Discovering the love for a new passion is exciting.
Having the time and money to be able to pursue that passion makes us all pretty lucky humans.
But where in the world do you begin with this photography journey?
1. Purchase your gear.
Photography can be an expensive endeavor. In my opinion, you don’t need the latest and greatest gear and every gadget to be happy with your photography.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to what gear to buy. Every photographer uses different gear based on their style, budget, goals, and personal preference.
When you’re starting out, the important thing is that you get your hands on whatever you can afford. You can upgrade later when you understand photography more and better know exactly what you need for the type of photography you’re creating.
If you’re on a strict budget, starting with your phone will give you the opportunity to practice composition, connection, light, subject, etc.
When you’re ready for the real deal, ask friends and family if they have any unused gear! They may be willing to let you borrow it or sell it to you for a good price. Don’t worry about getting exactly what you want. Immersing yourself in photography and learning where you want to go with it should be your goal.
You can always sell gear later on as you upgrade. You don’t want to buy an enormous camera meant for weddings or commercial photography only to realize you actually want a compact mirrorless because your heart is telling you that travel photography is your calling.
I started out with a Canon Rebel T5i and kit lens. I quickly learned that lenses matter (pro tip: lenses matter almost MORE than your actual camera!) and read that the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens (aka the Nifty Fifty) is a great way to start out with a good lens. It’s sharp, a great length, and I think I paid about $125 for it which is CHEAP.
After using that camera and lens setup for about a year, I upgraded to a Canon 6D and Canon 35mm f/1.4L and am still using it years later. I only upgraded because of the type of photography I chose to pursue (more on that later).
Honestly, I don’t enjoy tech and gadgets. I want to know only enough to be able to make the type of photographs that I love. I keep it simple with a single camera body and lens and that works for me.
Related: Being happy with just one lens
As for editing, the software you use is part of your gear. I have always used Lightroom and am thrilled with it. It’s just as powerful as Photoshop for most editing. If you want to manipulate images extensively then Photoshop may be the way to go for you.
2. Find your style.
Finding what moves and speaks to you should be a focus early on.
Think about the interests you already have. If you love the outdoors then you may enjoy shooting landscapes and nature. If you’re fascinated by fantasy and science fiction then you may find that you love making surreal photographic art.
What I learned during my first year is that I adore shooting in low light while capturing human emotion and connection. It took time and experimenting, though.
Besides photographing my children all the time, I photographed pets, landscapes, street photography, still life, and macro. I shot around my house, in my backyard, on walks, on trips, and at all times of day.
I started realizing that I enjoyed creating emotional, fine art lifestyle photos of people more than anything else. Due to this type of photography, I needed a full frame camera to handle low light better and a wider lens for indoor work, so I upgraded.
No matter where you end up, it’s important that you give yourself the space and time to learn and grow into the photographer you are meant to be. Don’t rush it, you’ll get there eventually. My journey is not your journey and you may find your style much quicker or much slower than I did.
There’s no right way to be a creative. Enjoy the process and savor the art you make along the way. Remember, your style will constantly be evolving.
Keep a journal of your work (Instagram is great for this) and periodically look back over your portfolio. Notice which photos excite you or make you proud and which ones make you feel a little bored. Listen to those feelings and they will lead you on the path to finding your photography style.
3. Learn your craft.
So you’ve taken the time to get to know your creative self and you’ve got the gear you need but you’re consistently disappointed with your results.
You may make a great photograph now and then but it’s so hit and miss that you’ve become frustrated. Or maybe your work is a bit mundane, and you’ve become bored. What do you do?
Take a class.
I’ve taken two classes with Click Photo School and they were both incredible! The instructors and assistants were so encouraging and I gained a lot of confidence along with the skill.
Think about what you;re struggling with whether it’s understanding light, editing, composition, or something else and find a class or workshop for it.
There are many great online classes and no matter which workshop you take, be sure to devote yourself to it. You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t take everything you can from it.
Try taking it during a slow season of your life or rearrange some things so that you have time to study and practice. Get yourself a notebook and take notes on everything. This will be so helpful to review later and you are more likely to absorb knowledge when you write it down.
Read anything you can get your hands on.
The photography community is strong and there are many who love teaching and sharing their knowledge. Clickin Moms is an amazing resource and I learned a heck of a lot there between the blog, forum, and others in the community.
YouTube is awesome as well. Early on I spent hours there watching people shoot and edit.
Instagram is an amazing place to connect with fellow photographers to encourage and learn from each other. Many photographers offer their own classes and workshops so be sure to go the websites of the photographers you love and see if they offer anything.
Suck it up and ask for critique.
This can be painful and you may become angry or hurt by someone’s opinion of your work. Ask only those whose opinion you respect, give yourself time to consider their thoughts, and then either take their critique and make yourself better or toss it out and move on.
Don’t waste your time worrying about what someone else thinks of your work if what they think doesn’t fit into your vision of art.
Well, my photographer friend, I’m so happy that you’ve chosen to explore photography. We are born to be creative and are all artists in some way. This creativity can be squashed as we become adults and we lose a way to get lost in something beautiful and healing. I hope that you find satisfaction and fulfillment in making photographic art that is as unique as you are. No one else can make what you make.