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‘Essential Things Every New Photographer Should Know’ Part 1

These articles are excerpts taken from the ongoing informational series ‘What I Know About Photography, and Why It’s All Wrong’, distributed by Paul Goulding Photography, and delves into some of the myths, mysteries and truisms of the craft.

‘Essential Things Every New Photographer Should Know’ Part 1

What’s the difference between a great photo and a great photographer? Consistency certainly becomes important in that distinction. If you shot a great image but don’t have a clue how you accomplished it, and cannot duplicate the shot, then you probably need to start paying more attention to the fundamentals.

If you decide to make photography a part of your life, especially if you want to become a paid photographer, you should at some point probably decide to learn enough to do it right, and get consistent results.

By ‘right’ we don’t mean adhering to ‘rules’ or sacrificing creativity for conformity, but an understanding of basics such as shutter speed, f-stops, ISOs, exposure, white balance, depth of field and at least a basic understanding of full-frame versus cropped sensor cameras and prime versus zoom lenses.

All these terms do not have to be intimidating, and if you take your time and start with the basics, it’s actually a lot easier than it appears. Also, the more you know and understand, the easier it will be for you to identify and purchase better equipment over time.

Once you wrap your head around the fact that a camera simply captures light, which ‘paints’ an image on the camera medium (film or digital sensor), and that everything else is simply regulating the amount of light you allow to participate, the choir sings, the skies open and you have understanding.

Some purists say shooting in manual is a necessity for complete control, and we agree, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot shoot in full ‘auto’ mode, especially when you are learning. Some of the same purists will say always shoot in RAW, versus JPEG, and again, we cannot disagree, but if you will not process your photos, it doesn’t matter, especially in the beginning of your learning curve.

Photo production for a higher purpose (printing a magazine, for instance, or production of large format images for billboards or signage) will require processing, as will all your photos if you want to recognize the true potential of your shots, but again, you can learn as you go.

Chances are that you will start with entry-level equipment and it’s important to understand, and believe, the it does not take pro-grade equipment to accomplish pro-grade images.

As discussed in a previous article concerning the debate about ‘pro’ versus ‘amateur’ photographers, it was pointed out that a true pro can take great images with entry-level equipment, while great equipment will NOT make you a pro photographer or guarantee great shots.

As a matter of fact, we would suggest that a new camera aficionado purchase a decent yet entry-level package, inclusive of a ‘kit’ lens and camera, and use that until it is determined you are in this for the long haul.

We have bought a lot of barely-used equipment from folks who have purchased cutting-edge (and expensive) equipment only to find that they really did not want to learn about DSLR’s, and that a point-and-shoot camera was what they really wanted.

We have also been contacted by new camera enthusiasts who want to ‘shadow’ us for a while to learn, something we rarely do, but within a short time these same folks are advertising for wedding shoots, a specialty in itself, and disingenuous to potential customers if you really do not know what you are doing.

In photography it’s all about the glass, or lenses. A decent camera is necessary, but any camera is limited to a certain number of shutter clicks over its lifetime, and the better the camera quality, the more shutter clicks for which it will be rated. So you will be wearing out cameras (this is a hard pill to swallow, especially when you are talking about cameras costing thousands of dollars) because they are a tool, and like a hammer or a computer, they wear out and have to be replaced over time.

Good lenses, however, if treated well and maintained, can last for many years, and a good lens will always perform well for you, many times making the difference in a good or great image. Again, there is no need to spend thousands of dollars on pro lenses until you know you are going to stick with the craft, and more importantly, what type photography you will be pursuing.

Sports photography differs greatly from portrait or landscape photography, and the lenses you will want are also different, so wait until you know a little more before you mortgage the house to get the latest and greatest telephoto or prime lenses.

Given good light, most cameras will take a decent image. It is only when you are challenged by low-light conditions, such as the football stadium or the high school gym, that you will need a better quality camera, which has high ISO ability.

Shutter speeds and frames-per-second rates are also important, especially when you want to freeze the action of a basketball or volleyball game, or the wings of a bird in flight, and the entry-level equipment sometimes falls short.

In addition, if school or pro sports is your thing, many officiating bodies will not allow the use of flash, especially during playoffs and championships, so you will need the availability of high ISO’s, typically requiring a higher-end camera.

Again, however, this does not mean that we advocate spending a lot of money initially. The big box stores such as Sam’s, as well as the online electronic stores such as B&H Photo, offer entry-level packages for as little as $500-$700, which will allow a surprisingly good quality of image over a wide variety of conditions, and is a great place to start.

Interestingly, the farther you get into photography, the more you will revisit some of your older, simpler equipment, and you will be amazed at the results you can get from the tools you may have discarded for the ‘new’ stuff, when at the end of the day, what mattered was your ability and understanding.

Our public relations firm engages in industrial photography, which does not mean that we photograph industrial businesses, but that we produce documentary-style photo galleries and video productions. These include very large photo galleries and video presentations documenting events, tourism locations, sports, news, businesses and people- LOTS of people- on behalf of our various clients.

Candid images, versus posed images, make up a large portion of our production, and are largely used in our print and online magazine ‘Real Florida Magazine’. Candid images, by definition, are images of opportunity, so the ability to shoot in most any condition is important- from rainy, wet motocross fields to low-light beauty pageants to crowded concert venues, our equipment must be durable, accurate, dependable and of a certain quality, enabling us to get the shots for which we are contracted.

As you get farther into photography you will be able to better define your camera and subject needs, and purchase equipment suitable to filling those needs. So pick up a decent camera (meaning it works and has a lens that auto-focuses) and follow along as we take a look at some of the myths and truisms of the photography trade.

The next article will discuss what constitutes a ‘pro’ photographer versus an ‘amateur’ photographer. This purpose of this series is to encourage creativity, professionalism and the art form of photography and videography. If you have a question or a suggestion for an article, please submit your idea in email to

Real Florida Media, a subsidiary of The Goulding Agency in Chipley, Florida is an industrial photography service, taking over 350,000 photos each year, highlighting people, events and businesses in the Southeast United States. For more information visit Paul Goulding Photography or Real Florida Magazine on Facebook, or online at

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