Why Your Photos Suck


The answer is simple, because you suck. Wow, that was brutal and I was totally kidding and if you kept reading that means you have thick skin so you passed the test. Sure, your friends and family tell you that they love your images, but most likely they are just being polite because they know you’re interested in photography and they don’t want to discourage you. 


In addition to being the harsh judge on History Channel's Photo Face-Off  I've judge thousands of photos for numerous photography competitions and I've seen a lot of bad photos in my time. Whether you like taking photos of your kids, pets, travel, for Instagram, and whether you’re a pro or an amateur these are the simple reasons why your photos suck. Don't worry, I've added ways not to suck for each so when you're done reading this you will in fact not suck.


Flat or Harsh Light

It all starts with light, the first thing I notice when I look at an image is the light, it sets the mood. A beautiful moment or scenery can all be ruined with flat, harsh, or just plain boring light. 


How To Not Suck

 A quick and easy way to improve the light in your shots is to shoot at the right time of day. The first and last hour of daylight is the best time to get dramatic light. I promise you, shooting at these times will instantly improve your photos. 

Understand how to manually control your exposures and experiment with different ways of exposing for light. If you’re a phone only shooter you can still control your exposure on most camera phones so try letting in more or less light manually in your settings and see what happens.


Boring Composition

If you are always shooting the same distance between yourself and your subject or you are always shoot at eye level your composition is probably boring your audience.


How To Not Suck

Try varying your perspective by getting on the ground, climbing up to a high vantage point and/or vary the distance between you and your subject. Frame through things you find in everyday life and trying to get up close and personal to your subjects.


You Lack A Moment

After bad light, nothing ruins an image like a lack of a moment or just a boring moment. A great image should move you and make you feel something.


How Not To Suck

Life is so beautiful on its own, be patient, a natural moment will happen if you just wait, anticipate, and prepare your camera settings and your position to capture it properly. 


You’re Lazy

I watch so many photographers see a nice scene and they stop for a second, take a couple shots and then move on.


How Not To Suck

When you come across a scene you like, spend some time working different lenses, exposures, angles, etc. 


Your Camera Is Awful

That was a trick, it’s not the camera, it’s you. With these pro tips, you can shoot gorgeous photos with any type of camera so don’t blame the camera.


How Not To Suck

Use what you can afford and stop the narrative in your head that your photos are bad because you don’t have a nice camera, that's bull. 


That Image Looks Familiar

When you copy someone else's  image might the resulting image might not suck but you do for copying or recreating someone else’s image.  Copying a good image doesn’t make you a good photographer it makes you a good copier Mr or Mr's Xerox. In the short term you might get some likes and pats on the back but you aren't worthy of it and you won't improve in the long run. 


How Not To Suck

Resist the temptation for the shortcut approach and go out there and strive to be original. It’s not going to be easy but nothing good ever is.


You Got Complacent

Pros and amateurs alike can get complacent and in turn they put the creative side of their brain on cruise control and their images become repetitive. 


How Not To Suck

Stay hungry, stay competitive, and push yourself always. 


We live in a time with a saturation of images so in order to stand out you need to stop sucking. Sorry for the tough love, but I promise you if apply these tips you will see an improvement in your photography instantly.   If you have any questions about this article please ask me in the comments section below and if you think I suck please keep it to yourself my ego is too fragile. 


Author Justin Mott

Since arriving in Vietnam over a decade ago, Justin Mott has established himself as one of the best-known and well respected photographers in Southeast Asia. He has shot over 100 assignments for the New York Times while a collection of his work in Vietnam has been featured on the BBC. Additional major editorial clients include TIME, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and The Guardian among many others. His boutique visual production studio Mott Visuals specializes in premium commercial photography and video production. Mott is also familiar to TV viewers as host and resident judge of History Channel’s hit photography reality series Photo Face-Off now entering their 4th Season.