Getting started in photography doesn’t have to be challenging or intimidating. Persistence, a few creative projects, and networking can all help you thrive as a beginner.
The Essentials of Getting Started In Photography
Photography is a rewarding and satisfying hobby for millions of enthusiasts worldwide. Not too long ago, enthusiastic amateur photographers used to be called shutterbugs. (A slang for avid photographers derived from the “shutter” mechanism in a camera.)
These photography tips will help you get started as a beginner shutterbug. Here are some of your goals:
- learn new skills
- build your own community of passionate photographers
- become familiar with the art of post production
- challenge yourself regularly with projects
Let’s start with a few fundamental concepts that will help you strengthen your patience and improve your skills as a beginner in photography.
#1. Invest Time in Photography
Getting started in photography requires an investment in time. It’s not a hobby that you can master within a few days. To make the most of this stage, you need a significant amount of patience.
You may have arrived on this page because you wanted to improve your photography or become a professional. Maybe your friends praised your work and encouraged you to take your hobby more seriously. Whatever your motive, you’re here because you want to become a better photographer.
Fortunately, there’s a wealth of free information available on websites like CreativeLive, Udemy, SkillShare, and PhotographyCourse.net. We have plenty of resources for aspiring photographers, including premium courses, a photography podcast, a YouTube channel, and much more!
#2. Don’t Rush to Specialise
It’s not important for you to find your niche early on in your photography journey, so enjoy photographing anything and everything that stands out to you. If you like photographing nature, dabble in landscape photography. Enjoy taking candid photos of people? Play around with street photography.
Some professional photographers, like Joe McNally, have generalized portfolios. To put it simply, they enjoy photographing a wide variety of subjects. Other photographers prefer specializing in one genre, like portrait photography or macro photography. The journey of pursuing photography should be limitless and exciting. There is room for every kind of photographer in this world.
As you take photographs, notice what you naturally gravitate towards. Even if you don’t feel experienced enough, you have a unique style that can be developed. You already have your own special way of looking at the world. If you don’t take that for granted, you’ll enjoy taking pictures even more.
#3. Join a Photography Community for Support
The sooner you start connecting with other photographers, the easier it will be for you to grow and improve creatively. The right photography community will encourage, motivate, and understand you.
As a beginner photographer, you might come across obstacles that are completely new to you. This might be a technical issue, a creative block, or an abstract photography question. Making photography mistakes is a natural part of the process. Fortunately, it’s not something you have to experience alone. You’ll find it easier to overcome obstacles when you have a support system.
Find a photography club in your area or join an online community, but don’t stop there. Introduce yourself and show your enthusiasm. Reach out to photographers that you admire. It’s very likely that you’ll find a bunch of great people that you can connect with and learn from.
We have a free online community for our PhotographyCourse.net members that’s filled with awesome tips and enthusiastic photographers. You’re welcome to join us there!
#4. Find a Photography Mentor
Learning photography doesn’t always have to involve watching tutorials and reading articles. You can learn a lot by interacting with people whose photography you admire.
When you join a photography community, keep an eye out for experienced members and ask them to mentor you. A photography mentor will provide you with objective feedback, support, and inspiration. They’ll give you invaluable knowledge that might be difficult to find online.
Don’t be afraid of asking silly questions or being ridiculed for your lack of experience. If you remain open to constructive criticism, you’ll find many people who will happily guide you.
#5. Learn to See Things Differently
When you get into photography, you might focus your attention on gear and the technical aspects of taking a well-exposed photograph. However, there’s more to photography than understanding the technical side of things.
Photography is a form of artistic and creative expression. A good photo can have high artistic value through the use of composition, exposure, lens selection, and lighting. Great photos stand out aesthetically and emotionally.
Developing an eye for photography takes time. You can start by looking for inspiration in the world around you. Galleries, photography magazines, movies, etc., can give you a boost of confidence and new skills.
The next time you pick up your camera, stop and think about the image you want to create. Visualise how it will look. Consider the lighting conditions. Shoot from different angles to keep your work exciting. This will help you strengthen your creative intuition and take stunning photographs no matter where you are.
#6. Don’t Worry About Equipment Too Much
Camera equipment is important, but only to a certain degree. Some professional photographers invest in expensive photography gear to create high-quality images for their clients. Taking photos for billboards, magazines, and products often requires the use of full frame or mirrorless cameras.
