Is there how you learn photography on your own? Is there a way to learn something on your own without the help of a mentor? If there is, then how to do it, where to start and why take this path?
Today I am going to help you answer some of these questions and finally start your photography journey. But before we go any further, you have to find out “why” you want to try to master this art, and if it really is for you.
Of course, you will take different paths whether your intentions are professional or just for hobby. If you want photography to be just a side hustle or your full-time job, it will all influence your learning decisions, whether you want to or not.
However, the great news is that you can learn photography on your own, even if you want to become a professional. In addition, many world-famous photographers have no degrees and have learned virtually everything they know on their own. But of course, you need absolute dedication to achieve this.
Ready to try?
How can I learn photography on my own?
1 Get to know your camera
It is always good to try to walk before trying to run, and getting to know your camera can be the beginning of this walk. I come from another art school, music, the electric guitar being more specific, and one of the first things my guitar teacher taught me was getting to know the instrument.
Of course, this can be applied totally to photography, just as you have to know your guitar you have to know your camera. So take some time out of your day and take the damn manual and read it, after all it is there to help you if you want. Not only read, but also apply what you learn. Have your camera with you to put the things in the manual into practice.
You can also find many videos on the Internet, where other photographers explain how to make the most of your Gadgets. In addition, we must not forget that today a photographer can use a smartphone to take incredible photos.
Related: Take control of your camera to improve your photos.
2 Practice every day
Yes, the old statement that practice makes perfect is totally valid when you want to learn something on your own. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about playing the guitar or taking pictures. Practicing is the first thing you should think about before anything.
And in the case of a photographer what should you practice?
Simple, practice just taking pictures. Take lots and lots of pictures. Go out into your neighborhood taking pictures and trying to see everything through your lenses. Just be careful not to be so creepy. Apply everything you have learned, with the manual and videos, to your photos. Don’t be too critical at first, just practice and have fun.
You will see that over time you will no longer need to think about certain things and then you will notice that photography starts to become second nature to you. Try the mess with the composition, with the light, with the subject, with all the possible configurations of your camera.
Of course, you will end up with a lot of photos that you will not like, but there will be certain moments when you will be surprised. And when you find these photos, and your heart beats faster, you’ll finally realize that all your efforts have paid off.
3 Get inspired
Most of the time ideas are not born out of nothing, there is always some kind of inspiration, and there is nothing wrong with that. Flipping through a magazine, scrolling through Instagram pages looking for something that lights up a light bulb in you is a normal process in the life of any artist today. So don’t forget to save some time in your day to do this type of research, and get a little inspired.
Keeping my mind always fresh is extremely invigorating for me, even though I don’t always put these ideas into practice. You can even try to “copy” certain photos for study purposes, this will help you a lot to understand things like lighting and composition.
Of course you are able to fly a plane for some time even not being a pilot. But of course, it’s always good to know what we’re doing. So learning thinks the right way is your duty as a photographer, after all you don’t want to be called “just the guy who pushes a button”.
Mastering certain subjects will make you more confident and your photo work will grow with it. However, to obtain such knowledge you do not need to be enrolled in a photography college. There are great sources of knowledge in books or online.
Learn about exposure (ISO, aperture, shutter speed). Read about the fundamentals of composition in photography. Of course, the practice is great. But it is practically impossible to take incredible pictures without knowing the basics of the art of photography.
If you want to start discovering this path without expending a dime I would suggest you to go out and check the Alison courses, which is great platform for online learning in several subjects. For a photographer or a designer standpoint, you will have lots of material to dig in and become a photographer in no time.
Everyone has their favourite things to do, and there is nothing more normal than this, and finding what you like to do is always a long way. There are many niches within the photography and choosing one of them will depend entirely on what you are more interested or o not.
Was it wedding or a fashion photographer? Documentary or travel – black and white or, perhaps, macro photography?
All of these are questions that you will ask yourself at any given time. And don’t think that just because you started shooting because you saw the beautiful work of a documentary photographer that this will also be your niche. We are often mistaken about our capabilities, or lack of them, and frustrated. Often your choices can be moved only for monetary reasons, one niche pays better than the other, or simply for aptitude in the area.
So the best tip here is to be honest with yourself and understand what you are really good at, and from there start to define your niche.
6 Find an internship
This part is relatively difficult, but if you can find a professional who is willing to share with you his knowledge – the experience would be invaluable.
Second, you will have the chance to look at the craft from the inside, see the insides of the branch. Keep in mind that working with something can always take two paths, discovering that you really love it and wanting to do it for the rest of your life, or discovering that you hate it and never wanting to get close again.
Unfortunately there are big differences between hobby and work and for some people having a hobby is enough.
7 Find people with the same interests
Having contact with like-minded people is great for discovering new things, new ways of doing things or just chatting about it. We don’t need to have a weekly meeting with other photographers to be able to talk about photography, today we have forums, blogs, and a lot of communities out there.
The important thing here is to find a group where you can contribute and also be helped, without the need to be toxic. Nowadays I see many toxic groups online where their job is just to put the person who is trying to learn down, avoid this trap. Don’t forget that you can also, in your city, get together with people who have the same desire, and then create a group where you can develop together and share experiences.
8 Create a portfolio
Today there is no excuse for not having a beautiful portfolio online, there are great options practically for free. Your page on any social network can become a great platform for displaying your work. You can even create a website where you will put all the necessary information about yourself as a professional.
Start with something unpretentious just to assess your progress over a period of time so that you can upload photos that are not necessarily your best work. Over time, of course, you will want to leave only the top 10 / 30 jobs, and with that maybe transform this portfolio into a way to attract customers for your business.
Competitions of any kind have a great value, because in addition to receiving external criticism you can also evaluate your performance and do self criticism. There are many sites and forums that conduct free competitions for any level of knowledge, just don’t be afraid to slapped in your face, go with a open mind.
Some will even award prizes to the best placed and this can be a great incentive for you to continue shooting, and creating better work.
10 Learn to edit
Photographing is only part of the way, you also need to learn how to edit your photos and this is also possible to learn on your own. Editing has become a very important part of the work of many photographers over the years, and it is clear that today post-production is a fundamental process.
You can even outsource this work, there are great professionals who work only by editing photos. But I believe that a good photographer must also know the basics of editing, even to be able to talk better with a hired editor.
This is one of the things that will define you as a good photographer, and nobody will be able to teach you. Being a good photographer is not missing the moment. Incredible photographs are taken only at odd moments, and the guy who captured them was lucky to be in the right place at the right time and doesn’t miss out the chance to press the button.
What I mean by this is that capturing a moment that will never happen again is one of the goals of a great photographer. Capturing the moment for a photographer is not just setting up your cameras well. You have to be present in the moment, mentally, psychologically and emotionally.
This cannot be taught in a school or in a post on the internet, but of course telling you that you can learn photography on your own is a big help. Do not be discouraged, as the journey is long, always try to do your best and be honest with yourself. If you do that you will always be on the right path.
What’s is your best tip to learn photography on your own? Leave in comments below.