We get asked this question a lot and it’s generally pitched from two perspectives. The first instance is how to get into photography generally as a hobby, what type of gear is required and how to begin the learning process. The second instance is how to get into photography as a profession or career. In this article we are going to look at the first instance. If you’d like more information on the latter then please check out our article on careers in photography or sell photos online.
It takes some people an entire lifetime to find their inner calling. So, if you have just recently discovered your passion for photography or simply want to learn the skill as a hobby, congratulations! No matter what the reason is for your interest, the world of photography holds endless opportunities for you. All that matters is your determination and eagerness to learn and have fun doing it.
What about camera equipment?
You might feel intimidated by expensive photography equipment used by people around you. Well, here’s the thing: if you are a beginner and you want to know how to get into photography, you do not necessarily need to start searching for an expensive camera. Yes, you read that right. Getting a DSLR is a great idea as you will have a capable piece of equipment at your fingertips to enable you to learn at your own pace, but it doesn’t have to be an expensive one. Unlike normal point and shoot cameras, DSLR’s allow for interchangeable lenses. This opens up lots of opportunities for a wide variety of shots and allows for real depth to your learning.
Owning a DSLR isn’t absolutely necessary to enjoy photography though. You can create gorgeous images with your phone camera as millions of people around the world prove consistently. An awful lot of these images though are captured ‘by accident’ without a full understanding of why or indeed what it is that makes them so good.
The key to taking consistently good photographs is understanding some basic principles that you can apply habitually allowing your creativity to come to the fore.
Photography is not so much about the camera. It is about working with light.
If you are looking for advice on the type of camera equipment that would suit a complete beginner, you may want to read beginner DSLR camera gear.
Photography basic principles
As mentioned above, photography is an art and every art has its techniques and principles. Focus on the basics rather than just dreaming of the perfect camera because owning a fancy camera will not turn you into a great photographer. Get a thorough understanding of certain principles and then let your creativity take the lead.
Here are a few things you need to be concerned about:
Understand the exposure triangle
This is essential if you are wishing to take control of your camera and get the shots you want. The relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO are fundamental to photography and the development of your skills. Take a look at our easy to follow exposure triangle explanation.
Photographers work with light. The essential job of a photographer is to capture light into a still image in a way that makes the image engaging. There are different forms of light you can work with so start by studying various lighting scenarios.
- Outdoor lighting / times of day and weather
- Indoor lighting
- Natural light versus artificial light
There are some simple choices you can make when composing your shot that will help in making it a more pleasing photograph to the eye. Our article rules of good composition and when to break them will give you a great insight into this.
Study Your Camera
To improve your images, understand the tools at your disposal. Being comfortable with your camera is the message here. You don’t have to know every item on the cameras menu, but be assured in the fundamentals. If you are familiar with where all the essential settings are on your camera, you are less likely to miss the shot.
Photography, like any other form of art, requires practice and perseverance. Invest a bit of time in getting to know your camera. Take the time out to practice regularly and share your pictures with the people around you and on various forums online. An excellent way to motivate yourself to practice regularly is by completing weekly assignments. Take a few hours out from your weekend to explore unfamiliar areas in your neighborhood.
Study your environment
A good photographer understands how to work with light to get the shot he/she wants, a great photographer has a unique perspective. They see things in a way no one else does.
Take your camera with you everywhere you go. Capture your environment wherever that may be – the local store, the main street or sporting event – anything. Reflect on what you’ve captured and review the good and bad aspects of the image. Think about how you could improve on it, what you could do differently.
Look for beauty in ordinary objects and capture it with your camera. Good photographers can hardly watch movies without examining or analyzing the cinematography because they’ve become fascinated by the way light influences scenes and mood. Try to look at your photos in the same way.
Develop a unique eye for things. This is what will set your pictures apart from the rest. Practice by taking pictures of the same object using various angles. You might take some unexpected shots which may turn out better than you had planned.
Don’t Stop Learning
The best part about photography is you will never run out of things to learn. Take advantage of the countless free resources on the internet. Browse through websites, such as Flickr and 500px, for inspiration and tips from some of the best photographers out there in the world. Needless to say, you can also pick up some useful pointers by following photographers on Instagram.
Visit your local library that will have many books on all types of photography and take advantage of the wealth of knowledge and upgrade your skills. There are many people out there who post tutorials along with useful tips and tricks about how to get into photography on YouTube, hence if you have access to a good internet connection, there is nothing stopping you from learning from the pros.
Discover Your Niche and Develop Your Personal Style
Once you have gained a little experience and are further into the learning curve of your photography journey, you may wish to take it further and consider the possibilities of getting paid for your work, and why not? This is where we move from how to get into photography, to which type of photography we’d like to get into more.
