My Top 10 Photography Mistakes

Whitney looking through a Canon lens

Sometimes it's fun to go through some of the worst things you've done.  Take that photo of me for instance.  I don't care what anyone says, that sweater is pure class.  It really brought out the best in my braces.  Anyways, the following list is comprised of poor decisions that I've made at some point as a, "professional."  Hopefully you can laugh at how much of an idiot I can be at times.

My ugly sweater from our course Christmas sweater contest in 2012.

10. I spent years terrified to use iso higher than 400

Noise is the worst thing you can do to a photo, didn't you know?  Nobody can stand to look at anything with a little grain!  I kid, but honestly, for some reason I thought that anything above ISO 400 was unusable.  I'm obviously being melodramatic, but you probably know EXACTLY what I'm talking about.  It got to the point that I actually let great opportunities get bungled up by having photos that were upwards of 4-5 tops underexposed at points.  Completely un-salvageable. 

9. I bought one of these:


A Gary Fong Puffer.  Not that it's the most horrible thing to own, but it's definitely cringe-worthy as a professional to admit you ever owned one.

8. I tried calibrating my lenses for the first time right before a vacation

It's just common sense not to do something like that.  I didn't even test them before leaving, I just calibrated to a really short distance and suddenly wondered why it was difficult to nail focus on further away subjects.  Yep.  Not the brightest bulb in the package.


7. I turned off the DEMO warning on my photo previews, and came home with no photos from a trip

I somehow found the option to turn the "Demo - No Memory Card" warning in my sub menus, and thought to myself, "Nah, I'd never be so stupid that I would make a mistake that ridiculous."  So this one time I went downtown Toronto to spend a day practicing some street photography in and around the Distillery District, I'd show you the pictures but...

6.  I bought lenses brand new when I was starting out

Whitney and my first ever lens. <3

My first lens purchase was a Canon 24-70 F/2.8 with a gorgeous red ring, because the salesman told me it was the best one I could get.  He was (arguably) right, it was a phenomenal lens, but I could have saved hundreds had I just bought it used.  This one wasn't really a, "mistake," as much as it was a fearful move by someone who didn't realize that I could totally have bought so much more for the same value.  Heck, even today I routinely buy or trade for used gear.  What can I say, I've learned not to be allergic to money.

5.  It took me FAR too long to realize that just because you can shoot everything as an HDR, doesn't mean you should

I feel like this one doesn't need much explanation.  Most of us make similar mistakes, we find the vignetting slider and get carried away.  The thing is, I did it with something like 90% of my shots.  Truth be told, it would have been 100% but for the fact that around 10% of the time the subject moved, or the images didn't jive.  I didn't know better. It's a learning process, sometimes you just need to shake your head, laugh, and move on.

4. I traveled to Asia for a job without testing a critical memory card

Yeah, GoPro's are sometimes a fickle thing.  I spent a couple weeks in Asia regretting making such a dumb move, and trust me, it wasn't easy (or cheap) to find legitimate high-end Sandisk cards in Ulaanbaatar.

3. I forgot to zip my camera bag... after putting a brand new camera in it

So when I picked it up in a rush to swing it over my shoulder my shiny new 5D Mark III went crashing to the hardwood floor.  Yeah.  True story.

2. I Emptied the Trash Bin.  More than once.  Much more than once.

Disclaimer: This only happens in my military work, my work with Bend the Sun features a system of redundant backups on and off site that ensures that I can't do something so ridiculous. 

I'm not OCD about many things in my life, but two things need to be sorted out: my camera equipment, and my laptop desktop.  I hate having extra folders, files, or basically anything at all on my desktop at any time.  It annoys me to no end, and sometimes in my frustration I've purged without thinking.  That in itself wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that I'm equally agitated by the icon that indicates that there's something in the trash bin.  Let me just say that my buddy Doug bailed me out a number of times with his tech skills.  Also, Sandisk started bundling free demos of their recovery programs with their memory cards - for anyone who makes the same mistake. 

1. It took me two years to get off my butt and learn to use my Speedlight

A couple of Nikon SB-910 flashes.

Yeah.  You read that right.  I honestly avoided learning to use pocket strobes for years when I was first getting started.  I took professional photographic jobs alternating between TTL and straight-up guessing at points.  I don't know why I did it, but I treated Speedlights as if they were some magical device that mere mortals could never ever figure out. Strangely, anyone who knows me knows how much that doesn't keep with my personality; particularly given how much time I spent studying everything I could about photography from light theory, to advanced multi-camera and multiple exposure techniques, I just couldn't get enough.  Yet there was always the manual right?  Yeah, that manual was 140+ pages long, and written by engineers (God bless them, they try their best, but they can never seem in professional contexts to just put anything plainly).  I eventually got to a point where I couldn't achieve what I visualized or intended artistically, and I began to compromise or cheat.  Once I realized how much it was holding me back I knew I needed to attack that bad boy.  Anyways, that was MANY years ago, and now I absolutely love these little buggers.

There you have it.  My shame.  Try not to judge me.  It's funny because I actually was going to publish an entirely different blog post today detailing a beginners' guide to using Nikon Speedlights (kinda like this one I did on the Basics of DSLR and Photography), but that post is going to have to wait for another week as I need to put the finishing touches on some of the imagery.

Signature block.


Ps. I'm not sure why, but this whole blog post reminds me of one of my favourite scenes from Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the episode with Geoffrey's shame: