Getting Into Photography: Where To Start & How To Succeed
September 2, 2021
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Getting into photography can be overwhelming. It is not as simple as just buying a camera and taking pictures. There are different types of photography, each with their own set of equipment and skills needed to do it properly.
You may want to photograph landscapes or portraits, you might want to start off by photographing family events like weddings, or maybe you're interested in fine art photography. You could also be looking for something more practical like how to take better product photos for your online store or blog posts about the products you sell.
Based on your interests and goals, this article will help you determine what type of photography would be best for you. We will also discuss beginner photography gear options and basic photography fundamentals to learn. This will ensure you're prepared for not only the journey of learning - but also for the success that follows.
Photography can be incredibly rewarding if your time and effort are put into aspects that matter. This article will ensure you do just that.
Without further ado, let's begin your journey of getting into photography.
I do not intend for this section to be a platform for me to boast about my success. This is only to discuss the idea that if you put your time into aspects that matter - you're bound to find success. It's inevitable. There is no better time than now to succeed at anything you put your mind and effort to - it's awesome you're putting it into photography.
The fact there is no better time to succeed than now is based on the fact that everyone wants what they want now. Buy something online and you can get it today, tomorrow, or at the latest, two days from now. Texting, email, the internet, - hell - communication and information all need to happen right now... and it needs to be easy! The easier the better, right??...
Well, as I have always said, "nothing worth obtaining is easy, and anything easy is hardly ever worth obtaining". In terms of success and learning a skill - the greats of the world got to where they were/are by working hard. It wasn't easy. And those who want things now, and want it easy, never make it when times get tough. They quit. Don't be one of those people.
If You Work Hard At Achieving Your Photography Goals
...you can go from nothing (everyone does) into booking hundreds of portraits a year, or hundreds of weddings (big money), featured in magazines and on some of the biggest websites in the world. You can go from working your day job to a career in photography that not only pays more but makes you feel so much more fulfilled.
Some of the examples mentioned above have happened to me. I'm not going to go into detail because this article isn't about me... it's about you. Just know - photography can lead to anything - it all depends on how much you're willing to learn and fail at along the way. It's hard - but getting in that mindset and being prepared for that fact is the first step.
Even if you don't plan to make money from photography or make it a career - you still have goals. You want to improve. You want your work to be seen in one way or another. Who knows what your photos could lead to...
It's all in what you make it.
Why Are You Getting Into Photography?
This is a question you should ask yourself. Think about it and answer it honestly.
Is it for the money? It is for a creative outlet or to express yourself? Maybe it's a combination of both? Or maybe it's purely for personal creativeness and enjoyment.
Whatever the reason, the answer to this can determine how seriously you take the process of learning and then executing what you've learned. The mindset of someone starting a business or offering services is very different from someone whos only doing it for themselves.
For instance, if you're a landscape photographer and only do it for pleasure, you may not find it beneficial to learn manual mode and advanced editing techniques as much as someone who wants to be internationally known and sell large-scale prints of their work.
From that very simple example, you can see how different the mindset of either person really is - even though they're both landscape photographers.
What Are You Most Interested In Photographing?
This is another question you need to ask yourself and answer honestly.
For someone just getting into photography, it's important to start with something you're genuinely interested in. You can build your entire foundation on this interest and branch out into other types from there.
The reason you start with your interests means you'll remain interested.
You'll find as you go through the process of learning the fundamentals of photography - remaining interested and staying focused on your goals can be difficult. It's in those difficult times that your interests can keep you going. It's that next photo of a car at a different angle/aperture/SS/iso setting where you'll think, "I wonder how to the car would look with these settings" - and not, "ugh, I have to try these settings on this family today - hopefully, they come out ok because they paid me".
Does that make sense? You can replace the above questions with anything you can think of.
I have seen too many great photographers burn out and lose interest because they were learning a niche that they truly weren't interested in it. The main reason for interest was to make money. Most of them started learning real estate photography with hardly any knowledge of photography and burned out in the process.
If they had started with something they were really interested in - and then branched out from there to offer services (and learning how to execute that type) - their chances of success would have been much higher.
I recommend going this rough to enjoy the process of learning as much as possible.
The Different Types Of Photography
Think of it this way - if you can take a picture of it - there's a genre/niche for it.
I thought I would include some of the most common types of photography. You can reference this list when determining what you enjoy taking photos of the most - and what you're passionate about.
These aren't in any particular order and it only scratches the surface. Who knows, you may enjoy taking photos of something that no one really is, become recognized for it, and others start doing the same. You have then created a new niche and they look at you for inspiration and guidance. The possibilities are endless.
