Five Most Common Photography Mistakes and Tips for Improvement -- By John Warton at Photo Laureates

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Pieces of advice to get to the next level in photography from a leading expert helping manage one of the largest amateur photography community sites ever with over 45,000 active members (

John Warton actively works at reviewing and evaluating photography submissions for a photography association called photography laureates ( Building on his experience reviewing thousands of entries by amateur photographers from all over the world, John provides here a list of 5 most common mistakes observed in the 2006 entries as well as tips for improvement to submit quality entries.

1. Pictures have too much or too little contrast

Quoting John Warton: “With too much contrast, the shadow areas of the picture are very dark, lacking texture and detail, and the light areas are very light, also lacking texture and detail. These photographs contain no information and damage control operations most often end up with an area of lifeless gray“.

To Improve, John further advises to create contrast using a fill flash to illuminate foreground objects. Objects that the photographer is lighting need to fall within the range of the flash

2. Highlights are blown out

Quoting John Warton: “In a correctly exposed photo, both the highlight and the shadow areas of the image show details but whenever highlights are blown out, the highlight areas of the image are solid white with no detail”. John further continues: “Blown-out highlights are most likely to happen in brightly lit scenes with large areas of white. This problem also occurs in scenes where there is a strong difference in contrast between different areas in the scene, such as when photographing a building or a person against the backdrop of a bright sky”

To Improve, John usually advises his fellow amateur photographers to use a fill flash to light the subject. Otherwise, photographers can meter and expose for the highlight area, thereby underexposing the darker areas. Then use an image-editing program, such as Picture It! Photo, to compensate for the underexposed areas. This technique works especially well on digital photos.

3. The picture has an overall blue, yellow or green tint

Quoting John Warton: “Color temperatures of light vary significantly. If you use a film that is balanced for daylight in tungsten light, the color will be incorrectly balanced, and the image will have a yellowish-orange color tint. The same is true with digital cameras using the white balance setting. As with film, the white balance adjusts the image for the temperature of light. If the setting is wrong, an undesirable tint results.”

To Improve, John advises to use a fill flash to light the subject. Otherwise, photographers can meter and expose for the highlight area, thereby underexposing the darker areas.

4. The entire picture is blurry

Quoting John Warton: “Whenever the focus is not sharp or where the camera moved during the exposure, the entire image is blurry. The larger you make the image, the more the lack of focus shows”.

To Improve, John further advises to avoid holding the shutter release button halfway down and also avoid focusing and then changing the distance from the subject without refocusing. Mr. Warton advises his fellow amateur photographers to focus carefully on the subject and hold the focus as they make the exposure.

5. Pictures are too light or too dark

Quoting John Warton: “In an overexposed image, the shadow areas are light and the highlight areas are entirely or almost entirely white. Too much light has reached the film or digital image sensor. On the other hand, in an underexposed image, too little light has reached the film or sensor and, as a result, shadow areas are filled in and much detail is lost”. John notes that special lighting situations are most frequently driving this: backlighting, strong side lighting, photographing small subjects that contrast against a large expanse of a very light background (snow or sand) or very dark background (water).

To improve, John further advises to take the following actions:

  • In the case of a small light subject against a dark background: Use negative exposure compensation, say, -1, or decrease exposure by one stop, for example, from f/8 to f/11.
  • In the case of Small dark subject against a bright background, or any subject in a very bright scene: Use positive exposure compensation of +1 to +3, or increase exposure by one to two stops, for example, from f/8 to f/5.6 or f/4.5.
  • In the case of a backlit subject: Increase the exposure by one stop, or step in close and meter directly on the subject, step back and recompose, and then shoot at the reading you took on the subject. You can also switch to spot metering.
  • In the case of a side lit subject: Increase exposure by one-half of a stop.

John Warton is a senior photography editor. He has decades of experience in photography first as a freelancer, reporter and then as publisher. He is a member of various international photography associations (Association of International Art dealers, Photographic resource center…)

Photography Laureates offers the following:

  • A unique platform of self expression to the amateur and professional photographer
  • An opportunity to be published as part of a leading photography manuscript
  • 24/7 customer care assistance to help associate photographers gain exposure
  • Review and pieces of advise from the editors on submitted entries
  • A leading membership community where members can exchange and learn

About Photography Laureates (

The mission of Photo laureates is to provide a platform of artistic expression for amateur and professional photographers to gain exposure and recognition. Photo Laureates promotes photography and photographers through technical workshops as well as improvisation sessions.

An independent panel of experts at photo laureates reviews photographs based on the following criteria: technical quality, composition, flow, texture and light.

The manuscripts from photography laureates are distributed internationally. Photographers always retain full copyrights to their photographs. Photo laureates has more than 45,000 members and a 98% satisfaction rate.

For more information on Photography Laureates, please visit:


Sol Mina, Customer Care Manager

Photo Laureates

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