I’ve been taking pictures for a very long time. I got my first point and shoot camera in 2007, and for many years after that, my friends would always tease me about being a ‘paparazzi’, because I’d literally take pictures of everything. I even found a few pictures of the sidewalk! From then until now (except for March 2015 to November 2016) I would take an average of 10 thousand pictures A YEAR! (let me tell you – going through all of them now is not fun)
Find a good organization system and STICK WITH IT. I personally recommend books by Scott Kelby and buying a copy of Lightroom (about 75 dollars on Amazon) if you are going to be serious about taking pictures, editing pictures, or even organizing your photos. I have not found Lightroom to work well with video, however, so if that’s more your style, I’d do some research. The most important thing, as I mentioned before, is to stick with your organization system. Folders, collections, labels, re-naming, keywords, etc. If it works for you, stick to it.
Take ALL THE PICTURES. First, it’s important to have an organization system so that a number of photos you take doesn’t overwhelm you. Like anything, if you want to get good at it, you have to practice. In the digital age, it’s easier (and cheaper) than ever to take lots of pictures. If you think about sports, how many hours do you think professional athletes spend practicing even before they are ever seen in a game? It’s the same with the arts; to be a good writer you have to write every day, even if it’s not good. As I mentioned above, I took about 10 thousand (10,000) pictures a year. Yes, many of them were pictures of the same thing (I got a little shutter happy when I found continuous shooting mode), or pictures of the sidewalk (I got bored a lot), but I was still taking pictures. My school had a photography class that I took from 8th grade to 12th grade. We didn’t learn much about camera functions (aperture, shutter speed, different modes, exposure, ISO, etc.) but we went out for several hours a week to all sorts of places and the teacher just let us loose to spend those few hours taking pictures of anything we wanted. Yes, our teacher (and later a T.A. as well, as the class grew larger) were around in case we had questions, however, most of us just ran all over the place taking pictures. We went to waterfalls (my favorite was Wallace Falls in Washington), Pike Place Market, Gasworks Park, Woodland Park Zoo, the Seattle Aquarium, and many other places. Sometimes we’d just drive into Seattle and get out and explore (in a large group, of course). As a photographer, this time was well-spent, as it gave me many different perspectives and a time to just focus on taking pictures. I didn’t have to worry about homework because I was in a different class.
Take as many photos as you can. I am currently going through my old Lightroom libraries and have been scrolling through an average of 10,000 photos PER YEAR. Yes, I was bored a lot. But I noticed that some of the photos were pretty interesting.
Actually look at your photos after you take them. Yes, I am guilty of not doing this. Especially when I am in the car (passenger) on a car trip and decide to take continuous photos until my card is full or we arrive at our destination – essentially just 2000+ photos of blurry trees.
Don’t be afraid to take your camera with you everywhere. I don’t care if it’s just your phone camera (some people get great pictures with their phone cameras. In fact, iPhone cameras are quickly approaching DSLR-quality pictures). As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten more self-conscious about carrying my camera with me everywhere. When I was younger, you’d have a hard time spotting me at a time when I didn’t have my camera on me. I’d take it to school and even to my volunteer job working with horses (not recommended to use your camera while you’re working, even though I did). You never know when there will be a great picture taking opportunity.
Find your ‘niche’. Okay, so I can’t say I’ve really figured this one out. However, it’s extremely hard to spread yourself so thin over ALL the genres of photography. Do you want to photograph people? Nature? Animals? Sports? Weddings? Agriculture? Street candids? I can say that for me, I pretty much want to do it all. I’m not really into
Get an external hard drive. And a back-up hard drive. Especially with photography, backups are important. You could do what I did a few years ago and freak out (call it a quarter life crisis) and delete 90% of your photos, and then want them back 8 months later. Back-ups are your friend. Make sure you know your picture software as well. For example, Lightroom doesn’t back up your photo files – just the metadata.
An external hard drive is also nice if, like me, you have a computer with only 120gb of storage. Every time I go out to take pictures, I almost always come home with my 64gb card full. And my computer has other applications on it other than just storing pictures. I recommend a portable drive, as this makes it easier to edit photos on the go.
Experiment. Go out sometime with your camera with the goal of figuring out how to use manual mode. Try to re-create photos you’ve seen elsewhere. Experiment with angles. What do you want your pictures to say? Do you want them to be just pretty pictures or tell a story?
This is all I wrote back in 2019 for this post. Honestly, I could probably finish it up a bit, put a coat of polish on it, and maybe add a splash of color, but for now, this’ll have to do. I want to get the content out, as I can always edit it once it’s out there, or write more, and to be honest, the likelihood of me coming back and actually working on all my posts that say ‘draft’ next to their name is not very good.
So! Have fun. Did you learn anything from this post? What is one tip you can (or already are) applying to a hobby in your own life? I’d love to hear from you down in the comments!