Photographers frame the world around them with a lens and create art from a moment in time. Photography is not a field that requires professional training or a degree but it does require patients and perseverance. To become a photographer all you really need is a good eye, a camera and lots of practice. When starting out don’t buy a bag full of equipment, the passion to take photos and a camera will take you much farther than any extra equipment can.
I often get asked ‘what camera I should buy to become a photographer’. Honestly the answer is the camera that gets the job done and that you are comfortable with; I suggest a DSLR. The most important aspect is that you are able to take photos with it. I personally started out with a Pentax ME Super and moved into digital photography by purchasing a Canon T3i. I have since used the T3i for 90% of all the photos I take and it has served me well.
Pairing the camera body with a lens can seem daunting but in reality it should be an easy choice. If you buy one of the Canon or Nikon kits your camera will come with an 18 – 55mm lens which will cover you for most of your learning period. Once you are familiar with your camera I always suggest you step up to a single prime lens the equivalent of 50mm.* Single primes allow you to get a greater depth of field and create bokeh that is pleasing to the eye. These lenses can be expensive but a good lens should last you a lifetime. When selecting a lens, make sure it has an f-stop of f1.8 or greater (f1.4, f1.2 or f1.0), this will allow more light into the lens and is ideal for low light photography as well as creating a shallower depth of field and bokeh.
Now that you have a lens or two, can snap photos and adjust your camera settings it’s time to start learning post production. In order to edit photos you will need a photo editing application, the industry standard is Adobe Photoshop. Learning to operate Photoshop is going to take time and lots of practice, but as you familiarize yourself with it you will start to build your individual look and feel for the photos you have taken. When learning Photoshop YouTube is your friend, research and learn as much as you can and of course practice, practice, practice. As you start to become proficient in Photoshop your portfolio will grow, so now is probably the time to invest in a large hard drive for all those photos.
If you’ve made it this far then you are probably getting more confident in your photography skills and know the direction you want to take on this journey. Start volunteering for nonprofits, create an online portfolio and take your camera with you everywhere so you can continue to hone your skills. You are now a photographer and can share your art with the world. Just remember, you are never truly done learning or making mistakes, so don’t be afraid to push your own skills to their highest potential. Get out there and start taking photos!
*50mm on a full frame sensor is roughly equivalent to 25-30mm on a crop sensor. If you have an entry level DSLR and a kit lens then it is a good bet you are using a crop sensor, so choose your lens accordingly. See your camera’s user manual for sensor information.