Career vs. Hobby
If you have an interest in photography, at some point you will have to decide whether it is a career you want to pursue or just a paying hobby. The difference will help you determine how much time and money you want to invest in it. The other thing to consider is what you will be doing with your images and how you want to promote your work. If you are just a hobbyist you may not need to be concerned about this. As a working photographer however, promoting your work and marketing yourself properly will be essential to your success.
How to Learn About Photography
While you may benefit from some courses in photography, you don’t necessarily have to invest a lot of money in a photography education. In terms of fundamentals and terminology there are many free online sites and blogs that provide this information. There is also a large online photography community within YouTube with many photographers that offer information, advice and tutorials.
Ultimately the best way to learn is by shooting as often as possible – even if starting with your phone, basic digital or old school polaroid – and getting to know your camera and equipment inside out. (For Polaroid 600 film visit here). Be sure when you guy a camera to do your research and read the instruction manual thoroughly to make sure you understand all the features and controls.
Finding Work as a Photographer
Finding paying work is one of the more difficult things to do when starting out as a photographer. The irony is that you find paying typically by shooting as much as possible. By being seen taking photos regularly and actively, you are showcasing your talent and making yourself accessible and known. By photographing events as well as friends and family, people get to see you in action and potentially talk to you about your work. This is also a good way to get low pressure experience while building up your portfolio.
Many photographers jump the gun on advertising, but the truth is that most work that you will get will come through referrals of satisfied clients as well as people in your network. By shooting as often as possible and posting your shots or even blogging about them, you create more opportunities to be discovered by people who would be interested in hiring you.
If you are interested in being hired by a studio as a photographer, you will need a strong body of work and a referral client list. When presenting your portfolio be sure to only include your best work that reflects the needs of the studio. Showing work that communicates your understanding of lighting and subtle post processing will be very helpful.
DSLR Camera Bodies
In terms of professional camera bodies you will want a DSLR camera. Newer entry level model DSLR cameras start between $400-$600, but you can find somewhat older used models for between $200-$400. Don’t get caught up in the hype of Megapixels. The latest scientific findings suggest the human eye cannot really perceive beyond 8 Megapixels, so as long as your camera has at least theses specifications you should be fine. In terms of camera brands Nikon and Canon are the best, but Sony, Olympus and Pentax are comparable and more affordable. Newer mid-grade and professional DSLR cameras will usually start around $1000 or more.
The main difference between mid-grade and professional DSLR cameras from entry level DSLR’s are the build quality, features, Megapixels and number of focus points. The number of focus points is one of the most important features in helping you get crisp sharp photos using autofocus.
If your primary focus is professional photography and you don’t intend to shoot video at all, or at least not away, you can save money by buying some high quality older DSLR camera bodies that do not have video capabilities at all.
DSLR Camera Lenses
In terms of lenses you will want at least a wide angle and telephoto lens to start. The wide angle lens will allow you take group shots and landscapes, whereas the telephoto will allow you to take close-ups and macro shots. If you are shooting portraits or fashion you may also want to get what is called a “prime lens”. Prime lenses use wide apertures to let in more light and allow you to shoot at faster shutter speeds. The lenses allow you to shoot crisp depth of field shots as well as shots in low light situations. An ideal kit when starting as a photographer would be the following lenses: 35mm f/ 1.8, 18-50mm f/3.5-5.6, 55-200mm f/3.5-5.6.
Other Camera Equipment and Gear
Aside from the camera and lens there is other essential equipment you will need while working as a photographer. You will need a good tripod and you will also want an off camera flash. A good and versatile off camera flash can cost from $75-400. You should also consider getting a rotating flash bracket to allow you to take portraits and still keep the flash above the camera. If you intend to do studio photography you may want to get strobe flashes, or consider using multiple speed light flashes with a remote trigger.You will also want to make sure you have a proper cleaning kit for your equipment as well as the necessary bags to store and transport equipment when shooting.
Storage media will be important to you as well as a photographer. I recommend using 16GB SD cards as they are affordable and convenient. Lexar is one of the better and more reliable brands. You may also want to invest in a USB media card reader so that you can always transfer your images to any computer at any time. It would also be good to invest in a portable USB hard drive to back-up your images.
Photo Editing Computer Setup
For editing your images you will need a computer and photo editing software. Photo Mechanic, Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture are among the best and most recognized photo editing software. In terms of a computer, for editing photos it not necessary to have an extremely expensive computer. The ideal minimum specs you should be looking for are 6GB-8GB of Ram and Dual to Quad Core Processors. Whether it is a desktop or laptop, expect to spend around $600 or more on your photo editing computer.