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Amateur Photography

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Remember the old saying "A picture is worth a thousand words?" If you talk to people who love photography, you'll learn very quickly this is indeed the case!

Photography is an art form. It's a way to capture special moments in time. For every photographer, photography means something different. But one thing that photographers seem to have in common is passion and love for what they do.

The history of photography goes back to the early 1800's. The first photograph was produced using material that hardened on exposure to light. As time went on, photography developed and changed drastically. With new technology speeding ahead, it's still changing at a rapid pace.

Jeff Graham is an amateur photographer. He hopes to turn his photography hobby into a full-time business one day. He has noticed a big change in the technology used in photography in a few short years.

"I completed a black and white photography course when I was in college and learned the dying art of developing your own black and white photographs. I say this is a dying art because with today's digital photography medium anyone can turn any color photograph into a black and white with the click of a button. No need to spend hours in a dark room with a red light on!"

Kerry Brasswel likes the accessibility of photography. She is an amateur photographer in Tuscon, AZ.

"Photography is a more convenient art form for me than the more traditional ones. I can easily pick up and put down a camera, while other forms of art require planning ahead, a range of supplies, having a studio or dedicated area and generally take longer to do," she says.

"I spend at least an hour a day with my photography. If there are clouds during the day, I might spend more time, but I usually spend around an hour at sunset photographing then downloading and maybe rough editing to cull out the not as good photos. In season, I also devote some daytime to photographing the desert cacti flowers and wildflowers and, occasionally, the wildlife."

With a laugh, Brasswel warns that photography is addictive! She says the more you do it, the more photos you will want to take. Even as a hobby, it can eat a lot of your spare time.

Brasswel says that new photographers should learn to think for themselves and not let the camera do all the work. And three very important words when it comes to photography are experiment, experiment and experiment!

Technology has changed photography over the last decade. Do photographers prefer digital photography, or would they rather go back to the traditional film? One person that has something to say about this question is photographer Jason Jones.

"While I love and sometimes miss the 'look' of actual film, my creative life is entirely improved by the invention of digital photography. I used to have to make guesses -- some pretty educated guesses and some just plain 'this might work ...' guesses.

"Now I can see what effect my lighting, my framing, my lens selection, my instructions to the subjects, how all these components that make up a photograph are actually working, not just how I 'hope' they're working!" says Jones.

It is the need to see from a camera's point of view that drives photographers to look for the perfect shot. To record a moment in time is a quest many cannot stop once they have started.

Photographers play with light throughout the entire photographic process. They use natural and artificial light, reflectors to bounce the light to different areas and even darkness to create a certain look. The play of light and shadow on the subject is what photography is all about.

Everyone starts out as an amateur (someone who is not paid for their photos), and some people go on to a career in photography. Jones has this to say for anyone starting out and thinking they might like to turn it into a career: "Think about a specific niche -- something BESIDES photography that you already know something about or have an interest in. It's important to figure out not just that you want to point a camera at stuff, but also what that stuff might be....

"The whole point is to find something a little unusual or different -- there are tons a people out there who like to photograph, say, wildlife, but unless they're very, very good at that, and very patient as well, almost none of them will be able to earn a living doing it."

Photographer Pat Goltz has more tips for sharing your work with others. "Be true to your vision. Work hard at getting publicity; enter juried competitions, put your work online. Some people like to exhibit in galleries or at art fairs. These are both very expensive to do, so until you actually have some income, look for other ways to get exposure.

"If you put your art online, having a unique website is helpful. Participating in art communities online is also helpful, though you will rarely find buyers there. But you will get inquiries from people who want you to display on their site."

Scott Cavan is also an amateur photographer. He sums up why he loves his hobby. "Photography captures the moment, letting the viewer add their own storyline. The imagination is allowed to explore, and it isn't served to you as in a video."

Photography is something that anyone can easily do with a cell phone, or a digital camera, but for anyone who catches the photography bug this will only be the start of a very exciting journey.

Getting Started

Graham has some advice for anyone thinking of starting out. "I would recommend that you read as many photography magazines as you can. The good magazines will list the technical information that the photographer used while making the photograph.

"Therefore, you can learn the techniques they used while viewing their photography. Also, the articles explain things in words that an amateur can understand," says Graham.

Brasswel has a few pointers for newcomers to photography as well.

"Invest in as good a camera as you can get, even if it has to be a used camera. The same goes for lenses. If you are at all serious, get SLR [single-lens reflex] or a DSLR [digital single-lens reflex] to begin with, preferably a DSLR because you will spend far less in the long run with a DSLR, since you have no film or developing costs. But you do have to have a good computer with a fair-sized hard drive and should also invest in a good editing program," she advises.

"Don't settle for a single focus lens to begin with," she continues. "You will not know what you want to photograph when you start and even if you think you do, that might change.

"I strongly recommend an 18-55mm short telephoto and a 75-200mm or 75-300mm telephoto to begin with, and both can make do as macro lenses. The industry standard of 50mm is not a particularly handy lens and has limited application."


North American Nature Photography Association

American Society of Media Photographers


The Amateur's Guide to Photography
Tips, tutorials and photography news for amateurs

Professional Tips for Amateur Photographers
Learn from the pros

Photography Tips
An online guide for digital and conventional photography

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