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Getting Started With Photography – 10 Common Questions Answered

Relax, we have all been where you are. You have decided to take the plunge into the vast world of photography. Maybe you’re thinking about starting your own business or just ready to seriously learn how to take some pictures.

It doesn’t matter how you got here, all that matters is you’re ready to learn. Below are some of the most common questions newbie photographers find themselves asking answered all in one place. Enjoy!

What are some good resources for a beginning photographer?

Follow the blogs of fellow photographers that work with similar subject matter. Most photographers are happy to answer questions and blog about mistakes they’ve made. This is a great way to learn and make friends with fellow photographers.

There’s of course a lot of blogs and magazines that you can learn from online. A few of our favorites are:

National Geographic magazine

SLR Lounge

Digital Photography School



Obviously there’s a lot more you can find online. Also, Contrastly offers a wide selection of articles that cover everything from beginner to pro photography. For example this article you’re reading right now!

What is the difference between an amateur/hobbyist/pro photographers?

This is where I find myself wanting to say a rose by any other name would smell as sweet for some reason. Amateur is a pretty self-explanatory term. You’ve just picked up a camera and started to learn the ins and outs of the business, but when can you considered yourself more.

Let’s say you are going to enter your first photography competition and there are categories for amateur and pro. While you have invested the time and money into some equipment/classes/shooting, but you’re not sure when you would be considered a pro. Typically these contests will have a brief description giving you an idea what category you should fall into. If they don’t a good fall back would be if you make less than 25% of your income comes from photography than you can still claim amateur status. Hobbyist are typically capable of going pro, but have chosen to let photography be more fun than business.

What camera and lens should I start out with?

You can ask this question to any photographer and you’re bound to get a different answer each time. Essentially what you are looking for is a beginner DSLR camera that will grow with you as you learn. Nikon and Canon are two of the most popular brands of cameras, with Sony coming in very close in 3rd place.

Nikon’s D3100 and D3200 are great starter DSLR cameras. The kit comes with an 18-55mm lens with a VR Image Stabilization. This camera is very easy to use in auto mode and can be easily switched into manual when you’re ready to try out your own settings. The kit lens is a good starter lens, but does have its limitations. When you’re ready to focus on certain subject matters then you will have a better idea of what lens to get next.

The Canon Rebel T4 is also a good starter camera that comes with an 18-55mm lens. This camera is a little cheaper than the Nikon D3100 and may be the better option for someone on a tight budget. The Canon is very user friendly and should be more than enough camera for someone learning the ropes of a DSLR.

Should I be shooting in RAW or JPEG?

The main difference between RAW and JPEG is the file size and quality. RAW photos keep most of the camera data, but the files are much larger than the compressed JPEG format. If your camera can shoot in RAW and you have the software to process the images then shoot in RAW. JPEG may be the better option if you are shooting large quantities of photos and you need access to them quickly. It really boils down to your needs as a photographer.

Do I need a tripod?

Yes, and a shutter release wouldn’t hurt either. Tripods help keep everything steady and looking clear. You don’t need to invest in an overly expensive heavy one either. There are some great tripod options in the $20 to $25 dollar range on Amazon.

Can you explain how filters work?

Filters provide an extra protective layer to the camera’s lens as well as help with lighting problems. Simply screw the filter onto the front of the lens and you’re done. The three most common filters are:

UV filter – increases saturation and cuts down on haze

Polarizing filter – helps reduce reflections

Neutral Density (ND) filter – help with long exposure shots

Do I need more than one memory card?

It’s always a good idea to have a backup memory card. Memory cards like to stop working when you need them the most.

What are all these different lenses for and do I need them?

The kit lens should meet all your starter photography needs. Once you decide to specialize in one area or another you will get a better idea of what kind of lens to add to your arsenal. To get you started here is a list of some common lens and why you would need them.

Fisheye Lens – this lens creates a wide hemispherical photo which can come in handy for capturing sports or panoramic shots. You can pick up a cheap fisheye adapter that will screw right onto your camera for under $20.

Marco Lens – this is a magnification lens used to capture close ups of small items. If you enjoy capturing the tiny details that escape the human eye than this is the lens for you.

Wide Angle – This is primarily a landscape photographers go to lens. The wide angle lens is usually around 12mm-24mm and is used to capture as much of an area as possible.

Telephoto – this is the extreme zoom lens. They range anywhere from 70 – 200mm on up to 500mm.

What software should I invest in?

If you are going to invest in photo editing programs then Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are the way to go. If money is a problem than try GIMP or Picasa. These are two free programs that are out there that offer some great editing features without leaving your pockets empty.

Do you have any more tips for me?

Join an online art community or local photographers club. This is a great way to get feedback on your photographs. Family and friends can be great to build up your confidence, but to improve you need real feedback on what you could have done better. Criticism is a necessary evil, so don’t let it bring you down. Above all else have fun!

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