How to Get Up and Start Taking Photos

Looking at beautiful photos is one thing, and learning how to make them is another. But if you're going to take some of your own, you need to get up, get your stuff packed and go outside. And if you're going to do this, you need to avoid some common attitudes and pitfalls which keep people indoors looking at photographs -- or, worse, talking about making photographs -- rather than taking them.


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    Find the power button on your computer and press it. It might help to look at photographs from time to time to get inspiration; even talking to other photographers on Internet forums can be helpful from time to time if you need help on specific points (but be warned; those talking about taking photographs are, by definition, not the ones who are out there doing it, and any artistic advice should be taken with a grain of salt the size of a continent). But, turning your computer off as soon as you can is the most important step on the way to getting out there. If it means you don't read the rest of this, then so be it.
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    Get over gear envy. Your camera doesn't matter. Avoid the tendency to think "I just need a digital SLR" or "just one more lens and then I'll be ready to get out and take pictures". Nearly every camera and every lens ever made (or even a modern camera phone) is capable of taking good photographs in the right conditions. Learn your camera's limitations and adjust your photography to suit.
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    Select a theme, but don't bind yourself to it. Find a theme you're comfortable with. Any theme will do, for example, architecture - sky scrapers; animals - ducks; every day life - people on the street. However, don't restrict yourself to any theme; take as many photographs as your memory card or your film stocks will permit. Often, you may find that the photos you set out to take are poor, but that you inadvertently took great photographs of something else in the process. This is fine. If you can't think of a theme, then that's okay as well.
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    Pack only as much camera gear as you really need. If you're using a small point-and-shoot camera, then you're all set; stick it in your pocket and go. If you're using SLR gear, then it's very easy to carry far too much with you. Think about it: do you really need a huge selection of lenses, or can you get away with taking a single, versatile zoom? If you're not doing low-light, HDR, or panorama photography, do you really need a tripod? And your flash? The more you have to pack, the less incentive you will have to do so. And the more you carry around, the more incentive you will have to jump in the car and go home earlier. Be brutal about it; if you find yourself taking nothing but your camera and a single lens, you've probably done a good job.
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    Dress appropriately for the weather. Nothing will make you want to come home quicker than being either too cold, or weighed down by the coats and sweater you had to take off when it got too hot. Check the weather forecast. And always take a spare pair of socks; sore feet from damp (or even sweaty) socks are a horrible disincentive to walking anywhere.
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    Pack food and a bottle of water, so you won't be hungry or thirsty. Take food which is lightweight, has lots of energy, and doesn't take much (if any) time to prepare. Easy, potentially unhealthy food like chocolate and energy bars are a good bet. This is, again, in order to avoid any disincentives to preparing it (which would stop you getting out at all) and carrying it around.
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    Set aside as much time as you can for taking photographs. Some emphasis should go on "as you can"; the insistence that you spend more time than you actually have is as good an excuse as any not to get out there. On the other hand, think about setting some time away from less important things, like television. If after that you can still only spare half an hour to take photographs, then so be it; this is precisely half an hour better than nothing, after all. If you find yourself with many hours free, then spend all of them.
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    Turn off your cell phone, or pager, or anything else that will interrupt you. Better yet, if you're not planning on going anywhere particularly isolated, don't take it with you at all. If you're using your camera phone to take photographs, then find some way of silencing it.
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    Set out to take photos. Grab your bag and get out there and take some pictures.


  • Plan to walk as much as you comfortably can. Of course, some places are inaccessible by foot, or too far away to walk to. But keep the driving to a minimum; you might miss all sorts of opportunities for great photographs.
  • For people who find themselves shy, embarrassed or weird when walking around with a camera, see How to Not Care What People Think.
  • If you're shooting outdoors, don't wear sunglasses but get a decent hat instead. Sunglasses make it trickier to judge a scene properly and make it really difficult to judge what's on your camera's monitor.

Things You'll Need

  • A camera. Use whatever you've got, or whatever you can borrow if you don't have one.
  • The largest memory card or stick that you can afford.
  • Spare camera batteries.
  • Food and water.
  • Time and patience.

Sources and Citations

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