9 Tips For Young Beginning Photographers
We recently got some really fun feedback from a listener Gianna Kirschner:
“Dear Master Photography Podcast, my name is Gianna and I’m 10 years old. I love your podcast and listen to all the podcasts you make. I listened to your newest podcast and I’m going to try to shoot/see the neowise tonight or tomorrow night! I was wondering if you have any advice on taking photos as a young photographer. I have the Sony Cyber Shot right now and am saving up for the Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR camera with the 2 lens kit,( the EF 18-55 mm and the EF 75-300 mm). I hope you are doing well and staying safe. Please respond if you have time. Sincerely, Gianna”
Not only are we responding to Gianna, we are dedicating this entire episode to provide tips and recommendations for young photographers. Erica, what kinds of things were you doing at 10 years old?
Erica: I was just getting into photography, actually! I focused on photography in 4H and spent some time at the YMCA learning how to develop film. I was terrible at both of them, but it was fun! I did a lot of “travel, nature, and landscape photography” (in quotes because it was terrible and definitely not worthy of being called landscape photography haha!).
Jeff: I was messing around with my Dad’s IBM PC. It was an XT model with an Intel 8088 processor. He bought it when I was about 9 years old. He was fine if I used it but told me I couldn’t play games on it. My dad has never liked video games. While he was at work I tried to play some games but they wouldn’t load, so I learned via BBS how to modify the bootup configuration files so that they would. Then I changed it all back before he got home so that he would never know.
This comes at a good time for me because I am about to start a summer beginning photography course and 2 of my students are under the age of 14. So it was good for me to think about this as I am heading into that.
Don’t Wait, Get Shooting!
So many podcasts or articles about photography focus on gear and tell you that you have to get a certain camera or spend a certain amount of money on camera equipment before you can get good results. Not true! So much of photography is learning what in the scene makes a good photo. You can learn about composition and lighting without spending a lot of money on gear.
Photography is more accessible here in 2020 than it was when I was 10 years old. Smartphones have incredibly good cameras in them. The Sony Cyber Shot that Gianna said she has can do a lot. More important than which camera you have, or your age, is your desire to learn. If you have that, then don’t let which camera you have stop you from creating images. Do all you can with the camera you have and see how you can improve your images by shooting. Shoot a lot!
Educate Yourself With Free Resources
This is the perfect opportunity to focus on educating yourself and improving your skills. You don’t have a job or “adult responsibilities,” so take advantage of this time to grow.
Find podcasts you like. Join photography clubs. Sign up for a photography class at school. Watch free YouTube videos. Find photographers and educators to follow on social media.
You could also look into paid memberships and classes on Creative Live and other photo education platforms. These would be great to ask for for holiday gifts!
Find a Mentor
Find a local photographer you admire and ask if they’d be willing to mentor you or let you shadow them. Many schools have shadowing opportunities so you could even possibly get school credit for it. Just make sure to involve your parents in this so that they can help you find someone professional and safe.
It can be so hard to find the answers you are looking for when you have a question. Especially as you are just getting started into photography. Having a mentor who would let you ask them questions will accelerate your learning.
Learn Every Feature/Function Of Your Camera
Cameras are filled with buttons and menus. Very few photographers spend the time to go through all of them and understand what they do. Modern cameras are so capable of being used to create incredible images and the vast majority of photographers really don’t know how to get everything out of the camera they already have.
There is so much to learn and the various buttons and menus on the camera can be a great guide of things to study. It takes a lot of work, but will be worth it give you a pretty significant advantage over other photographers who haven’t done the work.
Give yourself time to experiment with different types of photography. This is your opportunity to figure out which types of photography you love most (and which you don’t like at all!). Shoot shoot shoot! By shooting a lot, and shooting different things, you’ll be able to figure out what you’re most passionate about.
Maybe even set up a monthly challenge for yourself. Each month you focus on a different type of photography (portraits, landscape, macro, pets, etc.). Give yourself plenty of time to learn about the genre and then shoot shoot shoot!
Don’t Upgrade Your Camera Too Early
Your plan to get a Canon T7 with the two kits lenses is a good one. Getting a camera that has interchangeable lenses and allows you full manual control over the settings will allow you to learn and grow. You are going to hear it said a lot as you continue on this path to learning about how to use that camera that your camera isn’t good enough. DON’T LISTEN!
In particular, you are probably going to hear that you need a full frame camera over the crop sensors cameras that are significantly less expensive. There are certainly some use cases where there can be a pretty dramatic difference, but really the quality of your images has far more to do with you and the knowledge you gain by following these tips than it is which camera and lens you have in your hand.
