The Ultimate Guide To Becoming A Photographer

By YPBlog

This post, especially the list of free tutorial is being updated regularly whenever I find something that I think would have helped me if I were to start over again in photography.

If you come across something that might be of interest, let me know so I can add it in.

 

 

Becoming A Photographer?

So, you want to learn photography?

Or you’re just looking for free photography tutorials on the internet? – Jump in right here!

Or you just want to get some inspiration?

Whatever you’re looking for, I hope you will find valuable information here. Something you can learn today to bring your photography skills to the next level.

 

 

Starting Out In Photography

If you’re a newbie, you might be wondering:

How do you learn photography? How to improve your skills? How to create photographs that have an impact and the potential to get featured on other websites or magazines?

I’m going to be honest with you:

Photography is such a broad topic. You may have difficulty finding a photography 101 post that has everything you need to know. So, instead of writing a book in a single post trying to cover everything under the sky, I wrote this as an essential guide to point you in the right direction 🙂

Before we start, let check out the 9 qualities you should develop to become a good photographer.

 

stages of a photographer
Which stage are you right now? Note: this graph is for entertainment purpose only.

 

 

Qualities of A Good Photographer

How to become a photographer? Do you have these qualities?

quality of a good photographer

Passion

This goes without saying. Every successful photographer is passionate about photography. You need to have the passion for continuing doing things that you like to do.

Without it, you wouldn’t have the motivation to improve your skills and taking photos will soon become a mundane routine. If you are interested in photography but have not found the passion that lies deep in your heart, try visiting sites like Flickr, 500px, fotoblur, 1x or the National Geographic to get some inspiration.

All you need is the right trigger to light that spark!

 

Motivation

As a self-taught photographer, motivation is what’s keeping you going.

How to get motivated?

Join a photography community, share your photos, interact with others, contribute to a discussion. You’ll come across tons of amazing photos and at times it might make you feel a little emotionally down because your photos are not as good.

But remember, they were not born a photographer. They have worked hard to be where they are today. So instead of admiring how good they are, transfer that energy to motivate you to become as good as they are (or even better!)

 

Organisation

Over time, you’ll accumulate a handful of photos on your hard drive. You should have a system to put them in order so you can locate them easily in the future if needed.

This is more so important when you do become a professional photographer (photographers who take photos for a living or as a main source of income).

Nothing worse can happen when you couldn’t find the photos client has paid you for – it will inevitably damage your relationship with your client and your reputation.

There are many ways on how you can organize your photos.

A common way is to store all your photos on an external hard drive and load them onto an image management software such as Adobe Lightroom. You can arrange by categories, dates, events, names of the client, tags, etc.

Why store in an external hard drive instead of the computer hard drive?

Because your computer can slow down significantly as your photo collection increases when you load them for editing. Plus, you will need an external hard drive anyway as your photos outgrow your computer’s storage capacity.

 

Adventurous

What does this have to do with becoming a photographer?

I’m not asking you to go out there to do skydiving, or bungee jumping 🙂  What I meant is be adventurous in experimenting with different genre and style of photography.

If you like landscape, don’t just stick with landscape. Do research and learn how to shoot macro photography.

Learn how to use an external flash and become a Strobist. Don’t be afraid to over edit your image or do composite photography. Be brave and bold in exploring the art.

 

 

Networking

I agree that photography is a hobby for some and a full-time career for others. But if you haven’t realized, photography is also a worldwide community.

There are people out there who are like-minded where you can connect to share your experience and thoughts. Join a community and start connecting with others, be sociable.

You might learn useful tips to help you with your skills or career, or even open up an opportunity for business.

 

Planning

A good photographer is able to see an image before it happens. I’m not talking about X-men or the final destination movies!

As you develop your skills in photo composition, you’ll be able to visualize what you want to shoot, plan it ahead and wait for it to happen.

In the example here, I was standing outside with the most beautiful architecture in front of me and great sunlight, but the foreground was empty.

I wanted to add people to fill in the foreground and also to give the viewer a sense of how grand this building was. So, I waited for about 10 minutes to snap what I had in mind.

 

Creativity

No doubt you should develop your creativity if you are into photography. In fact, you should be creative in anything you do.

Are you planning to photograph a landmark that has been taken probably a thousand times?

