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Avoiding Common Mistakes

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

Now that we've covered the basics, it’s a good time to look at some of the more common mistakes and pitfalls that are made in the field of photography. Once a new photographer knows what these are, they can much more easily determine how to correct or avoid them.

At this point, you might have already become aware of some of these problem areas, in which case this lesson will give you the chance to refresh your memory. By observing and considering the causes and results of each of these common pitfalls, the more easily they will remain fresh in your mind so that you can confidently avoid them and move forward into the real world with your newfound knowledge ready to be put to use.


Camera shake (or blur) is something that happens when you inadvertently move your camera while the image is being exposed (when the shutter is open and film or sensor exposed).

You can tell that a camera shook while the picture was being taken because you will see lines, flickers, streaks of light and even ghost-like images on the picture.

This is almost always accidental and the results are not generally considered to have had a positive effect on the photo.

You may come across photographs in which there is camera blur that was done on purpose; this kind of blur is a completely different type – it’s an intentional effect that is done to create interesting and appealing images.

The intentional use of motion blur in photographs varies in type and extent depending on the photograph and the effect the photographer wishes to achieve.

Camera Shake or Poor Focus?

Poor focus can be confused with camera shake, but they are two different things. They can be told apart, however, as the types of blur they create are different.

Poor focus can be identified by the fact that some parts of the image will be quite sharp and crisp, while others are blurred.

Also, if focus is the issue you might notice that the blur is less distinct than it is with camera shake, but rather soft and diffused.


There are many different forms of camera shake. Some photos might end up with a large blur covering their entire image – not just the subject but the foreground and background as well.

Other times camera shake might cause a double image effect, as though two exposures were taken on the same frame of film and overlaid each other.

So, depending on the purpose of the photograph and what you hope to achieve, there are certain circumstances in which this effect can be intentionally used in a positive way.

Lens Change

Keep in mind that trying to get a good, sharp image with a zoom lens can be tricky – the more you zoom in, the higher the risk of camera shake.

One option is to switch to a wide-angle lens instead.

With a wide-angle lens, you won’t need to use as fast a shutter speed; this can work to your advantage, particularly combined with other effects and aspects within your image.

Tripod and support

Remember that you will need the assistance of a tripod for support any time you’re using a zoom lens, a slower shutter speed, or longer exposures.

Using a tripod will help to prevent (or at least lower!) the risk of camera shake – this is particularly the case when you are doing night photography.

If you find yourself without a tripod, try putting your camera directly on the floor for support – although this may prevent you from getting the angle and viewpoint you were planning for, so this can be an undesired restriction and a tripod provides much more flexibility.

If simply holding your camera in your hands, keep your elbows pressed tightly against your body for stability and support.