How to start learning photography?

8 Answers 8


There are a number of options for how to start learning photography. I suppose it depends on where you're coming from -- what you want to learn, where you live, how you learn... these sorts of things.

A few options for a total beginner:

  1. Take a class or a workshop. I took my first photo class when I was in middle school. It was an after-school class, separate from the school proper. During high school and college, there were classes offered by the schools directly. Many junior colleges have photography programs, as well.

  2. Books. There are a multitude of photography books out there. Go visit your local library or bookstore, and browse a few. See which one(s) resonate for you, and take them home and give them a read. Online bookstores are, of course, also an option, and you may find reviews helpful.

  3. Trial and error. Especially if or once you have a few basics under your belt, there's a lot that you can learn just by trying things. Changing settings on your camera, taking pictures, and seeing what happens. And you have the option of going the scientific route: taking copious notes, comparing the notes with your results, coming up with guesses on what things mean, and trying to test your guesses (hypotheses)... or just trying things, and eventually building up a feel for what settings impact what features of your camera and/or the resulting images. I personally have learned a lot of what I know from this route. The classes that I started with, and some books, as well, helped a great deal, though -- they laid a foundation of basic theory upon which for my trial-and-error explorations to build. I was thus able to use trial-and-error for figuring out which techniques worked best in a certain situation, or to get a certain type of result, rather than to figure out the basics of how my camera worked.

  4. The Internet. There are many many many websites that talk about photography at various levels. Some of them are bound to be oriented towards your skill level. There are also sites like flickr.com (and 23hq.com, etc.) which provide an online community (or set of communities, really) around photography. You can upload your images to the site, find a group to join that fits your interests, skill level, and/or geographic location, and submit your images to that group to get feedback on them, or ask questions in the discussion sections of the group. There are also bound to be youtube videos, online courses (a google search for "photography class online" got me some promising-looking results), and any number of other resources.

  5. Camera clubs and other photo groups. In a lot of areas, especially big cities, there are bound to be numerous photography-related groups. For example, in Seattle, among various others, the Seattle Flickr Meetups group (which exists both on meetup.com and on flickr.com) is a mostly-social group of flickr users, ranging from people who take pictures with their camera phone, and just have a vague interest in photography, straight through to some seasoned professionals, with a wide range (and many people) in between. There are also various other groups in the area, with different focuses -- some catering to different skill levels, some catering to different types of meetings (e.g. image critique nights), etc. I imagine that in most big cities, similar groups exist. If you're further afield, they might be harder to find, but check sites like the ones I mention above, and/or just do a web search (e.g. on Google) for photo groups in your area. Some of these groups are bound to have options for people to learn the basics of photography.

So look around -- online, or in your area -- and see what's out there. Then decide what's best for you... or just jump in to whatever's the first or easiest thing you find, and see where it takes you.

Happy shooting!

P.S. there's a question on this site about which blogs to follow which you may also find (the answers to) useful.

  • 2
    hq23.com doesn't seem to exist. Did you mean 23hq.com?
    – HiredMind
    Nov 30, 2010 at 16:21
  • 1
    Pardon me, yes, I do mean 23hq.com -- I'll edit the post to fix that. Thanks, HiredMind!
    – lindes
    Nov 30, 2010 at 19:49
  • Take lots of photos
  • Look at each of your photos and decide what you like / don't like about it
  • Look at other people's pictures (e.g. browse Flickr)
  • Read the manual that came with your camera
  • Take more photos
  • Have fun
  • Show other people your photos (e.g. post them on Flickr)
  • 1
    People tend to underrate looking at lots of photos, that's a great exercise for finding out what we like and why we like it, a great way to know what photos we want to shoot
    – t3mujin
    Nov 30, 2010 at 18:01
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    also, once you understand the basic concepts well enough, looking at photos allows one to reverse-engineer how another photographer might have done something, potentially teaching you something (or inspiring you to try something new) along the way. And if you can't figure it out, well, it's something to aspire to. :)
    – lindes
    Nov 30, 2010 at 22:53

Learning Photography is equal parts theory and practice. The following book helped me in getting started - http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Exposure-Photographs-Digital-Updated/dp/0817463003. It has lots of excellent photographs to illustrate the finer points. This book should serve as a companion piece - http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Shutter-Speed-Low-Light-Photography/dp/0817463011/

Other than that you should slowly add individual topics to your knowledge. White Balance for instance. Cambridge in Colour - is a good place for such topics.

Read the detailed review on DPreview to get a better idea of how cameras work.

And be sure to put into practice what you learn!

  • sorry, can't post links directly. no rep :( Dec 1, 2010 at 8:50
  • I've edited the links in for you :) Dec 1, 2010 at 9:31

"The Joy Of Photography" published by Eastman Kodak Co. is a great book for beginners. (I'm not related to the authors)


When I bought my first dSLR two years ago I (1) read the manual, (2) tried to take as many pictures I could, (3) learned from my mistakes, (4) experimented with manual mode, ...

A great resource along the way have been the (almost) weekly episodes of DTown, an online show produced for amateur photographers. They cover everything from techniques to gear. I've really learned a lot from Scott, Matt, Larry, RC and the rest of the guys on Kelby TV.


What worked for me:


  • http://www.dpchallenge.com/ ( You can compete with others here) forces you to have ideas, and compare them with others... once I ranked 4th !
  • 5
    Manual is something you progress to. Don't use Auto, but learn by using Tv and Av modes. Dec 1, 2010 at 2:44
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    I second what Nick said, and would add that professionals make very heavy use of semi-automatic modes like Shutter or Aperture Priority modes. There are also many professionals who use a Program mode and use exposure/flash compensation as their only real control. It really depends on the kind of work you do, and there is no "one setting fits all" when it comes to photography.
    – jrista
    Dec 1, 2010 at 18:47

It looks like there are already a lot of great answers listed here. I'd like to throw out a couple options that haven't already been mentioned.

  1. KelbyTraining.com - They are an online tutorial service they have videos covering every thing from photoshop to specific camera gear, lighting, shooting events, seniors, weddings, and just about any other topic or situation you could think of...
  2. A four part book series by Scott Kelby (the same guy that founded kelbytraining). The books are simply titled "Digital Photography" volumes 1-4. They get you shooting fast without getting too technical. You can preview the books on the "look inside" feature on amazon.com

good luck!


DPSchool is another great resource.

Whatever the media may be (books, classes, internet) it's important to understand the basics: Composition, Light, Colour.

  • I tried browsing the site, but the instant I pointed to one of the headings, they scrolled it all away and replaced it with a sign-up form for a newsletter. Total UX fail.
    – user
    Feb 16, 2016 at 10:52

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