6 Bad Photography Habits To Break


Bad habits might not completely ruin your photos, but they can hold you back from creating the best images possible. The worst part about them? We tend not to realize we even have the bad habit until it’s pointed out!

Here are 6 bad habits that can prevent you from being your most awesome photographer self.

1. Standing Still

Keeping your feet still when you’re shooting is a surefire way to limit your creative potential. But it’s an easy habit to fall into, especially if you use a zoom lens. Instead of shooting a scene from just one perspective, get into the habit of walking around, moving closer and stepping back. Don’t rely on the zoom! Use your feet, and see how quickly you start getting way more interesting perspectives.

Note: If you’re shooting a 2 min long exposure you can completely ignore this advice. In that instance, standing still is a very good thing. ;)

2. Chimping

Chimping is the act of taking a photo, and then looking at the result on the back of your screen while going “Ooooo!”. There’s nothing inherently wrong with checking out your photos on your camera — it can be a great way to learn, and fix any glaring mistakes. The problem exists when you do this, and in the process, stop paying attention to what’s going on in front of you and miss capturing a great moment.

So use the back of the screen only when completely necessary (checking your exposure in tricky lighting, for example) and then keep your eyes on the scene, ready to get the shot.

3. Bringing The Camera Down To Change Settings

This goes along with chimping, but is a different bad habit. And even though I’ve been shooting professionally for 6 years now, I still do this all the time. I don’t know why! But basically, when I need to change my ISO, I bring the camera down, look at the screen, and change it. And by doing this, I take my eyes off the scene, and miss important moments.

It’s taking a considerable mental effort to force myself to adjust my settings while keeping the camera up to my eye. It requires memorizing where all the buttons are, but when you do manage it, it will really help you to stay focused, and keep careful watch on your subject. Don’t wait until you’re actually in the middle of a shoot to practice this. Take some time on your own to make sure you can change all the important settings without bringing the camera down. You can even do this while you’re just sitting on the couch reading articles about bad photography habits. ;)

4. Talking From Behind Your Camera

Have you ever been directing your subjects, and received a puzzled look and a “Huh?”, then realized that you had the camera covering your face for every word? If you have this bad habit, it’s definitely an important one to break! Not only does clear communication help your subjects to relax, and feel more confident in your abilities as their photographer, but showing your pretty face (complete with a genuine smile) will truly help put people at ease. This is critical whether you’re shooting a paid client or a stranger in another country.

5. Neglecting To Square Up

Careful composition is a hallmark of great photography, so sloppy habits here will definitely hold you back. First, if you have a horizon in your image, make it level. The human eye expects horizons to be level, so one that is slightly tilted will be distracting. If you have trouble with this bad habit, you can install a grid in your viewfinder to help you out.

Note: Sometimes it can aid your image to have a tilted horizon (perhaps to create a sense of movement), but it should be a conscious decision, not a careless mistake!

Then, when you’re shooting against a wall or a building — something that has straight lines — be sure that you are standing perfectly square to it. If you’re at a very slight angle, the lines won’t be straight, and it will again feel distracting. This rule can be broken as well, as long as you make the decision to do it!

6. Thinking You’ll “Fix It Later”

This habit can apply to anything from shooting with an incorrect exposure, failing to move a stray hair, or leaving a small piece of garbage in the frame. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to get the shot, and thinking you can just fix these little things afterwards on your computer. And you can. But it’s at the cost of improving your skills and being an efficient shooter.

It’s simple. Get as much right in camera as you possibly can. Don’t let digital processing be a crutch that prevents you from strengthening your technical skills!

And seriously, you’ll be cursing yourself when you have to edit that stray hair out of dozens of photos, spending hours on the computer, when you could have spent 10 seconds to move it during the shoot. That’s a mistake that you’ll hopefully only make once!


Bad habits are easy to pick up, and difficult to break. But if you keep working on adopting good habits, and getting rid of the bad ones, you’re sure to see your technique, and your photos, just keep getting better and better!


Your Turn!

What are some other bad photography habits that you should break? Tell us in the comments below!


Lauren Lim

Hey friend, I’m Lauren! I’m a photography ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I’m downright obsessed with photography, and love sharing it with super cool folks like yourself. When I’m not shooting, or writing, you can find me cooking (and eating!), traveling, and hanging out with wonderful people.

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33 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. GREAT article as always… I’m going to work on my “chimping” ~ it’s just so hard to resist sneaking a peek at the image I just captured, but I need to be mindful that it wastes precious moments that could be spent taking more pictures! :)

  2. For me is shooting too slow and having camera shake and lack of clarity. Grrrr Since i discovered this bad habbit I don’t shoot under 1/125!

  3. Great article, good for me to think about. I know I move my camera down to change my settings all the time. It is one i have been working on though, it has helped as I program more of my buttons on the back of my camera instead of going with factory default.

  4. Bad habit of mine is putting the camera away too soon. If the dog is still there it’s possible that something great will happen and more than once I’ve been caught with my camera in my bag instead of in my hands. Also, I hate it when I get the images downloaded and I wish I had tried just a couple more angles or compositions. Sometimes you get another chance, but not every time.

  5. Great tips, and I’m going to sit with my camera and practice setting the ISO without looking tonight while watching T.V. ; )

  6. I need to work on keeping my eye on the subject when changing settings and not hiding behind the camera when directing… a mono or tripod is helpful for this. I also think not cropping in camera is another bad habit I could work on.

  7. Chimping and neglecting to square up!

  8. One that never fails for me is not having my camera with me when I am just driving around running errands. I don’t know how many times I have missed a great shot of a sunset, wildlife, etc. because I was ‘just’ going to the store or to the gym, and left my camera at home.