You can try taking it from a different perspective, maybe explore the surroundings to find a unique angle, or maybe take it at the golden hours to add a different mood to your photo.

The possibility is literally endless, all you need is to think outside the box. How do you get new ideas? Do the research, see what has been done and get inspired by others.

 

Attention To Details

This may come with time but it will be to your advantage if you’re the kind of person who pays attention to the little things that often overlooked by others.

Your photos are your only way of communicating with your audience. Emphasizing details in your photos can help to draw the viewer’s attention to where you want them to look.

This may be trivial but many photographers often use lines or light to direct your eyes to the main subject.

Took a photo of a beautiful sunset but there’s someone in your frame that you didn’t notice and is causing a distraction? Don’t leave it there, remove it in post-processing.

 

Marketing

That’s right. You should have the skills or learn how to market your work.

This is particularly important if you’re planning to become a professional photographer. Clients are not going to come to you when you’re starting out – no one would’ve heard of you.

If you’re looking to market your photography business, there are plenty of courses on the web to guide you.

For the hobbyist photographer, marketing for you means able to publish your work and share it with the rest of the world. Let the world know you exist. You never know what opportunity awaits you out there.

 

Able To Take Criticism

Criticism does not always mean you have done something wrong. Unfortunately, many of us see the word ‘criticism’ in a negative way.

Don’t be afraid to receive criticism on your photos. Be thankful if you’re given constructive criticism because this helps you to learn and be a better photographer.

Be encouraged to give others constructive criticism too as you’ll also learn in the process of giving feedback.

 

 

Photography Gear

photography gear

What am I talking, of course you know you need to have a camera to become a photographer.

But what camera or lenses do you need?

How do you decide?

How do you find out?

 

Compact vs DSLR vs Mirrorless

To keep it simple, there are basically 3 types of digital camera in the market today.

  1. Compact digital camera, also known as a point-and-shoot camera.
  2. Digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera.
  3. Mirrorless camera.

For camera lenses, it can be categorized into 4 broad categories.

Apart from the main categories, there are specialized lenses such as fish-eye lens, tilt-shift lens and macro lens. We won’t be discussing these lenses here.

  1. Prime lens – These have a fixed focal length.
  2. Zoom lens – These have a range of focal lengths, it can be in the range of wide angle, telephoto or from wide angle to telephoto.
  3. Wide angle lens – Any range that is less than 35mm is considered wide angle. There is also ultra wide angle which is any range less than 24mm.
  4. Telephoto lens – 70mm or above is considered telephoto

 

You Need Either A DSLR Or A Mirrorless

A compact digital camera has a fixed lens and often offers a very limited function compared to a DSLR or mirrorless camera. On the basis of that, I assume you won’t be going for this option.

Therefore, the question is, DSLR or mirrorless?

DSLR has been in the market for a long time. It started off with a film camera before digital technology took over. A mirrorless camera, on the other hand, is relatively new but is trending the market.

Now here’s the dilemma:

The main advantage of a DSLR over mirrorless is the viewfinder and longer lasting battery.

A mirrorless camera doesn’t have a viewfinder and you need the LCD screen to compose and focus your subject, therefore draining the battery quicker. But a mirrorless is small, lighter and easier to carry than a DSLR.

A camera is an expensive asset and if you’re just starting out, I recommend you to get an entry level camera. An entry level often means a cropped image sensor, so it’s less costly compared to a full frame camera.

You can also rent a camera to see if it suits you before you commit to buy one. Google to see what camera rental services are available in your area.

 

 

Quality Lenses Are Just As Important

Let’s not forget about camera lenses!

Having a good lens is sometimes is more important than having a good camera. Similarly, if you’re starting out, consider a kit lens first (a lens that comes with the camera you bought) before you get addicted to the quality of the L or Carl Zeiss lenses. You can also rent a lens to test it before you buy.

 

35mm Camera Manufacturer

Here’s a list of camera manufacturers that produce 35mm format digital cameras on the market today.

  • Canon
  • Nikon
  • Olympus
  • Sony
  • Sigma
  • Pentax
  • Panasonic
  • Fujifilm
  • Kodak
  • Samsung
  • Voigtlaender
  • Rollei
  • Leica

 

Medium/Large Format Camera Manufacturer

When you’ve advanced in your career, you may want to consider a medium or a large format camera. These are often used by professional photographers and are more costly than the consumer level 35mm format camera.

