Snapping Out of It: Navigating the Challenges of Starting a Photography Hobby
Mon Jun 12 2023
By Tyler Mulvaney
There’s something about taking photographs that appeals to us as human beings. Whether it be taking selfies, pictures of our loved ones, or capturing our surroundings. Perhaps it’s our innate desire to immortalize moments in our lives. Or maybe it has something to do with wanting to share these moments with those who aren’t there at the time (probably the reason Instagram is so popular). Whatever it is, most people fancy the idea of taking a photograph, and I am no exception.
As many others have probably found, taking pictures on my iPhone just wasn’t cutting it anymore. I wanted more. More detail, more challenge, more fun. So I decided to dive into something new and take up photography as a hobby. Although it has been incredibly fun, it has also been quite challenging too.
Choosing the right camera
As a newbie photographer, the first challenge I faced was choosing the right camera. With so many options available, it felt overwhelming and confusing trying to figure out what I needed. I didn’t want to spend too much money, but I also didn’t want to end up with something that wouldn’t meet my needs. This was difficult because I didn’t exactly understand what my ‘needs’ were.
I spent countless hours researching and reading reviews, trying to determine what would be the best fit for me. It was a tough journey. Just when I thought I was honing in on a final decision, YouTube would suggest a video that would make me question everything. Facebook groups and other photographers tried to help, but I found some of the questions rather daunting. As someone who had no idea what they were doing, questions such as: “Do you prefer DSLR or mirrorless?”, “What do you plan on doing with your camera?” and “Do you plan on taking photographs of landscapes or people?” were very difficult to answer.
Photo by ATC Comm Photo
Buying a second-hand camera
Eventually, I decided on a camera and started contacting suppliers to see if they had it in stock. Naturally, they didn’t. Instead, I decided that I would go for a second-hand camera. My logic was that if I found a store that was reputable, I could find a good camera that had higher capabilities within my budget.
So, instead of researching cameras, I researched suppliers. Once I found a reputable store, I contacted them and asked them what options they had within my budget. After they gave me a list, I researched my options, made a decision, and finally pulled the trigger (or rather pressed the shutter) and bought my first camera. I will not say what camera I ended up buying, but I will say that I was very happy with my decision. This approach helped me navigate a myriad of difficult questions and pages of research loaded with jargon that was beyond my understanding.
Mastering the technical aspects of photography
Prior to purchasing a camera, my photography technique was: (1) put the camera on ‘auto’, (2) point the camera at something, (3) press the shutter button, (4) look at the picture and curse, blaming the camera for not doing it right. I’m the type of person who wants to do things well. And I’m pretty sure the Pulitzer Prize winners of the world did not simply put their cameras on ‘auto’. And so, once I had my camera, I started doing some research. As a beginner, I must admit, I felt like I had stumbled into a foreign land where ISO, aperture, and shutter speed were words from an alien language. It was like trying to decipher an ancient manuscript written by an elusive group of camera-wielding wizards.
Before getting into photography, I would never have thought that a few tiny numbers on my camera’s screen could make or break the end result. I decided to use a course on Udemy titled “Photography Masterclass: A Complete Guide to Photography” which I thought was fantastic. It was very detailed, with loads of activities and downloadable resources. For areas that I needed some extra explanation, I went onto YouTube.
All I can say is that it’s been a rollercoaster ride of blurry shots, overexposed disasters, and a few compositional catastrophes. But you know what? Slowly but surely, I’m starting to make sense of it all. With each shutter click, I’m getting a little closer to understanding the magic that happens when all those technical puzzle pieces fall into place. And in the meantime, I’ve mastered the art of embracing happy accidents and turning them into quirky, one-of-a-kind shots. You can check out my photography website here.
Photo by Anny Patterson
Finding Your Niche and Developing Your Style
As a beginner, I had an idea of what I wanted to take pictures of. I thought I would be good at taking pictures of people posing. I am, after all, a people person that enjoys communicating and I thought this personality trait would make it easier for me to execute this style of photography. It turns out I was wrong. And so the quest for finding my niche began. For me, this was the most difficult part of being a beginner.
I experimented with landscapes, portraits, food photography – you name it. But you know what? In the midst of all the trial and error, a funny thing happened – I started to discover what truly excited me. Turns out, I have a knack for capturing the candid, spontaneous moments. Who knew my accidental tripping and snapping would turn into a unique style? That was the beauty of it all. Photography brought out a side of me I never knew existed. The side that wanted to be an observer, rather than a conductor. My niche wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. Nor is it static. I believe I still have a long way to go in figuring out who I am as a photographer. And I’m excited for the journey.
Don’t be afraid to explore And so, my fellow beginners, my final words would be this: don’t be afraid to explore, make mistakes, and follow your quirky instincts. Your photographic personality is out there, waiting to be found. Embrace the joy of discovering your own photographic voice and let it guide you on this delightful journey. Remember, even the greatest photographers were once novices stumbling their way to greatness.
Written by Tyler Mulvaney | Tyler spends his days trying to make sense of it all as a teacher, and his nights trying to make sense of it all as a human. He thrives on analysing the world around him and enjoys sharing his ideas through writing, podcasting, and most recently, photography. But mostly he’s just trying to take it all in and have some fun along the way.
Cover image by Fujifilm North America
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