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How to learn photography on your own

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by David Em
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You don’t need a formal education to learn photography. In addition to practice, there are many free and paid resources you can use.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Person sitting down with their camera and laptop.

Why do you want to learn photography?

Photography has many pathways, whether you want to be a hobby photographer or a do it for a living.

Related: Why does photography matter?

So, why do you want to learn photography?

Figuring out the purpose of embarking on this journey will help you make decisions and continue on the journey when things get tough.

One of the best parts of becoming a photographer is that you’re continually growing and evolving, which means your style of photography will also change.

What you think looks amazing today, might not look as good a year from now, and that’s totally fine. That’s a part of growth.

Aside from constant growth, photography is fun. When you’re taking photos and documenting memories, you’ll have a good time.

It can also give you joy in the future as you look back on the moments that you’ve captured.

That said, there are many reasons to become a photographer. It can be something you do for fun, as a side hustle, or your full-time career.

Related: How to start a photography business

Take time to figure out why you want to learn photography, and if it’s something you want to dabble in, pick up a camera, and start taking pictures.

Where to start

If you’re just starting out or still on the edge of beginning your photography journey, take the following steps to get started:

1. Get educated. You don’t need a formal education in photography. However, learning is essential.

You can read books, watch videos online, or use other resources to learn about photography. Learn the basics of photography, which include exposure and composition.

2. Read the camera’s manual. Yes, there’s a lot to read. The manual will tell you everything about your camera. As you learn about the different parts and mechanics, you’ll understand how to use it and what to adjust in different scenarios.

3. Go out and shoot. Take every opportunity to take photos because practicing is one of the best ways to learn. When you’re using your camera, you’ll become more familiar and comfortable with it.

4. Find people to shoot with. Going out to shoot with other photographers is a great way to learn. You’ll be able to see how they think about photography and setting up a shot. It’s also a great way to make new friends.

5. Take an online course. An online course is an exceptional way to jumpstart your knowledge. Not only will you have a resource to learn, but you’ll also have a mentor and get connected to other photographers that have taken the course.

6. Keep going. When you don’t see results as quickly as you expected, it’s easy to get bogged down and quit. However, you must keep going. Take the pressure off, relax, and keep shooting.

Related: Understanding color in photography

Gaining a deeper understanding

Once you have a basic understanding of photography and find that you’re interested in learning more, you can start diving deeper.

The following are different ways to further develop your knowledge and skills:

  • Learn from tenured photographers that do it full-time.
  • Expand your gear, and try new cameras or lenses.
  • Learn about post-processing, and how you can use it to your advantage.
  • Apply for a photography job.
  • Submit your photos to media sites.
  • Get feedback for your images.
  • Continue to challenge yourself.

Practice and experiment

Taking pictures often is an excellent way to get comfortable with your camera and improve your skills.

As you learn new techniques, implement them, even if it feels uncomfortable. By taking action, you’ll learn and grow as a photographer.

Related: Landscape vs. portrait orientation in photography

Be careful with stagnation because it’s easy to stay in your comfort zone. Experiment with different angles, types of lighting, and types of photography.

As long as you keep learning and trying new things, you’ll continue to evolve and find new things about photography that you love.

Remember, it’s normal to make mistakes. Let the mistakes push you towards your goals.

Frequently asked questions

What should a beginner photographer shoot?

If you’re just starting out and don’t know what you want to shoot, photography everything. By shooting all types of photos, you’ll find what you’re drawn to.

How long does it take to get good at photography?

It depends on how often you practice and how much you immerse yourself in learning. It can take more than a year to become good at photography, but it’s all subjective.

Is it too late to get into photography?

It’s never too late to get started. It may be a saturated market, but plenty of other occupations are saturated. Even if you’ve never held a camera before, you can still learn.

What is the best camera to buy for a beginner photographer?

An entry-level DSLR or crop-sensor mirrorless camera are two great options for beginners.

Conclusion

If you have an interest in photography, take a chance and pursue it. Let all you do come from a place of passion because that’s what’ll keep you motivated to keep learning and practicing.

More resources:

Featured image courtesy of Pexels.

About David Em

David Em.

David Em is the founder of Portraits Refined. He’s a published portrait photographer dedicated to helping photographers develop skills, capture incredible photos, and build successful businesses.

About Portraits Refined

Portraits Refined (PR) is a media company that publishes the latest expert-backed portrait photography tips, in-depth camera gear reviews, and helpful advice to grow your photography business.

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