The Best Photography Advice You Could Have Given Yourself A Decade Ago

It’s almost a decade since I took the plunge into buying my first “proper” camera, after shooting with phone cameras for a few years. 

Since then, I’ve owned and used hundreds of film and digital cameras.

So, with the hindsight of all this experience, what’s the best advice I could have given myself a decade ago? 

I think it would be something like this –

“That Nikon Coolpix (P300) you’re thinking about buying is a fantastic little camera and will open your eyes to photography in a way the phone cameras can’t.

Photograph, photograph, then photograph some more, anything and everything that interests you and that you find beautiful.

The Nikon will serve you well.

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Maybe a few years down the line try a DSLR. Nothing new or fancy, one of the early 6MP models like a Pentax K100D. The DSLR experience is quite different to using a compact, with their interchangeable lenses, larger sensors and viewfinders.

Explore a couple of lenses, maybe a good 35-70mm zoom and a fixed 35mm or 50mm prime. You won’t need anything else, so don’t get carried away.

Again, just shoot and shoot and shoot, learn as you go, see what works and what doesn’t, what you enjoy about the DSLR compared with the Nikon compact, and vice versa.

Find the best in each of them – and in yourself.

When one of them breaks, replace it with something similar. Don’t worry about the latest or “greatest” model, stick with what you know and enjoy.”

If I’d have had this advice I would have saved hundreds of pounds and hundreds of hours watching, chasing, buying and fiddling about with cameras that didn’t really progress me much and often left me frustrated and paralysed at having too many choices. 

True, I wouldn’t have had such a wide experience of different cameras as I have now, but I would have had more time and experience making photographs with one or two cameras, getting to know them – and myself as a photographer – inside out and back to front.

Which I often wonder would perhaps have given me more joy in the experience – and more photographs I’m proud of – in the long run.

How about you? What’s the best photography advice you could have given yourself a decade ago? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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26 thoughts on “The Best Photography Advice You Could Have Given Yourself A Decade Ago”

  1. Yep, even ‘a hundred’ is about 99 too many cameras for a ten year period I reckon… 😉
    For me it’s just ‘take more photographs, more often’.
    I would have been where I am about nine years ago then and who knows where now.

    1. Bear, what do you think taking more photos would have gained you? Or maybe put another way, what progress would you like to have made, but haven’t, and how do you measure that?

      1. I don’t know. That’s the point. I would have already passed through where I am now is the only point. It wouldn’t necessarily be progress, just more imagery in my history than now.
        If I had found that my path was more my technically wrong artistic interpretation rather than my technically right clever reproduction of someone else’s work earlier, that path would have been explored for longer than it has now is all I’m saying.
        I’m not sure there is measuring. Don’t do much measuring these days.

      2. Sorry, forgot you don’t do ‘likes’..

        Umm… ‘I Like that and agree’. 😉

  2. Thanks for another interesting post Dan. I guess the one piece of advice is to take photos that reflect your own experiences on Life’s journey. You may be experiencing the same thing as others with you (e.g. on holiday), but you will all have a different images of that experience. To cheat a little, I would add that the equipment you use doesn’t matter much in achieving that vision, and a piece of advice I always gave to students: “Learn to see what others don’t”. (Sorry I’ve done more than one here!)

    1. Thanks Paul. I think that’s good advice, try to be true to how you see the world, and what you’re drawn to photograph. A dozen people could go on the same holiday, to the same place, and each come back with a very different set of photographs.

      1. The major change would be the greater freedom to shoot with digital as opposed to having to make every shot count on film. That and the additional range made possible by the super zoom which has saved me a lot of walking and kept many shots from being missed – particularly wildlife images.

      1. Yes histiry is full of businesses that have not been agile enough in the face of change. We are about to see this on an industrial scale as the whole world is changing at a pace we have never seen, it will be very interesting to look abck in a couple of years with the benefit of hindsight 😉

      2. Yes, we can see already that those with a digital storefront of some kind are in such a stronger position than the high street stores who’ve not been allowed to trade for weeks. Yes it will be very interesting to see how this period is recorded in the history books.

