Sunset on the Bay

Okay, look: I’m not going to pretend I’m more than a halfway competent amateur (trawl through for perspective), but there is one lesson I feel I can impart about photography….

People constantly tell me, “You have a great camera!” Usually, they mean, “You take good photos, and if I had a camera like yours, so could I.” That’s only partly true.

All you really need from a camera body is something that works well in bad light, than turns on instantly and takes a photo the moment you press the button. Using a good prime lens (like my beloved 1980s-era 105mm) is guaranteed to make your pictures clearer – provided that you know how to focus, what to focus on, what settings to use and… what to put in the frame.

But you can get a decent camera body and a great prime lens for less than a thousand bucks now. You can get a nearly comparable setup from a decent phone, too. This sunset shot was taken with my Samsung Galaxy SII.

You can take bad photos with a good camera, and good photos with a bad camera. But only one of those scenarios involves spending a lot of money. So before you dive in and blow your savings on equipment, spend a few days or weeks walking around with a phone or a cheap digital, taking photos of everything that catches your eye. Examine each image carefully. Before long you’ll realise that a lot of things that look appealing just aren’t that photogenic. Then you’ll realise that some details that don’t seem startling to your eye positively jump when seen through a single lens. This sunset, for example, wasn’t nearly as impressive to the human eye, but it did make for a nice photo.

Once you’ve developed a knack for knowing what’s going to look good in a frame – THAT’s when you want to go shopping for kit. Because by then you’ll know how much of your time (and money) you’re willing to spend making pretty pictures.