I've been going through old photos in the process of redoing my website. Looking at some of my earlier work has been a little humbling. I definitely had my moments of missed focus, underexposure and horrific composition. But the funniest thing to look at was how horribly I massacred my pictures in Photoshop afterwards. Here's a picture from the very first time I took photos for a stranger in 2007. She requested that I processed them in sepia and I found this "great free" Photoshop action online. I thought I pretty much rocked it. Um... Wow. So just out of curiosity I reprocessed the same picture today to see the difference. A little better don't you think? Better skin tones. Softer feel to fit with a newborn photo. Less contrasty. Much better.
So with this I pass on a few pieces of advice to new photographers so that they can learn from my mistakes:
1. Just because you can do something in Photoshop... doesn't mean you should.
2. Unless an action is fully adjustable... don't use it.
3. Less is more. You can ruin a perfectly good photo by overprocessing it.
4. Pay attention to blown highlights and clipped shadows. If you don't know what that means... learn.
5. Get critique. I asked some pretty awesome photographers to critique some photos for me. They let me have it. It hurt... I cried... but it was the BEST learning experience ever.