General Advice for the Photography Enthusiast
I am not a professional photographer; the information that follows is about pursuing photography as a serious photography enthusiast based on my experience. Please use information obtained from multiple sources to help guide you with your photographic pursues. In today’s world you are most likely to use the internet as your resource for learning and improving your photography, and there is a wealth of great and useful information available. However, there is also a lot of incorrect, misleading, and personal opinions listed as fact. There are many different types of equipment, techniques, and processes that can lead you to achieving wonderful photographs, the equipment, techniques, and processes I or others use may or may not fit your working style and thought processes. Validate information from multiple sources and adapt the techniques and processes you learn to your own work.
The first advice I would give to anyone that is starting the hobby of photography would be to pursue photography with the goal of pleasing yourself with your images and have fun with it. Sure, we all want others to enjoy and like our images but a hobby by definition is doing something that you enjoy. If your main goal is to please others your hobby has now become ‘work’ and you may soon tire of it’s pursue. Photography is not easy, regardless what the marketing campaigns of today’s camera manufacturers would have you believe. You will be frustrated, your images will pale in comparison to other photographers, you will take two steps forward and then a step backward, and you will at times want to give up or say to yourself, “Why bother, I will never be as good as…”. You know what? It doesn’t matter how good you are compared to someone else, if your goal is to please yourself as the end result. Photographer Bill Fortney published a post on his web site a few years ago titled “Why Bother?”, even though I was never at the point of feeling this myself, I copied that post and it is on the wall right in front of me and I see it every day. Better advice to the photography enthusiast would be hard placed to find.
Be realistic about what you can accomplish within the confines of your current life situation. If you have a full time job that is outside of photography, you are not going to be able to accomplish the same results as the expert professional photographer that has been practicing his craft on a daily basis for many years. If you enjoy wildlife photography, you most likely will not have the means to purchase the $10,000 600mm lens used by the professional wildlife photographer or frequently visit the exotic wildlife locations he is able to. Let me say this right now though, equipment should never be the reason you feel you cannot succeed at capturing wonderful images, wildlife or any other style. This does not mean that you cannot produce exceptional images, you just will not be able to produce them with the frequency or of the locations accessible to the professional on a regular basis.
Next be ruthless in your evaluation of your images and only share your best images with the photographic community. Let me clarify, there will always be a set of images that you will want to share with your family and close friends. If on a hike in the mountains you captured a dozen pretty images of the mountains, by all means share those with your family and friends. However, when sharing with your fellow photography enthusiast, only share your best image of the day. In fact, there may not even be an image from the day that should be shared. I know this sounds harsh, but the fewer images you share the better. Photography is not about quantity, quality is what matters. Of course, there is nothing wrong with sharing a subpar image with the photographic community and asking for a critique of what you could have done to improve the image.
I alluded to it above, but understand that you do not have to have the latest and greatest equipment to produce great images. Here’s a story that I think puts that in perspective. A few years ago I produce a printed portfolio of about 25 images that were all taken with my Nikon D90, which at the time was considered just a lower end consumer camera. An individual was looking through the portfolio and commenting favorably on the images and towards the end made the comment that he had to get a better camera. I asked him what camera he was currently using, his reply ‘A Nikon D90’! If you cannot get great images out of your camera it is because you have not mastered the craft of capturing and processing your images. A camera upgrade is not going to get you better images. Once you are able to get great images out of your current camera, only then will you be able to evaluate want you would gain by upgrading. I guarantee that I could place a print from my D90 next to one from my D750 and very few people would be able to tell the difference. Bottom line advice on equipment, regardless if it’s a camera, lenses, tripod, or other accessory, buy the best you can afford at the time but do not fall into the trap of thinking better equipment will improve your skills. An equipment upgrade may make it easier to apply a particular skill or create a better image file for shadow detail or noise, but it will not improve your overall photography results.
Have fun and I wish you the best with your photography.