  3. In my case it would probably be – “start with film cameras and experience shooting with film first, then go to digital” coz to he honest it’s so much cheaper and faster with digital now that i don’t have any intention to do film photography…

    1. Yuri, I agree, I’m glad I had my experiences with film and it did teach me so much about photography overall. But yes it does come back to cost for me, and partly convenience. Also it’s so slow to learn with film. With digital you can try a new experiment and get instant feedback, then evolve as you go. With film I found it really difficult to measure the results of what I was trying differently, because of the time lag, and that I didn’t want to stop and make copious notes every time I made a photograph.

  4. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” The first good camera I used was a Leica IIIc loaned to me by my father when he bought a new Leica IIIf for it’s flash sync, which the IIIc lacked. I have now been taking pictures with screw mount Leicas for about 65 years. But, alongside the old Leicas, I have bought, used and set aside an endless stream of other film and digital cameras. The film camera cameras ranged in format from 16mm to 4×5. The digital cameras ranged in capacity from 280 KP to 25 MP. But the cameras that I have most enjoyed using and that have consistently produced the pictures I like best are the old screw mount Leicas. If only I’d known.

    1. Doug, I’ve had a similar journey, but over a much shorter period of time. The first digital camera I really researched and invested in was that Nikon Coolpix. And today, nine years on, it still does pretty much everything I need, in a compact pocketable body. I didn’t really need to have looked any further.

      On the flipside, I do think sometimes we need to see the other side of the fence, to appreciate how good we have it on our side. If I hadn’t have tried so many cameras – and so many not be quite as good as my favourites – I wouldn’t have found and appreciated my favourite so much. If that make sense.

  5. Having the confidence to buy used gear. I originally never considered used due to not knowing anything about cameras.

    If I was starting now I would be looking for an older but “classic” camera like the Canon 5D mark I or Nikon D700 with a 50mm lens. This would have cost less than what I paid for a new crop sensor DLSR with kit lens. You can still get brilliant photos from the older cameras.

    Alternatively one of the older but still good crop sensor cameras that can be had for very little money like the Nikon D200, Pentax K10D etc.

    1. Interesting take Phil. I’ve never really thought much about this because by default, all the film cameras I bought were of a different era, so were inevitably used, there wasn’t an option to buy new when I was buying!

      I think this probably carried over into digital camera buying too. Aside from camera phones, I think I’ve only bought one digital phone brand new. Generally if I’m buying a more expensive digital, I’ll go with a trusted trader/seller, so I’ve got some comeback. For anything less than perhaps £30, I’m more happy to take my chances with other sellers/options.

      I’ve had a few duds over the years (film, digital and lenses), but the vast majority have worked fine so they’ve outweighed the non-working ones.

      Completely agree about the older DSLRs. I love my Pentax K100D and K-m. The Canon 5D has been on my wish list for years, as it was such a ground breaking and widely respected camera. One day! For now I’m more than happy with the APS-C Pentax DSLRs.

  6. I’d tell myself to get a DSLR – I only got my first one less than 7 years ago 🙂
    In fact, I should have gotten one at least 20 years ago…
    Point and shoots are cute but larger sensors are better, especially if they are CCD sensors…

    1. Chris, I remember when DSLRs were first around and I knew nothing really about photography, I was happy snapping flowers and spider webs dappled with dew on early morning walks with my old 3.2MP Sony camera phone. Those huge black bulky beasts with a thousand buttons and numbers everywhere seemed highly intimidating, and I couldn’t every imagine going around myself with one of those huge straps with NIKON in red or CANON in yellow emblazoned across them, a constant free walking advert for the brand. I don’t think I would have attempted to pick one up, it just seemed like a realm for professional photographers and/or very geeky men who couldn’t afford an equivalently new sports car, to play with. Of course to some extent that’s still the case, but fortunately there’s enough of a used market for DLSRs now that there’s something for those of us who enjoy a simpler experience.

  7. I would’ve told myself to experiment with film, more (Yuri took the words right out of my mouth). Also, I would have pleaded with myself to invest in a good prime lens besides just a 50 mm.

    1. Ah, why so about the prime lenses? Which would you have chosen? I think it’s no surprise that the “standard” kit for the amatuer photographer in the 70s and 80s before zooms were so widespread was the 35/50/135 threesome.

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