You could put $10,000 of camera equipment in the hands of someone that doesn’t know how to use it and the images will not be very good. On the other hand you can give a skilled photographer a $600 camera and they will still create compelling images. I think this is the biggest mistake I see photographers make as they go from exactly where you are, most of them at a much older age than you, and because they have money they can spend on a camera they do that because it is easier than working to gain the skills.
I do think it is worth getting the T7 over the compact Sony Cyber Shot camera. The Cyber Shot cameras have a fixed lens. You can’t change it to something else with different focal lengths or aperture and that is a limitation you will probably outgrow pretty quickly. Work towards getting that T7, or really any inexpensive DSLR or mirrorless camera that has interchangeable lenses is something I recommend for you, but don’t worry about the megapixels or other technical aspects of the camera that you are likely to hear about for a while. Use the camera you have until you are convinced that the limitations of the camera is what is holding you back from creating the images you envision.
Join photography communities on Facebook for a chance to share your photos for feedback and critique. Use this feedback as a way to grow and learn even more (see next tip). Be sure to involve your parents in this as well, so that they can make sure the groups you’re joining are safe and appropriate for young photographers.
Accept and Incorporate Feedback
As you are sharing your work and asking for feedback, remember that as you ask for feedback and therefore the person or group you have asked to give that feedback now feels obligated to offer suggestions on how they would change things to improve the image. This is especially true if you ask an individual for feedback.
If I am doing a portfolio review for a photographer I go into that assuming that the photographer values my opinion of image quality and they are looking for me to tell them what I might do differently to see if it would improve the image. It means I am going to find SOMETHING I am going to suggest they do differently.
If the image is already really well done I might say that I would try this or that and see if I like the result better as a way for the photographer to see their image through my eyes. Giving that feedback doesn’t mean the image is terrible. I feel obligated to come up with something in the way of feedback and I am not of much help if all I say is the same thing your friends/family would say about how great the image is and there is nothing to try or change.
Never Doubt Yourself
Remember that you’re in a phase of growth and learning. Never doubt your abilities due to comparing yourself to other people. Remember that most work you see from other photographers is their highlight reel – the best of their work. If you love it, learn, grow, overcome challenges, and always keep the faith in yourself and your abilities. And never let your age get in the way of what you really want to do. Follow in the footsteps of Hope Taylor – successful photo entrepreneur at the age of 16 and now one of the most well known portrait photography educators in the US!
Special Note to Gianna
Photography can often feel like a male-dominated field, especially landscape and astrophotography. Never let this stand in the way of you chasing your dream and developing your skills as a landscape (or any other type of) photographer, even if it feels like you have to try a little harder to be noticed.
The landscape photography field in particular needs more women and girls to represent it, and I’m so proud of you for not only pursuing it, but for writing in to tell us about your goals. You’re truly an inspiration to young girls! If you want to follow women landscape photographers, check out Cath Simard, Erin Babnik, Isabella Tabacchi, Sapna Reddy, and even our very own Alyce Bender.
What Did We Miss?
As you heard our list of 10 tips, now doubt you have thought of some advice we could and probably should have given Gianna. Let us know in the Facebook Group or in the comments of this post if you don’t do Facebook.
Jeff: Sky Guide App ($3). iOS only unfortunately. This app has been incredibly valuable to me as an astronomy dummy. I can find the big dipper and that is about it. NEOWISE is so small and from where I am here in Salt Lake City Utah it is faint enough I would never have found it if I didn’t have this app to help me while I was out in the field. I went out two more times to create images of the comet at different locations around the Salt Lake Valley and it would have been really hard for me to figure out that the smoke from the forest fires made it impossible to see the comet if I didn’t have the app help me to see where I should be looking. You can search for a specific astronomical element and then the app will show you arrows as kind of a virtual reality view over the top of the scene in front of you so that you can move your phone around and find it.
Erica: Trello – an online organizational tool for keeping track of task lists, projects, etc. I use it for social media planning calendars, blog development, project management, to-do lists, communicating with team members, assigning tasks to people, etc.
- Facebook group is Master Photography Podcast
- Instagram account for the show is @masterphotographypodcast
- Find Jeff’s work at https://www.jsharmonphotos.com. Check out his Photo Taco podcast over at https://phototacopodcast.com where you can search all kinds of topics and find shows discussing the details. He is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/harmon.jeff, Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/harmonjeff/ (@harmonjeff), and Twitter: https://twitter.com/harmon_jeff (@harmon_jeff)
- Find Erica’s work at ericakayphotography.com and on Facebook and Instagram under Erica Kay Photography. You can also check out the Portrait Session Podcast for everything portrait photography related.