How I got into Photography (and what I’ve learnt since)

My Dad bought me my first camera when I was 9. It was a rather terrible point and shoot digital camera (I really am that young). Because I was basically a kid, my photos were pretty terrible, particularly in comparison to my mother who had had cameras for years.

Over the years, I had various point and shoot digital cameras while we lived in Europe, and for some reason when I was 13, I decided that I wanted to buy a video camera. I think because I had some strange obsession with Funniest Home Videos. I used it about 10 times and the results were some rather shaky, grainy footage. It ended up in a box in the garage when we moved to Sydney in 2007.

Three years passed and I continued using point and shoots, even on my class trip to Vietnam where I spent a fair bit of time admiring my school mates DSLRs and thinking about how I’d quite like one myself.

Vietnam - Ha Long Bay
Point and shoot on Ha Long Bay in Vietnam

Then I had a stroke of luck, our house flooded (just a small contradiction) and that video camera which I had bought all those years ago was destroyed, thankfully along with all footage. As my family had home and contents insurance, I got a voucher from the insurance company to buy a new camera. By this point, I had lost my obsession and realised video camera weren’t for me but it struck me that I could get a DSLR with the same compensation money. It was all the same to the insurance company. So that’s what I did.

An entry level DSLR in 2010 was a Canon 1000D, which to me, a point and shoot user was a massive camera. It came with the default lenses and for a while I was pretty happy. It definitely took better pictures than my 2010 phone and my 2010 point and shoot.

I had my 1000D for about 3 years and basically became a photography fiend, particularly at the beginning – when Facebook was The New Thing. I used to post my photos which I’d take from the roof of my house and at the bus stop. I probably pissed people off with the amount I’d post and how not good my photos were. In fact, when I was graduating, I posted so many photos, Facebook banned me from posting for 24 hours as I was taking up too much of the news feed (Not a joke).

Because no matter how good I thought I was, let me tell you in the beginning, for the first year in fact, I wasn’t even sure how the camera worked. I took ok photos but nothing was wow. I spent a lot of my time wondering why my photos weren’t taking over the world and the truth of the matter is, they just weren’t that good.

My photos did get progressively better as I took more and more (if you are wondering how many, it’s about 45,000 in 7 years, give or take a few thousand). In 2012, I got a new camera, the high entry level Canon 600D and spent a tonne of time taking photos of various things in my room because I didn’t immediately have anything else.

The 600D was the camera I learnt the most on, as I had for about 4 years. It was the work horse of my cameras and I must have spilt so much on it, both booze and various other crap over the years. It was the camera that made me really enjoy photography while not offering too many options or being ridiculously heavy.

In late 2015, as part of my Christmas present, I was gifted my current camera (most of which I paid for), a Canon 7D Mark II, an entry level pro-camera. I’m not going to offer up any criticism of the camera but it did offer a few things that the 600D didn’t, i.e. higher ISO quality and options, addition SSD storage, additional shutter speed options, filming capability etc. There is a joke there that after several thousand dollars, I’ve finally gotten another video camera.

But it’s been a long road, I recently got into film photography as well and at events I carry both cameras around. Many people have said it’s really funny to see me and they wouldn’t trust themselves drinking and taking an SLR around, but I made a happy drunk mistake fiddling around with the shutter speed at a party and it has meant a large portion of my teenage and early twenties have been photographed.

It’s never really been an ‘I will do photography’ attitude rather a series of accidents which lead me to take photos. In a way, it was a sense of protection so I didn’t have to talk to people as much but then people came to know me as that person who took the photos.

I got my first paid photography gig last year – as the friend of a friend, and began a bunch of charity work also involving photography. As it happened, life gets in the way as I’ve now moved to the UK for a year for my day job. But this provides a proper opportunity to explore the travel photography, something I’ve wanted to do for years.

We will see what 2017/18 brings, but here are my recommendations/points to remember:

  • If you’re starting, start with an entry level camera, as much as everything in you wants the bigger, better model, a point and shoot camera is not the same as an SLR and you will not be able to use half the features on a pro-camera. They’re also really heavy.
  • You don’t need 20 lenses, try for a maximum 3 lenses, I usually use one or two, even though I have about five:
    • Everyday lens (18-135mm) – this is basically just a general lens with some zoom capacity
    • Wide-angle lens (10-22mm) – limited use but good quality travel photos
    • Additional lens of your choice depending on your style/what you want to photograph, i.e. macro, zoom, portrait, etc.
  • Still on lenses, it’s better to buy one high quality lens than five low quality lenses, trust me, unfortunately optics is an area where money does equal quality.
  • I wasn’t joking your photos at the beginning will be terrible, or if they aren’t terrible, they can definitely get better. As you go on, you get better and better at picking up where your photos (and other people’s) suck and then you learn how to fix them. One summer all my photos had crooked horizons, it was very embarrassing.
  • Finally, use the in-built light meter, if only to work out about what you should be doing. It took me three years to work out this helpful bit of info – it’s helped my sister too and really no-one tells you about it. It’s not always right, like Auto mode, but it is helpful.

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