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Photography: Where to Start?

I have heard multiple times from friends and individuals saying how they like photography, but they don’t know where to start. I’ve heard a friend share how timid she was to get into photography because she was fearful that the photos wouldn’t turn out good. I’ve heard from someone else how they would like to learn more about photography, but they didn’t know where to start. Photography is a massive career field, covering a plethora of things, whether it’s landscape photography, food photography, portrait photography, real estate photography, abstract photography. The list goes on and on. Also, you see all the different types of cameras out there: Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus. And THEN there are the lenses to get; do you get a wide angle lens, a telephoto lens, a nifty fifty, a prime lens, zoom lens…? Where do you start? What do you do? What if the photos don’t turn out good? Well, here’s my take on it all:

In the beginning, there was my mom’s small digital camera.

When I was in elementary school, I would use my mom’s camera to make funny videos with my sisters and take photos through a mini photoshoot. These videos included dramatic staged performances such as my youngest sister Erin being the superhero, out to defeat the villain Laura. The photoshoots consisted of my mom’s decorations and furniture around the house, and my youngest sisters Kirsten and Erin would pose and smile for the camera (they were just cute 5 and 3 year olds, so the photos turned out adorable no matter how I posed them). Whenever we traveled to places such as Colorado or South Dakota, I held the camera majority of the time to take pictures and videos of all that was happening.

Once I was 13 my parents got me and my sister Laura our own blue Kodak digital camera. It cost maybe $50. Nothing special. I took that camera with me to lots of places, just capturing memories of my basketball leagues, my family vacations, and fun with friends. I ended up using my mom’s video camera too to make videos with my high school best friend. Basically I was a wanna-be YouTuber.

I also made basketball videos for my old homeschool basketball team, recording the moments throughout the season and putting it together for our end-of-the-year banquets. Making those videos and taking part in photoshoots were incredibly fun, period. Eventually I bought myself a camera kit, a Canon Rebel T4i with a 15-85mm lens and a 70-300mm telephoto lens. I asked friends if I could take photos of them, such as my best friend’s senior photos and my friend’s engagement photos. Just experimenting with ideas, poses, angles, and locations were really fun, and in the process my friend’s got to have memories in a digital or print copy.

I share my story to help answer the question “where do I start with photography?”. There are different pieces of advice that I have to give that I have learned over the past decade or so behind the camera:

  • Don’t worry about the outcome, just enjoy capturing moments.

Think about what you like. What hobbies do you enjoy? What types of photos have fascinated you? Do you like going out into nature and watching wildlife, or do you like being a part of a roaring crowd at a football game on a Friday night? Do you admire books or baking? Do you enjoy being with friends and family? Whatever it is that you enjoy, take a photo of it!

  • Make a fun, thought-provoking challenge.

If you don’t know where to start with photo subjects, pull a list of 30 adjectives and let the creative juices start flowing. For example, think of the word fluffy. What comes to mind? A cozy, furry white blanket, or your friend’s calico cat? Try taking a photo of something different for 30 days in a row using a list of adjectives that get you thinking about different things to capture.

  • Invite friends for a fun photo session.

Growing up, I would have photoshoots with my sisters and close friends just for the sake of having fun. It’s a free activity, it’s a fun way to spend time with family and friends, and you end up getting priceless memories at the end of the day. I still do these friend photo sessions – I brought my camera with me to a friend’s bachelorette party a few months ago, and we had a photoshoot downtown with the bride and all her bridesmaids. We had a great time laughing together and enjoying each other’s company, and the bride had memorable photos of a fun weekend!

  • Perfection is NOT the goal.

The thought of trying to have award winning photos every single session is paralyzing to think about. I used to compare my photography skills to other well-known photographers locally and globally, and that would kill my desire for photography. I would nitpick all the flaws in every photo, and at one point I had a hiatus from photography because I was so disappointed in my skills. The issue was, I had forgotten that I just loved taking photos in general, it didn’t matter what the outcome was. If I had fun experimenting with new locations in town, new poses, coordinating colors and outfits, then I need to consider that a win because I am doing what I enjoy. If others enjoy my photography and are wanting to hire me, that’s a bonus, but the main take away is to do what I love. Seeking perfection in your photos will drain you and might eventually make you put down the camera for good. There’s no need to overly critique yourself, there’s no need to be a perfectionist.

All of this to say, just pick up a camera and click away. Plain and simple. You can get into the technicalities of what camera to buy, what is a better lens to use, lighting equipment, extra gear, the types of batteries to use, what flash works best for what camera, and more, but honestly all you need is a camera. It doesn’t even have to be a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, it can just be your smart phone camera! If you have a desire to learn more about photography, don’t be intimidated by others. Experiment, enjoy the actual event of taking pictures, and capture memories. You do you, boo, and you rock that camera.

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