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What I’ve Learned My First Year Into Photography



December 3rd, 2015 was the day I bought my first camera. I carefully chose one body and one lens: a Nikon D5300 and a 50mm prime lens. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned throughout my journey:

  • I still don’t know how to compose. My good photos are a tiny fraction of all the pictures I take.
  • You never know which one will be your next favorite picture. Sometimes you don’t realize that you are taking a really good shot, but you’ll definitely fall for it while editing.
  • You’ll know what lens you want after you try to take a picture and you just can’t… I had my 50 prime for like 10 months, just recently bought a 55-200mm and an 18-55mm. I’m kind of just using these zoom for now, but it is because I want to get the feel for it.
  • There is no such thing as a “non-processed pictures.” Every picture is processed, even the analog ones. Even your eyes process what they are seeing.
  • I take less pictures than I should. Only 5K clicks so far… come one dude!
  • I have no trouble deleting bad pictures.
  • I hate when I edit my picture and it is the way I want, only to find out that Instagram has a filter that does exactly the same thing.
  • You and the people you know will usually prefer different pictures. My favorites are rarely my most popular photos.
  • One year and I still need to find a reliable way to backup my pictures. I use my laptop and an external hard drive for now, but I have plans to back up on the cloud as well.
  • I’m motivated to get out. I struggle with the symptoms of depression and I stay in my house more often than I want to. Photography is making me slowly get out more. Last week I took a 15-hour bus trip to the Capital of my country. One of the reasons was the possibility of taking pictures there.
  • I still don’t know how to direct people. I really want to start taking portraits and pictures of humans, but I don’t know what to do, or what to tell them to do.
  • I’m the type of person that takes hundreds of pictures at slightly different angles and then I chose one that is best. I envy those who just go there, take one great shot, and done.
  • Great light is key.
  • The histogram is my best friend.
  • I stopped chimping every picture I take after I learned how to use the light meter on my camera.
  • Slightly under exposed is better than slightly over exposed. Go figure…
  • People love bokeh.
  • When I don’t have my camera with me, I’m thinking about the pictures I could be taking.
  • I haven’t captured my master piece yet.
  • Color correction is an incredibly important skill to have. I’m still learning, but I already think that it is way better than using effects and filters.
  • That VSCO package I bought is useless now. I used to use it, but now I never touch it anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it is a good way to start, but you will become VSCO-independent before you know it.
  • I often think that other people’s pictures are way better than mine, even when those people only shoot occasionally.
  • I have no shame on trying to recreate a picture I like. I’m learning and I need to aggregate techniques. When I was in college studying chemistry we recreated old experiments all the time!
  • /r/photography is one of the best places to learn. The “how to take a picture like that” post is rich.
  • ISO, shutter speed and aperture opening were a mystery to me, but now I kind of understand them a little bit. Depending on the depth of field I want, I chose to change the shutter speed, or the ISO…
  • Unfortunately, the best lenses are the ones I don’t have the money to buy.

I learned a lot this year… more than this huge list. I wonder what great things I’ll continue to learn!
And you? How was your first year into photography? What things you learned and want to share?

Editor’s Note: Want to compare these lessons to a veteran photographer’s lessons after 15 years of experience? Check out the “What I’ve Learned Fifteen Years Into Photography” article we just published.

About the author: Marcos V Petri is a chemist who loves nature and thinks that buying a camera was one of the best decisions he ever had. He’s only just getting started, to follow him on his photographic journey, give him a follow on Instagram. This article was also published here.