Photography Is a Whole New World – Tips for Those Entering It

The Blue Rose - Fire

by The Blue Rose


I have had my Canon DSLR now for a little over a year, and it’s been a really exciting time for me. When I got my camera, I was determined to learn how to use it, and not just shoot on Auto. If I was spending that much money on some equipment, I wanted to be able to actually use the knobs and twiddly bits that I had paid for.

So I bravely took my first baby steps into the world of photography, and like many beginners, the first thing I did was go HELP! The second thing I did is go looking for places to actually find help and also learning experiences. I joined several online photography communities, I joined two real life photography clubs, I spent a LOT of money on books, I spent even more time online doing research. And of course, I got out there with my camera, shooting, experimenting, and trying to learn.

The Blue Rose - Seagulls

Here is some of what I learnt:

  • In general, photographers are *nice* people. And if you are genuine in your desire to learn, and listen, most of them will be happy to take some time to listen and offer you advice. Sometimes its a little thing like the lady who showed me how to select the focus point on my camera on a field trip. Sometimes it’s a big thing like the guy who came over (for a very reasonable fee) and showed me some advanced tips in Lightroom.
  • Going out on a field trip or a photowalk offered me the most valuable learning experiences. Especially in the beginning when I was really new to my camera, I was able to talk and ask questions and get good advice. But the actual being out and about with my camera was the most educational. Things like remembering to pack a hat, sunscreen and a waterbottle on a hot day, or how well your bag fits; wearing comfy shoes, packing a basic first aid kit, learning while climbing down a cliff what the extra 5kg of load does to your centre of balance…that kind of thing.
  • People learn in different ways. I am a kinaesthetic learner—I learn by doing stuff. Find a way that works for you.
  • Join a local camera club—I have joined two over the last year and both offer a different focus on photography that appeal to my different interests. Go along on the field trips and get to know people.
  • Online communities can be a lot of hard work. I was lucky to find a really supportive one actually based in the country I live in, as most of them are overseas based (usually the US). I have found many dominated by closed cliques—usually of guys for some reason. If your opinions and views are not the same as theirs, it can be hard to find a place for yourself. I had a disagreement with one particular forum as they insisted that everyone use a real name as their user name. This is not my personal philosophy about how I use the Internet, and didn’t feel welcome there at all really. So be open minded, and keep trying, hopefully there is a group out there where you will feel like you fit in.
  • Books are your friend—I am a big fan of technical books that help me learn, so I have a collection of those on photography. I have loaned them out to a few other beginner friends and found they also liked them as reference books. I also enjoy looking at ones that are more portfolios—I find those good for ideas and for inspiration.
  • The Blue Rose - Swing


  • Be brave and take your camera out into different situations. Twelve months ago I had never taken a photo of a seagull, or a pukeko, or a guy kiteboarding or windsurfing, or people swing dancing or rock’n'rolling. I had never driven for an hour each way to take photos of waves on a particular beach, driven home from work in a hurry to catch the sunset in time, fallen up a cliff, got soaking wet in the rain shooting friends in a sporting event, got freezing cold on a beach at sunset or got an awesome shot at night time of a pier all lit up with coloured lights that I submitted for exhibition recently!
  • The technical side of photography can be hard work. I really struggled with getting the basic concepts straight in my head, and now I struggle to remember all the different options and things to use in any given situation. People learn at different rates and in different ways. So be gentle with yourself, but don’t give up. Oh, and don’t listen when you are told “shoot in Manual”—shoot in whatever way works for you. I get really angry with the people who say “shoot in manual, it’s easy and that’s what real photographers do”. It isn’t easy and it totally isn’t the only way to use your camera, and I know for a fact that there are plenty of pro shooters out there who don’t shoot in manual.
  • If you shoot in RAW then be prepared to spend lots of time at your computer editing photos. And learn to be brutal and cull the bad and average ones otherwise you will clog up your hard drive really quickly.

The Blue Rose - Mountain View

I have really enjoyed this last year; I have had some really fun experiences and met lots of great people. I did things in aid of getting THE shot I had never even considered doing before. And its only whetted my taste for more. BRING IT ON!

The Blue Rose - AirSoc


Known elsewhere on the Web as TheBlueRose, it is my endeavour to learn to improve my photography skills, and by blogging the process, maybe help other DLSR newbies out there (if by nothing else, learning from my own mistakes) on my Lensaddiction blog. I live in New Zealand, in the South Island. I work in IT, and enjoy reading SF and Fantasy books, and I am a member of the local SCA group where my persona is a 14th C merchant’s daughter. My favourite photographic subjects are my two Birman cats. I prefer to be behind the lens instead of in front of it. Please visit my Flickr gallery to see more of my photographs.

All images: ©The Blue Rose.

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