A great example of this is Robert Peek (image above). He shoots surreal flower scenes. He does this by 'pouring' fog over flowers, creating incredible images that are print-worthy. No one had done anything similar. He was recognized by Adobe and is featured on their website and in their programs.
I'm even interested in putting my own twist on it (hopefully by next year) - but I got the inspiration and idea from Robert. You could be the next Robert Peek of your niche.
Purchase A DSLR Or Mirrorless Camera (If You Haven't Already)
At this point you should have a better idea of what you want out of photography, what truly interests you, and what type of photography your interests fall under.
Now the next step would be to purchase a DSLR or mirrorless camera.
I, for one, never recommend a beginner to purchase brand new. There isn't a true benefit to it - and you could find later on that photography isn't for you - and that "brand new" money would be completely wasted.
You can get the same benefits from a used camera as you would from a brand new one. This will save you money that you can put towards something more beneficial like education, an additional lens (which should be purchased used), or even quality storage for your gear.
Purchase Used Through KEH
I have been recommending KEH to beginners for years now. There isn't a better place to purchased used camera equipment. They specialize in it - and have only been handling and selling used gear since 1979.
With everything that has happened since '79 - and they're still in business - says a lot about how they run their company and how loyal their customers are.
I have been partnered with them for quite some time (because of how much I believe in their business model and how much they care about their customers). I wouldn't recommend or partner with a company, 'just because'. I mean, no one would want to ruin their reputation by partnering with bad companies.
They stand behind what they offer (warranty), and the gear they offer is far more affordable than eBay or Amazon. For the exact same equipment too. You're purchasing from a credible business, not from a random person across the United States (or overseas).
Typically, we shoot on Sony cameras - but the Sony camera menu system is entirely too confusing for a beginner. We do recommend Sony - their equipment is great. But just not to those looking to learn from one. You're better off learning a Canon and the fundamentals - and then switching if you decide to (like myself).
The T7i is a better version of the T7 (which is still great, regardless). You have an articulating screen, full continuous autofocus, and a burst mode of 7 fps. Canon's color science is amazing and is one of the reasons that people stay loyal to Canon.
Once you get a bit better - you'll understand the strengths and weaknesses of the camera and you'll upgrade then if you decide you need to.
Do Not Develop Gear Obsession
I'm going to discuss this in more detail later in the article - but do not use this time to look up gear and compare. Yes, it's great to look at other cameras and see what they're capable of - but don't think that the camera creates the image because that couldn't be more wrong. You create the image in its entirety.
Nikon And Fujifilm Are Great Alternatives
What you could do is compare the T7i to other cameras in the Nikon and Fujifilm lineup and compare between the two to see what benefits you more.
I'm saying that the T7i is the best bang per buck - but FujiFilm or Nikon cameras could be better and at a better price. Don't hesitate to ask questions and look around - just don't get into the habit of thinking that the better gear will make a better image. Again, that's wrong. You do.
Learning The Fundamentals Of Photography
The fundamentals are the foundation of any process that requires skills that are obtained through learning.
Here are the basic fundamentals of photography that will ensure you'll be successful on your journey. These include:
Manual Camera Mode (all the settings)
The Exposure Triangle
Those are the four main aspects that any beginner should learn. You can then move on to more advanced techniques like off-camera flash, different angles, using compression and focal length, etc.
Regardless, learning the 4 fundamentals will skyrocket your skillset and set you up for great success in the future.
You can check out our in-depth related articles, 25 Exercises For Beginners and Manual Camera Settings: Photography Basics Overview, where we dive into actual exercises that will help you improve as a beginner. The second article is an overview of the 5 most important manual settings with linked articles that dive even deeper! I highly recommend checking them out and bookmarking them.
Consider An Online Course
With the 4 fundamentals we mentioned in the previous section - and later about the more advanced skill sets... it's a lot to learn on your own. I have always recommended Josh Dunlop, owner of Photography Expert (#2 website in the world for photography).
I took the same beginner's course years ago (it's been updated quite a bit since) - and I attest my photography skills to it. While my dedication and determination to succeed came from within - my actual skills were developed by following the exercises in the course. Highly recommended.
There are other subscriptions and one-off courses that're great too such as, SLR lounge, Skillshare, and Udemy.
Whatever you decide - online courses can keep you on track while giving you direction and a goal (to complete or get through a lesson). They're a great way to learn, understand the fundamentals better, while keeping you interested and on track!