  • Leica
  • Mamiya
  • Linhof
  • Hasselblad
  • Alpa
  • Phase One

 

Third-Party Lenses Manufacturer

All the camera manufacturers mentioned above manufacture their own lenses. There are also manufacturers that produce lenses (also known as third party lenses) to fit other brands of digital camera.

  • Tamron
  • Sigma
  • Tokina
  • Samyang
  • Lensbaby
  • Voigtlaender
  • Rokinon
  • Carl Zeiss
  • Schneider
  • Angenieux

 

Ultimatum: Canon, Nikon or…

I’m a Canon.

But I’m not going to start the debate of the century on DSLR or mirrorless, or whether you should get a Canon or a Nikon. I’m not going to discuss which lens you should buy either because I’m not an expert.

However, I’ll tell you which reputable websites you can visit, read the review and decide it for yourself 🙂

 

 

Photography Courses

photography courses

I think this is the part most of you are here for 🙂

You now have a camera, a lens and maybe a tripod

You should familiarize yourself with the settings of your camera, how to operate it, where to set the image quality, exposure bracketing, etc. before you go out shooting photos.

 

 

You Need To Know The Basics of Photography

There are fundamentals in photography that you need to know before you begin your journey to becoming a photographer.

  • Focal length
  • Aperture
  • Shutter speed
  • ISO
  • Metering mode
  • Colour depth
  • Image file format
  • Histogram
  • Exposure bracketing
  • Exposure compensation
  • Chromatic aberration

All the above, PLUS a list of list of beginner’s guide to improving your skills can be found in my FREE EBOOK.

 

 

These can be dull and might feel like going back to school but you do need to know them.

The easiest and fun way (in my opinion) to learn the basics is to have your camera with you and play with it as you read along. Here are the photography basics that you should know.

 

Free Photography Tutorials/Courses

There are also plenty of basic photography courses that you can enroll or subscribe to on the web. Most are premium courses, meaning you need to pay in exchange for the content.

Alternatively, there are free online photography courses and tutorials, some of them are pretty good and covers the basics.

Personally (this is purely my opinion), I do not think you need to pay to learn the basics because you will understand the basics as you go along.

Although, taking up a course may help you accelerate and shorten the learning curve.

Here are some free photography tutorials for beginners. Some may require you to register (for free) before you can watch the videos or read the written tutorials.

 

If you are looking for more advanced tutorials, here are some free links for you.

 

 

Taking Photos

taking photos

Plan To Get The Most Out of Your Trip

It’s time to go out to take some photos and start becoming a photographer!

But, where do you go? When should you go? How do you go?

Remember I mentioned about planning in “Qualities of good photographers”? Your photography trip will be more rewarding if you plan things ahead.

For example, you’ve been driving past this beautiful spot every morning on your way to work and have been wanting to explore the area for some photos.

Now that you have the time, you can plan things like: what is the weather going to be like by checking the weather forecast. How do you access the place, where are you going to park your car? (if you are driving) What gears do you need? Etc.

You get what I mean. Just a little planning ahead to make your life easier.

 

Tools To Make Your Life Easier

Here are a few tips and resources that can help you plan your photography trip better.

  • Google images – Not sure what kind of photos you might get, google to find out. Think outside the box to get something different.
  • Google earth – Do a quick research on the place you want to go. Find out where are the potential photo spots.
  • The Photographer’s Ephemeris – Shows you when is the sunrise and sunset as well as the direction of the light at different times of the day.
  • Stuck on earth – Stuck and don’t know where to go for a photo trip? Explore all your options. Works with IOS only.
  • MAPS.ME  – Out of your country, don’t want a hefty bill with international data roaming? Try this offline map with driving and walking directions. You have to download the map for the country you need before you can use it. Works with IOS and Android.
  • Exposure calculator – This is your best friend if you’re shooting long exposure. Android version here.
  • LightMeter Free – Need a light meter for portraits but don’t want to break your wallet? Works with Android only, but you can search for a similar app on IOS.
  • Smile – Feeling shy for street photography? Don’t know how to approach people? A simple smile is your ultimate weapon. People might still refuse photos to be taken. In that case, thank them and walk away.
  • Vantage point – For you spidey out there who likes to go all the way up for cityscapes shots. Don’t trespass but don’t be afraid to ask. Explain you’re a photographer and you’ll be surprised the answer you might get.
  • Shooting through a glass – We all have done that before. But do it elegantly, use a cloth, scarf or a Lenskirt to cover the back of your camera to avoid reflection from showing up in your photo.
  • SkyView Free – For astrophotographers, looking for the north star for your light trails? Android version here.

