What Can Your Bad Photos Teach You?

Stop! Don’t delete your bad photos. You have a lot to learn from each and every one of them!

Don’t believe me?

Let’s take a look at a few of my bad photos for a little postmortem report!

ISO 400 | f/2.8 | shutter speed 1/320 | 70mm

Frame Your Subject | Postmortem Report

What went wrong? There are a few issues with this photo:
  1. Framing – The subject is only partially in the frame. Your eye is led to the people in the background, the soda machine, and the mushroom creating a sense of too much business.
  2. Focus – The focus fell on the mushroom instead of the jumper. Our eye goes where the focus is.
  3. Aperture – The wide aperture of f/2.8 doesn’t leave a lot of room for error! Remember, small f/number, less in focus.
What can you learn from this photo?
  1. Frame Intentionally – Look all around your frame and place your subject where they are the strongest in the frame. Competing elements will take away from the photo you are trying to create. Read more about framing your subject.
  2. Fine Tune Your Focus – Use your camera’s features for the best chance at great focus. If your subject is moving use AI Servo mode(Canon) or Continuous Focus (Nikon) to track their movement. For even better results try back button focus.
  3. Watch Your Aperture – Choose a narrow aperture (larger f/number) to get more in focus and have a better chance of your subject being in focus. Read more about aperture.

ISO 400 | f/4.0 | shutter speed 1/15 | 17mm

Stop Action | Postmortem Report

What went wrong? There are two big problems with this photo:
  1. Shutter Speed – Notice the hands? You can’t see them because they are lost in a blur of motion. And it’s not artistic at all!
  2. Wide Angle Distortion – Do you see that strangely large head my son has? Yep, too close to the lens and his head grew in an unfortunate way.
What can you learn from this photo?
  1. Choose Your Shutter Speed Wisely – If you are photographing a human, your shutter speed needs to be at least 1/125th of a second if that human is moving in any way! You can sometimes get away with a slower shutter speed if they aren’t moving, but most of the time, crank it up to stop motion. Read more about shutter speed.
  2. Watch The Wide Angle – Wide angle photos can help you get a lot in the frame, but if your subject is too close to the lens, you’ll get strange distortions. Back up a bit to avoid large heads and noses. Learn more about focal lengths.

ISO 3200 | f/1.4 | shutter speed 1/20 | 50mm

Low Light | Postmortem Report

What went wrong? There are MANY things wrong with this photo:
  1. Low Light – Photography requires light. Yes, you can take low light photos, but you’ve got to have all the right conditions come together to make low light photos work. They didn’t come together here.
  2. White Balance – See that yucky yellow. Yep. Bad white balance selection.
  3. Focus – No light? No focus? One is difficult to have without the other.
  4. Subject – What was I taking a photo of anyway? Even if this was in focus, I’m not sure it would be an interesting photo! Do you know they are?!
What can you learn from this photo?
  1. Low Light – When taking low light photos, you need your subject to stop moving for your best chance at getting a good photo. And yes, sometimes you just need more light. Fill flash would be appropriate for this photo.
  2. White Balance – Match your white balance setting to the light you are shooting in or shoot in RAW and edit. Either way, getting it right will create much more pleasing images. Read more about white balance.
  3. Focus – Low light focusing requires a little extra care and a little light. Here’s a little low light help.
  4. Subject – I’ve said it before, frame your subject in an interesting way for an interesting photo! Shoot with a little intention.

See what I mean? There is a lot to be learned from out deleted shots before we throw them in the trash. Take a little time to see what yours tell you so you can improve your photography the next time you pick up your camera, whatever camera it might be!

Are you ready to give it a try now? Here’s one more photo to practice with!

ISO 1250 | f/5.6 | shutter speed 1/40 | 100mm


What went wrong? What can you learn from this photo? Share in the comments below!

Want more tips from Katrina? She’ll be talking about creating story in your photos during Lain Ehmann’s CreativeLive class, Scrapbook Your Story, on Monday, May 19th. It’s LIVE and FREE online. More details here.