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Starting in photography has never been so easy thanks to the technology currently available and the amount of information we have. But what is the best way to get started in photography?
Maybe you just want to capture better photos of your holiday, better pictures of your family, or you’re looking for a hobby to do in your free time. There are several resources online that teach you how to get sharper images or various photography techniques and even I have written on this blog a few of those guides. There aren’t many tutorials explaining how to start as a photography hobbyist and I decided to put together this list of things you should know to get started in photography.
Start With Your Smartphone
“The best camera is the one you have with you”. Ever thought about it? Well, Chase Jarvis wrote a book on this check it out here.
Yes, you have one of the most powerful cameras you can think of in your pocket. Your smartphone.
Today’s smartphones are fantastic devices for taking photos. Their hardware and software are so advanced and easy to use that no matter your level of expertise with tech tools, it will be very easy to start snapping away.
You have it always with you and it delivers sharp and detailed enough photos that are better than a lot of point and shoot cameras on the market today.
You can start using your default phone camera and if you feel like you want to “play” with something a bit more advanced you can download a third-party app like Lightroom Mobile and have a go with some of the basics concepts of photography like exposure, depth of field, ISO how to manually focus end so forth”.
Also, if you want to edit your photos, I highly recommend using the free app Snapseed since it offers a wide range of tools to color correct your images and I wrote an entire guide about it. Find my Snapseed guide here.
Learn Photography Composition
Learn the rules of composition first. In the beginning, with your phone or your camera, you’ll use auto mode almost all the time.
Before jumping into camera settings or dealing with complex technicalities:
- Learn how to compose your shots.
- Learn how light affects your photos.
- What is the best time of the day to take photos?
- How to position your subjects in your composition so that your final image is compelling and worth sharing?
There’s no camera, lens or device that will compose a great photo for you. Photography, in the end, is a creative process that allows you to express yourself and your personal style.
If like me you love learning, getting started in photography will be such a cool experience. There’s a lot to learn and many of the main concepts are also very straightforward that you’ll get efficient in no time.
These two articles I’ve written can help you grasp the basics concepts. Find them here:
Best Photography Tips for Beginners
Rules of Composition in Photography
Do not hesitate to contact me if you need some free advice, I’m happy to help!
Choose the Right Gear
So you’ve started snapping with your smartphone or compact camera, a few days or weeks went by and you feel more confident with how to compose your shots.
You see the world in a different way now and you’ve decided that photography is for you and you want to make it your hobby and get better at it. That’s why you are reading this article right?
Alright then now it’s time to talk about photography gear.
First of all, don’t make the common mistake of buying all at once.
Seriously don’t waste your money, you don’t need to buy the most expensive camera in the world.
If you started taking photos with your phone or compact point and shoot camera and learned the basics of composition and light manipulation you want to start using a proper camera I get it.
But as a hobbyist photographer, there’s no reason to spend thousands of dollars in professional tools you don’t know yet how to use at their full potential.
Don’t trust people that say that if you buy expensive gear they will be like an investment, they will last longer, etc.
You are starting photography and just switching from using a smartphone to a DSLR or Mirrorless camera.
I’ll say it again, don’t make the mistake of entering the world of expensive cameras so early.
You can do whatever you want with your money, but my advice is to try to save your money for a trip for example. So that you can put in practice what your learning and get the best out of your photography learning experience.
Ultimately photos are also made by great locations, landscapes and people you meet.
These are some of the cameras I would recommend if you are just starting in photography and you will be able to shoot professional level photos without breaking the bank:
- Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D one of the best entry-level beginners camera. Comes with an 18-55mm lens and has Canon’s best 24.1MP APS-C sensor. Check it out on Amazon
Nikon D3500 This is, in my opinion, the best deal you can get on a camera. 24.2MP sensor, it comes with an 18-55mm and a 70-300m + 64GB card and other accessories on Amazon. Buy it now here.
Sony A6000 another great bargain. The Sony mirrorless, comes in a bundle with a 16-50mm lens an many other accessories. I can’t believe the amazing price it has on Amazon. Check it out here.
Learn Photography Basics
These are the key basic concepts you have to learn if you want to master photography:
- Aperture. Aperture is the lens diaphragm opening that allows light through into the camera sensor. Seems scary but I’ve written this amazing article for you, that explains in very simple words how to understand and use aperture in photography: Photography Basics: Aperture
- Shutter Speed. Shutter speed is the length of time your camera shutter remains open to let the light hit the sensor. Read my article Intro to Shutter Speed in Photography
- ISO. ISO is the third element of the exposure triangle and it’s a setting that tells your camera how sensitive the sensor has to be to light. Read Photography Basics: Understanding ISO for a simple introductory guide that will get you up to speed in no time.
Learn a Photo Editing Software
Use Snapseed first, then jump onto Lightroom.
Mobile editing is the first step to take if you want to improve your pictures.
As I suggested above, download an app like Snapseed and start editing in your smartphone. Snapseed is an unbelievably powerful editing app. It’s like a Swiss Army Knife and it has everything you need to begin your post-production.
You can start cropping your images, learning how to straighten the horizon line then practice with exposure to fix you under or overexposed images.
Adjust the highlights and shadows to make make the bright tones brighter and dark tone darker. This will give you great control of the contrast.
Get familiar with curves to tweak highlights, shadows, and mid-tones.
Then jump on saturation.
Saturation affects the intensity of the colors. Make sure to not overdo it!
Use the spot healing tool to remove impurities or distractive small elements on your image.
You will find that when you make the leap to a professional tool on your computer such as Lightroom, for example, you’ll find yourself being familiar with many of the functionalities available.
If you want to learn more about how to use Lightroom, I’ve created an extensive article. Find it here How to Edit Photos in Lightroom
“Repetition is the mother of all learning”.
You don’t have the limit of being told what to do by a client.
You’re a hobbyist so you can take your photos, find your own photography style and have fun with the process.
This is a big thing since you can experiment with basically any style of photography you like.
Long exposure, HDR, landscape photography, portrait, adventure photography.
Shoot at different hours of the day to see how with different light you obtain different results.
You can experiment by creating small projects for yourself. For example, I remember doing a mini-challenge of taking a photo a day for a month.
You can also join communities and get to know other photographers like you and start working on something together, pushing each other to improve and exchanging information. Make it fun!
Don’t forget that your experience is much more enjoyable if you show your photo to others.
It can be to your friends or family, but today we can benefit from the power of Social Media, so why not sharing your work on platforms like Instagram or 500px? It’s your mini portfolio. You can show your first steps to others and keep track of your progress will be very rewarding.
Photography changes your lifestyle, waking up early or staying out late to catch unique lighting becomes the standard in your life. Take it into account.
Also, take it easy. You don’t need to be perfect and you have to enjoy it.
It’s a hobby remember?
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Stefano Caioni is the founder of Pixinfocus. His passion for photography helps him discover new places and live new adventures.