I started Enthusiast Photographer because I thought it might be useful to someone to track what I learned over time about photography – tips, equipment, industry news, whatever. This is now the 100th post on the site, so I thought it would be appropriate to boil things down a little. Here are my top 5 tips:
- Learn more about photography: What makes photography fun (and sometimes intimidating) is the vast amount of knowledge out there to acquire – there is always something to learn! I’ve said many times that the best upgrade in photography is improving the person behind the camera. Find some good books (Kelby, Peterson, et. al.), Blogs (byThom, PhotoFocus, etc.) or videos (FroKnowsPhoto) and always keep growing!
- Learn more about your camera (and lenses): I don’t think it is unfair to say most Enthusiast Photographers haven’t maximized the capabilities of their equipment. I was astounded how much I didn’t know about my camera (especially the autofocus system) when I read Thom Hogan’s guide to my camera. What I learned greatly expanded my understanding of the piece of equipment in my hand, my comfort level while shooting and ultimately my photography. I’ve read it a couple times, and I’m getting ready to do it again – each time I walk away with more. The same thing is true about some lenses. Does your lens have switches or buttons? Do you know what they do and when you should use them? Generally we’re limited to the owner’s manual here, but read RTFM 🙂 and check reviews to make sure you’re getting the most out of your glass, too…
- Decide if you’re a tripod shooter or not (if so, get a good system): Kelby, Hogan and others say that you should invest in a good tripod off the bat. I’m going to disagree with them…sorta. If your thing is kids, street or travel photography, a tripod might not be as big a deal – modern lenses with vibration reduction give you much better hand-held results at slower shutter speeds, and your money might be better spent on glass. If you love landscapes, portraits, macro or any other area of photography where the sharpest picture is key or you’re dealing with very low light (think dawn, dusk or inside dark buildings), then a tripod is one of the most important things you’ll buy. If you do, spend money on a good one. That doesn’t automatically mean a super-expensive one, but don’t go cheap either. Find a nice one used or save up for a good one. I’ll have a post coming on buying tripods and heads later. For the record, I love my tripod and use it constantly. I also have a monopod that has come in extremely handy, too.
- Always prioritize glass over body when it comes to upgrades: The latest “sensor” is always sexy. More megapixels, better low-light performance (ISO), more detail in shadows (dynamic range), whatever. But here’s the thing – A good lens is going to make any camera better. An average lens is going to make every camera and photographer work harder. Icing on the cake comes from the fact that your glass will probably work on your next body, too. If it doesn’t (for example if you switch from crop-sensor to full-frame), lenses keep their value far better than bodies.
- Have fun!: There are so many details to remember and settings to fiddle with that you can wind up missing out on the cool stuff going on around you! Frankly, if you’ve been diligent about #1 and #2 above, this is probably less of an issue. One other way you miss the fun is when everything becomes a photo-walk. During my trip to Europe last Summer, I went light in my bag and shot for fun as much as expression. It was great – we had a ball and they camera never got in the way of my vacation. I wound up with some shots I really love, like the one at the top of this post.
So there it is! Honestly, there are probably more than those five, but that is what is coming off the top of this hair-thinning dome… 🙂
[EDIT: It has been a day or so since I posted this, and I just happened to wander by Thom Hogan’s site – he has a very-similar 5 things on his site (called “Last Camera Syndome II)!! All I can say is I didn’t see his until just now, but it makes me feel good that my thinking tracked pretty closely with Thom’s (though that might worry him!! 🙂 )