My journey and 7 mistakes I made as a new photographer

In the summer of 2006 I began my photography journey.

I had been interested in photography for several years prior to that but never put in the effort to learn. That all changed when my first child was born.

I couldn’t get enough of her and I wanted to capture every amazing moment of her life. Cliche? Maybe. But it’s my story and I’m proud of it.

Money was tight so my learning had to be free. I devoured everything I could google and dug deep into a few free forums dedicated to photography. But in April 2008, I had two big turning points: I began second shooting weddings for Andrea Murphy and joined the Clickin Moms photography forum. I credit these two things for the majority of my photography growth.

I first met Andrea in 1998 and we became friends. In 2008 she began her wedding photography business and saw potential in my work and invited me to second shoot for her. With no desire to operate a business of my own, I still shoot for her to this day. Whether she intended to or not, she became a mentor. She has taught me so much and I will forever be grateful.

I joined Clickin Moms on a whim. It had just been created and so many women I followed on Flickr were raving about it. I joined to learn more about photography, not realizing the amazing friends I would make and the opportunities it would provide along the way. The knowledge there is endless and my thanks to the women there that are so open with sharing their wisdom can never be fully expressed.

I wouldn’t be the photographer I am today without either of them.

I’ve made mistakes through the years but I’ve done my best to learn from them. In an ongoing effort to give back and help others like I’ve been helped, I wanted to take a moment and share a few mistakes I made along the way.

I’ve made mistakes through the years but I’ve done my best to learn from them. In an ongoing effort to give back and help others like I’ve been helped, I wanted to take a moment and share a few mistakes I made along the way.

1. My close ups were too close.

Oh boy did I love close ups of my kids’ faces! We’re talking so close that I removed all evidence of them having chins or a hairline.

Close ups can be great and make for powerful portraits but they can also be sloppy and amateurish. Mine were definitely the latter. I thought the closer I got, the better my photo would be.

There came a time when I realized that pulling back and including clothes and their surroundings not only looked better but also helped me capture their story for that moment in time. And capturing their story and memories was why I got into photography in the first place.

I’ve made mistakes through the years but I’ve done my best to learn from them. In an ongoing effort to give back and help others like I’ve been helped, I wanted to take a moment and share a few mistakes I made along the way.

2. I blindly used presets and actions.

When I first dove into the world of Photoshop actions, I mistakenly thought that they would instantly transform my photos into a masterpiece. It didn’t take me long to realize that they didn’t fix my poor exposure, awful white balance, and missed focus.

In an effort to make lemonade out of lemons, I dissected the heck out of the actions I had and used it as a way to teach myself how to edit (only workshops didn’t exist then and I was too broke to travel to attend a class). It worked. I slowly learned how to edit my images by hand and when and how to manipulate the actions I did use.

Now I primarily edit in Lightroom and do use presets but I use them as a starting point and not as my only effort. After applying the preset, I always go through and adjust the white balance, contrast, colors and whatever else needs done. The preset is just the first step in my editing process.

I’ve made mistakes through the years but I’ve done my best to learn from them. In an ongoing effort to give back and help others like I’ve been helped, I wanted to take a moment and share a few mistakes I made along the way.

3. I didn’t really understand exposure.

Oh the exposure triangle. It took me a ridiculously long time to understand how shutter speed, aperture, and ISO worked together to determine how a photo was exposed. It took me even longer to realize that there wasn’t a one size fits all approach to exposure and sometimes being creative with it can make a world of difference in an image.

I tried to rush through this part of learning process. I’m not a technical-minded person and exposure was no different. It was hard for me to grasp and I just wanted to move on to the creative part of taking great photos.

Had I slowed down and really taken in the three elements of a good exposure, I would’ve progressed much faster. Being stubborn did not pay off for me here.

I’ve made mistakes through the years but I’ve done my best to learn from them. In an ongoing effort to give back and help others like I’ve been helped, I wanted to take a moment and share a few mistakes I made along the way.

4. I refused to use artificial light.

Oh the ignorance of me proclaiming to be a natural light only photographer. I didn’t claim it because natural light was a preference but because I was too afraid of artificial light.

When I started second shooting weddings for Andrea, she put a speedlight in my hand and told me I had to learn how to use it. It was one of the best things anyone has made me do for my photography.

Learning how to use flash has not only opened up so many photography opportunities (hello being able to take photos at night!) but it has improved my understanding and use of natural light. I know love using artificial light and currently use the Profoto B1 with a 2′ softbox, the Ice Light 2, and my Canon 580ex II speedlight.

I’ve made mistakes through the years but I’ve done my best to learn from them. In an ongoing effort to give back and help others like I’ve been helped, I wanted to take a moment and share a few mistakes I made along the way.

5. I thought I was better than I was.

There’s something to be said for confidence but there’s also something to be said for remaining humble.

Because I thought I was better than I was, my growth as a photographer suffered. I didn’t always want to hear how I could’ve made a photo better or why I received a no. Criticism and denials may hurt but there is so much growth opportunity in them.

Feel free to ignore the haters but those who are truly trying to help, listen to what they have to say.

I’ve made mistakes through the years but I’ve done my best to learn from them. In an ongoing effort to give back and help others like I’ve been helped, I wanted to take a moment and share a few mistakes I made along the way.

6. I didn’t calibrate my computer.

This is embarrassing but true. I knew how important color was but I was too lazy to recognize that my color wasn’t right.

When people critiqued my colors, I rolled my eyes. When my prints came back with the color off, I blamed the lab. When I thought about buying calibrating equipment, I said it didn’t matter because I liked a more creative edit.

I was wrong.

While I do prefer a slightly creative edit, making sure my computer is displaying correctly was one of the best things I did for my photos.

I’ve made mistakes through the years but I’ve done my best to learn from them. In an ongoing effort to give back and help others like I’ve been helped, I wanted to take a moment and share a few mistakes I made along the way.

7. I thought tilting made me more creative.

Everyone wants to take amazingly creative photos and I was no exception. Instead of really understanding what it took to be creative though, I just tilted my camera every chance I could get.

Not only did the tilts make it look like my subject was falling out of the frame and created an uneasy tension in the image, it just looked sloppy. Now I’m much more careful about keeping the lines in my photos straight and if I’m a little off, it’s a quick adjustment in Lightroom.

I’ve made mistakes through the years but I’ve done my best to learn from them. In an ongoing effort to give back and help others like I’ve been helped, I wanted to take a moment and share a few mistakes I made along the way.

Truth is, I was stubborn when it came to learning photography but I learned from my mistakes. Maybe not always right away but eventually.

I’m not always happy with how long it took to learn – and to continue learning this never-ending art form – but I’m thankful for the lessons I’ve learned and how they’ve shaped my photography.

Author: April Nienhuis

Lover of thunderstorms and despiser of socks, I live in rural Oklahoma with my firefighter/EMT husband and our 3 homeschooled kids. I spend my days deep in blogging, SEO, and social media as I teach photography to others, helping them capture their memories more beautifully, as the Director of Online Media for Click & Company.

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