with Courtney Slazinik
4 things every beginner photographer needs
4 things every beginner photographer needs

Once you have your DSLR and a lens or two it can be overwhelming to figure out what to do next. There are tons of books, workshops, gear, and extras that it is easy to get pulled in a million directions. Here are 4 things that I think every beginner photographer needs based on my experience (some of these come from lessons learned about what I wish I had done!).

  • No.
    A fixed prime lens.

    The purchase of the Canon 50mm 1.8 prime lens was the best purchase I probably ever made for my photography. I saw the most immediate and greatest change from the very first shot with this lens. I remember wondering why I couldn’t get the depth of field I was seeing in the photos I loved or the bokeh in the background of my images when I was shooting with the kit lens that came with my DSLR camera. And as soon as I snapped this baby onto my camera, boom. Depth of field and bokeh were all mine! The only downfall to buying this lens was the continually upgrade to better quality glass. I soon wanted the Canon 50mm 1.4 lens and then finally purchased the Canon 50 mm 1.2 because I loved this focal length so much. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with shooting with the kit lens that comes with your camera, it can be so much easier to learn to shoot in manual mode with a lens that has a fixed aperture rather than a variable one (and a lot of the kit lenses have a variable aperture meaning that as you change the focal length the lens automatically changes the aperture).


  • No.
    A workshop to learn the basics.

    When I bought my first DSLR I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out manual mode and all the basics on my own. I joined a photography forum (totally recommending this below, but think that it goes hand in hand with some direct instruction like through a workshop), read books (don’t get me wrong, I love books and think that the ones I have purchased have been such great supplements to my knowledge), bought actions for editing (these would have been more helpful after I learned the basics of editing in Lightroom and/or Photoshop), and practiced a lot.

    But, I still wasn’t getting the results I wanted. My learning was kind of all over the place (and slower than I wanted) so looking back I wish that I had jumped right into a beginner photography class that would cover things like shooting in manual, white balance, and basic composition. A beginner photography class can really set you up from the start with all the basics. Courtney has an amazingly fact filled workshop right here at Click It Up a Notch that I highly recommend called the Beginners Guide to Manual Mode.

    It covers all the foundations you need to know to get started like shooting in manual mode + white balance, lighting, and composition (just to name a few). I wish I could have found a workshop like this one when I was just started to learn photography because then I wouldn’t have had so many holes in my learning process.

  • No.
    Find community.

    This is sort of an intangible step, it can be fullfilled in many different ways, and I think it is so important. Just like learning all the basics on your own can be challenging, so can trekking through this photography journey alone. Finding community can be much easier with all that is available online now than it was even 5 years ago.

    There are Facebook groups, photography forums, community walks and meetups, online workshops, Instagram, and more than I can probably list here. The most important part of this point is to find a group that you can jump in with to learn and encourage and grow with. It is such an amazing experience to have other people who understand your love for chatting about that latest photography technique you learned or that great new camera bag you just bought. Being a part of various groups of photographers from all around the globe has done wonders for my growth in my photography. Plus, some of these people have become real life friends and that is irreplaceable. One of the largest photography forums that I have been a member of is Clickin Moms. Since it has been around such a long time, it really has a ton of information right on the forum which makes it a great place to connect and to learn.


  • No.
    A great bag for your gear.

    I think that this one may not seem super important. But, I believe that it is and here is why. When you have a bag that you love that can hold the gear you need (even when it is just a camera body, one lens, and a gray card) you will be more likely to keep your camera with you as you go through your daily routines and shoot more often. And shooting a lot is a huge step to improving your photography skills.

    I am much more likely to shoot daily when I have easy access to my camera. If I see light that I like or something catches my eye then I can take a few quick shots. They may not end up in my portfolio but every time I shoot and stretch myself I know I am moving in the right direction. And I find I shoot more when I carry my camera with me. There are almost as many options for a bag as there are for workshops, but one that I love is actually a camera bag insert from Ona. This allows me to keep my camera protected while using tote style purses that may not have been designed as a camera bag. Another one I love is the Ketti bag because it is so lightweight yet offers great protection which makes it perfect for carrying everyday.

    Be sure to check out SHUTTERbags as well. They are beautiful leather camera bags that are useful and fashionable. You can use the code: CLICKITUP to save during check out as well.


  • Rachel
    October 16, 2017 at 10:21 PM

    The link to the workshop didn’t work :/

    • Courtney Slazinik
      October 29, 2017 at 8:48 PM

      Oops! All fixed :)

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