tend to have decent automatic settings that prevent blurriness

You may be experimenting with different DSLR effects, but the focus may be slightly off. If this is the case, the image will be blurry and won’t look good. 

Photo Composition

If your photo is framed poorly, like a lot of dead space below, to the side, or above your picture, it won’t look good. This can detract from your subject, drawing more attention to the wrong areas in your picture. 

If you’re not accustomed to photo composition, a tip is to stick to the rule of thirds. 

This means that any important elements of your photo should align a third of the way inside your picture. The rule of thirds can be practiced both vertically and horizontally, depending on the picture you’re trying to take. 

Consider what you’re trying to capture within a picture, then wait for the best moment to take it. You can also crop the picture to remove any unwanted elements afterward. 

Uneven Photos

If you’ve ever tried to take a picture quickly, you may have ended up with an uneven image. 

This often occurs when people take pictures in busy settings, attempting to capture a candid moment. Taking a picture too quickly or on the move will lead to a lopsided image, which is often blurry too. 

Fortunately, if your image is only a little off, you can crop and rotate the photo so that it becomes straight. You can use a level surface or the horizon to double-check that it is level. 

However, always remember to take care when rotating a picture, as you may lose some of the photo in the process. 

Color And Exposure

An overexposed photo occurs when parts of the picture are faded or white. This is also called blown headlights, or blow out. This often occurs when taking images of faces with a flash, or capturing the sky in a lot of sunlight. 

What Makes A Bad Photograph (Common Photo Mistakes And How To Avoid Them) (1)

In most cases, your camera’s automatic settings will control the exposure for you. However, if the exposure ends up failing, you can manually adjust the settings to compensate. 

If the images are underexposed, the photo may look darker than the scene you’re attempting to capture. This generally happens with point-and-shoot cameras, as their integrated flash units are usually weaker. 

You can find different studio or location lighting equipment to help prevent this. If you own a DSLR, an external flash can also help prevent underexposure. 

It’s also a good idea to look back at your picture to check the colors. Over or underexposure, as well as inadequate lighting, can make colors seem too light or too dark. 

Photo Environment

You may be surprised at the way photos look after you take them. If you’re concentrating on a particular subject, you may not notice another person, animal, or vehicle that sneaks into your shot’s background. 

Other common things that can ruin your shot include bags, like rucksacks, handbags, or your very own camera bag. You may have left your bag down to snap a few pictures, but end up with photos ruined by the item instead.

Another example is if a table or window is in your picture. Fingerprints and smears can go unseen at first, but they appear stark and visible in pictures later. 

Reflections from glass, mirrors, and windows can also detract from the subject. 

For instance, if you’re trying to take a picture of a bottle, your reflection may be visible in the glass.

These surfaces, including highly polished areas, can indicate what’s occurring ‘off shot’, like a less-than-appealing outfit you’re wearing that day.  

Remember, you may look past dust, dirt, or cobwebs in real life, but your eyes can pick up a lot more in a photo! 

Weather Conditions

If you’re living in an area that frequently experiences rain, clouds, or overcast skies, these conditions may affect your picture. For instance, if you’re taking a landscape picture of a lake, a dreary sky can detract from the subject’s beauty. 

Similarly, if your subject is more of a melancholy tone, a bright, sunny day with blue skies is the last thing you want!

The excess daylight and warmth can add color to your picture, preventing you from achieving a downcast effect. 

Think about the type of photo you’re trying to take, then check the weather conditions. If you live in an area that experiences one type of climate, it may be worth traveling and taking your photos in a different location to take your photos. 

Final Thoughts

No matter what your photography level is, a few common mistakes can make your photos look bad! 

The good news is that most of these are easy to fix. Adjusting the focus settings, using the rule of thirds, or removing distracting objects from your environment, are all easy things that can make your photos look better. 

This isn’t an exhaustive list of mistakes, but if you keep these tips in mind, your photo success rate is bound to improve!

Laura McNeill
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