Want to gain experience as a photographer without shelling out thousands for college courses or a photo safari? These tips will help you.
You’ve landed on one of 28 posts about photography and how to improve your skills. If you’re a creative, blogger, or photography enthusiast, you’ve landed in the right spot!
Everybody is a Pro
“Wow! What a beautiful, professional-looking photo,” a guest and business contact of my husband’s exclaimed as he walked down my gallery hall and stopped in front of one of my favorite bear photos.
“Thank you,” I said, secretly pumped because someone had noticed all the hard work I’d put into improving my craft.
“I bet you have a digital camera,” the guest said.
“I do,” I replied, ready to launch into which brand of DSLR I used and why I loved it.
“That’s the amazing thing about digital photography,” he mused, “give anyone a DSLR and their pictures turn out professional.”
I wilted but managed to keep my mouth closed as our guest made his way to the dining room where lunch awaited.
When I bought my first DSLR in 2007, I may have agreed with the guest. But after 13 years of experience and investing thousands of hours in improving my craft, I felt insulted. I knew how many photos the novice me had to take to end up with one ‘professional-looking’ photo back in 2007. Roughly 14369.
And I knew how many photos the me with more experience had to take to get a tack-sharp, properly lit and white-balanced photo today. Closer to 143 shots. It all depended on the subject of course. Good landscapes took fewer shots and hummingbirds took more.
The price of the camera or lens doesn’t determine the outcome of the photos. The photographer’s experience, artistry, and knowledge provide the secret sauce for great photos.
A Word About Glass and Craft
I should include a caveat here. The price of the lens does matter a little—you get what you pay for. The sharpness of your photos will depend on the quality of your lenses. Or, as my professional photographer friends say, “Glass matters.”
I save up my money and purchase the professional series lenses for my middle-of-the line Canon camera. But I took some really great photos back before I could afford a professional lens. Why? Craft.
The more experience you gain in the field and in post-processing, the more questions you’ll have about why your photos didn’t turn out the way you expected them to. Or how to shoot birds in flight, or sporting events in low-light situations.
You may even have basic questions about all the capabilities of a new camera purchase, but dislike reading through boring manuals. A dedication to lifelong learning will let our experiences guide our quest to know more.
As You Gain Experience, Take Photography Courses
I’ve only had two college courses in photography—one in the 80s and one in 2007. But I’ve taken a dozen or more photography courses through Lynda.com, Great Courses, and private, online courses from wedding photographers.
This list of photography courses ranges from free, to inexpensive, to only-invest-if-you-want-to-make-photography-your-profession.
Courses that teach you how to use your camera.
Free: Start by doing a search on YouTube for entering “How to use—” and then type in the kind of camera you have. I found hundreds of free tutorials on how to use a Canon 6D.
Low Cost: If you don’t want to wade through endless ads on YouTube or have to hunt and pick tutorials, you could sign up for Lynda.com—now known as Linkedin Learning. You can sign up for a free month and take one of over 700 courses for photography. If you decide to continue with a membership, you can pay by the month or by the year.
Sometimes your local school district will offer low-cost photography classes as part of their community education program.
Your local camera shop may offer support classes on how to use your new purchase.
Higher Cost: Local junior colleges or universities may also offer digital photography classes or classes on how to use Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.
Courses that teach your how to photograph a specific nature subject.
Free: Once again, YouTube reigns as the queen of free information. Do a search for ‘how to photograph birds in flight’ and you’ll come up with hundreds of free tutorials.
Before the pandemic, Canon offered free workshops and equipment at select national parks during the summer. I spent an afternoon using a camera and lens it would take me years to save up for while gleaning photography tips from a professional photographer.
Your local camera store may even offer low-cost or free classes. I don’t have a local camera store anymore, but when I had one, I attended a few camera-club lectures.
Low Cost: When the pandemic started in March of 2020, I had time on my hands, so I signed up for a three-month subscription to The Great Courses Plus for $30. I watched my way through two photography courses taught by National Geographic photographers and two courses on birding.
Just make sure to sign up for paid courses when you have time and the ability to commit to learning. Otherwise, a paid course ends up like an unused gym membership.
Higher Cost: Do a web search for photo safaris, and you’ll come up with a plethora of paid adventures. If you have a lot of money, you could experience the joy of photographing penguins in the Antarctic or hanging out with lions in Africa (once this pandemic gets under control).
Two of my favorite wedding photographers also offer classes that include blueprints for running a wedding photography business.
Bonus Tip: Many photographers seeking a steady stream of income will create courses for those wanting more experience. They also often offer a free webinar to try to sell you the course. These webinars come jam-packed with actionable tips. The same goes for professional photographers who want to get you on their mailing list. They offer worthwhile freebies for signing up.
By taking advantage of free and low-cost courses, you can gain valuable photography experience.
Research no- to low-cost photography courses in your area or online. Who know? You may rub shoulders with a professional who could turn into a valuable mentor. Share what you find in the comments. I’m always looking for new sources of photography knowledge!
Come Back Tomorrow
Come back tomorrow for the next installment of 28 Days Behind the Lens. I’ll share what I know about macro photography.You CAN gain photography experience without spending a fortune! Find out how. ##write28days #photography Click To Tweet