The many of the hopeful efforts posted on photo sharing networks, such as flickr, share obvious shortcomings. Anyone can avoid these basic mistakes if they use a little care. One of the main attributes of a professional photographer is they get these small details right all the time.
One glaring mistakes is sloping horizon when this includes the sea. A sloping sea makes the image viewer slightly uncomfortable because they feel something is not quite right even if they are not consciously aware of the mistake. This can be easy to do when handholding and totally unforgiveable if using a tripod, but in post processing good editing software suites offer easy to use tools to correct any slight slopes on the ocean.
This principle applies to buildings any other structure, except perhaps for the Leaning Tower of Pisa, as image viewers expect them to be vertical.
For professional looking photos take a little extra time to line up prominent vertical or horizontal features in the viewfinder, every time. When it becomes an automatic part of picture taking this check will not add any time, and it will help get better candid shots.
Despite modern computerized exposure Through The Lens (TTL) systems on DSLRs this still a common problem. Pattern or matrix metering systems tend to average out the exposure over the whole image, leaving small areas overexposed. DLRs manufacturers include extra tools in the camera to help. These overexposed areas of the image often blink while reviewing the image on the LCD screen. The there is the exposure histogram that gives a different view of under or over exposure of the image.
Professionals often take a test photo, analyze the result and then use exposure compensation or a more appropriate metering mode such as spot metering to get the important areas of the image correctly exposed.
Shadows and Flare
Compositionally it is sometimes necessary to shoot into the sun or another bright light source, although normally avoided this whenever possible. Always use an appropriate lens hood and fill flash to balance out any shadows.
Not Using a Flash Diffuser
There is a plethora of flash diffuser accessories to reduce the harsh directional light from electronic flash units. Without them, the results are shiny spots on faces or flat featureless faces with deep harsh shadows.
Dirt Spots on the Sensor
You do not have to be a forensic scientific expert to find photos on the internet covered in dirt spots. Instead of nice blue sky and clean white clouds, the sky is streaked and dotted with dirt spots. This is indicates to the image viewer a lack of care or understanding about camera maintenance and reflect on the overall impression of the photographer’s competency.
Even the professionals end up with occasional dust spots on the original image. Part of the post processing routine is to find and remove any spots using tools such as the healing brush in Adobe Photoshop.
Professionals look beyond the subject to avoid distracting objects that are not part of the story in the image. They can be in the foreground or background. This may mean housekeeping the scene and moving unwanted objects, move the subject or using framing and depth of field to take objects out of the shot. Professionals love longer focal length lenses and large apertures (small f number ) for portraits to isolate the subject by blurring everything else. Use Aperture priority mode to control this aspect of image capture.
The obvious mistake is to see only the subject and mentally block out the rest of the scene. This is where the professionals develop the “photographer’s eye’ where they look at the whole scene not just the subject.
For that professional look to photos always use the lowest possible ISO setting to keep unwanted digital noise to minimum. This also goes with the previous point, lowest ISO allows larger apertures to produce shallow depth of field.