50 Things You Need to Know Before Taking Up Photography


Welcome to the world of photography. Before we jump in, there are a few things you will need to know.

  1. This is a Deep, Deep Rabbit Hole – It takes a moment to take a photograph and a lifetime to master how to do it perfectly. The great thing is that you are in charge of how far you want to take, but you will always be tempted to take it that one step further.
Photo by Sasin Tipchai
Photo by Sasin Tipchai
  1. It Doesn't Need to Be Expensive – You can get a very reasonable used cropped sensor DSLR from ebay for $200 and a used 50mm lens for $50. And it is possible to shoot images good enough for magazines with that exact setup if you know how. Skill is way more important than gear.
  2. It's Not About the Gear (Except When it is) – A good photographer will be able to get a good shot with almost any gear. But it's still very difficult to shoot a car race at night on an iPhone so sometimes gear will help for specific situations.
  3. Learning to Use Your Camera Beats Learning to Use Photoshop – Get it right in camera is the general rule you will want to abide by. Learn to use it well will make everything else go a lot more smoothly.
  4. But Photoshop (ie Post Production) is Still Important – Post production has been a massive part of photography since day one. Whether it's done in a darkroom, on a screen or even in your camera, it is still a part of interpreting a scene and always will be (at least until cameras are as advanced as a human eye).
  5. If You Enjoy Post Production, Then Do It – A lot of people put a lot of time into becoming very good at post production. If you want to do that, then don't let anybody try to convince you it's a bad idea.
  6. Glass Before Bodies – If you're wondering on what to buy next and you have to choose between a lens or a new camera body, go with the lens. A good lens can last you a lifetime.
  7. If You Don't Know Where to Start, The Rule of Thirds Might Help – If you're wondering how to compose a photo, it is another rabbit hole, but a quick look at the rule of thirds is fast, easy and can be built on later. Or ignored completely. It is a rule of thumb – not a law, so treat it as such.
Photo by Ishan (seefromthesky)
Photo by Ishan (seefromthesky)
  1. RTFM – Read your camera manual before you ask questions about your camera. Seriously.
  2. Learn The Exposure Triangle – This is the key to good exposure using any camera. It is how aperture, ISO and shutter speed interact with each other. Learn it well and you will always get great exposures.
  3. A Hobby is About What You Like – If photography is your hobby, then you can do what you want in photography for your own enjoyment.
  4. A Business is About What Your Clients Like – If somebody is paying you to take photographs and you want that to continue then you're going to have to give them the images that they want.
  5. You Probably Won't Make Money With Photography – The sad truth is that getting paid for photography is tough. If money is your motivation, then you may be disappointed. Huge competition. Shrinking margins.
  6. If You Make Money With Photography, It Probably Won't Be Much – Many professional photographers live below the poverty line. This is the reality of the industry. Maybe you will beat the odds, but you need to at least consider this.
  7. You Will Either Be a Gear Head or Be Irritated By Them – Technical gear with lots of technical specifications attracts people who love to talk about gear. Others just love taking images. You will discover which camp you're in soon enough.
  8. What Works on Social Media, Doesn't Necessarily Work in a Photography Competition – Getting likes from the general public on Facebook is a very different beast to getting liked by a professional photographer. The former will often like bright, saturated images. The latter will look for good composition, intentional use of colour and evidence of though in post production among many other things.
  9. Professionals Photographers See Images Differently to Other People – There was actually a psychological study that showed this. The general public likes different things in their images. Professionals tend to like evidence of intentional skill in image making.
Photo by Nur Andi Ravsanjani Gusma
Photo by Nur Andi Ravsanjani Gusma
  1. You Will Need to Get Used to Early Mornings – This is the best time of day to shoot for a lot of different types of photography. The chances of avoiding early mornings are slim for any serious photographer.
  2. Primes Are Usually Better Than ZoomsPrimes shoot at one focal length and do it very well. They're just not as versatile as zoom lenses.
  3. Canon? Nikon? Sony? Pentax? It Doesn't Really Matter – Don't fret over what brand you go with. They change over time and a few hours of reading photo tutorials will have a FAR larger impact on your final images than the brand of light capture box you use.
  4. Technical Disagreements Are Usually A Matter of Degrees – You will see a LOT of very passionate people online arguing about the minutiae of some technical outcome. The thing is, the chances of somebody looking at an image picking up on the difference is very small to almost non-existent. Usually best not to waste your time.
  5. A Good Camera Bag Saves a Lot of Heartache – Get a good one. Comfortable. Light. Strong. Don't skimp. It will be your friend for a long time.
  6. Youtube is Staggeringly Good for Learning – There are some amazingly talented people producing staggeringly good videos about photography and you should start watching them.
  7. There Are Also Amazing, Free Websites for Learning – The standard of learning to be had on sites such as Picture Correct, Expert Photography, DPS, Phoblographer, FStoppers and dare we say right here on Light Stalking is great. Start reading!
  8. You Will Judge All Scenes by Light – One of the peculiar side effects of becoming engrossed in photography is that you start to look at the light in all scenes. How it affects the scene, casts shadow, makes things look.
  9. You Will Probably Spend More on Photography Than a Buying Car – Within a few years, you will probably own quite a lot of gear. And when you start adding up what you paid for it, you might get a surprise.
