When you’re starting out as a photographer, it seems like everywhere you look, there are new rules telling you exactly what not to do.
Whether it is shooting in automatic mode or using the dreaded built-in flash, it can start to seem like the only way to take good photos is to memorize a bunch of settings, and never stray from them.
However, like any art, photography is about experimentation and you’ll see that most of these so-called rules are actually photography myths.
Whether you are new to photography or have been shooting for years, read on to find out which pieces of common knowledge are actually rules made to be broken.
Photography Myth 1: Only Shoot in the “Right” Lighting
Of course, good lighting is essential in photography. Different light levels, and where your light source is coming from can vastly change the final photograph.
The problem here is that many new photographers are told certain kinds of light are “good” and others aren’t worth shooting in. The so-called “golden hour,” the first and last hours of daylight on any given day, are supposedly the best time for photographs.
Meanwhile, photographers will also tell you to avoid direct light or shooting in low light conditions.
In reality, as long as you have got enough light to make out your subject it is possible to get a great shot. You just have to change your approach to the lighting conditions.
If you only shoot during certain lighting conditions, you’ll never learn to use the full range of your camera’s capabilities.
Instead, familiarize yourself with your camera’s exposure settings. Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings will allow you to change the way light reaches your camera’s sensor. By changing these settings to suit the light conditions, you will be able to take a wider range of really interesting photographs.
Photography Myth 2: The Rule of Thirds is Essential For Composition
The rule of thirds divides your camera’s viewfinder into equal thirds, vertically and horizontally. Align the subjects of your photos with these imaginary dividing lines, so the photography myth goes, and you’ll get perfect composition every time.
This myth is partially true, but there are also parts you don’t have to take too seriously.
The rule of thirds is a good way to help you understand composition. It will ensure you don’t always place your subject right in the center, for one thing. Changing how you place your subject can lead to more dynamic photographs.
However, the problem is that sometimes people get too obsessed with ensuring their photograph follows the rule of thirds. They are supposed to be guidelines, not rules. If you set up a shot that you like and it doesn’t quite follow these guidelines, take it anyways!
The rule of thirds is just a tool, not a rulebook.
Photography Myth 3: Equipment is Essential
Does going out for a shoot sometimes make you feel like a pack mule?
Carrying around a bunch of lenses and a tripod can start to get really heavy. Many photographers are scared of not having the right lens and missing the perfect shot because of it.
However, bringing too much with you can really slow you down. It can take some of the joy out of photography.
Unless you’re doing a professional shoot where you know you’ll need all your best equipment, try leaving your tripod at home. Take just one or two lenses.
The bonus upside to this approach? You’ll learn to use those lenses more in depth. You’ll have to get creative and experiment a bit to get the shots you want. It will be great practice!
Photography Myth 4: Good Photographers Only Shoot With Manual Mode
You’ve just shelled out for a fancy DSLR that allows you to change the settings yourself, instead of relying on a couple of built-in automatic modes. Some photographers talk about any mode other than manual as though it is a crutch. They act like you’re not a real photographer unless you’re always shooting on manual.
In reality, many professional photographers use the aperture or shutter priority mode. Sometimes, even fully automatic might be the right choice if you’ve got to take a shot quickly.
Basically, knowing how to use your camera in manual mode is essential to becoming a good photographer. But, photography is about the final product. If you can achieve the effect you want in a different mode, go for it. Using the tools you have available is what being a good photographer is all about.
But, photography is about the final product. If you can achieve the effect you want in a different mode, go for it. Using the tools you have available is what being a good photographer is all about.
Photography Myth 5: Keep the Horizon Horizontal
Again, this is a photography myth that is partially true.
You will probably want to keep your horizon nice and level in the majority of your photos. A landscape shot might look pretty weird if the ocean is slanting up towards the sky.
At the same time, playing with the angle can help you create really dynamic and interesting effects. You can add interest to portraits by changing your angle, for example.
Try shooting the same subject at different angles and see what works best.
Photography Myth 6: Never Use the Built-In Flash
If flash was so terrible, why would cameras come with them?
Many people are tempted to use their flash in dark settings. It’s true that this often leaves you with a washed out foreground against a stark, dark background. If you’re using it for a portrait, the startling flash can even make your subjects look uncomfortable.
Like anything else, your flash is a tool. It’s up to you to use it correctly.
Your flash can be great in certain situations, like using it as a fill flash in bright settings. Plus, if you bounce the flash or use a diffuser, you can get the extra lighting without the harshness.
Photography Myth 7: A Better Camera Will Make You a Better Photographer
It’s true that in the right hands, a top of the line DSLR will produce better quality results than a basic point and shoot.
But at the same time, an expensive camera won’t automatically produce good results. Instead, the most important thing is that you know how to use your equipment.
Master the camera you have before running to the store to buy the next new thing.
Photography Myth 8: Never Shoot Into the Sun
So many photographers make blanket statements about lighting. You can be sure when a photography tip uses “always” or “never,” it’s a photography myth. That’s because photography is an art. There will always be exceptions to any rule!
That’s because photography is an art. There will always be exceptions to any rule!
The reason this myth exists is that if you shoot with the sun behind your subject, they will appear back-lit. You may lose detail and the subject will likely appear in shadow.
But what if these are effects you want? Depending on the image you want to capture, the shadows created by shooting into your light source can lead to dramatic, unique images.
Plus, using techniques like a fill flash can help you balance out the lighting.
Photography Myth 9: If I Need to Edit My Photos, I’m Not a Good Photographer
Many photographers edit their photos. It does not mean that you didn’t take a good photo in the first place.
Instead, photo editing software can help you improve your photograph quality. Many professionals use programs such as Photoshop or Lightroom, but many computers come with free programs that you can use.
Editing isn’t a cop out for lazy photographers. Editing photos takes as much skill as photography itself. Plus, if the original photo is no good, editing isn’t a magical fix.
Instead, it is another tool that you can learn. The great thing about editing is it can help you get your photos exactly as you imagine. You can take all the time you want and experiment with different approaches, instead of being under the constraint of taking photos
The great thing about editing is it can help you get your photos exactly as you imagine. You can take all the time you want and experiment with different approaches, instead of being under the constraint of taking photos in the moment.
Photography Myth 10: A Photograph Simply Shows the World as it Is
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: photography is an art.
Yes, you are capturing images of things that exist in the real world. The beautiful thing about photography is that it allows you to show other people the world according to your point of view.
The choices you make all affect the final photo. The result is an image of the world filtered through your own creativity.
What you choose to as your subject, the angle, the lighting all change the meaning of the photograph.
- Do you get in close to a single flower, or do you photograph the entire garden?
- Do you have your subjects pose or take candid shots?
- How do you handle the exposure?
- Do you use vibrant colors, more washed out, or even black and white?
All these choices and more are what make photography an art. You can create images of the real world that are uniquely your own. So get out there and create your vision!
These are some of the most common photography myths. As you become a more experienced photographer, you’ll encounter more.
The key is to always remember that while these rules can guide you, you should never be afraid to break them. Your best photos will come with experimentation.
Check out more tips for great photography and keep in mind that all rules can be broken!
Do you know any more photography myths? Let us know in the comments.