How to Get Into Photography: The Complete Guide

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young man taking photos.

Now more than ever, more individuals are thinking of becoming or have become professional photographers. The most straightforward answer to becoming a professional photographer is buying a good camera and sound equipment, taking some courses to learn photography, practicing your skills, and ultimately deciding which niche to focus on. However, this process is not simple.

Photography is simultaneously an art and a discipline. It demands that you apply your artistic style coupled with lots of discipline. If you want to get into professional photography, this article provides you with the steps, tips, and tricks you’ll need to become a professional photographer.

This is an essential guide for you to start professional photography, a complete list of the essential tips that you need to follow step by step if you want to start your photography career or get into professional photography.

Getting started in photography doesn’t have to be challenging or intimidating. Persistence, a few creative projects, and networking can all help you thrive as a beginner.

Learn how to get started or take your shots to the next level in this must-read guide! 

Essential Equipment List

For a pre-professional who wants to get into professional photography, getting the right equipment is first and foremost. Buying a great professional camera is only a tiny part of the equation.

camera equipment for people getting started in photography.

Some professional photographers invest in expensive photography gear to create high-quality images for their clients. Taking photos for billboards, magazines, and products often requires the use of full-frame or mirrorless cameras.

Even in those situations, many photographers find creative solutions without spending thousands of dollars on gear. Fashion photographer Alexandra Sophie uses a Canon 5D Mark II, a DSLR camera that was released more than a decade ago. She works with high-end brands such as Swarovski and publications like VOGUE. This goes to show that you don’t need the latest mirrorless camera to be considered a successful photographer.

A camera is simply a tool used to capture images. As you shop around, you’ll find that most SLR and DSLR cameras offer the same basic features. If your goal is to progress from a serious amateur to a professional photographer, you might need more expensive gear to produce images that meet your client’s expectations.

If you just want to get into photography for fun, an entry-level DSLR is more than sufficient. Instead of spending your entire budget on an expensive camera body, consider investing some money in a high-quality zoom lens, a tripod, and maybe a few prime lenses. This will allow you to develop a wide variety of skills without compromising on image quality.

This Essential Equipment List will help you get your footing in professional photography:

1. The Right Lenses

Working with the right lens will ensure amazing photos, help you improve your photos, or win the trust of clients. Prime lenses refer to fixed focal length lenses that aren’t enabled for zooming in or out. You could use these lenses to provide you with a sharper focus on your subject to get better quality photos with less diffraction. You can change focal length with a zoom lens, and it gives you more potential for creation. However, a zoom lens with a large aperture can be more expensive.

2. A Tripod

Tripods are portable devices that you can use to stabilize, elevate, and support your flash unit, camera, and other videography equipment while taking photos. They have three legs and a mounting head that can be coupled with the camera to help you take more stable photographs.

3. A Portable Speed Light

You could use an on-camera speed light to provide additional light to your subjects while taking photographs in low-light environments. They’ll help you get more balanced exposures during the daytime and improve your camera’s performance when shooting photos.

4. An External Hard Drive & Memory Cards

You could use an external hard drive and memory cards for more accessible storage and transfer of photos when shooting outside your studio. They are cheap, provide quick access to data, and make it easier to transfer entire data folders.

equipment a photographer needs.

5. Collapsible Reflector Discs

Collapsible reflector discs are essential equipment for all professional photographers. They allow you to modify the light around your subject, enabling you to enhance the amount of light and fill in shadowy areas.

6. ND Filters

ND filters help you shoot in bright light with wide-aperture lenses without overexposing your subject. They allow selective focus and shallow depth of field when shooting under lighting conditions that exceed your camera’s shutter speed capabilities.

7. Cleaning Supplies

You’ll need all appropriate cleaning materials for your camera, lens, and other equipment, including soft-bristled brushes, an air blower, cleaning fluid, cleaning wipes, and microfiber cloth. Using the right cleaning equipment helps prevent damage to your camera or any other equipment while ensuring optimum functioning. Check out our detailed guide on cleaning the lens of your camera.