Things To Avoid When Getting Into Photography
When you first get into photography, not only can you be overwhelmed with everything you need to learn, you can be overwhelmed and overstimulated by everything that's offered to a beginner.
This section is dedicated to the things you should avoid and steer clear of. This will keep you on track with improving and achieving the goals and milestones that are specific to you.
Believe it or not - for the first couple of years in my journey I was obsessed with the latest and greatest. There were (and still are) so many gear options on the market. I was also in a very distracting Facebook group (will get to that in a minute) that would claim to know/have a lens that was the best for X and another that was the best for Y.
Not only was it incredibly distracting - I was purchasing gear that I didn't need. I was spending so much time consuming content about gear - and then spending money on things I was consuming. With this time, I wasn't improving or using that time constructively. All the while, spending money along with wasting that time.
What I should have done is stuck with the basic camera I had to begin with - and learn everything we have talked about thus far. Through that process, I would have figured out that gear will only take you so far - and gear will never trump skill and experience.
Please do not walk the road that I did. I wasted so much time and would be a better photographer today if I hadn't.
Avoid Distractions When Getting Into Photography
This section is subjective. Distractions, in general, should be avoided - what you're distracted by depends on you as a person. What distracts you may not distract me. So keep that in mind.
As mentioned in the previous section - I was a part of a Facebook group that was incredibly distracting. It wasn't niche enough - meaning there were topics about anything and everything about photography. This included many gear-related posts.
At first, it distracted me with gear-related posts. As time went on and I got more skill and experience under my belt - it would distract me with people asking questions. I would take the time out of my day to answer, in-depth (much like this article). Sometimes it would help someone, other times I wouldn't get anything from it.
After about a year of doing that, I calculated the time I wasted. Throughout the day I would spend about 2 hours answering questions - with nothing in return. I wasn't improving and half the time I wasn't being thanked for my time or expertise. Over the course of that year I wasted about 500 hours. I have since left all of the groups - with no intention of returning.
This idea can be applied to any form of content. Instagram, Youtube, even email. This could even be the environment you're working in. Maybe you need to change that (I block out time at the library in one of the quiet rooms).
Whatever it takes to stay focused and avoid distractions
Losing Sight Of Your Goals
This is common for those who hit a block. That block could be a creative one or a frustrating one... whatever it may be, you're at a place where you feel done with the learning process or the grind of building a business.
Don't let these times cloud your goals. Always remember why you're doing what you are. There's a reason you're getting into photography. Let those reasons drive you through the tough times.
Thinking You Aren't Good Enough
There are times that I think this about my work and I've been doing this for 7 years.
It's going to happen. You don't think your work is good enough, it's not unique enough, or the colors don't pop enough... Whatever it is, you'll think about it from time to time.
What you need to realize in these moments is that even the greats in the world (and past) thought the same thing. Can you imagine what the world would be if they hadn't done what they did. They thought their work wasn't good enough - but they continued to grind. They continued to improve and create their own style.
Share your work. Be proud it. The greatest thing is when you do share it on social media, it saves it on that date. So years from now you can look back and compare it to your current skill.
This is obvious right? I mean if you want to achieve something, the last thing you'd want to do is quit. You never achieve it, right?
But have you ever thought about why people quit things? Like aside from not liking your job, why do people quit their hobbies, side hustles, or businesses?
It's simple - quitting is always easier.
It's easier to quit than try, fail, and get up and grind it all again.
If you truly love photography and want to take it past a casual hobby - you need to be prepare for the struggles that are involved. We deal with struggles in everything in life - photography isn't any different. If you're looking to start a business in photography - it's no different than starting a business in any other field.
None of the greats of today or the past didn't struggle to get where they are. It's a part of the process. The key to success is not to quit when you're dealing with the hardest of those struggles. You've got this. Don't give up.
That About Does It!
That wasn't too bad, was it?
Hats off to you for getting into photography and taking the steps to learn what getting into photography is all about.
You now know where photography can take you, how to choose your niche, and what interests you the most. You know that your interests will keep you interested in the learning process (and the future of photography for you!) Lastly, you know that used camera gear is equal to brand new and that even a basic kit camera can make you just as successful as a very expensive one.
The biggest thing you should take from this article is this: If you truly love photography, stick with it. Don't give up. Continue to improve. Before you know it - you'll be teaching and writing articles like this one in no time.
There is no time better than now to become great at something - that's because no one wants to put the work in to get there. They'd rather quit. Don't be one of them.
Until next time, take care of yourself and keep learning and creating!