I get lots of emails from photographers and hobbyists wondering how I got started, what kind of equipment I use, etc. I’m always more than happy to share what I know, because they way I learned was soaking up tips and advice from other photographers who were very generous with their knowledge, either online or in person. So here’s a collection of most frequently asked questions, but from time to time I also do FAQ blog posts, so be sure to keep checking back for more!
How I Got Started (The Abbreviated Version)
I didn’t consider photography as a career until after I graduated college and got married in 2008. Suddenly, I found myself with an English degree, a husband, and the job I had had at Starbucks while I was in school. One day I got a random call from a friend who had attended our wedding. Turns out she was planning her own wedding for that October and wanted me to shoot it. She said she just had a feeling, despite the fact that I had zero experience and zero equipment, that I would be able to do it. Well, thank goodness for her crazy faith in me, because it was just the motivation I needed to take the plunge and start learning everything I could about wedding photography in just a few months. I shot that wedding with a borrowed camera and a lot of prayers, but by the end, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. From then on out, I just read tons of books and forums, saved for and purchased equipment little by little with Starbucks paychecks and Christmas money, and relied on word of mouth to land me my first weddings. When you’re first starting out, the last thing you want to hear is to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more, but it’s seriously the truth. The more you shoot, even if it’s just your dog or your mailbox or your friends (and I did all three!), the more you learn about light and camera settings. It will come. Trust me.
Camera Suggestions and Resources for Beginners
The question I probably get asked most frequently is what camera I recommend for beginners. Personally, I shoot with Canon equipment, but there’s really essentially no difference between Nikon and Canon, especially once you get to the professional level. I’ve heard that Canon’s “prosumer” cameras (the step between point and shoots and professional DSLRs) are superior to Nikon’s, but I can’t really tell you that for sure. For people who are serious about pursuing photography and want to learn how to shoot manually, I usually recommend buying a Canon Rebel T3i (or the Nikon equivalent, the D3100). You have the option to buy the one with the kit lens, which is okay, but I would strongly consider also buying a 50mm lens, because they are just way more sharp and beautiful than the zoom lens the kit comes with. A 50 mm f/1.8 will only set you back about $100, but if you have the means, I’d spring for the 50 mm f/1.4, which is around $400. Lenses are always the better investment because they’ll last forever, while camera bodies will have to be upgraded or replaced as time goes on.
The books that I learned the most from when I was starting out were: Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson, The Digital Photography Book (Vol.1-3) by Scott Kelby, and The Moment it Clicks by Joe McNally.
When I was first starting out, I also really enjoyed the Pioneer Woman’s photography blog, Strobist (for figuring out how the heck to use flash and off-camera lighting), and the Open Source Photo forum. While some forums can be helpful, like OSP, most are full of negative people who hate newbies, so I would recommend staying far, far away from those to avoid getting discouraged.
There are also some photographers who are super generous with their knowledge and whose blogs are excellent resources, including Justin and Mary, Katelyn James, and Jasmine Star. Formspring can also be great for Q&A’s– my personal favorite is Jonas Peterson’s.
Getting Down to Business
Once you get past the basics of learning your camera and you want to start building your business, there are some excellent resources out there. I would highly recommend reading Linchpin by Seth Godin (or ANYTHING by Seth Godin, including his blog), Fast Track Photographer by Dane Sanders, Visionmongers by David duChemin, Fine Art Wedding Photography by Jose Villa, Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, Lovemarks by Kevin Roberts, and Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk.
For more tips on how to build your business, check out this blog post I wrote, with lots of practical tips for getting your name out there when you’re just starting out.
What’s in My Bag
- Canon 5D Mark III
- Canon 5D Mark II
- Canon 4oD
- 35 mm f/1.4
- 135 mm f/2.0
- 50 mm f/1.4
- 45 mm TS f/2.8
- 16-35 mm f/2.8
- 70-200mm f/2.8
- Cheetahstand (light stands)
- Canon 580EXII
- Lumopro flashes and Pocketwizards (for off-camera lighting)
- tons of rechargeable Eneloop batteries
- tons of 4GB Sandisk CF cards
- Fujifilm Instax camera
- Holga camera
Products and Companies I Love
- Blog: WordPress and ProPhoto 4
- Albums: VisionArt and Pinhole Press
- Packaging: WHCC, Paper Source, Moo.com
- Editing: Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, Apple computers, Red Leaf Boutique actions, Totally Rad Actions, Autoloader
- Handy tools: Teux Deux, Self Control, Two Bright Lights
- Prints: WHCC and Smugmug
I try to address frequently asked questions in blog posts, so keep checking back for fresh material! Until then, you can find some past FAQ posts below: