Thinking of starting photography

Updated: Mar 10

Simon Bratt Photography Blog - Feb 2021

Like anybody who’s been doing something for a long time, people generally know about it, and, rightly or wrongly, ask for your opinion. I think its quite flattering really, you have a passion and /or a skill and people ask for your advise. It puts quite a bit of responsibility on your shoulders to provide the correct advise for that person. It would be easy to scare them off with technical babble, or give them unsuitable advise, and even worse, just wrong information.

This person has shown an interest in a topic, wants to either start out or progress, and they have chosen you for help.

I never mind helping someone with photography, its great to share and nurture a budding creative person, watch them improve and develop. I think it’s in most of us to be with like minded people and, as social creatures, share the experience of a passion. One of the reasons COVID lockdown is difficult for us, we miss the physical sharing of whatever you enjoy.

So anyway, yes I do get asked quite often about photography and cameras etc. I certainly don’t put myself out there as an expert in anything, I am always learning, and there’s lots I don’t know. Somethings don’t interest me (tempted to mention Nikon there, probably to a chorus of boo’s from my fellow Nikon loving camera buddies, big shout out for Canon users). Somethings I don’t do often enough to feel qualified to give advise on. Photography is a big and wide field and although I probably cover more subjects than the average tog, there’s still a lot that passes me by. I salute those who can narrow down their field to one subject and do that all day long, I tried, it’s just not for me.

Anyway so for a bit of reflective fun, I thought id write out the top ten things I wish I’d known x number of years ago when I started.

1. Don’t fret too much about the gear (cameras, lenses etc)

Camera gear
Camera gear

Definitely start of with something very affordable. I know too many people who bought the very nice stuff only to never use it again. I would say most people give up or find its not really something they are that interested in. We have all been there, I’ve tried loads of hobbies and got bored and moved on. So don’t mortgage the house to get that £5000 lens that you’ve seen the ‘expert’ use, no yet anyway. Getting more basic gear will really help you learn the limitations of your equipment, only then will you know what part of your gear is holding you back, and what’s worth upgrading.

2. Give good consideration to the weight of your photography equipment

Gear weight
Gear weight

Some people are strong young and fit, or, like me, happy (and able) to lug around a camera bag of gear weighing between 8kg and 12kg depending on when Im doing. Then there’s a tripod, another 2.5kg for me. Plus drinks bottle and a couple of snacks. It all adds up, and it’s something that people don’t take into account when starting out. Ive known people to not take a camera out because its too heavy and their knees aren’t great etc. The one big tip I would suggest is ditch that horrible neck strap that comes with the camera and get a decent padded (over the head) shoulder strap (ie Black Rapid). It will make the camera feel so much lighter and it will position the camera on your hip which is so much easier to walk with. Try hanging a 1kg bag of sugar from your neck for a couple of hours, similar to a typical camera, it’s not nice. If weight is an issue, really consider a mirrorless camera. They have come of age now and can give a good weight and size saving. If you are thinking of a camera that has changeable lenses, then it’s possible when you go out, you’ll want to take more than one lens. It all ads up.



3. Don’t underestimate the power, and the necessity of post processing

Image editing
Image editing

Post processing meaning editing your images (digital or otherwise), after you have taken the shot. This might be in camera or more usually on a computer (laptop or tablet). Cameras, even today, still aren’t great at recording a high dynamic range in one image, meaning the range of light from very bright to dark shadows. Our eyes are so much better than cameras for dynamic range. So when you’ve taken you picture and got home to look at it, it might well not look as you remember, ie sky is blown out (just white, when there were clouds) or the sky is fine and the trees are just a dark blob. Maybe the camera didn’t get the colours quite right or the contrast. You can tweet those to make the image look either more realistic or even style it up and go crazy with tweaking. Not only all that (and much more) but you might want to crop or straighten the image to present it better. That is just the basic start of post processing that anyone with an interest in photography should be able to do. There are many free programs you can use, you just have to spend a bit of time learning how to do it. My preference is the Adobe suite (Photoshop etc), its not free but at least these days you can pay per month and cancel it if you don’t like it. Good free basic options include:- Photoshop Express Photo Editor (Adobe) Paint.net Or for really keen people happy to spend a small one-off amount, for a lot of editing control Affinity by Serif (a popular Photoshop alternative) There are many others

4. Be organised from the start

Get organised
Get organised

If you end up keeping going with photography at any level, from an occasional snapper to a die-hard machine gunner (someone who shots 50 images in 3 seconds when a bird jumps of a branch), then you will accumulate a lot of image files. You really need to get into the habit of filing your images in a way that you can find them again. There are so many reasons why you will want to dive back into your older images. You can use cataloguing software to organise your images, but I wouldn’t use it as my primary method of organisation. I am slightly against that because software changes, software comes and goes, and whatever you do now has to be bullet proof for many years. So this is what I do, it’s simple. Let’s say today is 24th Feb 2021 and I’ve been out shooting boats. I would already have a folder on my computer called 2021 (in the pictures folder). Now I’d make a new folder in 2021 called “02.24 Boats at The Broads Norfolk” and copy all todays images into that. Thats it, repeat for every new day, or even two different shoots in one day. The reason for using month first, then day, is that when I look inside the 2021 folder, all the sub folders are in chronological order, I know January is at the top and December is at the bottom. This is the least you should do. I also add keywords to each image (with A