3 Tips on How to Approach Photography as a Hobby

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Recently, I gave you a look inside the bag of a hobby photographer on a budget, and after reading all the comments on that post, I got to thinking about a topic that doesn’t really get all that much attention…

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There are technical posts that detail things like getting sharper images and even plenty of advice on going pro, but what I have not found in my search, is any solid advice on how to approach photography as a hobby.

Sure you’ll need to learn the technical stuff in order to make quality photos, but there’s more to approaching this craft than just learning, you have to have the right mindset going in or, more than likely, your camera will be collecting dust-bunnies in your closet next month.

First what’s the difference between hobbyist and professional?

I thought about this for a while and really only two standout differences come to mind – money and time.

  • Money – The professional needs to make money from their photography – it’s how they pay bills and put food on the table. As a hobbyist, while you could still make money on the side from time to time, the vast majority of your money comes from another source (i.e. a typical desk job, the retirement fund, spouse, etc.).
  • Time – The professional, by nature, is required to invest time into photography as it directly effects how much money they will make in the end. However, as a hobbyist you’re more likely to have other priorities more important than photography and as a result will spend less time behind the camera than a professional.

Notice that quality is not one of the two differentiating factors. As a hobbyist you can certainly still make great photographs, there are many hobbyists that do just that, but it’s not something you can do overnight. Professional or not – photography is a journey.

Three steps for approaching photography as a hobby

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Step one – learn to experiment

One of the best parts of being classified as a hobbyist is you don’t have anyone paying you to take their photos which means you can take your photos.

You can experiment with different styles of photography like HDR, light painting, black and white. You can photograph people or landscapes. I’ve always believed that the best way to learn how something works is to just get out and start using it. After you’ve played around with a camera a bit and done some own experimentation – the tutorials, guidebooks, and even the camera’s manual will make more sense, allowing you to learn even more.

Take action today

One of the best ways to force yourself to experiment is by joining various communities. Digital Photography School runs a weekly challenge in which you are given a theme to photograph for the week and share your result in the comments of the week’s post. It’s fun and really can get you thinking about new ideas.

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Step two – get out of your bubble

Join a community and share your work. There’s no shame in asking others for help, but it can be a bit scary to do so, especially when you’ve hit a personal breakthrough and are afraid someone might tear your photograph apart.

Making friends – both through the virtual worlds of social media and internet forums, and the real world photography club that meets in the basement of your local town hall – is a great way to gain support and keep the motivation flowing.

Take action today

dPS has a huge forum with thousands of people sharing and critiquing each other’s photography daily. Google+ and Facebook also offer groups specific to various genres of photography. If all else fails you could always start your own website and start sharing your work on a regular basis there or find a local club that will give you a more real world experience. The key is to get yourself out of the bubble.

Step three – invest in yourself

Whether you’re photographing pets or at the zoo

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Or on vacation, or in your backyard. The more you’re willing to invest the more it will show in your work.

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Yes, this still about photography as a hobby, but it’s an expensive hobby and not just at the wallet, but in time as well – so be prepared to invest both if you want to succeed.

I’m not saying you need to buy pro gear, an entry level camera and kit lens can take you far and get you some great photographs – it may be all you ever need in terms of camera gear. But don’t forget about the accessories – tripods, filters and software are all part of the package as well.

Make sure you’re not only investing money into your hobby though, invest time. Quality gear and software will not fix a lack of experience, so get out and start taking photographs by following step one. Stay motivated by sharing your work and asking for critique by following step two. Then, as finances and time allow, invest both into improvement and you’ll have a winning recipe for success.

Take action today

Block out some time this weekend and try and complete the weekly challenge here on DPS.  Start a ‘photography fund’ even if it’s only five or ten dollars a month. This will go a long way in allowing you to invest in better accessories and new gear which, can’t make you better alone, can certainly improve your images when you combine them with the more experience behind the camera.

How have you approached photography as a hobby?

Finally, I’d love to open this post up for discussion. How have you approached your own photography as a hobby? Or how would you recommend others approach theirs?

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

John Davenport is the creator of PhoGro - Gro' Your Photography a community that aims to help you grow your photography through engagement with other photographers. John also offers a free email course 6 Weeks to Better Photos that covers the most important elements for getting started with photography.

  • Eve Drew

    Great post. Thanks for the information

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