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10 Most Common Photography Mistakes and How to Fix Them

A young woman using a DSLR camera

I live in a rural area, with lots of nature to photograph and fewer people to annoy me. I’m a self-taught photographer. All I know about photography comes from fooling around with a second-hand camera and googling stuff on my HughesNet plans. With digital cameras and editing software, photos have never looked better. Conversely, sometimes they have never looked worse. Photography and editing can make or break the end result of your hard work. Getting and editing the perfect shot is not an easy task. But if you can avoid a few common photography mistakes, you can come out on top.

10 Common Photography and Editing Mistakes and How to Fix Them

If you’re new to the photography scene, your first few shots are bound to be full of mistakes. This leaves you with two options. You can continue making mistakes and learn as you go the old-fashioned way. Or you can use the power of the internet and learn how to avoid or fix certain common mistakes. If the second option appeals to you, then this blog is just the thing you need. Here is our list of the 10 most common photography mistakes and how to fix them:

  1. Uncalibrated Monitor
  2. Cloning Patterning
  3. Over-Sharpening
  4. Destructive Editing
  5. Over-Cropping
  6. Uneven Color Tones
  7. Contrast Problems
  8. Teeth Too White
  9. Eyes Too Bright
  10. Unnatural Skin Tone and Texture

Let’s take a quick look at each mistake and how to fix it below.

Uncalibrated Monitor

As an editor, you need to make sure the colors you are seeing are the right colors. A high-definition computer monitor is a definite plus. Most laptops already come with high-definition screens. You can easily add a separate one to your desktop. But there are still ways to get by without one. All you need to do is make sure the screen is properly calibrated. This means your colors will appear in the right visual range to the viewer. Calibrated monitors make for better print images as well.

Cloning Patterning

Most people use cloning to sample a piece of the photograph and use it to hide distracting elements or clutter. Patterning occurs when you keep using the same sample to clone out the elements you don’t need. People can pick up on patterning if you keep using the same pattern over and over for the same element. Always sample new areas when you’re trying not to duplicate the exact same texture every time.


Your camera focus and contrast settings define the sharpness of your image. For a sharper image, you need more contrast. Too little contrast will make the image look flat and two-dimensional. It doesn’t matter if your focus is perfect when the contrast is off. Shadows, highlights, and edges all matter when it comes to creating a sharp image. But don’t go overboard. Too much sharpening can cause noise, artifacts, and halos, which you don’t want. And you can’t improve focus with sharpening without a lot of effort. This means your best bet is to use a high pass filter instead of pre-programmed methods.  

Destructive Editing

Destructive editing is when you edit over the original image. You should never do this because it eliminates the source material. It also means you don’t have an image as a reference for editing. Each successive save of the same image will ruin its quality a little more. Always use duplicate layers when editing.


Negative space is important in an image if you don’t want it to appear too claustrophobic. But a very easy mistake to make is over-cropping. Always follow visual guidelines like the golden ratio and the rule of thirds. Improper cropping can cause issues when you go to get your images printed as well.

Uneven Color Tones

With too many different tones, your colors won’t match properly. This is most common in split tone photography. Split toning requires you to edit colors and shadows separately. But you can’t edit properly with a selective coloring approach. Properly calibrate your monitor and check out the image on different screens. You may need to look at your light balance as well. Natural and artificial lighting wreak havoc on the white balance.

Contrast Problems

Contrast is what is going to add definition to your photograph. Too much contrast can cause your image to lose detail. However, a lack of contrast will make the image drab and flat. Learn how to use curves to increase or decrease contrast. Forego the sliders and use a detail-oriented method instead. Make all your adjustments on a separate layer, not the original.

Teeth Too White

Photography white balance can often cause teeth in photographs to appear yellow even if they aren’t. This prompts many photographers to whiten teeth while editing. However, this makes for a very unnatural look if overdone. You don’t want the teeth to be the brightest part of the photograph. Whiten teeth on a separate layer and lower its opacity. You need to find a middle ground, not too white and not too yellow.

Eyes Too Bright

Most photographers go overboard trying to make their model’s eyes stand out. Dodge tools help add a glimmer to the iris. However, the result can be freaky when not done right. To avoid this, use the dodge tool one time at 50% opacity. Use white balance to make sure the eyes look normal. Then use the burn tool at 50% opacity to add more contrast to the edges of the iris.

Unnatural Skin Tone and Texture

Skin tone and textures like plastic are unnatural. You don’t see them in Hollywood. You don’t see them in my neck of the woods either where your only friend for miles is HughesNet Customer Care. This leads me to the conclusion that the effect us unnatural and you need to avoid it. You don’t want the result to look like a toy doll. Edit the original and retouch it side-by-side. You need to duplicate the texture of the skin while cloning. This will take care of unnatural smoothness or skin tone. Nobody likes hearing how Photoshopped they look.