The first step is the hardest but the SECOND step isn’t always easy either. Getting a camera is step one.
This was a question I’ve asked myself time and time again when it comes to education and equipment. So here are simple recommendations from a still developing amateur. These are all things that helped me step up to more than just point and shoot.
- Take lots of pictures!– This is the best way to improve: practice. Be deliberate in your practice. Don’t just snap photos and hope for the best. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years is that photography is actually a technical skill that involves knowledge of composition, light, camera capabilities, editing and so much more. Great photography rarely happens by accident.
- Take a class (or two)– Don’t go crazy trying to choose the perfect workshop or course, just take one! A great way to learn anything from the basics to advanced techniques is to interact with seasoned photographers. I also recommend YouTube, they have endless tutorials. I always pick up another nugget whether it’s repeating a basics course or clicking through online videos. Learning new skills and tricks helps you be more deliberate in your practice.
- Make friends– Friends are great to have but especially friends who are interested in photography or ones whose work you admire. Whenever I have questions related to photography I reach out to my friend Kyla. I constantly find myself on her webpage envious of her photos. Lucky for me she is not only talented but willing to answer my questions! Her advice always helps me, friends are better to have than simply relying on contradicting websites that you can get lost in. Those classes and workshops that are good for learning are also great for connecting with aspiring photogs too!
- Get yourself a tripod- For anything from a point and shoot compact to a GoPro to a full blown DSLR, tripods are worth their weight in gold. There’s always an argument on what the best piece of equipment is. I’m here to tell you that a cheap tripod is still better than no tripod. Invest what you can, when you can. Once you become more time-invested in photography then it makes more sense to invest in a more expensive, better quality tripod or other costly equipment. Just having a tripod will expand your capabilities by giving you more stability for things like low light photography and macro shots. I personally have a lightweight, super compact travel tripod. I’ve learned that anything you buy is useless unless you are willing to take it with you. A small tripod is sufficient for what I like to do, if you are going to use it more often then a heftier one might suit your needs better.
- Lenses trump camera bodies– This applies to cameras with interchangeable lenses, mirrorless cameras or DSLRs. The quality of lens you have will improve your shots more than an expensive body will. So if you have to choose between upgrading your body or your lens, I would personally pick lens first. If you aren’t ready to take that dive into high end lenses a great starting point past the kit lens is an inexpensive fixed focal point lens. You can also find a lot of equipment second hand whether eBay or Facebook communities for cheaper and just as good, depending on the purpose. I was able to get a 50mm f/1.8 for about $150 on Amazon.com. This quickly became my favorite to shoot with. Enjoying it made me want to take more pictures, so the investment paid off. Another option is renting the lenses for a few days. This lets you test drive a bunch of different ones before you commit to a price tag!
There will always be something to learn and take away from your experiences. The best way to improve is to be deliberate in your development. Whether that development is for better pictures of your daughter’s second birthday or trying to make a career out of it, you have to start somewhere.
Never stop learning. Never stop exploring.