 

 

Post-Processing

post-processing

As Ansel Adams said before:

You don’t take photos, you make them.

Image editing is as important as taking a good photo.

Want to become a good photographer? You should know some basic image editing technique.

 

Post-Processing Is Part of Photography

Some argue that they don’t edit their photos because they think photos should be the way they are.

The way I see it, most photos should be edited.

Here’s why:

Editing is a broad term. It can involve just increasing the contrast and boosting the saturation. It can also mean cropping it to alter the composition, changing the color or even removing an unsightly object that does not add to the composition.

 

 

How Much Editing Should You Do?

There is no right or wrong answer to that. There is never a right or wrong answer when it comes to art (in my opinion).

It’s up to you, the photographer to decide how you want to present your work to your audience, to the world.

 

How Should You Edit Your Photo?

There are no rules or formulas to it but there are 2 ways:

  1. Image editing can be improvised. This means experimenting with different adjustments as you go along until you are satisfied.
  2. In others, they have a mental image of what they want to achieve and they make the necessary adjustments to achieve their goal.

 

Improvisation tends to happen with random or holiday photos whereas editing with a plan tends to happen more often in amateur or professional photographers who are serious in their work.

 

What Software Can You Use?

The most popular image editing software among photographers is probably Adobe Photoshop.

With the latest Photoshop CC, you are required to pay an annual subscription fee. But the advantage of that is you get any updates downloaded instantly.

It’s versatile, powerful and there are many resources to teach you how to use it to master editing.

If you’re a newbie and don’t want to commit to any purchase yet, you can download the 30-day trial, or you can download GIMP for free. GIMP is an open source image editing software similar to Adobe Photoshop. You can find plenty of free tutorials on YouTube or anywhere on the internet.

Check out this post on the list of free and premium image editing software available on the market today.

There are many other courses where you can learn advanced post-processing technique. You can find out the ones I’ve used on my resources page.

I recommend them because I find them to be valuable to my work and I’m confident they will bring you the same too.

 

 

Publishing Your Work

publishing

Don’t keep the beautiful images you’ve just spent hours editing in your hard drive.

Be brave and share it. Learn to become a published photographer!

 

Publish Your Photo Is The First Step

I know it can be daunting if this is your first time posting your photos on the internet.

You worry how people may respond, you’re not sure if others will like it.

 

 

The Online Photography Communities Are Friendly

I have to say, most photographers who browse and comment on images in photography communities are really nice and friendly.

I’ve actually made good friends over the time posting images on Flickr.

Besides sharing your images, you should also try to connect with others. Look at their photos and leave a comment or mark them as a favorite. They’ll appreciate your effort and will do the same for you in return.

This is how you learn, improve your skills and get inspired to generate more ideas for your next photography project.

If you’re aspired to take photography to become a business, you should read this article.

 

Where To Share Your Photos Online?

Here’s a list of photography community where you can post images for free (with the option to purchase a premium membership to gain access to more benefits).

  • Flickr – I love Flickr. You can post as many photos as you want. A free account comes with 1TB of storage capacity, but with ads on viewing Flickr pages and no stats on your Flickr traffic.
  • 500px – Similar to Flickr, apart from the quality of the photos uploaded which are slightly better than Flickr. With a free membership, you can upload 20 photos per week but no stats on your account traffic.
  • Photo.net – Free to register, no subscription needed. It also has a forum, offers equipment review and tutorials.
  • DeviantArt – Free to register. Apart from photography, it is also a community for other forms of graphical art.
  • PBase – You get 30-day free trial and you have to subscribe thereafter if you want to continue using it.

 

Conclusion

Well done you for reading until the end!

This is how you become a better photographer over time.

Through publishing your work, sharing and giving constructive criticism and constantly improving your skills. There’s no rocket science to it, just a good old textbook way of mastering an art.

Lastly, you need to go out there to practice, practice and practice!

 

What’s Next?

Download the free ebook – Photography Basics Made Easy.

You can also check out the tutorials section for tutorials on more advanced skills.