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Read all about photography and learn about its fundamentals.

Photography can be a rewarding hobby or professional career. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
Photography can be a rewarding hobby or professional career.

Photography can be a fun hobby as well as a rewarding professional career. Taking pictures is an art as well as a science, combining both creative and technical aspects. Capturing the beauty in a subject requires a keen eye, but knowing how to properly use camera equipment is equally important. There are a variety of types of photography, so every enthusiast can find the perfect niche.

Getting Started

People wishing to get started in photography should first consider what kinds of subjects interest them. For example, if someone really likes camping or hiking, perhaps nature photography would make a good hobby. Other types of photography include:

  • Aerial (taking pictures from above)
  • Animal (pets, wildlife)
  • Black and white
  • Commercial (modeling, advertising)
  • Event (weddings, conventions, family gatherings)
  • Panoramic (wide angle)
  • Sports
  • Underwater

Also, aspiring photographers should decide if they would like to take commercial-quality photos in hopes of making careers out of their passions. This will affect the type of equipment they buy, as professional equipment has more features, takes better quality photos and is a costlier investment.

The next step involves learning the different technical aspects of photography, including lighting, depth of field, composition (framing the subject) and camera angles. Lighting may be the single most important concept to learn. Photos that have inadequate lighting will be dark, while photos with too much lighting are too bright.

Film speed and shutter speed both affect exposure. F-stop, or focal ratio, also has an impact on the brightness of a photo. In many localities, photography classes are offered at technical schools and community colleges as part of community education programs, and this can be a great way to learn the fundamentals of using a camera and photography in general.

An amateur photographer should also decide upon digital versus traditional photography. Digital photography can easily be edited and enhanced using computer software and may be more convenient for people who do not wish to spend time developing negatives and printing photos.

Manual cameras used in traditional photography give the user a great amount of control; therefore, 35mm cameras are nice for those who are just getting started so they can experiment with the settings. One should weigh the pros and cons of each type of photography to determine which is the best choice. For example, a person who is not tech savvy may prefer traditional photography since it is relatively straightforward.


There are two main types of cameras: traditional (usually 35mm) and digital. Both of these types of cameras are available as single lens reflex (SLR) models. These are ideal for enthusiasts since a user is able to view the exact image that the lens will project onto the film. There is a mirror inside the camera that allows the user to know exactly what will be captured by the lens. Both traditional and digital SLRs range from basic (and therefore, relatively inexpensive) to prosumer, cameras that are top-quality and border on professional grade. These can be quite pricey; digital cameras generally cost more than film cameras.

After learning the basics of how to use a specific camera, then the user can start buying and learning to use different accessories. Options include:

  • Macro lenses (for quality pictures of very small objects)
  • Zoom lenses (for quality pictures of objects that are far away)
  • Filters (add color or patterns to photos)
  • Removable flashes
  • Tripods
  • Light meters

Each different type of photography will require specific kinds of equipment. For example, photographing wildlife may require a zoom lens and a filter to control glare. While these items are optional, they may provide better quality images.

Enthusiasts can experiment with different accessories to find the ones that work for them. The Duke University Department of Computer Science offers a comprehensive guide that covers lenses, filters and lighting techniques.

For people who prefer traditional photography, developing can be done by a commercial shop or at home. Basic developing is not difficult but requires a darkroom as well as chemicals and an area to dry the prints; this process tends to be expensive. The University of Minnesota Extension explains how to set up a dark room.

Niche Associations

Every amateur should consider joining a group that focuses just on a specific niche of photography. Taking the previous example, a nature photographer might benefit from joining the North American Nature Photography Association. Other specialty groups include the Remote Control Aerial Photography Association and the International Association of Panoramic Photographers. There are also many associations specific to regions of North America, so joining a local group can be helpful as well.

These associations provide friendship, support and educational information to their members. Some of them even have photo contests and special events to encourage members to hone their skills.

The best way to learn how to take quality pictures is to practice. Whether someone takes up photography as a hobby or for career reasons, there is always something new to learn and another technique to try. Networking with other photographers can be a great help, since sharing tips can provide a new perspective on the art and science of photography.

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