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6 costly photography mistakes and how to avoid them

| January 17, 2011 | 0 Comments
Photography is a fun, interesting and rewarding hobby. However, sometimes things go wrong, and then there is a price to pay. We bring you the list of the top 6 costly mistakes and how to prevent/avoid them. Listed in the order of severity:

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1. Not backing up your photos

This is one of the worst mistakes you can make, but it is also the easiest one to make for beginners. Assuming you have just gotten a camera, and started shooting, your photos are probably managed by your camera manufacturer software, or in some lucky cases software like Google Picasa, or Adobe Photoshop Elements. Most photo management software that came with a digital camera does not take care of backing up your photos, and in the (unlikely) event of your main hard disk failure, you can kiss your precious photos goodbye.

Severity: Critical
Likelihood of occurrence: Not Likely
Consequence: Loss of all photos

In order to prevent it, make sure that you back up your photos regularly, and in ideal case, use different physical media to ensure that at least one version of your photos will survive, should your hard drive fail. I store my photos on a dedicated hard drive, with a weekly/monthly backup to my network drive. I found that level to be sufficient. Photography professionals go to great lengths to protect their photos as their whole business depends on it. If you would like to see how pros do it check out this Complete Workflow and Backup for Photo + Video guide by Chase Jarvis. Read more about the importance of backup in our article.

2. Improper Camera Maintenance

Camera maintenance is important. Even more so if you are not doing it correctly. Digital Camera is highly sensitive equipment, and improper maintenance can cause some serious damage. Even a simple lens change on your DSLR under bad weather conditions can cause you a lot of pain later.

Severity: Severe
Likelihood of occurrence: Depends on experience – more likely with beginners
Consequence: Possible permanent damage to your camera or lens

In order to ensure proper camera maintenance, make sure that you check your camera instruction manual. Also, make sure that you have proper equipment for cleaning your lens and camera, as well as check this tutorial on proper camera sensor cleaning. In addition you might want to check out these 3 important tips on changing lens.

3. Not taking camera with you

Some might argue that this is not a mistake, however my experiences show that not taking camera with you IS a mistake. In example, last week I was traveling on business to Goteborg in Sweden by train. I decided not to take my DSLR, as I had no idea where to keep it. It turned out that the weather was so beautiful, the sun shining, above the white snow, and the last 30 mins before Goteborg, the landscape was so fascinating (the frozen lakes, endless fields covered in snow, etc), that I am pretty sure I could have gotten a couple of beautiful vistas.

Severity: Important
Likelihood of occurrence: Highly Likely
Consequence: Missing “The Shot”

The remedy for this situation is simple. Always carry a camera with you. It does not have to be a DSLR, but great photo opportunities are all around us, and you never know when yours might be.

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Don't you just hate when that happens ?

4. Empty Battery

Has it ever happened to you that you that when you are on the shoot, your battery runs out ? It used to happen to me quite often. Battery can run out for various reasons, ranging from you forgetting to charge it, through frequent shooting (with flash), up to worse battery performance in lower temperatures. In some ways this is even worse than not taking your camera, since in previous case you were not sure if you should take the camera, while in this case, you knew there will be (possibly many) photo opportunities. Not having a working battery can be a showstopper

Severity: Important
Likelihood of occurrence: Likely
Consequence: Unable to shoot any more (until you get/charge battery)

There are many ways to lessen the risk of such situation occurring. The simplest one is for you to double check your battery level before you go on a shoot. However, I would recommend buying a spare battery, or if you shoot many photos, a battery grip. A battery grip might be pricey, but it does extend your ability to take photos significantly. Another way to circumvent the battery problems is to have a camera that takes common (e.g. AA batteries) such as Pentax K-x or similar model. Photography professionals usually always carry a couple of spare batteries with them (and in more cases, spare camera bodies, memory cards, flashes etc), as the paying client does not care if the photographer has equipment problems. He just cares to get all the shots he/she wants, and you should too.

5. Corrupt memory Card

Memory cards today, although robust, still have their own lifetime, and it is just a matter of luck before one of them gets corrupted. If you are lucky that might happen before the shoot, in which case although you have to buy a new one, at least you will not loose any of your photos. However, according to the Murphy’s Law, more often than not you will realize that your memory card is corrupt when you try to transfer your photos from your vacation to your PC.

Severity: Severe
Likelihood of occurrence: Not very Likely
Consequence: Possible loss of images

A solution to this problem is simple: Have multiple memory cards. Given the fact that memory cards are quite cheap today, it pays of to double back on memory. It’s better to have 2 smaller memory cards than one big one. Also, when shooting, also make sure you swap between cards, so if it comes to worst, you would still have at least some of your images. If you really want to protect all of your photos then you might consider a Stand Alone Data Storage solution. These field hard drives start already at $120, so if you want to make sure your photos will survive, you might want to get one of these.

6. Blurred images

When out on shoot, it is quite easy to get blurred photos, especially in low light. They are more often than not result of a camera shake, rather than poor focusing. One would wonder how is it possible not to notice it while shooting. The answer lies in the camera’s small LCD preview monitor. We will not go into too much detail on why the photos are blurred. To find out more about this topic check out our article: 5 most common reasons for unsharp images.

Severity: Important
Likelihood of occurrence: Highly Likely
Consequence: Poor image quality / Unusable photos

The simplest way on how to avoid such an issue, is to zoom in on your photo when you preview it on your camera’s LCD. It will give you some idea if your image is sharp or blurry. We also encourage you to check out our 20 photography tips to taking tack sharp photos.

Several more useful articles dealing with photography mistakes

I hope you will find this guide useful, and that some of the tips will help you avoid some of the problems I have experienced, and remember, own experience usually comes with the highest price. Happy shooting.

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Category: Beginners Photography, Photo Equipment, Photography Lessons

About the Author (Author Profile)

Alan Graf is the editor and founder of Digital Photography Student. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, and is also editor of – a Croatian wallpaper archive, and his own photo gallery at

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