Over the last few months, I have been talking about The Academy and general photography.  For this weeks blog/newsletter I wanted to turn my attention back to Studio Photographers for a little while.  The theme is simply…

The Three Most Common Studio Photography Mistakes

We all make mistakes in our photography – if you never make mistakes you aren’t pushing yourself.  So don’t beat yourself up if you recognise yourself in one or more of these mistakes.  Just take note of it and try to correct it next time you are in the studio.

1 Shooting too close to your subject

When working with seamless paper, I see photographers using the line where the paper ends as being their shooting position.  This is usually way too close to your subject.  Shooting from this position means that you will have to use a short focal length – a wide angle lens.   This does two things, firstly it starts to introduce distortion on your subject (this can be good if you are using it for a distorted effect but not if you are trying to create a flattering portrait).  Secondly the distortion effect makes the background appear much smaller than it actually is.  You are likely to see one or both edges of the background paper, or even struggle to ‘keep your subject on the background’.

The solution is easy, stand back.  As far back as your lens will let you.  By going back and using a longer focal length (ozooming in) firstly the foreshortening effect of a longer focal length will make the background appear a lot bigger.  Secondly, the longer focal length is much more flattering on a subjects feature.  70-130mm (full frame equivalent) focal length is said to be the best for head and shoulders portraits.

2 Shooting full-length portraits standing up

This is often combined with the first mistake of shooting too close, but even if you are a reasonable distance back getting down low will improve your full-length portraits.  If you are shooting full length from standing you have no choice but to tilt the camera down to get the feet in shot.  Once you tilt the camera (up or down) you start to get converging verticals (the same reason tops of building look smaller when you point a camera up at them).  With people it’s just the same, you are pointing the camera down so their legs look shorter.  People with small dumpy legs don’t look good.  The solution is to kneel down keep the camera back vertical and shoot from there.  Being low down and giving a slight upward tilt will make the legs look longer – which for almost everyone is also very flattering.

3 Shooting too much

Actually, this is two different mistakes with the same title.  Firstly I mean capturing the entire shooting area instead of  just cropping your image in-camera.  Now it might sound like a wise move to give yourself ‘options’ to crop the image in post production, but let’s think about this for a minute.  Many of the people I have seen doing this are shooting so wide that they are capturing both edges of the background paper – those images are going to need a lot of cropping.  Effectively you are turning a 20Mpix image into one less than 10Mpix.  Now suppose your client likes that (cropped-in) image and wants a large canvas print – you may no longer have the resolution to provide it at an acceptable quality.  Also, think of the time you will save by doing the crop in camera at the time of shooting.  One less thing to do at the computer screen.  You do want to spend less time processing your images, don’t you?

The other type of shooting too much, that I see are photographers who take the same poses, over and over again.  At the end of group shoots I often hear photographers proudly talking about how many shots they have taken as if having over 200+ images is something to be proud about.  What *IS* something to boast about is being able to get the shots you need in as few shutter clicks as possible.  Got the shoot?  Great – move on. Either work on a different pose or stop.  There is not point in having 10 almost identical shots of the same pose from the same perspective with the same crop.

Here’s how I work to avoid both forms of “Shooting too much” – I will take a wide shot (maybe full length or 3/4 length depending on the lighting). Although this is a wide shot, I frame it so that it would work without the need for additional cropping in post production.  Two shutter clicks of this just in case one was a blink.  Then, with the same pose, I come in to get as tight a framing as I can manage, try a different framing (one shutter click per crop/framing).  I have the wide shot to fall back on if I had to but the aim is to get the crop/framing right in camera.  That’s the pose done – move on.


I hope highlighting these common mistakes is helpful to you.  Next time you are shooting in a studio try to remember them and avoid the.

Happy shooting and keep making great images,