  9. 3&4! My biggest failing – one that I bang my head against the wall over – is not checking all my settings before shooting, or changing locations and light, ISO especially! Exposure compensation has been an issue, too. I’m trying to get into the habit of returning the camera to a happy default every time I set it down, in case I repeat the mistake yet again.

  10. My most common mistake is not noticing distracting elements in the background.

  11. Although all of the habits stated above are quite nasty I think the worse one for every photographer is the “Chimping”. Once the camera is set the photographer don’t really need to waste their tie in checking every photograph they take … any way it is very bad habit :)

  12. Superb advice !

  13. Beautiful article Lauren. Many great points we may not take the time you have to think about. You also have articulated them clearly, as a good teacher. Thanks

  14. These are all good points…Sounds like you are primarily an event or editorial photographer. Certainly if you’re photographing an event or sports you don’t want to spend any more time away from the viewfinder than necessary,

    As a portrait photographer it’s also important NOT to be “chimping” as you put it, but it’s also important to make sure that you’re lights fired before moving on. But you shouldn’t take any more time than needed to determine that and “oohing” and “ahhing” and being impressed by your images!

    Another thing as a portrait photographer in these times I think is extremely important is educating the client. Now days there are so many amateurs offering photography, competing on price, and causing a general decline in the demand for excellence. I refuse to compete on price, so it’s imperative that professionals educate, create demand, and compete on Quality of product and service.

    For that reason I have created a 7 part short video series available on youtube titled, “What Makes a Photograph a Portrait”. If you’re interested you can check it out at http://youtu.be/dLKA-0_7-Fo

  15. I love your advice about not fixing it in post! Getting things right “in camera” is a huge timesaver and definitely makes you a better photographer.

    Watching a photographer “chimping” is funny once you notice it. Never heard it called that before, either.

    Great article.

  16. Touching the lens with you dirty fingers because you wanted to remove the lens cap. AND IT IS NOT ON THERE….. Did that again last weekend.

  17. Great stuff!

    #6… I hate doing anything in Post other than very minor touch-ups (I suck with PS). I’m still a new student of photography and a friend turned me onto shooting film to make me slow down and really think about my setup for each shot and working to get it right when you take it. There is no “fix it in post” with film.

  18. Mark DeNio says:

    I was going to go with Chimping but “don’t fix it in post” is really my big issue. (I do have a Chimping question though.) I was photographing a kids running series and standing in a shadowy spot. I had deliberately bumped up the exposure to let more light in then Lightroom’s Auto-Tone took it all away! I need to learn how to get clearer images with higher exposures. I liked the look after Lightroom got a hold of the picture but it was too dark. (I probably could have chosen a better spot as well even though I was course marshal and had to stay in the general area.)

    As for Chimping, my question is: I can turn off the preview window so the camera doesn’t show my shot right after but it still needs time to reset for the next shot. Is there a way I can find out how long that is so I don’t expect the camera to be ready before it is? (I suppose getting a faster SD card may help with that as well.) My camera’s a Nikon Coolpix S9100 point-and-shoot. (Saving up for a DSLR.)

  19. Okay, this isn’t a “habit” really, but it’s a funny story and one that might make everyone else feel better about their “bad habits”! I took my daughter to see the musical “Catch Me If You Can” at the Hobby Center in Houston for her 17th birthday. After the show, we were fortunate enough to see some of the actors at the stage door right before they got on the bus. I had to coax my daughter to ask for an autograph from the actor who played Carl Hanratty (the Tom Hanks character in the movie). So while she’s talking to the actor, and we’re both starstruck by getting to meet this talented fellow, I’m standing there with my G10 in my hands. Standing there. Doing nothing. Smiling and nodding while they talk. And don’t remember my camera is in my hands until after the bus pulls away. Well, at least he wrote “Happy Birthday, Jami!” on her program when he signed his name . . .

  20. Just come across Photography Concentrate and I’ll be bookmarking it. Good website and nice articles. I think the main way to try and overcome these bad habits is practise, practise and more practise. Sure thats seems obvious but when I say practise I mean finding the time to shoot for a whole day or at least half day. With no distractions you really get into what your doing and the more sessions you do like this the more you start to push the boat out and try new things or perfect the old.

  21. Interesting article Lauren. Some great tips and advice I have picked up to improve my photography.

  22. Ya, I totally Chimp…

  23. I hate it when I run out of things to say while working with a portrait client. I now try to plan the session in advance even including general chit chat we can talk about, like their hobbies etc.

  24. Great tips. About #3, I find Samsung’s i-Function a read aid to this.

  25. Thank you so much. You’ve pretty much listed my current bad habits :) Am definitely going to be more mindful of this as I prepare for a very busy weekend :)

  26. Oh yeah, bringing the camera down to change settings is my biggest issue. I don’t do toooo bad in the summer (though I could/should do better) , but in the winter with bulky gloves frankly I don’t trust my dexterity – so it’s either change settings while looking or I end up chimping any time a setting changes :) Will just have to practice more in the house with gloves on I guess!

  27. These are good tips!! I just purchased my very first DSLR and I hope become a professional! :)

  28. I am guilty if all the above :)This will make me change it. Thanks

  29. The bad habit that I see so often and which horrifies me is the ‘Dangly Strap’!
    Times too numerous to mention I see a person whith often an expensive DSLR camera and the strap dangling beside them as they walk.
    It only takes a running dog or child – or even a stray branch or other projection – and there is a very expensive repair.

    The other bad habit I too ofen see is when I am trying to take a photograph – and another photographer walks straight in front of me and proceeds to take a picture.
    I am 6ft 2 in and am using a DSLR and big lens – so I shouldn’t be difficult to see.

  30. Another bad habit to break is to be on open water with a camera in your hand without a strap around around your neck. You should always have a strap around your neck unless there is a compelling reason not to.

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