8. Color Checkers

You’ll need color checkers with graduated colors to get accurate readings of your white balance settings while planning for your shots.

9. Photography Backdrops

If you are learning how to get into photography, the best tip would be to take your first class in a photography studio. Studio photography learning can help you get acclimated to your camera, and you also get to experiment with light, exposure, and how to use shadows. You’ll need to use photography backdrops if you want to achieve the best results.

Photography backdrops are a simple option you could use to add creativity and professionalism to studio photography projects. You can use various materials, including cloth, paper, canvas, muslin, velvet, and even vinyl. There are multiple options to choose from, and you’ll get the chance to experiment and come up with new ideas.

Read on and find out the tips you need to get into professional photography.

women holding a dslr camera.

How To Get Into Professional Photography

Photography is a rewarding and satisfying hobby for millions of enthusiasts worldwide. Not too long ago, enthusiastic amateur photographers used to be called shutterbugs. (A slang for avid photographers derived from the “shutter” mechanism in a camera.)

These photography tips will help you get started as a beginner shutterbug. Here are some of your goals:

  • Learn new skills
  • Join a community of passionate photographers
  • Challenge yourself regularly with projects

Let’s look into a few fundamental concepts that will help you strengthen your patience and improve your photography skills as a beginner.

1. Familiarize Yourself with Your Camera

You have to understand the tools of trade if you want to be successful in the trade. How should you go about it? I’d suggest that you begin by reading your camera’s manual and end by assembling it and taking various shots.

You don’t have to go through the entire thing; however, there are some essential parts that you may not be familiar with, and reading about them could save you more time later. Reading the camera manual will help you understand how to assemble and disassemble it (no one knows this better than the manufacturers), and taking it out for a ‘spin’ will help you get down most of the basics.

Make sure to learn how it operates. How do you set ISO, exposure, and shutter speed? What do the different camera modes do? How does focal length work? What is the difference between manual mode and auto mode?

You’ll learn many things about your camera over the next few years. Don’t rush to learn everything at once. Prioritize the basics – such as exposure, ISO, and aperture – to have a smoother shooting experience.

2. Find Your Mentor

Photography, like many other careers, has more than a few pioneers who succeeded in the trade. You’ll need to find yourself a mentor if you want to succeed and surpass your limitations. Your mentor will encourage you and guide you in your development. They’ll help you focus your efforts by setting goals and providing feedback.

However, we are aware that it’s quite challenging to find a direct mentor. You could begin by doing some online research and finding answers to your questions. You could also get involved in exhibitions, photography talks, and seminars. These events could help you get lots of wisdom from experienced photographers and answer questions you didn’t know you needed to ask.

Learning photography doesn’t always have to involve watching tutorials and reading articles. You can learn a lot by interacting with people whose photography you admire.

A photography mentor will provide you with objective feedback, support, and inspiration. They’ll give you invaluable knowledge that might be difficult to find online.

Don’t be afraid of asking silly questions or being ridiculed for your lack of experience. If you remain open to constructive criticism, you’ll find many people who will happily guide you.

learning from the professionals in photography.

3. Take a Photography Course

If you want to become the best in your career, you’ll need to be ready to put in some time and effort. Taking whichever course you can find will help you stay updated on the latest trends, equipment, and techniques. You can find such courses, both free and premium, in various institutions and even online.

If you find reading somewhat tiring, you could log into YouTube and find many inspiring and educative videos that can help you get more insights into using your camera. You could also read articles on various photography techniques that you could put into action.

The 365 Project

The 365 project is a long-term photography challenge that encourages photographers to take a photo every day for a year. You can take as many photos as you like every day. The goal is to have one main image that you can use to represent each day.