Even in those situations, many photographers find creative solutions without spending thousands of dollars on gear. Fashion photographer Alexandra Sophie uses a Canon 5D Mark II, a DSLR camera that was released in 2008. She works with high-end brands such as Swarovski and publications like VOGUE. This goes to show that you don’t need the latest mirrorless camera to be considered a successful photographer.
A camera is simply a tool used to capture images. As you shop around, you’ll find that most SLR and DSLR cameras offer the same basic features. If your goal is to progress from a serious amateur to a professional photographer, you might need more expensive gear to produce images that meet your clients’ expectations.
If you just want to get into photography for fun, an entry-level DSLR is more than sufficient. Instead of spending your entire budget on an expensive camera body, consider investing some money in a high-quality zoom lens, a tripod, and maybe a few prime lenses. This will allow you to develop a wide variety of skills without compromising on image quality.
#7. Learn How Your Camera Operates
When you finally decide on a camera, make sure to learn how it operates. How do you set ISO, exposure, and shutter speed? What do the different camera modes do? How does focal length work? What is the difference between manual mode and auto mode?
Start by reading the manual that comes with your camera, but don’t treat it like a novel. To save time, make a list of things you’d like to learn about your camera and specifically look for them in the manual.
You’ll learn many things about your camera over the next few years. Don’t rush to learn everything at once. Prioritise the basics – such as exposure, ISO, and aperture – to have a smoother shooting experience.
Photography Project Ideas for Beginners
Back in the days of film, photographers had to be mindful of every photograph they took to avoid breaking the bank. Fortunately, in the age of digital cameras, you can take thousands of pictures for free. Use this as an opportunity to work on various projects. Each challenge will teach you something about your unique preferences as a photographer.
Here are a few project ideas that will motivate you to take more photos and teach you the art of persistence.
#8. Practice One Skill at a Time
If you’re shooting on full automatic, spend a day shooting exclusively using aperture priority. Then, move on to shutter priority. Try doing the opposite of what you usually do. If you prefer using a faster shutter speed to capture your subjects in action, use a very slow shutter speed to create eerie photos with motion blur.
Do you like the background blur effect in photography? If so, try using a wide aperture (e.g. f/1.8 or f/2.8) to create that effect. Experiment with different apertures to find the perfect background blur that will make your focal point stand out.
If you have a new camera, it’s likely that it can handle a large amount of ISO. Experiment with high ISO numbers in the dark. Get comfortable with nighttime photography. Use artificial lights when possible, even if it’s just a desk lamp.
Dedicate one day to any of these technical settings. Before you know it, you’ll be able to comfortably adjust your settings without even thinking about them!
#9. The 365 Project
The 365 project is a long-term photography challenge that encourages photographers to take a photo every day for a year. You can take as many photos as you like every day. The goal is to have one main image that you can use to represent each day.
This is a great project for beginner photographers who want to commit to something special without feeling limited. There are no rules in this project. You can learn something new every day and photograph anything that catches your eye.
Our 365 Days Of Photography Course has all the tools and resources for aspiring photographers. The course offers over 365 bite-sized videos that focus on various aspects of photography. If you want to learn photography in an inspiring and comfortable online environment, we highly recommend joining us here!
#10. One Photo A Day
Limit yourself to a specific amount of photographs per day or week. If you want an intense challenge, take only one photo per day. You only get one shot every day!
This is a fun project that you can try for a week or more to strengthen your patience and get extra creative. It’s a good solution for busy people who can’t invest hours in their hobby every day.
#11. Film Photography
Digital photography has given us many incredible opportunities. We don’t need to spend money on film or worry about how many photographs we can take in one go.
However, film photography has its benefits. If you have a film camera, you can use it to blindly take photos of different subjects. As a result, you’ll learn how to pre-visualise and adjust technical settings intuitively. You might not be able to take a great photo every time, but you’ll definitely learn something new and have fun in the process!
#12. Work as a Second Shooter
Once you’re familiar with your camera settings, you might enjoy working under a professional photographer. In event photography, depending on your skills, you can volunteer or work as a second shooter. Events include parties, weddings, conferences, and public gatherings.
