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Buying your first camera and learning the ins and outs of photography is a really exciting process.
But it can be overwhelming at times as well.
In fact, it can be so overwhelming that you might not even know where to begin! That's where this article comes in...
Here's four steps you need to take to start mastering the art of photography.
Get Geared Up
So, obviously you have a camera of some sort, and if its a DSLR or mirrorless camera, you have a lens of some sort as well.
What's next on the gear list?
There's two things you need before anything else - a tripod and a good set of filters.
A tripod is self-explanatory - it provides stability to your camera so you can get sharper photos.
But what many beginner photographers don't understand is the value of lens filters.
Filters give you all sorts of creative control over how your images look, which means the final result will be vastly improved.
This is especially true of landscape photography, where filters can really work some magic.
For example, if you're shooting a scene like the one above in which there's a lot of water and sunshine, you can use a polarizing filter to cut down the glare off the water to reveal a perfect reflection.
But a polarizer actually does much more - it reduces atmospheric haze and increases the contrast of the sky, too.
Editor's Tip: Polarizing filters are great in many situations, but there's also some situations in which you don't want to use a polarizer. Find out when to use and not to use a polarizer here.
Another must-have filter is a graduated neutral density filter.
A graduated ND is dark on the top and light on the bottom, as shown above. Why? To cut down some of the brightness of the sky without impacting the lightness of the landscape...
In other words, many landscapes have a wide dynamic range, with a dark foreground and a bright sky.
Graduated ND filters eliminate that problem and help you create photos that have much more visual impact, right there in camera.
Editor's Tip: The best graduated ND filters on the market come from Formatt-Hitech. Their filters are designed to give you ultimate performance without busting your budget.
A third type of filters that's great for landscapes is regular neutral density filters.
These filters have a consistent level of filtering power that blocks light from entering the lens.
Since there's less light entering the lens, you can use a longer shutter speed to blur moving features, like clouds or water.
Without a filter like this, you can't slow your shutter enough during daytime shooting to get such gorgeous motion effects.
Editor's Tip: ND filters can even be used for portraits. Find out how useful they can be right here.
Try Different Genres
At some point, you'll likely settle into a specific photography genre as your favorite.
But that should only come after you've tried out different types of photography.
There's a lot of advantages in experimenting with various genres of photography.
First, you learn how to develop your creative eye because the approach to something like portraits is different than it is for something like macro photography.
Second, you become more familiar with your gear and how to use it in varying situations. That only helps you in the future when you're confronted with different subjects, lighting, and so forth.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you never know what kind of photography you'll fall in love with until you try it.
I jumped right into landscape photography and never looked back, and though I really like it, it was years later when I finally tried portraiture and realized I really like that too.
So, don't limit yourself when you're learning photography. Give everything a try, and you'll be a better photographer in the future because of it.
Practice - A Lot
To follow up on the previous point, not only should you try lots of different types of photography, but you also simply need to take a lot of photos.
And when I say "take a lot of photos" I don't mean pointing and shooting at random things.
Not only do you need to dedicate time each day for photography, but you need to go about the process in the right way.
For example, if you set aside 20 minutes a day to photography, spend that time working on framing, composition, and learning how to use your camera.
If when you're practicing you make a mistake, try to pinpoint what went wrong and learn from that mistake.
And don't just spend your daily photography time taking photos, either.
Read the owner's manual for your camera. Watch a YouTube tutorial. Read articles like this one.
The more time you invest in photography, the better your photos will be!
This step is the one that makes new photographers the most nervous...
It's understandable, because it's hard to put yourself and your work out there for critique.
The upside, though, is that by soliciting feedback on your photos, you can begin to more clearly define what's working, what isn't working, and make a plan for improving your photography in the future.
The key is to get feedback from worthwhile sources.
By that, I mean don't just slap a photo on Facebook and ask your friends and family to tell you how much they like it - that's not the kind of feedback that will help you grow.
Instead, really put yourself out there and post your images to places like our forums where amateur and professional photographers have a chance to see your images and offer detailed and critical feedback.
We tend to see our photos through rose-colored glasses, so breaking through that and getting some genuine constructive criticism could be what's needed for you to take your photography to the next level!