8 mistakes content creators make – and how to avoid them

On the journey from novice to pro, these content creators have learned a thing or two about what to do and, just as critically, what not to do. Here, they share their hard-learned lessons and advice.
Presenter Tomi Adebayo and content creator Laura Hannoun sit at a table next to a window in a Parisian cafe.

Presenter Tomi Adebayo interviewed Laura Hannoun of Les Paris de Laura and the other content creators in the Canon Europe Learning Series to hear about their journeys and the mistakes they made along the way.

An estimated 50 million people1 consider themselves "content creators", and that's not counting the people still trying to make it. In the 21st century, more than twice as many children want to be a YouTube star as an astronaut.2

The creator economy is booming, with the promise of a career from the comfort of your bedroom: no qualifications required, nobody's permission needed – all while doing whatever it is that you love most. But the same anyone-can-make-it charm also makes the pathway into the industry fraught with potential mistakes, as creators learn through trial and error. It's clear that there's much more to professional content creation than first appears.

As part of the Canon Europe Learning Series, we spoke to three successful content creators – Steven Herteleer, Laura Hannoun and Harrison Brown – about the mistakes they experienced as they learned their trade, so you won't make the same ones.

Laura Hannoun, the French fashion and brunch-loving creator behind Les Paris de Laura, fills her social media feed with recipes and restaurant reviews around Paris – and boasts 122,000 followers on social media, plus reels with up to 3.3 million views each.

With over two decades' experience, Steven Herteleer is a photographer who's worked for the world's leading publications and brands including LVMH and L'Oreal. But his journey began in 2002, when social media was yet to take off. Now, he has more than 500,000 followers on different social media platforms.

A man holding a Canon camera smiles and talks to another man.

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Harrison Brown wants you to feel something when you look at his pictures. His social feed showcases his international travels to more than 128,000 social media followers, 91,800 TikTok followers and 5,090 YouTube subscribers. The content is a palette of vibrant colours, poetic compositions and ethereal light – but it's been a journey to get there.

What have these successful creators discovered along the way, and how can budding content creators learn from their experiences? Here are their top tips.

Laura Hannoun smiles as she photographs a spread of coffee and croissants in a Paris café.

Laura has learned that being herself is a great selling point for her social media presence. She reviews restaurants around Paris with a smile and lots of colour, and her followers love it.

A top-down view taken by Laura Hannoun of a café table, showing four plates of fresh food, drinks, flowers and notebooks. A pair of hands is holding a knife and fork and starting to cut into one of the meals.

Laura ensures her images reflect her genuine tastes and personality, rather than a more serious take on food photography. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 Mark II with a Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens at 1/400 sec, f/2 and ISO 1000. © Laura Hannoun 

1. Don't lose your individuality

"I think my biggest mistake was trying to be someone I'm not," says Laura. "I'm someone who likes a lot of things going on in pictures – it's very colourful and you can feel like the pictures are living. But for a moment I had this feeling that I needed to create a more serious aesthetic. I don't like to pretend to be this serious woman drinking my coffee, with sunglasses and stuff." There are no rules for what content should or shouldn't be, so be your authentic self, encourages Laura.

2. Understand the formats

The second mistake Laura advises against is a technical one. "The biggest mistake that I see is with subtitles. When you put them at the bottom of the video on social media you sometimes can't read them, because of what the app has at the bottom on the screen." To ensure that your subtitles don't interfere or overlap with the information text that apps place across the bottom of your video, position them about a third of the way up the screen.

A photograph by Steven Herteleer captures the lightning above a city.

"If you had a shop, you'd have a window and people would walk past the window. Social media is the ability to have your window in everybody's pockets," says content creator Steven Herteleer – and you have to curate the pictures you put in that window carefully. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 24mm, 1/40 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 1000. © Steven Herteleer

Steven Herteleer looks at the LCD screen of a Canon camera, another camera and two lenses on the surface next to him.

Over the years, Steven has learned that it is important to buy the best equipment you can, and he relies on Canon cameras and lenses for his social media content. He's keen to stress though that the tech alone isn't enough for success.

