What you need to know to start your Photography Hobby/Career
Art has always been a way for people to express themselves, relate with the world and communicate at a different level. Art goes beyond just a hobby or way to pass time, for true artists, it is a way of life and passion that is deep inside. It allows them to express themselves and tell their view of the world. There are many types and styles of art, photography is the one that has always been my passion. Anyone, at any skill, with any equipment can be a great photographer but just like any other art, to truly be great at it (in my opinion, no one can truly ever master an art), you need to study, practice, have the right equipment and most importantly, have that passion and desire for it.
To get started as a photographer, there are several things you will need, the right hardware, the right software and the right knowledge.
A. Camera: This is the very beginning to every photographers “story.” The very first choice but probably the most lasting and important, is the brand you will go with. When you choose the brand of camera you will go with, take your time, do your research and think about it as a lifetime decision because all your lenses, accessories, etc.. will build off of this. You can always change down the road but that means selling just about everything you own and starting over.
a. My Advice: There is no right or wrong answer to this. All SLR cameras will do the job, some will do it better and offer more. I would recommend Canon (the brand I use) or Nikon. They have been in the business the longest, developed the technology, have the accessories and most importantly, are dedicated to photography. You can choose Minolta, Sony, Pentax, Panasonic or others but they will not offer the same amount and quality of lenses, accessories and quality that Canon or Nikon can.
B. Lenses: This will be your second and one of the most important choices. The first way you should look at this is, what can I spend right now? If you are just starting out and can’t afford much, a kit lens (the lens that comes with a body when you buy it new) will do the job for you. If you can afford more then there is no easier choice in my mind then to go with a professional lens. The camera body will give you speed, options and image size but the lens, that gives you the photo. It determines the quality of the photo, which is one of the most important things in photography.
a. My Advice: Depending on what you can spend, buy a less expensive model camera body and a professional lens. If you are going to spend money, the lens is where most of it should and will go. The lens is where you will see a difference in your photos. If you cant afford it right now, still buy that entry or mid-level camera body and lens kit instead of the higher end, more expensive camera body. Then take that difference and put it in a savings for buying that professional lens down the road when you can afford it.
C. Tripods: This is also a very important but often forgotten piece of hardware that should be in every photographer’s arsenal. You may be shooting outside, have image stabilization and can easily hand shoot a shot but if you have the time and space, always pull out a tripod and use a remote trigger or timer. It may take more setup and time but it will always be worth it. If you look close or sometimes you won’t even have to, you will notice a difference.
a. My Advice: You don’t need to spend a lot. You can go online or to a local store and pick one up for ten dollars or less, it will still help your photos. If you can afford a little more, I would recommend a mid-level tripod. You don’t have to go name brand or carbon fiber but you will want a more stable and solid tripod.
D. Accessories: You will want to start out with a few accessories to get the job done right and easier. There are a lot of accessories out there and a lot that would come in handy but to start out, you just need the basic, then as you are out and shooting, you will start to realize what you will truly need and can pick it up then.
a. My Advice:
i. Camera Bag: I would recommend first picking up a small or midsize camera bag. You can get a backpack but unless you plan on doing day long hikes or carrying everything you have, you will only need a small bag that will just carry your camera and lens or a midsize that will carry your camera, extra lens and a could small accessories.
ii. Remote/Trigger: Next I would recommend a wireless remote/trigger. You can use the timer on your camera but it will take and extra 2, 10 or more seconds for each shot depending on how your camera I setup. Since you can pick up wired ones for under ten dollars, I would recommend it.
iii. Lens Cleaner: I would recommend a lens cleaner and brush all-in-one. This is very important as your lens is usually the most expensive piece of hardware you have. You can get pens that have a brush on one side and lens cleaner on the other.
Software: There are several things to consider, image editing and displaying your work are the most important. Everyone wants their shot to turn out perfect and not need any editing after the fact but the reality is, even if photographers don’t want to admit it, everyone almost always needs to tough up there photo at least a little bit.
