You see the pictures in magazines, websites, advertisements, even newspapers; amazing photography grabs your eye and refuses to let go. Professional photographers have spent years honing their craft. So, how does the layman like us even attempt to match this professional level? It is actually much easier than you may expect, all you need is some basic gear, a good eye, and some free time.
The Cameras: There are two cameras that you will need to get your photography off the ground. The first a simple point and shoot camera. Like all the cameras, this can be either film or digital, it all depends on your budget and preference. These cameras are characterized by being cheap (read, affordable) and easy to whip out at a moments notice. The second camera that you will want in your arsenal is a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera, again this cam be digital or film. These are built for shots that you want to take a moment to set up and work at. I prefer to carry both of these at the same time, just in case there is a quick shot I need or something I can set up for.
The Accessories: When you are shooting with an SLR, you are going to want to bring along some add-ons. The most important accessory that you can have for your SLR is a tripod. The camera can take photos that last seconds, sometimes minutes long, and holding the camera by hand would create a blurred, shaky image. Other accessories you may want are different lenses, from wide-angles to telephotos, and filters to change the colors coming through the lens.
For the point and shoot, there really are not too many exciting accessories. The accessory that I get the most use out of is a waterproof housing for when I am swimming or in bad weather. A flash is a decent accessory for both types of cameras, however I would never rely only on a flash to produce the right amount of lighting for a photo.
The Eye: This is the tricky part, and why you need the two different cameras. I nearly always carry my point and shoot on me, because you never know when the perfect shot may crop up. A point and shoot can not be adjusted nearly as much as an SLR, but for a quick shot that you would never have time to set up for they are life savers. However, when you have a shot that isn’t going anywhere for a while, the SLR has a chance to shine as you can adjust the exposure, depth of field, and so on. You can also use other lenses on the SLR to zoom in or get a wider shot than with a point and shoot.
You cannot be afraid of wasting film or memory card space. If you are afraid of wasting film and space you will miss some fantastic shots. Shoot everything that catches your eye. Shoot everything that catches your eye twice. This is especially true when using film because you do not have the luxury of reviewing the photos immediately after they are taken. Having said that, if you are using digital, do not always go to check the shot you just took. Instead, take a second or third shot and check them later. You can always wade through the trash shots to find the gems later on in the process.
After the Dark Room: Now that you have the shot, it is time to make it look like you want. Some people say that manipulating the photos in applications such as Photoshop is cheating, but I would disagree. Using a few online tutorials you can manipulate photos to turn them into what you want. This is also an effective way to fix any problems such as under or over exposure and to erase items such as power lines you never wanted in the picture in the first place.
There you have it, a beginner’s guide to basic photography. After this, I would suggest that you flip through a few books if you honestly want to take photography seriously, you could even check out community colleges or leaning annexes for classes. Good luck, and keep shooting.