Your job would be to take photographs of people and significant moments during events. You might learn how to overcome your fear of shooting in front of people and learn how to think quickly. Additionally, you might get the chance to meet new people and grow your network as a photographer. This is a great environment to shoot in as a beginner. You won’t feel pressured to take perfect photos throughout the event, but you’ll still have plenty of chances to develop your skills.
Getting this experience early on can help you launch a successful career in wedding or event photography.
Master the Art of Editing
Post production can completely transform your work. You don’t need to over-edit your photographs or know every trick in the book. The key is to find the right photo editing software and use the right tools.
Think of how you want your final image to look. Do you want it to be moody, bright, detailed, soft, or something completely different? Follow photographers whose style aligns with yours. The more photographs you expose yourself to, the closer you’ll get to understand your own editing style.
Here are a few basic but effective tools that can quickly transform your photos.
#13. Tone Curve
The Tone Curve tool gives you full control over the tones in your images. You can use the colour channels to change specific colours or adjust the main curve to change the overall tones in your image. Make sure not to pull too much in different directions! A few subtle changes in a single curve can give you great results.
Tone Curve is available in most editing programs and apps. If you’re using a smartphone camera, you’ll find this tool in free editing apps like Adobe Lightroom and Snapseed.
#14. Healing Brush, Clone Stamp, and Content Aware Fill
If there’s something small that you’d like to remove from your image, the Healing Brush Tool is for you! Snapseed, Photoshop, Lightroom, and most editing programs have this tool. All you need to do is select the area you’d like to remove and replace it with a clean area of your image.
If you want to make bigger changes, you can use the Clone Stamp Tool. This is a more sophisticated version of the Healing Brush Tool that could help you remove things like people in the background. (You’ll have to make these adjustments manually, which might take some time.)
Content Aware Fill is similar to the Clone Stamp Tool. In Photoshop, you can use this tool to remove unwanted people and objects within seconds. Use the selection tool to highlight the area you’d like to remove, right-click on it, and select “Content-Aware fill”. Photoshop will intelligently replace the selected area with another part of your image.
(Note: If the object you want to remove is large and detailed, it might be difficult to make a seamless change right away. In that case, try to select smaller areas and replace them individually.)
#15. Editing Filters
If you use Instagram or VSCO, you’re probably familiar with editing filters. On a more professional level, these filters can make unedited photos look eye-catching within seconds.
Most editing softwares have filters of some sort. In Lightroom, these are called presets. In Photoshop, they’re called actions. If you need to edit hundreds of photos from an event in one go, you can effortlessly do so in Lightroom. If you want to create a textured look with interesting colours, you can experiment with actions in Photoshop.
Experimenting with filters will give you a sense of who you are as a photographer. You’ll be able to discover your unique editing style, which will help you express yourself better through your work.
#16. Sharpness and Clarity
Neither the sharpness nor the clarity tools will help you fix a blurry image. However, they can bring life to dull photographs and make them pop. The key is to use them in moderation.
Clarity brings out textures and tones. Sharpness brings out all the fine details in an image. You can increase clarity and sharpness together, but make sure not to go overboard. Even a subtle change can make your photographs look more professional.
#17. Strengthen Your Patience
Starting photography means entering new territory and trying new things. You have to be very patient with everything you do during this time. Expect to run into obstacles, but don’t let them discourage you from continuing your journey. Mistakes are a very natural part of the process, so think of them as lessons instead of failures.
You can strengthen your patience by purposely trying things that you’re very unfamiliar with in your free time. If you’re into nature photography, try taking portraits instead. If you love color, take a few black and white photos.
This exercise will help you significantly in the long run. You’ll find it easier to be resilient when things don’t go your way, and you’ll become a master at finding creative solutions to various problems.
Getting started in photography can help you discover a new side of yourself, meet incredible people, and change your view of the world.
Learning to visually seek out potential images is an artistic and creative right-brain activity that can change your life for the better. When you start to get serious about taking photos, you may notice a unique transformation in your perception of the world around you. Over time, you’ll find yourself constantly searching for interesting subjects and evaluating everything you see as a potential image.
Take photographs regularly, connect with photographers, and regularly challenge yourself to try new things. The more you practice these habits, the closer you’ll get to taking incredible photographs of anything and everything.