How to Get Started in Photography

A silhouette of a boy on a bike in a doorway at Ta Prohm temple

If you’re thinking about How to Get Started in Photography then this article can offer you some quick tips and general advice to get you going. Photography can be quite an overwhelming subject when you consider all the different genres, the expensive equipment, and the many different aspects you should learn about. If you are feeling intimated by the size of the subject and are wondering how to practice photography then read on…

Get a Camera that you Love to use Every Day

Get a camera you really enjoy using and carry it around with you – I use a Fujifilm X100F. One of the biggest mistakes that I made early on my photography journey was I spent my money on a full frame DSLR. 

Fujifilm cameras are lightweight and fun to use

Although it helped me to learn about how to operate a full frame camera I didn’t enjoy taking it out with me every day because it was heavy. This meant I wasn’t shooting as often as I should have been which negatively affected my ability to learn photography.

Sony APSC Camera
Sony APSC Camera

Now that you are always carrying a camera with you remember to look for opportunities for good shots. When I consider how to practice photography I’m always amazed how many good shots appear for me now that I’m taking the time to notice them. This is a nice side effect of having a camera that you really enjoy using. 

Since I bought my Fujifilm I still use my DSLR for specialist occasions and working with clients. However, my Fujifilm is my everyday camera that allows me to practice a lot more and learn photography in a fun way. Let me be clear, I’m not saying buy a Fujifilm or any particular brand of camera or phone. The main point is to buy a camera (or phone) which YOU really love to use to take pictures on a daily basis. I would say however light weight is a lot more convenient for daily use. If you are unsure about which camera to buy this article about The Best Cameras for Beginners is a useful guide. 

Keep it simple with Gear

This is my final point with regards to gear. At first I would recommend buying a fun camera and a fixed prime lens, that is it! You don’t need multiple cameras, lenses, drones, filters, etc. These will just confuse you and actually make your photography worse.

One camera and one lens will do many things for you as a beginner photographer. Firstly, you can spend more time concentrating on composition, which is far more important than mastering gear. Secondly, the fixed lens will mean you only have to concentrate on mastering composition at one single focal length. This will help you greatly in training and developing your eye for a shot.

Finally, you will move around more, use your legs, and be more inclined to be creative to make a shot than you would with a zoom lens. This is an important learning phase for any photographer.

For full frame cameras I would recommend a 50mm or 35mm lens as a great place to start (or the equivalent on a cropped sensor). You can buy a camera with a fixed lens or buy a camera which accepts interchangeable lenses and buy a prime lens.

Canon Nifty 50
The Canon Nifty 50: Very cheap, very sharp, and loads of fun

practice photography as often as possible

Phone shot! You can practice composition at any time with modern technoligy.
Ladies laughing at my local subway station. Sometimes the best shots are on your doorstep

There’s a place for making big plans like going to a far away destination to take some great shots of stunning landscapes. The problem is if you’re only shooting on these occasions it will be nowhere near enough practice for you to learn photography. Ideally you want to be shooting everyday. It doesn’t matter that a lot of these shots will be badly composed shots of mundane subjects at first, trust me I’ve taken my share of those!

When thinking about how to get started in photography you should first think about how can I give myself the most opportunity to practice as often as possible. What is important is that you are learning your craft everyday, which is far more effective than once a month. Soon you will start to notice an improvement in your composition and you will start to learn how to create something out of nothing, which is an awesome and powerful skill to have as a photographer.

Don't let bad shots bring you down

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst”

-Henri Carter-Bresson

As previously mentioned it is more than likely that you are going to take your fair share of bad shots at first. Unless you are just an extremely talented artist born with a great eye which most are not, then it is inevitable. Generally speaking, successful photographers don’t go around screaming about their bad shots and sharing them all over social media. You should bear in mind that this doesn’t mean that these guys never take bad shots.

Usually when I go out shooting I hope to get one knock out shot and maybe another two or three good shots. It has taken three years of practice to get to that level. When I first started I would be happy if I got one good shot and wasn’t really capable of taking a knock out shot. Even now after three years I can still come back sometimes empty handed from a street shoot, having said that sometimes I can come back with five or six good shots. The point here is to persist and take the rough with the smooth. You will come out the other side as a skilled and confident photographer.

Learn about The Key Elements of Photography

Alone and dusk dark
You can use light and tones to make a shot appealing
Using lines and shapes in your shots can help to lead the eye

There are lots of great books and online resources where you can learn about these subjects. I would recommend this method of learning rather than spending money on an expensive course.

The most important thing to say here is practice what you learn. By practicing you will reinforce what you have learnt and it will help you to remember it. Then later when you are in a situation where you need to create a good shot you can use some of the techniques you have learnt. For example, if you’re learning about composition techniques like the rule of thirds and sub-framing.

After studying go outside and take five shots that demonstrate each of these techniques. Then you can save them in a Lightroom collection to reference whenever you want to refresh yourself.

When you are considering how to get started in photography, I would recommend learning about composition first. Then practice before doing the same for light and color.

Here are some useful links for a more in-depth look at Composition, Light, and Color Theory within photography:

Beginners Guide to Photography Composition

A beginning Photographer’s Guide to Light

Color Theory for Photographers: An Introduction

Learn about EDITING

At first it is fine to only know very basic editing skills. You should be more focused on your ability to take great shots rather than editing. I would recommend to learn some very basic editing skills to tie you over for your first year. This will give you more time to focus on taking pictures. Then as your photography improves and you start to take things more seriously you can up your editing game by taking a course or reading.

Increasing light and shadows adds to the image

Currently the main editing tools  are Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, a lot of people now use Capture One also. Photoshop and Capture One are great tools with unbelievable features. Although I sometimes use Photoshop for the things I can’t do in Lightroom, I mostly use Lightroom as I prefer the interface and usability. Here is a fantastic list of Free Lightroom Courses to browse through in your own time.

Unfortunately these applications are not cheap. You can either buy them outright or get a monthly subscription package.  I would say Lightroom is the least complicated. As well as being a good starting place for beginners, it has many powerful features and is often used by professionals. 

Final Thoughts

So hopefully you should now have a good idea about how to get started in photography. After you have learnt the basics and practiced every day for some time you can start looking into different genres, and then eventually look into specializing in a particular area.

While you’re here please check out my Street Photography Portfolio! What do you think about starting out in photography? Did I miss anything? Are you just starting your photography journey? Leave me a comment at the bottom of the page….

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