10 Traps to Avoid If You Want to Create Good Photos

If you are like me, then you may have wondered how to create interesting pictures that are different from the ones you have already seen.

You and I both know that it is difficult. Despite our experience, we sometimes fall into a trap that prevents us from making good photos for a project.

In this article, I have listed 10 traps to avoid. Memorize them. This list will allow you to create photos that are unique and yet still resemble you.

Landscape in black and white of the Grand Canyon from the south rim in Arizona. Photograph by Amar Guillen, photographer artist.
The Grand Canyon from the south rim in Arizona.

Important Foreword

Before going further, I would like to clarify that this article is part of my blog on the photographic approach, where I discuss subjects concerning the photographic state of mind, photographic inspiration, and the abstract and philosophical reasonings behind the shooting process.

When discussing how to approach the field, I try to give you tips that are more related to moods rather than technical advice.

In this article, I will not limit myself in explaining the pitfalls of using high sensitivities, the size of your camera's sensor or depth of field management. These technical points are discussed in other blogs in more detail.

For me, they are important to know but not essential.

The photographic approach is the most important phase in making good photos. It is necessary to understand and master.

Technique is not a necessary condition to create different interesting pictures.

Now that I have made this little clarification, I invite you to continue reading. My hope for you is that in reading this post, you will be granted a few minutes of escape from reality.

The Little Story of This Article

When I used to shoot for magazines and agencies, I felt like I was creating really interesting pictures. An art director or an editor used to send me a message or call me up and ask if I was available for upcoming photo projects. They used to tell me the specifications and the subject.

They defined exactly what they wanted from me.

Sometimes I proposed subjects based on an idea. If these proposals corresponded to the editorial line of the magazine or to the topics planned for the next 12 months, I would then venture onto the field.

I had little latitude in my work. The important thing was to make sharp, well-framed, well-composed photos with a touch of originality.

It was essential that my photos fit the subject and that they were in line with the article and my client’s needs.

What always surprised me was that even if my name was mentioned in the article, no one ever noticed or remembered it. You may have experienced this as well. Which interests you more: the name of the article’s author or the photos that illustrate it? Most people would say that the author of course. One does not normally read articles only to search out the name of the person who took the photos accompanying the words.

I admit it was a little frustrating and hopeless. After ten years of hard and repetitive work, I realized that I had not built a legacy that would last.

For ten years, I had been applying the same methods and the same techniques without really having a goal to reach that I would be proud of.

When I decided to create artistic photographs, which I wanted to pursue and which better corresponded to my aspirations, I listed some points that I absolutely had to avoid in the future.

These points are what I call “traps”. I was making good money in my other line of work. But I was not satisfied, because I was falling into these traps. I was not genuinely happy.

Since then, I have continued to add points to that list. This is what I am going to propose to you in this article.

Definition of the "Trap"

Before I go any further, I need to define the word “trap”.

One of the definitions of this word is the following:

A situation that is generally contradictory or constraining and from which there is no escape.

Its Application to Photography

If I apply this definition to photography, I can say that to fall into a photographic trap (I am not talking about laser beam cameras) is to put oneself in a situation or state from which one cannot escape.

We cannot create pictures that we do not actually desire. We put barriers in place that prevent us from making interesting and different photos.

A trap is a funny thing. What strikes me the most is that after all these years, these barriers are often mental, therefore we (not others) are limiting our own potential.

I find it interesting that we create our own barriers that become traps from which we can no longer escape.

Keep in Mind the Photographic Perspective

To develop a photographic state of mind is to place yourself in a model and a system of thought in which you will use the photographic medium to express yourself.

Never forget that the quality of your photos depends totally on the quality of this photographic perspective.

You absolutely must know why you want to create or make photos. This is the basis of the creation process.

After this particularly important reminder, I will describe the different traps you must avoid to create interesting pictures.

Trap #1: Copying

Every day, you probably visit many websites to view and analyze photos.

Occasionally, you may buy a magazine to read a technical article that interests you.

You may look at the pictures. You might think that some of them are beautiful. Perhaps you write them down in your photo diary for your next photo session.

When the day of your next photo session arrives, you may discover that all the conditions are in place to reproduce the photo(s) you enjoyed. You are prepared. You take the shot. You develop the photos with your computer. When you finally gaze upon the completed photo, you know that it is finished.

And then, you tuck the image away in storage. The photo(s) will join the thousands of other photos you have taken that are sleeping on your computer's hard drive. Why is that? Because you made a photographic copy/paste. This photo, even if you liked it at first, does not match you. It does not reflect your photographic state of mind.

You should not confuse enjoying a specific photo with the idea that it is perfect to copy.

I am just like you. I am often moved by photographs of portraits with faces and attitudes that convey a lot of emotion. I find them incredibly beautiful. But I never photograph human beings. This photographic theme does not correspond to me. It is not my photographic state of mind.

In this case, I am just content to appreciate and to taste the joy of looking at good photos without trying to copy them.

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To redo a photo just because someone else has already done it is a real trap. It will lead you to photographic frustration. You will not be really satisfied because it is Deja vu. It does not allow you to fulfill your full potential.

Trap #2: Failing to Seeking Inspiration

The second trap is to stay in your bubble, your cozy little corner, without looking at what other photographers are doing. This occurs when you fail to feel the pulse of the thriving and changing world around you. This is what I call not looking for inspiration.

This trap is one of the consequences of getting stuck in your own photographic comfort zone.

To create unique pictures, you need to get out of your comfort zone. You must learn to accept the reality that the world is harsh and intimidating. Being vulnerable in avoiding criticism and not searching for new sources of inspiration limits your potential.

Seeking inspiration outside your comfort zone means looking for new ideas, whether it is for your framing or your compositions.

I am just like you. I often become comfortable wearing my crown of success after showcasing a particular artistic photo collection. For a few weeks, I let myself go. Then I begin to create in the continuity of what I have already done. The trigger that makes me understand that I am on the wrong track is that I spend less time developing. Everything becomes systematic. It is at this crucial stage that I understand the problem. I am not reinventing myself. In that case, I stop the project. That is as far as I go. I go back to reading photo books. I return to buying a stack of magazines, visiting museums, and browsing online resources.

I try to find new ideas that will inspire me for my next pictures.

The best advice I can give you is to avoid individual traps as they arise. Be aware of where you are at on your creative journey. It is to see what is going on out there. Feel the pulse of the real world. Do not settle for the tasteless food that the media delivers daily. The real world is a much different place.

Trap #3: Not Daring to Act

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I Want to Help You to Create Interesting Photos