By Mangesh Sangapu
Fast-forward a few years and I’ve grown as a photographer. I won “Photographer of the Year” in a local club and had photos featured on nationally renowned websites.
Looking back at my journey, I compiled the top 10 things I learned. Hopefully, this will make your journey a bit easier.
1. It’s an investment
Camera prices range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, but the expenses don’t stop there. I started with a $500 Panasonic Lumix G7 and figured that would be it. Then came lenses, tripods, accessories, etc. Understand that photography is a hobby that requires various products. It’s not just the camera and lens, but much more than that.
All these products cost money. There’s no need to dive head-on into purchasing all these products, but understand that your camera and lens is just the starting point, and if you
stick with this hobby, you’ll eventually need more gear.
Don’t worry, as there’s a huge market for pre-owned lenses. There are sites like KEH that sell pre-owned gear, as well your local Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
2. Kit lenses limit you
Kit lenses refer to the beginner lenses bundled with cameras. They are given this name as it comes as a part of the camera kit. Typically they have higher f-numbers, like f/3.5, that can limit you to well-lit environments.
The higher these numbers, the more light you will need on your subject, unless you’re going for the dark look. The lower the numbers, the less light you will need around your subject.
In addition to your kit lens, I recommend starting with a 35mm or 50mm with a low
f/number, (e.g. 50mm f/1.8). To get comfortable with these lenses, try shooting exclusively with them for several weeks.
You don’t need to dive into buying all the low-aperture lenses, but having at least one in
your collection will give you a light advantage over the basic kit lenses.
3. Exposure is the main concept
I still remember the first time I modified my camera dials to change the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. My mirrorless camera has an electronic viewfinder so I could see how these factors immediately affected the final image.
It was at this moment that a light went on in my brain — because I finally understood exposure and why it was a big deal. Each of the three factors in the exposure triangle affect the amount of light on the subject. Once you learn exposure and get confident using it, you will advance by leaps and bounds.
4. It takes time
When I first got my camera, I couldn’t put it down. I took it everywhere with me: family
events, vacations, and even walks in the neighborhood.
The reality is that buying a camera won’t make you a good photographer. The pictures
you take five years from now will, hopefully, look better than the pictures you take today.
Photography is an art, and it takes time to craft those skills.
I recommend you take your camera everywhere. Learn ALL the settings and build your confidence with practice. Remember your camera doesn’t make the photos … it’s you and
the skills you apply through your camera.
5. You’ll see things differently
After learning exposure, I started looking around and noticing how light affected the environment. Today, even before I look through the viewfinder, I have a general idea
if the light needs to be modified. This only happens through practice and experience.
I can see images and notice color temperature (white balance), where the light source was in an image, and much more. The more you work with your camera, the more you understand how lighting affects your image. Eventually this will improve your vision to a point where you’ll see things differently.
6. Technical skills help
Have you ever organized the files on your computer? Well, get ready to put those skills into use. Photography doesn’t end at the shutter button. A lot of time and effort is spent after the photo is taken. This is where technical skills come into play. Whether you’re using Photoshop, ACDSee, Lightroom, etc, technical skills will make it easier for you to organize and edit your photography.
7. First, learn all the rules …
When I started photography, I had no clue there were repeating themes that were used to make a pleasing image. There are many photography principles that help you do just
that! I’ve listed several here and by no means is this a comprehensive list:
- Fill the frame
- Rule of thirds
- Depth (3Gs: fore-ground, middle-ground, back-ground)
- Movement through shutter speed
This is a small list to get you started, but learning these will only improve your photography. First learn all the rules … and then break them!
8. Find your community
Learning photography doesn’t have to be something you do alone. I joined a local photography club, and it really took me further. It allowed me to enter monthly competitions, and having my images critiqued helped me improve.
I also joined many YouTube channels and bookmarked several popular photography
sites like OutdoorPhotoAcademy by Jim Hamel.
The takeaway here is to find your community, talk about photography, and learn from each other to go further.
9. Respect the craft
There are a lot of arguments on the internet about sensor sizes, lenses, camera brands, megapixels, etc. Winning an argument won’t make you a better photographer, and you
waste precious time that could be spent improving your skills.
Photographers put years into their work. Respect the craft and the time others have put
into it. If you’re asked to provide feedback, be respectful and constructive.
Every day, someone new picks up a camera with the intention of becoming a photographer. Keep your distance from those online arguments and cultivate an
environment that’s friendly to the new photographer.
10. Make it fun!
Are you frustrated with your camera? Photo editor? Your skills? Then take a break from it and come back another time. Photography is meant to be fun, not frustrating!
If you’re photographing other people, remember you’ll transfer your energy to your
subjects. Be happy and you will get better poses from them.
Remember to enjoy the ride, have fun, and click away!
Mangesh “Manny” Sangapu is a member of TAPC and the creator of OpenFilmmaker.com, where he blogs about photography and film. Go there to see the rest of this article, including comments about his photography equipment.