Photo by Vadim B
Photo by Vadim B
  1. People Probably Won't Care About Pics of Your Cat – When you're learning a new camera, your cat is great. She just sits there and lets you snap away, test depth of field, play with focus. But, unless you're a pet photographer, people probably don't care so much about those images. Sad, but true.
  2. Specialists Beat Generalists – A landscape photographer will almost always take better landscapes than somebody who shoots a bit of everything. While you do need to be decent at shooting anything, a specialisation isn't a bad idea.
  3. Organising Your Photos Now Will Save You a LOT of Time Later – The pain in reorganising your photographs a few years down the track cannot be overstated. Learn how to organise your photos asap and stick to it.
  4. Finding Out What's Wrong With Your Photos is More Useful Than Finding Out What's Right With Them – Getting genuine criticism of why your photograph doesn't work will help you infinitely more than getting 100 likes on Instrgram. That's why we made the Shark Tank.
  5. The Instagram Look is Already On the Wane – Photography fads come and go. The washed out, retro Instagram look is still around, but it's basically mainstream now. Meaning it will be gone soon.
  6. Don't Do HDR Because You Like the Vibrant Colours (Unless You REALLY Want to) – This is another photography fad that has had its day. Use HDR for its original purpose – recovering details where the sensor failed. Using it for garish colours… is a waning fad too. Now, if that is what YOU like, then that's fine. But if you're expecting to get any cred for doing it, then you might be disappointed.
  7. The Best Camera is the One With You – It doesn't really matter what you keep with you, but if you stumble across a great opportunity for a shot, that is what you will have to shoot with. Keep it in mind.
  8. A Good Photographer CAN Get Great Shots on an iPhone – If you don't believe us, check out Jack Hollingsworth's travel portraits.
  9. People Will Ask You to Shoot for Free – This is one of the banes of getting known for photography. Get used to it as it happens to everyone.
  10. You Probably Shouldn't Shoot for Free – Working for free, even for your friends, devalues your work. In their mind, you will always be the person who will work for free. Lawyers don't work for friends for free (nor do friends expect them too). Plumbers, accountants etc don't either. Neither should you.
  11. A Good Business Person Will Usually Make More Money Than a Good Photographer – Being a good photographer means you will take good photographs. That is a different skill to getting people to part with money. A little of both goes a long way.
  12. Fads Pass, Your Personal Style Lasts – It is always tempting to follow fads like saturated HDR or faded Insta looks. And that might even be necessary sometimes. But a personal style (think Steve McCurry, Terry Richardson or Annie Leibovitz) will last beyond fads.
  13. A Personal Style is REALLY Hard to Find – Ok, so you need one, but we're not pretending one is easy to come by. Keep shoot, testing, tweaking. You will get there.
Photo by Sebastian Engler
Photo by Sebastian Engler
  1. Sunset Photographs Are Cliche – They are everywhere and they play well to a wide audience. And they are very very cliche.
  2. If You Don't Like Sunset Photographs, You're Probably Dead – They might be cliche, but sunset photographs are also really fun and awesome. Take as many as you want!
  3. Dust is Your New Enemy – Seriously, it gets everywhere and it gets really pesky and sometimes a bit expensive. Lens caps, cloths, wraps – do whatever you can to ward it off.
  4. Condensation is Your Other New Enemy – Probably worse than dust is getting moisture in your gear. This can get really expensive really fast and can happen very easily in cold climates.
  5. The Law is Probably on Your Side – If you're standing on a public piece of land in a western democracy, you are probably allowed to be there and shooting basically anything you like. Check the laws in your country.
  6. That Doesn't Mean You Should Forget Your Manners – It's not always possible, but if you're shooting people, it is a common courtesy to ask for permission.
  7. Sharing Your Photos Will Make You Better – When you share you photographs, you will get feedback. You will begin to see what works. You will adjust according to the feedback. And that will make you a better photographer.
  8. Printing Your Photos Will Make You Even Better – Printing is something every photographer should do. Every small mistake will show up on a print and you will notice it. And you will realise that it costs you money to print your mistakes. So you will make less of them.
  9. There Are Many Rules To Learn – The rule of thirds, the rule of equivalent exposure, the Golden section. Rules, rules, rules. Learn them all. Or don't.
  10. Ignoring All the Rules is OK Too – It's probably better to learn the rules before you ignore them, but it really depends on your situation. Don't stress out about it. Rules were made to be broken and all that. Some people learn better by doing and learning on the job. Others learn better by nailing the theory then applying it. Both are perfectly valid.
  11. There is No Better Past-time – Now that is probably a whole lot of stuff you think you need to know. You don't. Just go for it. Do it. Have fun. And welcome to the best past time you will ever have. You will be here a while.

About Author

Rob is the founder of Light Stalking. His love for photography started as a child with a Kodak Instamatic and pushed him into building this fantastic place all these years later, and you can get to know him better here.
Rob's Gear
Camera: Nikon D810
Lenses: Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8

Wow, amazing content. Thanks for sharing. Still struggling with no. 18, “You Will Need to Get Used to Early Mornings”! It’s so hard, but good images make it worth it!

Hello, thanks for this lovely information, i do photography for a while, and i still don’t know most of them

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