Let’s define what a bad habit is first; A habitual behavior considered to be detrimental to one’s wellbeing. However, this can be extended into learning a new skill set (like photography) where you may develop habits that can inhibit your learning progression, or even cause you physical injury.
Magnolia bud, not 100% sharp as I hadn’t taken my tripod with me
Before you can fix or adjust a bad habit, first you have to identify it. There is a good chance that a majority of photographers pick up or share the same habits, so maybe you can learn from my list. Possibly you are doing some of the same things. If you are lucky you aren’t doing all of them and this will help you avoid picking up any new photography bad habits.
There is little as heartbreaking as downloading your photos from a shoot to find you did a really stupid thing like have your ISO really high, or the wrong white balance setting or some other silly thing. Take the time to develop good habits and break any bad ones you might have.
Macro image of a gerbera, achieved by allowing sufficient time and patience to set up the shot and my gear correctly.
Most of the following are simple stupid things, stuff that doesn’t take a lot of time to think about or do but is easy to put aside for later. Except later usually doesn’t come, and then you pay the price.
Bad Habit #1 – Batteries not charged and ready
Failing to check and charge spare camera batteries when they need it is an issue. Nothing worse than being in the middle of a great shoot, having to switch batteries to find that all your spares are flat.
Bad Habit #2 – Memory cards not empty and ready to use
Forgetting to take the CF card out of the camera and wipe it before reusing is bad habit number two. I have multiple spare cards so leaving one in the computer isn’t a deal breaker, but I am bad about formatting the card and dumping the previous images before a new shoot.
Bad Habit #3 – No cleaning routine
Another photography bad habit is not completing a regular cleaning routine after each shoot. Living in a coastal area means always being aware of salt spray off the sea. You should have a regular cleaning routine for your camera, lenses, any accessories and don’t forget the inside of your camera bag as well. The life of your expensive camera gear will be extended. Also if your lenses and filters are clean, there is less to handle (fix) in the post-production stage.
Bad Habit #4 – Not checking camera settings
Are you guilty of this one – not checking how the camera is set up before a new shoot? Time to fess up – this is my personal worst habit and it has cost me some good shots over the years.
Before you go out on your next shoot, allow time to go over your gear, check that you have everything you need, and set your camera up to your preferred base starting point. A few minutes spent here is an investment that saves you hassles and disappointment later.
Shot unnecessarily at ISO 400 because I forgot to check my camera settings BEFORE the shoot.
Bad Habit #5 – Underestimating travel allowance time
Underestimating your travel allowance time so you can get on site and scout out in advance can be a problem. Sometimes it’s hard to find a particular spot, or the sun is setting as you are driving home from work. There are a Lot of reasons for you to be in a hurry to get to somewhere with your camera. But, make life less stressful by allowing plenty of travel time and plan out your route in advance. Get there early.
Bad Habit #6 – Not stopping when you see a shot
Have you ever seen a possible shot while driving and not stopped? I often think I will get it on the way back, but the light changes and the shot is gone forever. Of course, habit five applies here as well, if you have allowed sufficient travel time and built in a buffer for possible stops along the way, then you can stop.
Bad Habit #7 – Not protecting your gear properly
Not protecting my gear as much as I should. Doing things like putting my tripod legs in the sea, forgetting to use my rain cover for the camera, relying on the weather sealing to protect my camera and lens in a drizzle. Guilty!
If you do use your tripod in water, learn how to take it apart and clean it. They get a surprising amount of sand inside the legs which can eventually rust. Use proper rain gear to take care of your equipment.
Bad Habit #8 – Not using a tripod
Sometimes I’m lazy about taking my tripod with me. It’s heavy and carrying it everywhere can be annoying sometimes. However, for landscapes and long exposures, it is a necessity.
This bokeh shot was only possible while using a tripod.
Bad Habit #9 – Getting caught in the excitement
Getting caught up in the excitement of an event or happening and forgetting to take my time and plan for strategic shooting.
This is possibly less of a habit and more something you learn with time and experience. But learning how to distance yourself from the excitement of what is happening in front of your camera is a necessary skill to help you compose and capture meaningful images, rather than “spray and pray”.
Taking myself off to the side of this light display, after capturing the usual images I decided to have a play with some ICM – Intentional Camera Movement.
Bad Habit #10 – Afraid to hit delete
Being afraid to delete images. While there is some merit in keeping images that you can come back to and edit later when your skills might have improved, part of your journey in learning to improve is being able to critique your own work. Learn to identify average shots, poor composition, dull lighting and other things that lessen the quality of your images, and don’t be afraid to cull them. If nothing else, it will help extend the life of your computer hard drive capacity.
It’s a nice memory of a fun birthday lunch but it’s not the most amazing photo ever!
“I don’t have time to do it now” or “I’ll do it later” are two of the worst mental habits you can get into as a photographer. Learn to stop yourself when you think these things, then take the time to do whatever it was you were going to put off.
Being a photographer means you need to cultivate the art of patience. With patience, you also have to learn to allocate your time effectively and efficiently. Spending time looking after and checking your gear in advance of a shoot, will save you from making mistakes or wasting time later on fixing them.
Your photography bad habits may well be different to mine, so make a list of your own personal ones. Don’t try to fix them all at once. Pick the two that have the most impact and concentrate on fixing those. Over time you may find that the good habits you develop make it easier to quit the bad ones.
Keep an eye out for developing new bad habits in the future too. It’s easy to tell ourselves we won’t, but trying to be perfect is one of the worst habits of all. Do the best you can on the day, and hopefully every day it gets easier, and your good intentions become habits. Positive outcome!
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Author: Stacey Hill
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