This is a great project for beginner photographers who want to commit to something special without feeling limited. There are no rules in this project. You can learn something new every day and photograph anything that catches your eye.

Our 365 Days Of Photography Course has all the tools and resources for aspiring photographers. The course offers over 365 bite-sized videos that focus on various aspects of photography. If you want to learn photography in an inspiring and comfortable online environment, we highly recommend joining us here!

4. Learn to See Things Differently

When you get into photography, you might focus your attention on gear and the technical aspects of taking a well-exposed photograph. However, there’s more to photography than understanding the technical side of things.

candid beginner photograph of woman holding a baby and umbrella.

Photography is a form of artistic and creative expression. A good photo can have high artistic value through the use of composition, exposure, lens selection, and lighting. Great photos stand out aesthetically and emotionally.

Developing an eye for photography takes time. You can start by looking for inspiration in the world around you. Galleries, photography magazines, movies, etc., can give you a boost of confidence and new skills.

The next time you pick up your camera, stop and think about the image you want to create. Visualize how it will look. Consider the lighting conditions. Shoot from different angles to keep your work exciting. This will help you strengthen your creative intuition and take stunning photographs no matter where you are.

5. Expand Your Network & Create a Portfolio

You’ll know when you’ll start improving and rise from novice to amateur status. If you get to this level, the first thing you’ll need to do is network and find referrals and contacts that can help you get the right skills to up your trade. Doing this could also help you get your very first clients and begin earning from your gig.

You could also achieve more by creating a portfolio where you can showcase your skills. You could accomplish this through websites and blogs, platforms that could also be used as marketing brochures. Creating a portfolio will help you communicate your abilities, perspective, and skills. It’ll also help you look more professional and increase the chances that you’ll get noticed.

photo of a studio setup.

6. Check Your Lighting & Mind Your Composition

Lack of light or harsh shadows can affect how your photographs look. Therefore, the best step in this scenario is to get an external light source for your photoshoot or reschedule the photoshoot for a better time.

Also, keep in mind that your photo’s composition will help you tell your story better. Therefore, ensure that you check the arrangement of your photo’s visual elements so that you get to tell your story better. Learn more of these tips and tricks by watching more videos, reading more books, and practicing.

7. Pick the Perfect Background for Your Subject

This depends on your shoot’s location. If you plan on shooting in a natural background, then you could take your time to get the perfect place with abundant natural light. The best time to shoot your photos would be early in the morning or late at night. You could also consider using photography backdrops if you are shooting in the studio.

creative and attractive image of a women.

8. Practice

The key to growing your skill is by practicing. The most famous photographers didn’t become better overnight; they have hundreds of thousands of photographs illustrating their journey, experimentations, failures, and successes. Practicing, failing, and experimenting earn you experience. And experience helps you get better.

Take your camera wherever you can and shoot any subject that remotely triggers your interest. You could read hundreds of books on photography, take tens of courses, and talk about photography daily, but you won’t be able to unlock your photography skills. This is where your passion and artistic need to explore will come in and provide you with the much-needed push.

Back in the days of film, photographers had to be mindful of every photograph they took to avoid breaking the bank. Fortunately, in the age of digital cameras, you can take thousands of pictures for free. Use this as an opportunity to work on various projects. Each challenge will teach you something about your unique preferences as a photographer.

Practice One Skill at a Time

If you’re shooting on full automatic, spend a day shooting exclusively using aperture priority. Then, move on to shutter priority. Try doing the opposite of what you usually do. If you prefer using a faster shutter speed to capture your subjects in action, use a very slow shutter speed to create eerie photos with motion blur.

Do you like the background blur effect in photography? If so, try using a wide aperture (e.g. f/1.8 or f/2.8) to create that effect. Experiment with different apertures to find the perfect background blur that will make your focal point stand out.

If you have a new camera, it’s likely that it can handle a large amount of ISO. Experiment with high ISO numbers in the dark. Get comfortable with nighttime photography. Use artificial lights when possible, even if it’s just a desk lamp.

