Taking up Photography as a Hobby

Photography has turned into a passion for so many people since it was invented back in the 1800’s. It’s fun, challenging, and you get to be creative! Who wouldn’t like that? This article is for anyone who wants to get into photography a bit more seriously, is thinking about investing in their first DSLR (aka, a real camera!), and isn’t quite sure where to start, what they need, or how to generally approach taking up photography as a hobby…

Image of a professional DSLR camera in an elegant photography studio. Photo taken at N. Lalor Photography located in Greenwich, Connecticut.

You don’t need a ton of camera Stuff!

The most exciting thing about photography is all the super cool gear you get to buy! Every year, Nikon, Canon, and Sony release fancy new DSLR cameras, lenses, and gadgets to make your photo-taking easier.

But if you’re just starting out, all you need is a camera body and a good lens. And unlike when I was making my first DSLR purchase almost 15 years ago (it was the second generation Canon Rebel, btw), cameras and lenses today are all generally pretty good. I also recommend buying better equipment that is used (and therefore cheaper) over brand new. Most lenses last several decades, and the ones that are sold used tend to be in great shape still. Buy from a reputable place, like B&H, to make sure you get a quality product.

One other tip is to not be swayed by fancy new features that tend to be useless for a majority of people. Nobody needs wi-fi enabled cameras (battery drain), huge megapixel counts (unless you’re also upgrading your storage and editing hardware), super high ISOs (useless), and 4K video (unless you’re also investing in a stabilization rig).

Recommended gear for starting out: A good camera body by Nikon or Canon and a 50mm or 35mm fixed lens. Read no-nonsense gear reviews by Ken Rockwell before buying.

Invest in Education

Having a camera is the first step.. knowing how to actually use that camera is going to take some learning. It’s easy to get overwhelmed once the thrill of a new camera passes. It can be frustrating to see beautiful images online and not be able to achieve them. The truth is, all cameras are pretty much the same. The difference in the final image comes from knowledge of the person taking the picture. Figure out how you best learn new information: do you prefer self-paced video tutorials, in-person classes, or reading a book? And start learning! This is one of the best aspects of having photography as a hobby - you get to learn new things all the time, discover detailed information, and see results pretty much immediately when you try things out with your camera.

Recommended for learning: CreativeLive (free classes when you watch live) and Click Photo School (affordable online courses). Also, try asking a local photographer you admire to sit down with you and teach you the basics!

Family photographer taking pictures of a mother and her two girls in a studio setting. Photo of N. Lalor Photography in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Practice, Practice, Practice

There’s a huge difference between knowing something in your head and putting that knowledge into practice. Photography relies on quick timing as you try to capture the exact moment you’re seeing in front of your lens. If you’re spending 30 seconds finding the setting you need, you’re probably going to miss the shot.

My suggestion is to focus on ONE area and practice that specific skill until you no longer have to think about it. Start with learning how to properly expose your shots. Learn the exposure triangle (ISO, shutter speed, and aperture) and get to a point where you can calculate the numbers in your head within seconds. It’s very tempting to simply put your camera into Auto mode and let it figure things out for you.. but if you want creative control and personal fulfillment, learn how to use Manual mode!

Recommended approach: Allocate one hour per week where you go out and practice photography. Give yourself goals on what you’d like to master and focus on mastering that one skillset before moving on to the next.

Ask Friends and Family

If you’re interested in learning portrait photography (like me), ask your family and friends to model for you! It’s more interesting to photograph new subjects and explore new locations, which will motivate you to stick with it even if the going gets tough (and it usually will). And when you’re done photographing, make sure to print some of your images so that you can enjoy them outside of your computer screen!

Image of Nataliya Lalor preparing her studio for a family by lighting a candle and setting out flowers. Photo taken in N. Lalor Photography in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Find your passion

There is landscape and nature photography, family and baby portraits, sports, events, documentary, drone photography, and still life photography! There are a lot of options within this one field to pick from.. and you’re not going to LOVE every one. Your best bet is trying a little bit of everything and figuring out where your passion truly lies. Do you love photographing flowers? Maybe you can’t get enough of taking photos of babies. Or you simply prefer to melt into the background and document things as they are. Be true to yourself and your personality.. and take the time to find the one very specific area of photography that makes your heart sing.

Join a community

One of the best things about taking up a new hobby is meeting similarly passionate people who love it too! Don’t be discouraged if you’re just starting out, finding a photography community is a great way to learn and make new friends. You can find a local group through meetup.com or Facebook, or join an online community that connects people from all over the world. There are free Facebook groups by photography educators and local groups that bring like-minded people together. So pick a group (or two) that resonates with you - be specific and find your tribe - and enjoy learning together!

Recommended: ClickinMoms for supportive online forums, and Facebook groups.

Photo of Nataliya Lalor, owner and photography of N. Lalor Photography, sitting in her sunlit studio holding a DSLR camera. N. Lalor Photography Studio located in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Photography definitely started as a hobby for me back in High School and College. I took darkroom and film classes, and invested in a proper digital SLR camera when they started being decent back in the early 2000’s. I knew I had a real love for it when I absolutely had to go out and photograph something (or someONE!) at least once a month, or I would start feeling stir-crazy.

And I know the joy that photography brings to many people in this world because I see them documenting their vacations, family outings, and any other important time in their life. But I’m also seeing people going out and buying fancy cameras and then using them on Auto just like their cell phone. The greatest gratification you can have when it comes to photography is the feeling that you were responsible for capturing that amazing photograph.. don’t let your camera take the credit. Learn your craft, dedicate yourself to your hobby, and create some beautiful art!