Starting out in photography

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

I’m often asked the same question: how do I get started in photography? Whether you’re completely new to photography, you’ve just bought your first camera, or you’re starting to think about stepping up your game, the answer is probably the same – just start taking photos!

Most of us get stuck on the first step, procrastinating and creating obstacles instead of creating photos. I’m going to touch on three of the most common challenges which hold us back from progressing and enjoying the art of photography.

1. Death by technology

“I can’t get started until I have the right camera, lens, editing software…”. When photography was first invented we didn’t have Adobe Creative Cloud or expensive DSLRs. Photography emerged through curious experimentation and lots of trial and error. It’s more important to spend time taking photos with your phone or an inexpensive camera, exploring what you enjoy capturing and how you approach it. Once you’ve found something you want to commit to capturing, the rest can come.

2. The fear

With social media platforms like Instagram playing such an important role in sharing photography, the fear of judgement and not being good enough is real for many of us. Like anything in life, if it makes you feel worse more often than it makes you feel good, don’t do it! Start with a private Instagram account and some trusted friends as followers, building on that slowly. This can be a safe and convenient way to get feedback and build your confidence – learn to make social media work for you.

3. What next?

So you’ve been taking pics with your phone or camera for a while now and you feel ready to learn more advanced techniques, but where do you begin? There is so much out there! For many of us the online world can feel overwhelming, and having a community of peers and some structured guidance is always a good idea. YouTube is incredible, particularly for those who are clear about the specific skills they want to learn. Taking a progressive online course on a platform like Skillshare, or attending an evening or weekend short course at further education colleges like City Lit or Morley College can be a great way to meet likeminded people, receive valuable feedback and grow in a supported way.

If you’re interested in starting, growing or advancing in photography, check out our outreach and community page and IGTV channel for a selection of new videos offering advice and tips on a range of useful topics.

Inspiring Your Practice: What Influences Your Work?

What influences your work?

Recently I’ve been lucky enough to begin exploring Alec Soth’s online Photographic Storytelling course through Magnum Learn. He has long been one of my favourite photographers because of his poetic approach to photography. I am learning so much from his teaching, and I think the chapter on influence and inspiration has had the biggest impact on me so far. In this chapter, Soth invites the reader to list five things outside of photography that have influenced their own creative work in some way. This could be a film, a song, a park near your childhood home or weird building that has stuck in your mind. Soth then asks us to write these down and see if we can find a connection between them.

This assignment sparked thoughts about obscure aspects of my past which have subconsciously ignited my creativity and influenced my way of seeing the world. For example, where I grew up had lots of alley ways and I used to run through them late at night, when I wasn’t supposed to - I was too lazy to walk the long way around! Themes around what’s hidden, forbidden and marginal have always fascinated me, and to an extent they continue to influence me creatively.

I would like to invite you to consider your own five influences outside of photography - what comes to mind?