Image by Adi Goldstein via Unsplash

Is Now a Good Time to Get into Photography?

It seems that 2018 may go down as one of the most important years in photography. With the birth of Canon’s and Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless systems (and the subjective perfecting of Sony’s offerings), the industry is experiencing a revolution not seen since the transition from film to digital. It’s an exciting time to be a photographer! However, if you’re new to this art form, 2018 might seem to be one of the scariest times to jump in. After all, besides the aforementioned mirrorless cameras shaking up the industry, there are other offerings from companies like Fuji, Leica, Olympus, and Panasonic. Further confusing is the fact that Canon and Nikon are continuing to support and market existing and new DSLR cameras as well. So where does one start, if they’re just getting their feet wet? Well, the truth is, it doesn’t really matter all that much. Photography isn’t about the gear, but rather, the image and the person taking it- and now, more than ever is a FANTASTIC time to start learning this wonderful and rewarding art form.

Cheap Gear

It’s not about the tools, but how you use them.

“Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California” was shot by Dorothea Lange in 1936. A striking image shot with equipment magnitudes simpler than what we have today.

I get it though. I remember first taking an interest in photography and getting swept up in the vast sea of articles, YouTube videos, and advertisements pimping out the latest shiny object. But consider for a moment, some of the greatest photos and images that you can remember. How long ago were they made? Were they made months ago? Years ago, maybe? And what cameras do you think they were shot with? The answers to these questions will be different for everyone, but for me, those images were all shot on film and graced the pages of National Geographic and Time magazines. Digital cameras have long surpassed the capabilities of film, but somehow, I’ve yet to shoot anything as moving and powerful as those classic shots. The point I’m trying to make is that great images have been around for a long time- well before digital cameras and “Gear Acquisition Syndrome.” They pre-date photography, in fact, if you include paintings (which are a relevant inclusion, considering that some photo genres started with paintings). It’s a little sobering if you like gear, but the truth is that good images come from good photographers, not cameras. So instead of worrying about the tech, start studying light, shadow, and the exposure triangle.

The right tool for the job.

There is one exception to this approach, however. If your intention is not just to learn, but also to make this a career one day, then things get a bit more complicated. After all, photography can get REALLY expensive, especially, when you start adding specialized lenses to your arsenal, or when it comes time to upgrade cameras for additional features. Like any profession, tools are an important consideration, even if they aren’t the focus of what you do. So with that in mind, I recommend starting with the Sony a6000 series of mirrorless cameras. These are considerably more expensive, but at the moment, Sony is the only brand to offer a consistent path from entry-level to professional full-frame mirrorless. This is pretty important if you’re starting from nothing, and literally just getting into the field. Sony is the only brand with both entry-level and professional full-frame mirrorless cameras that share the same lens mount- a considerable trait since lenses are very expensive and something that you’ll not want to buy more than you have to. That being said though, if Sony is outside your immediate budget, that’s okay. You can still technically move from the Canon’s and Nikon’s DSLRs to their mirrorless lines. It just requires inelegant, expensive adapters, which might be more of a hassle than they’re worth, depending on what kind of photography you’re doing.

Beyond cameras.

Photo by Rybnik, Poland via Unsplash.

While cameras and lenses make up the bulk of a photographer’s toolkit, there are still some other important resources to consider. Thankfully, the state of things here is bright as well. In regards to software, there are many great editing options for both amateur and professional photographers alike. Sure, there are the old standbys of Lightroom and Photoshop, but there are also lots of great, fully-featured and free alternatives out there, like GIMP, Fotor, and Darktable. Learning resources are also plentiful, with a myriad of options ranging from professional services like Lynda.com and CreativeLive, to the thousands of free tutorials on YouTube and photo blogs. Once you have your camera, there really isn’t anything else that should hold you back from diving straight into photography.

The bottom line.

I’m a writer/photographer focusing on travel and digital culture. Follow me on Twitter @therealvasquez.

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