Typical Photography Errors And Issues – What Can Come Up In Your Composition

Do your photos turn out blurry, flat, dark, overexposed or distorted? It pays to know the symptoms and causes, and what you can do about it. In this article, we look at the top things that can go wrong when taking a photo, and how to avoid these problems and take great shots!

Poor Focus Creates Blurry Images

If your photograph looks blurry, then the chances are that you did not focus properly or the auto-focus did not do what you expected. If you were focusing manually, did you remember to refocus before you took your photo, or was it still on the focus settings from your previous shot? If you are using auto-focus, did you point the camera directly at the main object in your photo, or did you point it at something in front of or behind this?

Camera Shake Also Causes Blurry Images

In order to take a sharp image, the camera has to be steady while you are taking the photo. If your hands are shaking when you shoot, or if the exposure is long enough for the camera to move, then you are going to get a blurry image. To fix this, you can reduce the exposure time by changing the shutter speed. Of course, to do this you will also have to change the aperture, which will change the depth of field in your photo. If you do not want to affect the depth, then your other option is to increase the ISO, which increases the sensitivity of the camera to light, but creates a noisier image. Alternatively, try stabilizing the camera with a monopod or tripod.

Stop Motion Blur

If your subject is moving quickly, such as in sport photography, then your picture is going to end up blurred at normal shutter speeds, no matter how well you stabilize the camera. The only way to fix this is to use a faster shutter speed – you may have to go to speeds as fast as 1/1000 second or higher for high action sports.

Contrast is Too High

If your photo is losing detail in the light and dark regions, then the contrast is too high. In some situations, this can be unavoidable as the sensor is not able to pick up the full spectrum of light intensity. Unless you want to fix this with photo-editing software, you are going to have to concentrate of getting the most important part of your photo correctly exposed and put up with the rest, or use a graduated neutral-density filter to get the whole scene right – which is a common practice in landscape photography.

Contrast is Too Low

If your photo looks flat, with little difference between the highlight and shadows, then the contrast is probably too low. This can be a result of poor lighting or of photographing certain subjects such as snowy landscapes. This can often be fixed by editing the levels in an application such as Photoshop and adjusting the black point and white point in the image histogram. You should also check whether you have any stray light coming in when you take your photograph; this can cause low contrast and, in this case, a lens hood can be use to minimize the problem.

Lens Flares

If your photo looks hazy, or if there are visible artifacts associated with a bright light source, then you are suffering from a lens flare. Lens flares occur when stray light comes into the lens and creates unwanted effects due to scattering and reflection in the lens. Cheap lenses usually create the worst lens flares, but you can get lens flares even with high end lenses, and therefore it is a good idea to always use a lens hood to minimize the risk.

Double Lights

This problem can arise when you are taking photos in low light conditions, and is more common with some types of lens, especially less expensive ones. Using a UV filter can make this problem worse, so if you notice this problem, especially during night shoots, try removing the filter.


If your photo looks too dark, then it is underexposed. You need to increase the amount of light reaching your sensor by using a slower shutter speed or larger aperture, or increase the sensitivity of the sensor by using a higher ISO. Each of these approaches is going to affect your picture by increasing blur, changing the depth of field or introducing noise, so you need to decide which combination of adjustments to make, depending on what you are trying to accomplish.


On the other hand, if your photo is too bright, then you have the the opposite problem – overexposure. You need to reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor or decrease the sensor's sensitivity. Use a faster shutter speed, decrease the aperture or use a lower ISO, again in the appropriate combination depending on what you want to achieve.


If the corners of your photo are dark, then you have a problem with vignetting. This can occur when the scene you are shooting is not evenly lit, or when you are using flash photography and the flash only lights up the center of the scene. You are most likely to see this effect when using using the highest aperture on your lens, even if it is a top quality lens. You can usually fix this problem easily by taking the aperture down a couple of stops.

Lens Distortion

Do your pictures look distorted, with parallel lines appearing to either converge or diverge towards the edges of your picture? Are you trying to photograph architecture close up with a wide angle lens? Then you are seeing lens distortion. All lenses (even those below 50mm) create some distortion, but the effect becomes pronounced under these conditions. To reduce this problem, step back from your subject or try using a more appropriate lens.

The Horizon is Skewed

The cause of this is fairly obvious; you were holding the camera on an angle or the tripod was not vertical. Some digital SLRs allows you to install a focusing screen with a horizon guide or come with one installed. Failing this, you can easily fix this with photo-editing software, although this will result in the edges of the photo being cropped.

Red Eye

If you are photographing people or animals and their eyes look red, the you are experiencing red eye. This occurs because the flash in located directly on the camera and the light bounces back to the lens from the back of the subject's eyes – which are red with blood. To prevent this, don't use the camera's internal flash and try an external flash whose light can be bounced off of other surfaces rather than entering the eye directly.

Too Much Noise

If you are seeing noise in your photos, then you are most likely using too high an ISO setting, although you can also see excessive noise when using long exposures. Reduce the ISO setting or exposure time as appropriate to avoid this problem. You can also remove noise with photo-editing software, but you will lose some of the detail in the original photo.

Yellow or Orange Tint

Cameras try to compensate when shooting outdoors, and add orange tones to create a realistic image. If you camera thought you were shooting outside and you were not, you will end up with yellow or orange tones. Most cameras have a white balance setting for indoor or outdoor shots (as well as custom and auto settings), so you may want to check that first. If you are photographing in RAW mode (as opposed to JPG), you can also adjust this white balance with photo-editing software without affecting the image quality. One thing to check, though – if you were using a flash, did you bounce it off an orange surface? Avoid this, and always try to bounce your flash off a neutral surface.

Blue Tint

This is the opposite of the orange/yellow problem described above, and results in a cold-looking picture. The same approach is required to fix this; make sure your white balance settings are right, or correct the problem with photo-editing software. The problem may also arise sometimes due to excessive UV light reaching the sensor and can be corrected with an UV filter. However, UV does not cause this problem in most digital SLR cameras.

Follow these rules, and you will be well on your way to taking better quality photos, getting the maximum payback and satisfaction for the time and money you spend!