Dedicate one day to any of these technical settings. Before you know it, you’ll be able to comfortably adjust your settings without even thinking about them!

9. Don’t Rush to Specialize

wide view of playground shot through fence.

It’s not important for you to find your niche early on in your photography journey, so enjoy photographing anything and everything that stands out to you. If you like photographing nature, dabble in landscape photography. Enjoy taking candid photos of people? Play around with street photography.

Some professional photographers, like Joe McNally, have generalized portfolios. To put it simply, they enjoy photographing a wide variety of subjects. Other photographers prefer specializing in one genre, like portrait photography or macro photography. The journey of pursuing photography should be limitless and exciting. There is room for every kind of photographer in this world.

As you take photographs, notice what you naturally gravitate towards. Even if you don’t feel experienced enough, you have a unique style that can be developed. You already have your own special way of looking at the world. If you don’t take that for granted, you’ll enjoy taking pictures even more.

10. Work as a Second Shooter

woman taking flash photos of wedding couple outdoors.

Once you’re familiar with your camera settings, you might enjoy working with a professional photographer. In event photography, depending on your skills, you can volunteer or work as a second shooter. Events include parties, weddings, conferences, and public gatherings.

Your job would be to take photographs of people and significant moments during events. You might learn how to overcome your fear of shooting in front of people and learn how to think quickly. Additionally, you might get the chance to meet new people and grow your network as a photographer. This is a great environment to shoot in as a beginner. You won’t feel pressured to take perfect photos throughout the event, but you’ll still have plenty of chances to develop your skills.

Getting this experience early on can help you launch a successful career in wedding or event photography.

11. Strengthen Your Patience

Starting photography means entering new territory and trying new things. You have to be very patient with everything you do during this time. Expect to run into obstacles, but don’t let them discourage you from continuing your journey. Mistakes are a very natural part of the process, so think of them as lessons instead of failures.

You can strengthen your patience by purposely trying things that you’re very unfamiliar with in your free time. If you’re into nature photography, try taking portraits instead. If you love color, take a few black and white photos.

This exercise will help you significantly in the long run. You’ll find it easier to be resilient when things don’t go your way, and you’ll become a master at finding creative solutions to various problems.

12. Join a Photography Community for Support

couple shot of beginner photographers getting started in photography.

The sooner you start connecting with other photographers, the easier it will be for you to grow and improve creatively. The right photography community will encourage, motivate, and understand you.

As a beginner photographer, you might come across obstacles that are completely new to you. This might be a technical issue, a creative block, or an abstract photography question. Making photography mistakes is a natural part of the process. Fortunately, it’s not something you have to experience alone. You’ll find it easier to overcome obstacles when you have a support system.

Find a photography club in your area or join an online community, but don’t stop there. Introduce yourself and show your enthusiasm. Reach out to photographers that you admire. It’s very likely that you’ll find a bunch of great people that you can connect with and learn from.

We have an online community for our members that’s filled with awesome projects and enthusiastic photographers. You’re welcome to join us there!


wide landscape photo of fields and mountains against a sunrise.

Photography is an exciting art, and with the right energy and discipline, you are bound to go far and achieve great success. All you’ll have to do is get the right camera and equipment, take the suitable courses, and let your motivation and discipline lift you to success.

Getting started in photography can help you discover a new side of yourself, meet incredible people, and change your view of the world.

Learning to visually seek out potential images is an artistic and creative right-brain activity that can change your life for the better. When you start to get serious about taking photos, you may notice a unique transformation in your perception of the world around you. Over time, you’ll find yourself constantly searching for interesting subjects and evaluating everything you see as a potential image.

Take photographs regularly, connect with photographers, and regularly challenge yourself to try new things. The more you practice these habits, the closer you’ll get to taking incredible photographs of anything and everything.

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Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.
Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.

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