A. Image Editing: You called it, Photoshop. If you want to do it right and are going to take photography seriously, you will need Photoshop. There are many more affordable alternatives out there but if you plan on doing photography for a while or seriously, you might as well spend the money up front because you will eventually have to buy Photoshop. The other reason many people stay away from Photoshop is because the learning curve. Well, with the technology age we are in, we no longer can use that excuse! If you have never used it a day in your life, you can learn and you can learn on your own. There are so many tutorials, walkthroughs, videos and advice out on the net, anyone can learn it. Now, don’t get me wrong, it will take time and when I say time, I mean years to really get used to it but it is worth it.
B. Displaying your Work: There are so many avenues now to display and share your work and most are free! If you have the time, you can display your work, share your thoughts and hear feedback from other artists.
a. Social Sites: There are many out there and most arts aren’t just on one or two but on most or all of them. You have Flickr, Facebook, Etsy, Picasa, Photography Clubs, Myspace and more. Do you research and see which ones work for you.
b. Gallery Sites: There are many Gallery sites out there to display your work or portfolio. A lot of these are free also. Most will not charge until you want to start selling and integrate ecommerce to your gallery. I would recommend Zenfolio or Smugmug, as they offer an all in one package. They give you cloud storage to back up your photos, photography templates, email marketing tools, ecommerce, and many more options. This is another area where you need to research and find what will best work for you.
Knowledge: This is the most important because anyone can buy a camera and take pictures. Knowledge, experience and passion is what separates the amateur from the professional.
My Advice: Right from the beginning, you need to know what camera is right for you, are you planning on shooting indoor events, sporting events, wildlife, architecture or something else because all of these will lean you toward a different camera. This goes the same for a lens, do you need one for low light, long distance, wide open shots? Then comes the knowledge about how to use the camera, how to get the best shot and so on. In the beginning, you need to do your research, go out and take photos and learn, once you have done your due diligence like every photographer out there, it will be second nature. Knowing when to shoot a sunrise, how to shoot a soccer match, how to setup the camera for low light, are all things you can research or learn on the go but will need to be learned, in order to shoot well.
What I Have and Why: In case you are wondering what I use for hardware and software and for displaying my work, here you go.
A. Camera: Canon 60D – I recently just upgraded to this. I started out with the Canon XTi, then went to the Canon XSi and now the Canon 60D. There is nothing extraordinary about the Canon X series line except that they are affordable entry level SLRs and had and did everything I needed from them. When I decided to upgrade to a better line, I was going to go with the Canon 7D but after doing my research, I decided on the Canon 60D. Why? Well, I decided that the lens was much more important than the Camera body and if I went with the Canon 60D, it was about almost half the price of the 7D and that would allow me to buy a new professional lens and the body, instead of just the 7D body.
B. Lens: I have shot with kit lenses, Sigma, entry level Canon and professional level Canon lenses. They will all get the job done but some just do it better, a lot better. When I purchased my 60D, I decided to also sell and buy a new lens because my current one didn’t fit my needs anymore. I was shooting with the Canon 17-40 L lens, since I usually shot landscapes and architecture. I found that I prefer a more walk-around lens and this one just didn’t have the zoom I needed. I upgraded to the Canon 24-105 L lens. This still covers the wide angles I need but also has more zoom, which I found myself needing.
C. Tripod: I use Dolica brand tripods. They are mid-level quality tripods that have worked great for me so far. They have the solidity, quality and build that I need but at a fraction of the price of most.
D. Software: I use Photoshop for just about everything I do. It is a long hard journey to start truly understanding what it can do and then how to do it but it is well worth it.
E. Displaying my Work: I have my work on many different sites, Flickr, Myspace, Facebook, Etsy and Zenfolio for my portfolio and gallery. I choose Zenfolio over the rest because it was a all-in-one package. They offer unlimited cloud storage for all my photos, they offer great templates and customization and a completely hands free and affordable ecommerce solution. You set it up and then you are done. They will handle the sale, the ordering, the processing, printing and shipping.