P hotography is something that’s always mesmerised me and yet something that’s been swept under the carpet for many years. Not in terms of me ever not appreciating well taken pictures, more a case of me wanting to get into it but always keeping it to one side as there’s always been something else to do. Yes, a combination of laziness and fear, which I’ll come onto later.

The world of photography is huge. It seems like everyone who owns a camera, be it a smart phone or an expensive DSLR, calls themselves a photographer these days. Over the years when thinking about getting into it, I was very overwhelmed with exactly what I wanted to do. Did I want to take the odd photo? Go on shoots all the time and be a regular thing? I wasn’t sure, I just know I wanted to capture the world around me.

So fast forward to 2014 and I’ve bitten the bullet and grabbed a DSLR after experimenting with a bridge camera for roughly a year now. Back when I was constantly thinking about what type of camera to get that element of fear kept creeping in and I was in the dark about the myriad of settings on higher end cameras etc. I opted for a bridge camera with the hope of having the ease-of-use of a point and shoot but with some settings I could tweak if I wanted to. This worked OK for a while but after taking a bunch of pictures recently I wasn’t happy with the result and there’s only so much you can do in Photoshop or Lightroom to make your pictures look better. Besides I was, and still am, very new to things like composition and lighting. Having a decent camera would make it easier to work these things and produce better pictures.

While researching cameras I wanted something that had a decent amount of settings and shipped with a decent kit lens. Enter the Nikon D3300, the new replacement for the 3200. Those of you that know your cameras will know that this is one of Nikon’s entry level models and after reading a tonne of reviews and watching a bunch of video reviews, it scored very well based on its price which is exactly what I wanted. It’s a great camera to get to grips with too, it has all the settings and picture modes you would expect and it’s light and easy to lug around.

To remind you, I wanted to get into photography, not purchase a camera and shoot everything in auto mode. If you want to learn photography you need to get your ass out of auto mode and start using the manual modes (although full manual, or the M mode, is scary). I did my fair share of reading and experimenting on my own and I’m getting it. Shooting at the lowest ISO you can get away with before noise starts to creep in, using lower f stops (wider apertures) for shallower depth of fields, using a high shutter speed when photographing sports or fast moving action etc. The list goes on and the technical aspects of using a good camera is great. Having that balancing act between ISO, aperture size, focus and shutter speed is something that takes a lot of practice and I still struggle.

Getting the technical stuff right and the fundamentals of getting the right exposure for your shots is only half the story though. I’m really getting into composition and viewing the world photographically. The rule of thirds, leading lines, framing etc are things I never considered before. We’ve all been aware of it from well taken photos but maybe not something we’ve known about. It’s one of the things that separates an average photo and a great photo. A quick example would be the rule of thirds and a standard portrait shot. Before, I would put the subject in the middle of the screen and click, job done. Now, by shifting the subject to the left or right intersect makes a huge difference. Strangely it’s something I’ve been aware of and using for years within digital design but not something I’d thought about when taking photos.

There’s something personal and story like about your photography. Not only does a good picture tell a story but it’s also a reflection on the photographer. It’s that feeling from photos that I’ve wanted to replicate in the past; looking at a great shot and thinking “how have they achieved that “wow” factor?”. I think I’m on the right road to this now. The key is to always keep reading and learning from people but most importantly getting out and taking your camera with you. I still need to force myself to do this. I brought my camera into the office for a couple of days thinking I’ll never take it out the bag but I ended up using it and taking some cool portrait shots.

Talking of bags and gear my setup is as follows (typical noob stuff I know):

My next purchase will be a 50mm prime lens which has me excited as you can take some amazing portrait and street photography and it produces that wonderful depth of field and bokeh effect. My passion at the moment seems to be portraits and landscapes so the kit lens is serving me ok for landscapes at the moment but I may end up getting a better zoom lens eventually so I can get the viewing angle out a bit wider.

I’ve yet to decide on where to host my pictures, I’m torn between Flickr, 500px or a bespoke self-hosted portfolio site (or a combination) but when I do decide I’ll put links up here so you can check out my pics. Right now I’m really enjoying getting out and taking photos and something I hadn’t considered is the extra time you need to catalogue your images in something like Lightroom if you’re shooting in RAW, which I am. I’m sure there’s some different approaches to workflows in Lightroom but once I’ve got them sorted and organised, I’ll post them somewhere and let you know. I’m looking forward to some feedback and critique.

In the meantime if you have any good online resources for photography or you want to share your portfolio please post them below.

  • http://twitter.com/philipstorey Philip Storey

    Awesome blog post – I am too thinking of getting into photography. This makes it feel a little less unknown and it’s great to hear that you found the right camera for you!

    • http://www.twoshotstothehead.com/ Garry Aylott

      Thanks Phil. I spent AGES looking at cameras so make sure you research them before you buy. If you want to get into it and want a decent camera to start with mine (D3300) is great and also the Canon Rebel T5.