3. Don't get stuck in a tutorial loop – publish your work, and accept criticism

Learn as much as you can, but don't wait until you think you've mastered everything to start posting your content. "Look at tutorials, free ones on YouTube or workshops, but don't get stuck with that," says Steven. "Meet clients, show your work, accept criticism and grow – don't be stuck for years thinking your quality is not good enough, because many many people block themselves. One day your photos may be worth thousands, but there are also jobs for people who sell for €500. It's OK. Just aim at your level of quality and grow, and change your prices with the quality."

4. Provide value for your audience

"One common mistake is that people post on social media what they like," says Steven – when they should be thinking about what their followers are hoping to find. "Remember that people are going to social media to find stuff for themselves. You need to share what people are looking for. Talk about exactly the same topics, but rather than 'This is my new setup', say 'I tried something and it totally changed the look of my photos and I'm going to tell you why'. If it's a restaurant, it could be 'OK, I just found the best place to bring your girlfriend – I'll show you the place. Tell me if you want more places like that.' Present it as something useful for people so that it doesn't come across as boasting. Share value, and create a conversation."

A young man dressed in black stands on a street corner, holding a Canon EOS R5 camera at chest height and looking down into its LCD screen.

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5. Don't just focus on picture quality

"It's important to have a good camera – the first thing I did was buy the best camera and lens that I could afford – but it's not everything," says Steven. "Network, strategy, storytelling and also finance are important. You can have the craziest photos, absolutely outstanding quality, but if you're not good on the other areas – you don't know how to talk with a client or you're not good in finances and do things for €100 when it's worth 10,000, or don't know how to sell yourself – then it's not going to work in the end."

Harrison Brown, photographed against a mountainous background, smiles as he holds a Canon camera.

Harrison Brown understands that it is important to keep learning – getting to know your tech and uploading content as you go means you can get feedback and grow as a creator.

Harrison Brown stands facing a waterfall, his silhouette captured from behind.

Harrison wishes he learned earlier that the fastest path to improvement is to share your work and receive feedback. He believes that taking pleasure in your own creation and remembering you are the most important part of it can help reduce the anxiety of sharing it with others. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 168mm, 1/320 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 640. © Harrison Brown

6. Don't be anxious about uploading content

"I think my biggest mistake was being anxious about uploading certain things," says Harrison. "I wouldn't post my work because I thought it wasn't good enough, but it doesn't matter if it's not good enough. The only way to grow is by posting and getting feedback and then doing it again, and getting more feedback. Having anxiety about what you post to the point that you're just not posting anything means that you won't learn. I'm what's important and my work is what's important, instead of what other people think of my work. My biggest mistake was just not learning that sooner."

Photographer Steven Herteleer stands amongst rocks in the mountains, holding a Canon camera in front of him and looking at the viewscreen, in a still from the Canon Learning Series.

7. Don't invest in equipment without knowing how to use it

"A common mistake that I see, in terms of video, is people shooting at the wrong frame rates," says Harrison. "As a videographer, you identify that immediately – it gives this choppy look to a video, and it's really frustrating. You can have the best piece of equipment, the most expensive equipment, but if you don't know how to use it then you might as well film it on your phone. Learn the product, and then buy the equipment, instead of the other way around. For a practical tip about frame rate, always have your shutter at double your frame rate. So, if you're shooting 25fps, you want to be shooting with a shutter of 50. This will give you a really nice buttery smooth look and it's what you view at the cinema."

 Harrison Brown and Tomi Adebayo discuss content creation against a snow-capped mountain backdrop.

Harrison believes it's important to think about the realities and the whole package to make sure it suits you before getting into it for the wrong reasons. He and the other content creators were interviewed by Tomi on location for the Canon Europe Learning Series to really get a sense of their environments and how they approach their content creation.

8. Don't get into it for the wrong reasons

"I see a lot of people getting the wrong idea about travel influencing, based on what they see," says Harrison. "Travel does have a lot of negatives: you're away from your family, you're probably staying in hostels that aren't amazing, there's food poisoning. I think people get into photography and video for some aspect of fame or social following. If you do that, the odds are that within a year or two years you will burn out and you won't enjoy it. If you're in it for the right reasons, you're in it for your own work, then the odds are you won't burn out and you'll be a lot more consistent and you'll be able to grow your career."

For more inspiration and advice from content creators, check out the Canon Europe Learning Series playlist on YouTube.

Emma-Lily Pendleton

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