10 Photography Myths to Unlearn

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10 Photography Myths to Unlearn

This blog post may contain affiliate links.  I may earn a small commission for any purchases made through these links. Click here for the disclosure statement.

All photos are original to the author unless otherwise noted. 

woman taking photo

Myth 1: You Need An Expensive Camera

A good photo tells a story, has great composition, sharp focus, quality lighting, and tells a story. Even the cheapest cameras can properly expose an image and get the subject in focus; the rest is your responsibility as the photographer.

A good camera can give you more flexibility and control if you know how to use it, but just having an expensive camera will not improve your skills. I recommend mastering the basics on a point and shoot and upgrading when the camera becomes the limiting factor. I didn’t upgrade to a DSLR until I needed more control over where the camera focused. I upgraded again when I became passionate about travel photography and wanted GPS capabilities. Notice how the last upgrade wasn’t even about the quality of my photos?

Can you guess which photos I took with my old Olympus (a point and shoot) and which ones were with my Canon 6D? 

Hover over the image to reveal which camera I used.

Myth 2: Professionals Shoot Better Photos Than Amateurs

A professional once told me that he consistently shoots photos that would score between a B+ to an A- if graded; he may not be the best, but his clients are happy. In photo competitions, it’s the amateurs who win because they have a higher degree of variability between photos; capturing some A++s, but also some D’s.

It’s probably those D-s that are destroying your confidence, but I bet you’ll find a few gems in your collection too. Photographers may excel in their niche, but shooting outside of that niche is challenging. Photographers I admire have told me they can never shoot fantastic landscapes like I do; a compliment like that catches me off guard, but it’s a nice confidence boost and a reminder that even professional photographers have weaknesses.

Myth 3: Professionals Shoot In Full Manual

Photographers understand all of their camera’s controls but may shoot in aperture or shutter priority mode or use a custom setting. A professional photographer allows the camera to do most of the heavy lifting and only makes minor tweaks if needed. Adjusting your manual settings with every shot is a hassle and may lead to some missed shots.

White Sands National Park -  Las Cruces, New Mexico
The light casting shadows on the pure white sands of New Mexico. The midday light created harsh shadows that I think added to the photo rather than taking away.

Myth 4: Avoid Bad Lighting

Many love the golden hour for its soft golden glow and believe the hour before the sun rises or sets is the only time to photograph. New photographers often fall victim to this philosophy and believe there is not enough light at night and midday light is too harsh. Stop limiting yourself to shooting only two hours a day! If you come to terms with the idea that the golden hour is only one type of light and learn to embrace any light, then you’ll find there is no such thing as bad lighting.

Myth 5: Photographers Never Take A Bad Photo

Magic doesn’t just happen the moment a professional photographer presses the shutter button, and they don’t know the exact settings and composition they need just by looking at a scene. Professionals have an idea of where to start but will take test shots, tweak settings, and move around until they get the photo they want. All the photos leading up to the perfect shot are bad photos. The difference is a professional photographer is looking at those photos as a guide on where to go next, not as a testament to their skill. Also, you’ll never see those photos in their portfolio! If you take a bad photo, analyze why the photo is bad, and make the necessary adjustments. Every photo is a learning opportunity!

Example of Bad Photography - photo with good composition, but blurry
I'm putting myself out there to prove to you that I too take bad photos. This photo is blurry and it still breaks my heart.
Before Example of Lightroom editing - shadows, gray sky, lacks detail in sunrise image.
Before editing in lightroom
Sunrise in the Smokies
This photo turned from drab to fab after editing in Lightroom.

Myth 6: Good Photos Shouldn’t Need Editing

Post-processing is when photos come alive and become truly awe-inspiring. Taking the perfect photo in camera is rare, and the truth is, every photo you’ve seen is probably edited. During post-processing, photographers can bring out the colors, enhance the details, and combine multiple images to display the best of every detail in a scene.

Myth 7: Never Look At Photos While Shooting

This is called chimping and is frowned upon in some circles because you should trust your skills and looking at your screen could cause you to miss a shot. It is true that you shouldn’t spend all your time in the field reviewing your photos, but first of all, not all photo opportunities are fleeting, so you have time to review your photos and make sure you have captured the images you want. Second, it’s perfectly acceptable to make sure your settings are correct. It would be worse to assume everything is coming out perfect and lose every shot than to verify your settings and miss a shot or two.

Myth 8: Photography takes away from “living in the moment”

A friend once asked me, “why do you take so many photos? Do you even look at them later”? Yes, yes I do. Setting aside that enjoying the moment looks different for every person, looking for photo opportunities encourages the photographer to admire and evaluate every detail of their environment and spend time capturing the details others may overlook. I look at photos I took a decade ago, sometimes ones I’ve forgotten about, and get to relive that moment. A good photo sparks emotion; not only does a quality photo give me joy in its own right, but I can remember the emotions I felt at the time I took the photo.

Parque de María Luisa - Sevilla, Spain
I spent a lot of time in Parque Maria Lusia when I studied abroad in Spain; this picture always takes me back to those days
prairie grasses at sunset
I live in a major city and don't have panoramic views at my disposal, but here are some beautiful weeds from the overgrown school yard next door to me.

Myth 9: Beautiful images can Only Be Taken At Beautiful Locations

This is where photo composition is key; with the right angles, lighting, and depth of field, anything can be beautiful. To create beauty where you believe there is none, position the camera to cut out an unsightly background, use a wide aperture to blur out the background or use lighting to illuminate your subject and underexpose the background so it is not visible.

Myth 10: You need a Tripod

Tripods help stabilize the camera and create sharp photos, but a tripod is not the only way to accomplish either of those things. Personally, I find tripods cumbersome and limiting because they add weight and make adjusting angles more difficult. Prop the camera up on a ledge, or rocks, or a backpack to stabilize the camera or use a faster shutter speed to reduce camera shake. Monopods are also lightweight, versatile, and easy-to-use tools in place of a tripod when rocks just won’t cut it.

Abrams Falls - Townsend Tennessee
Abrams Falls - Great Smoky Mountains National Park Rather than using a tripod, I stabilized they camera by setting it on my backpack; it's one less thing to carry.

Author Bio

Author Bio Image

Delaney is a Business Analyst by day and a travel and wildlife photographer by night who is using her skills for translating complex technical language into easy to understand concepts to make photography achievable at all skill levels. You have questions; she has answers.

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