So You Want to Be A PhotographerYou just bought a fancy camera as well as a nice lens for it, and now you are a photographer, right? Sorry, but no. It takes more than just having the camera to be a photographer, just as it takes more than making a couple of YouTube videos to be an actor.

If you want to be a photographer either as a full-time career, part-time or as a hobby, here are some tips to help you along that path from someone who has been down it.

Get a Proper Camera

Yes, you can take great pictures with an iPhone. But real photographers use real equipment. Have you ever been to a wedding with a professional photographer and watched them using a phone or a point-and-shoot camera? Me neither. If you want to be a professional photographer, set down the iPad and get a decent DSLR or a mirror-less camera. The key is to get something that you can change the settings manually on and also allows for swapping out lenses.

Know Your Camera

Now that you have a real camera you need to know how to use it. Know what an f-stop is and how to set it manually and how to adjust shutter speed quickly. In essence, turn off all the auto features and learn to set them yourself, including the focus. I’ve spoken with quite a few people over the years who say they have a nice camera, yet they never turn off the auto functions. What is the point of having a camera that you can use manually if you are not going to use the manual settings? You might as well use a phone if you are not going to learn how to set the camera manually. Camera settings and menus vary from camera to camera, but typically all the information appears on the display of the camera so know what it is telling you.

Megapixels Don’t Matter Anymore

As digital cameras have advanced, so has the megapixel count. The general rule of thumb is the more, the better, although this isn’t necessarily true as clarity can be affected in a smaller camera with a large megapixel count. As the sensor size increases, its ability to accept and work with a larger pixel count increases. Most cameras use a smaller sensor and cramming more megapixels on that little sensor doesn’t necessarily make a better picture. In our modern world, the amount of pixels on your camera’s sensor greatly exceeds the need for the Facebook gallery you are most likely to load the picture into. Look at color, contrast, low light functionality when looking for a good camera.

It’s All About Light

Photography is capturing the light. In the beginning, the arrangement for making imagines was via a box with a hole in it, allowing light to pass through it. Enlarging the hole will increase brightness and let in more light. Simple enough. The change to digital has been the most significant change to photography since the shift from black and white to color. With digital, the film has been replaced by an electronic sensor. Instead of processing the film and creating prints in a darkroom, the camera can now be connected to a computer, and images can be edited and adjusted electronically and printed via a desktop printer. Even though the camera has changed over the years, as has the printing process, one thing remains the same: light reflects off an object, making the object visible to our eye and the camera. The way that light reflects off the object impacts how it looks, so learn to use the light to take the best photograph possible.

a picture of a picture after the wedding

Learn and Study the Work of Others

Writers read other writers, doctors learn from other doctors, and photographers should check out other photographer’s work and see what they are doing. Don’t copy, but study and learn. Take classes and workshops. Get as much hands-on experience as possible. Reading articles like this are helpful but no comparison to having actual hands-on experience with a knowledgeable teacher. If you see a picture you like, go out and try to recreate it. Don’t then go and try to sell it, but use it as a learning opportunity to identify how that picture was created. The more you learn from others, the more you will be able to determine what it is in your own work that you like and develop your style.

Software Does Not Make You a Photographer

Spending a lot of time in front of your computer processing pictures or running them through Instagram doesn’t make you a photographer. What makes you a better photographer is knowing how to manually manipulate your equipment, and most importantly getting out and shooting while trying new stuff to see what happens.

My recommendation is to go out and take pictures as if you don’t have Photoshop or other processing software at home. Take the pictures as if the image in the camera is the final product. You will spend more time making sure it is the best it can be there and not “fix it in post.”

And Finally

Get out and shoot. Practice makes perfect, and like the 10-thousand-hour rule says, you need to be practicing your craft in order to be better at it. Be sure when practicing to challenge yourself. Try taking pictures only using one lens, or from only one specific angle. If you don’t have a film camera, pretend you do. Go out and say that you only have 36 pictures you can take and limit yourself to that. This will force you to look at each image before just picking up the camera, clicking it a few hundred times, then picking the best one later.