I love photography.

To be honest, I've never seriously taken even one photo, but I love it. Looking at other people's work on sites like 500px and other discussions on this site, it really makes me want to learn; capturing things that are so human and fascinating just directly communicates to my mind and motivates me.

I want to get started somehow, but I have no idea what to do first: buy a decent camera? read about technicalities? I just don't know.

Can you please point me to some things I should do before I can start creatively taking photos?


You've already looked at photos and liked some of those; a good start would be to trying to imitate the effects you like. It's a lot easier to get going when you have a destination.

Do you have a smartphone or tablet PC? If so, taking pictures with that will get you started; only when you can point out what in your phone pictures fails should you buy any extra equipment to address those problems. Even the cheapest camera can get you started with composition, timing, using available light, finding subjects etc.

Next, you could read the letter to George and see which way you want to go :)

| improve this answer | |
  • Oh, I do have an iPad, which seems to have a terrible camera. I'll try to take some photos with it however — thanks! The whole lot of terminology here makes it look overwhelming, but I guess it's always like that in the beginning. – Chris Mar 21 '13 at 15:44
  • I think you should go for something a little better than the iPad. The camera isn't great, but more importantly, it's a very awkward form factor, and even more importantly, it affords very little control. – Please Read My Profile Mar 21 '13 at 17:35

Both of course! Or borrow a camera - if you have the motivation to learn about the technical side, make it a camera that allows you to explore that aspect. Play with an single lens reflex (DSLR/SLR) camera and learn what the different knobs do.

A good book is also good for inspiration and learning - I like John Hedgecoe's Manual of photography for instance, but there are many good introductory books out there.

Most important is to start shooting. You want to think about your images both before and after you hit the shutter release: what am I trying to capture, how can I best do it - what happened: what went wrong, what went right?

| improve this answer | |

From your profile it appears you are an age that it is likely you still attend school. Is there a photography class available at your school? If so, this is an excellent way to start. Most courses will introduce you to the basics of exposure and composition and also expose you to different types of photography and the work of some of the great photographers throughout history. If that isn't an option search around and see if there is a photography club in your area. Some of the members might teach a beginning photography class or know of someone who does.

You don't need to spend a lot on your first camera. Even a smartphone or a compact digital will help you learn the basics. Try to find one that allows you enough manual control to see how different settings affect the end result. If possible, use something that allows you to save your photos as RAW files. Once you find yourself limited by your equipment you will have a better understanding of what kind of pictures you want to take and what kind of equipment you will need to for you to get those shots.

The types of photos displayed on 500px usually have as much to do with the post processing applied to the image as they do with the actual exposure. That is not to say that getting a great exposure and composition doesn't matter. It just means that many times a great capture is just the starting point of a great image.

Lastly, realize that the world of photography is huge and has many more facets than any one of us can ever completely explore. Learning to be a photographer is a lifelong journey that will not end until your last exposure has been captured. Like many things, the basics can be learned in a relatively short amount of time. But perfecting the art can only come about by applying yourself and investing a lot of time in practicing the craft. Don't expect to set the world on fire with the first picture you take. Or the first 100, 1,000, or even 10,000...

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” ― Henri Cartier-Bresson

| improve this answer | |

To get in to photography, an SLR camera is just about a requirement. You need to be able to adjust the aperture, shutter speed and ISO at a minimum. With an SLR camera, you can see what the lens sees so it will make it a lot easier to play around with figuring out how things work and most SLRs will be easier to work with. The Canon Digital Rebel line is a really nice consumer grade DSLR line for getting started.

While I don't know any current books on the subject, you will want to learn about things like Standard Exposure, Aperture, Depth of Field, Focal Length, the relationship between shutter speed, ISO and aperture. You'll also want to learn about concepts like Dynamic Range and what it means in relation to what a camera sees vs what the human eye sees.

There is both a technical side and an artistic side to most of these things. The technical is something that is necessary to know for the mechanics of how to take a good photograph, and practice will help know how to get the settings right, but it is also important to realize that most all of those things I mentioned also have an artistic side with artistic uses to give the image the feel you want. Experience also helps with this as you learn how to give the photo the look you want.

As you get in to it more, you may also want to consider software like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop Elements (or even a full blown version of Photoshop eventually). Snapping a photo is only the beginning of photography. How you adjust the photo to get it ready for display is more than half the battle in making really great photos. It also might be worth considering getting a monitor with good color accuracy and if you really want to get in to it, get something like a Spyder to easily color calibrate your monitor to get the best possible way of viewing the image and doing touch up.

Also, don't be discouraged if your early photos don't seem all that great to you. I like to say that the only difference between a professional photographer and an amateur is that the pro takes 10 times as many photos. We all get photos that don't come out as well as we'd like, we just don't tend to share those ones. Take lots of photos, disk space is cheap and there is no substitute for (lots of) practice.

| improve this answer | |
  • Very awesome; I think I'll get to this type of stuff in a couple of months. – Chris Mar 21 '13 at 16:35

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.