12 photography myths debunked

12 photography myths debunked

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Whether it’s you who’s interested in photography or someone close to you, you may have heard some things spoken as if they’re the truth and are rules that cannot be broken. Blanket statements that seem to be blindly accepted by both amateur and experienced photographers alike. Most of us have fallen for one or more photography myths at some point, especially in early photography days, when you frantically follow every tip given by those (seemingly) more seasoned.

From the equipment you must have to the best time of day to take photographs, I have selected some of the most common misconceptions and shed some light on them.

Myth #1 – A better camera will make you a better photographer

I hear this quite often. “I’m going to get a better camera so I can take better photographs.”. I’ve got news for you. For most people, the camera’s not the problem. While a ‘better’ camera can make the job easier, ultimately the results of your photography come down to how well you use the gear that you have. Few people have actually mastered the camera they have. Take the time to explore and understand the features of your camera. Learn it’s strengths and weakness’ before rushing out to buy a new one.

Myth #2: Brand X is better than brand y

It may not be a brand discussion, it could be a format discussion. I have actually had strangers stop me in the street and tell me I should get rid of my camera and buy a micro four thirds.

Rule #1, you cannot buy a bad camera these days. They all take great photos. Even smart phone cameras.

There are good things and bad things about every camera. Without knowing things like what genre the person photographs, discussing the ‘best’ brand or format is just someone who doesn’t know much about photography expressing an uninformed opinion.

Myth #3 – Always use the rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is just one tool that we can use to help us compose photographs. It’s a simple way to learn to take better photographs as it teaches us about subject placement in the frame. The problem is that many photographers don’t or can’t move past it. Once we learn the rule of thirds and why it works, we can break the rule and create more interesting, dynamic photographs.

A photo of a leaning water tank with the rule of thirds grid overlaid.
Myth #3 – Always use the rule of thirds

Myth #4 – Keep the horizon level

Certainly when photographing land or seascapes, having a level horizon is important BUT, there are times when tilting the camera can create a more dynamic image. One that gives the viewer a sense of action and excitement. If you’re going try this (sorry, when) don’t tilt slightly. Tilts usually work best when they look deliberate.

Myth #5 – Photography is easy

It’s easy to take a photograph. Just pick up a camera, find a subject and press a button. However, creating a well composed, compelling photograph takes time, patience, and lots of practice.

The more thoughtful photographs you take and evaluate, the easier it becomes to remember rules and settings. For experienced photographers, the craft isn’t “easy”.

Myth #6 – You can’t take good photographs on cloudy or rainy days

Overcast days are great for photographing flowers or portraits of people and pets. You don’t have to worry about the bright sun creating weird shadows. For landscapes bright blue skies are boring most of the time. Clouds add interest. Rain brings out colours in plants. Puddles can make great subjects and interesting photos can be made of reflections or splashes.

Myth #7 – Never face into the sun when taking a photograph

The ‘rule’ says that you should always take photographs of people with the sun at your back. This is so that your subjects will appear evenly lit with fewer shadows. There are lots of reasons not to do this but taking a photograph facing the sun can make some beautiful and interesting images.

A magpie stands on the green grass with a setting sun behind the trees in the background.
Myth #7 – Never face into the sun when taking a photograph

Myth #8 – Manual is the best camera mode

Making photographs using manual mode can give you more control over the final image but it’s not necessarily the best camera mode.

Choosing the best mode means using the camera’s setting to give you the best outcome for the current situation. Many professional photographers use Aperture Priority mode because it works for them most of the time.

I use manual mode when making landscape photographs but I will use other modes when the situation calls for it.

Myth #9 – You need an expensive camera

So, what’s an expensive camera? For some, a $1,000 camera is expensive, for others it’s the $50,000 camera. Although an expensive camera can offer additional features that makes it easier to take great photos, it’s not necessary. You can make the most of any camera by adjusting settings and learning everything you can about the tips and tricks to your specific camera. Of course all cameras have limitations, but you can still make great photos with your current camera.

Myth #10 – You need to go to an exotic location

Look at the photos from a lot of people, and rarely will you see photographs from the local area. Even from their own backyard. No matter where you are, the skill comes from creating photographs wherever you are.

The challenge comes from finding the image that is in plain sight. I enjoy visiting my local parks two or three times a month. I’ll often walk around the city near where I live.

Myth #11 – Professional photographers take better photographs

Their is a belief that someone who makes money with their photos is a better photographer. What a professional photographer should be able to do is offer consistent, quality photographs. They should be able to assess the situation and setup the photo and produce the needed image.

The difference between an amateur and professional photographer is not the quality of the image, it’s more about the business side of their photography.

Myth #12 – Post-processing is cheating

There is a misconception out there that image post-processing or image manipulation was born with the invention of Photoshop. Processing it was actually created hand-in-hand with photography itself. In the early days, photographers used a number of techniques to edit their images in the darkroom – including dodging and burning, scratching the negatives, blurring, airbrushing, and colouring.

Most images need some post-processing to bring out their full potential. Straight out of the camera, most photographs look very flat and bland. If you’re relying on your camera to produce the final image, you’re relying on the person who wrote the software creates the JPG file in the camera.

In conclusion

Remember, the goal of photography isn’t to follow all of the rules, nor is it to break the rules – it is to create dynamic and visually engaging images. While following the rules can help you to achieve that, there will be times when an image calls for something a bit different. Don’t be afraid to break the rules as the composition requires. Focus on the image that you’re trying to create, and the compositional elements will fall into place.

Have you been told something that you later found out was a myth? Is there something you’ve heard that you’re not sure is true or not? Start a conversation by leaving a comment below.

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