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3 Common Photography Mistakes (And How to Spot Them)

Because even the camera on our smartphones these days are so advanced, it's easy to get lost in a sea of "fauxtographers," or people who have no business calling themselves photographers. There's much debate in the photography community over what constitutes a professional, an expert, or a "real" photographer. For me, the answer seems simple: if you take and create a photograph, you're a photographer. It's a great time to be alive, people. Everyone has the potential to be an artist and it's literally magical.

Now, that doesn't mean that everyone should be charging for their services, however. If the person you hired to take your family portraits rolls up with their new iPhone to take your photos and a reassurance that they "totally have sweet editing apps, brah," maybe don't hold your breath on memorable images that day.

So, what's one to do when services are being offered everywhere, and you're not sure which way to turn or who to trust? Here are some things to look for when perusing portfolios and deciding which artist to hire to help you preserve your precious memories.

1. Blown Out Skies

This is absolutely my biggest pet peeve for any image. If the sky is blown out, the image was not exposed correctly, and honestly, that's a Day One kinda thing. Bush League, rookie, amateur, lame. Not good. The rest of the image might be just lovely, but a blown out sky is going to draw focus really fast, and rightly so. Besides, is there anything in the world more vast and wonderful than the sky? Why, oh why, would anyone want to leave all that lovely detail out? Sure, some days are gray and dreary, but it's the job of the artist to pull the beauty from it. Rarely is the sky actually just WHITE.

The tree is seen easily enough, but the sky is blech. The snow is equally blown out, but it's not strictly a winter problem.

By adjusting a few settings in camera, the sky is brought into beautiful detail

Saving the sky should happen in camera and not in editing in most cases, as properly adjusting the exposure for the scene is a huge part of what photography entails. Photography literally means "painting with light" and knowing how to use light as your tool is the hallmark of anyone who has any business charging for their services.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I allow my skies to remain a little detail-less. If there's a lot of trees or detail drawing attention and the sky will overcrowd the image, I'll let it be.

Because the trees add mood and color to the background, the sky's lack of detail allows the fall colors to shine

2. Missed Focus

Speaking of drawing focus, sometimes it gets missed entirely. What does missed focus look like? It can sometimes be hard to catch, but it's the difference between a standard photo and a fantastic image. Ideally, for portraits, focus should be on the eyes.

Focus is generally where your eyes go first in an image

When a photographer misses focus, it could be due to a number of things: a moving subject, a sudden hand spasm, simple miscalculation of depth of field. Unfortunately, this is something that cannot be fixed in post processing. Of course, mistakes happen, and quite often a photographer will get a few shots with missed focus in the bunch and those photos will get culled, not delivered to the client, no biggie. However, if you're seeing images on a portfolio with clearly missed focus, be wary.