Maybe you’d just like to take better pictures of your family or places you’ve been. Or perhaps you’re looking for a new hobby. Maybe one day you would like to work professionally. Whatever the reason is, learning how to take great pictures is a worthwhile venture. But, photography is an expensive hobby, and one with a vast amount of information to discover—which leaves you asking, how do I get into photography?
Like any creative venture, there’s no single “right” way to get into photography. But, there are a number of things you can do to get off to a great start, instead of getting frustrated and winding up with a nice camera that serves as a paperweight. Here are eight tips for the very newest photographers out there.
Find what inspires you.
Before you do anything else, find your inspiration. Do you enjoy traveling and taking pictures? Or snapping photos of your kids? Do you like to have everything perfect, or would you rather simply capture the moment as it unfolds? Are you more interested in one type of photography over the other, like sports or macro?
Start by evaluating what you already like to do—if you enjoy traveling, it’s a great idea to get into landscape photography. If you enjoy spending time with your kids, you could capture them in a photojournalistic style as they go about their day. Photography is a hobby that meshes well with other hobbies, like travel, sports and gardening. Then, browse through some photos—what ones are you most drawn to? Photos of people or inanimate objects? Posed photos, or candids? By identifying what inspires you, or what you already enjoy doing, you can better determine where to start learning photography.
Get a camera, and get to know your camera.
Of course, you can’t really get into photography without a camera. To take pictures as a hobby, you don’t need the latest, greatest camera. But there’s a few features you’ll want to look for in a camera if you want to get serious about photography. First, you should get a camera that has manual mode—that’s what’s going to allow you to really control your images. You should also get a camera that has RAW, because after you learn manual modes, you’ll want to learn how to perfect those shots through editing. If you identified your inspiration as something that moves quickly—like sports or a child—you’ll also want to look for a camera with at least 5 fps burst speed (bigger numbers being better in this case).
DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are great if you’re looking to get into photography because they have a high resolution and flexibility for expanding with different lenses, flashes and filters. The entry-level models are often inexpensive and contain a minimal amount of buttons and dials that new photographers find daunting. But there are a few compact cameras that offer manual modes, RAW shooting and fast speeds too. They typically don’t have the resolution of a DSLR, but they’re a good option for travel.
Once you get a good camera, learn it inside and out. Play around and find out what all the buttons and dials do, and where all the features are located.
Just shoot (everyday).
To get into photography, just start shooting. What do you like about the images that you take? What don’t you like? As you learn about more techniques through a photography class or reading, try them out on your camera. Experiment with the different options, and watch how they change your shot.
Bring your camera everywhere.
Inspiration for great photos is everywhere. Of course, you can’t take pictures if you don’t take your camera with you. While you are learning, take your camera with you everywhere. Take it to work, bring it along on walks, slip it in your bag when you go to the store. When something inspires you, maybe a beautiful moment or simply the colors and shapes of the apples in the produce aisle, take some photos. Try different compositions. Try the technique you just heard about. It’s easier to take good photos when you’re feeling inspired.
Understanding lighting in photography is essential to becoming a good photographer. If nothing else, learn light. Watch how light coming in from different angles creates different shadows. Watch how placing the light behind, in front or to the side of what you are photographing changes your results. Look at other images and try to guess where the light is coming from, and if it’s flash, studio lights or sunlight.
Learn manual modes.
Getting into photography is about taking control over your images, instead of having your camera do the work for you. That means venturing off of auto and learning manual modes. You don’t have to learn manual all in one big leap off of a cliff. Start out by learning what aperture, shutter speed and ISO is, and find the exposure meter on your camera (usually on the bottom or side of the viewfinder, which is the hole you look through). Then try programed auto, usually “P” on the mode dial. This mode chooses the settings, but allows you to flip through a few different options. From there, you can try out aperture priority mode where you choose the aperture, and shutter priority where you choose the shutter speed. Once you’re comfortable there, using full manual mode won’t be such a huge step outside of your comfort zone.
Add a lens.
Once you’ve started to get the hang of manual modes, a good way to expand the quality of your images (and what you can do with them) is to add a lens. Wait until you understand aperture, and choosing a lens becomes a little easier. A 50mm f/1.8 prime lens is a great second lens, and since it doesn’t have zoom, it’s relatively inexpensive. But you can try another type of lens depending on where your interest lies. A 70-300mm telephoto is great for sports or wildlife photography, for example. A macro lens is great for taking pictures close up.
Find a mentor.
One of the best ways to improve your photography is to find a mentor, someone who is a bit (or a lot) ahead of you when it comes to photography. A mentor will be able to answer your specific questions, or show you how to change a setting on your camera. It’s also extremely invaluable to have someone look at your images and critique them, so you know what you are doing well and what areas you should work on next. Mentors can be friends, a teacher from a photography class, or even an online photo community.
Photography is a rewarding hobby, and it can even become an enjoyable career. But, everyone has to start somewhere. When you are starting at the very beginning, find what inspires you, then get a camera with manual modes. Shoot everyday and take your camera with you everywhere. Learn about light and manual modes. Find a mentor to help identify what areas to work on next. You can also expand the capabilities of your camera by adding a second lens. But, make sure to enjoy yourself as you do—take a break if you get frustrated, and don’t give up.
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