What kind of photographer do you wish to become? The answer is simple: follow your passion. If landscapes and nature intrigue you, become a landscape photographer. If you are a people person, become a wedding or portrait photographer. Having an engaging personality that puts people around you at ease is 70% of that job. Once you have decided your niche, work towards developing your personal style.
Developing your personal style simply means finding a way to express yourself though that medium. Look for inspiration online and then practice on your own. The trick here is to be your own critic. If you do not like how an image turns out, identify the flaws and look for a different approach.
Search online for the top 10 wedding photographers in the world. You will see that a number of them have developed a unique look that instantly identifies their work. This will take a bit of time but it will come. Look at the work of others that you admire and be inspired but don’t copy. Copying will just make you one of many that try to emulate and become a weak imitation. Take inspiration and create your own.
Networking is an incredibly effective way to get better at photography.
There are countless ways to network but the following are some of the best ways on how to get into photography by making connections and engaging with others:
500px & Flickr: These websites probably need no introduction as central hubs for photographers to post their work for the entire world to see. The platforms have a number of groups you can join. For example, join critique groups and allow others to critique every aspect of your work. This will not only highlight your flaws but will help you do better next time. Generally, avoid groups where people only say nice things about your photographs since it won’t help you much. Constructive criticism, on the other hand, can teach a lot. Not only are these great communities for photographers, they are great shop windows too where you can sell your images and develop some authority in your chosen niche.
Meetup: Meetup is the world’s largest network for local groups. The platform makes it easy for people living in the same area to contact each other and conduct face-to-face meetings. Use the website to find local photography groups in your areas. This way, you can arrange meet ups with photographers and learn from them. Some groups are very active and conduct regular trips across the county or around the state. Take advantage of the website and unleash your networking skills to become a better photographer. You may make very good connections that last.
Build a Portfolio
Once you have a set of pictures ready, it is time to start marketing your skills by creating an online portfolio. An online portfolio holds great importance as it reflects your skills as a photographer. Without one you won’t be able to showcase your skills to prospective clients. An online portfolio will increase your visibility and can possibly help you find your first client. In today’s world, qualifications do not count for much in this field. A portfolio is everything. In addition, submit work online to stock libraries to improve credibility and visibility. See our article about making money from your photography.
If you have some web design skills you can create your own site and stay in full control of every aspect of your website. If this is the case you will want to read choosing the best theme for my photography website. If you haven’t heard of WordPress you will get an insight into this software from this article.
Alternatively, if you have no web design skills but still want to create your own website, there are a number of ways in which to do it. WIX is a popular choice for photographers who wish to create an online portfolio themselves who have no web experience. It’s very easy to use and gives a very professional look to your site.
If you have no desire to create the site yourself but still want an internet presence then you’ll want to consider using a web design company. There are literally millions on the internet and you can just do a local search to find one suitable. We have used Vizuno and can highly recommend them. Building your website will be a massive step and will show you how to get into photography as a profession once your site starts to get traffic and traction. But that’s a whole different subject and something we tackle in the marketing section.
Learn How to Edit Like a Pro
Do not underestimate the importance of good editing skills in photography. Familiarize yourself with editing software, such as Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. High quality editing skills will help you enormously if you want to take your images into the marketplace. This could also be way to demonstrate how to get into photography but via the editing of photographs not the shooting.
Be careful here though as over processing is a very common mistake by the inexperienced. Many film photography purists believe that processing your images is the work of the devil and you should be shunned as a photographer for manipulating the original. The reality is that most clients if you are looking to be paid for your work, will expect some degree of image editing. It could just be cropping, simple colour correction or sharpening. It could be removing blemishes in skin. Either way, being adept with some photo editing software will stand you in good stead. Just don’t over do it.
Reading is a good way to gain additional knowledge you would not find anywhere else on the internet. There are many amazing photography books on Amazon which you can read. Most of these books are written by very experienced photographers on how to get into photography.
We recommend you take a look at a few past masters. Here are a few of our favourite photography books.
Most present day successful photographers will tell you that they’ve been inspired by one of these past greats in one way or another.
Look for Opportunities
Once you have been shooting for a while and have started to showcase your work, chances are you will be approached by family and friends to conduct photo shoots. Whether it is your friend’s senior portraits or some landscape commissioned photos for print, take on the opportunity to build your portfolio. If you wish to make a living from photography, look out for events and festivals in your area where a photographer would be required. Event photography is often a good way of getting paid for your photography if you are inexperienced. Usually it is just a case of recording the event and attendees but obviously clarify the exact expectations of the job with the client beforehand and be comfortable and confident with it.
Photography is fun and once you’ve got a grasp of the basics you can begin to take good photos more often know exactly why they’re good and how you achieved it. Having the technical knowledge is liberating as you are then free to develop style and substance and really start to be creative.