How to Grow as a Photographer (Even if on a Budget)
How to Grow as a Photographer (Even if on a Budget)

Photography is an expensive hobby or business and you may be wondering how to grow in photography on a budget.

Shortly after purchasing my first DSLR camera, I remember asking my friend, Megan Cieloha, how she got those awesome blurry backgrounds.

I thought all I needed was a nice DSLR camera to get those kinds of shots.

You can imagine my surprise when she told me I needed to purchase a different lens other than the one that came with my camera.

And that lens was over $100!

Purchasing a DLSR was a huge investment for our family that the thought of purchasing more gear seemed a bit of a stretch.

After talking it over with my husband, we decided that if I was serious about this photography thing then we would figure out how to purchase this new 50mm 1.8 lens.

The day that lens arrived I saw an immediate difference my images.

I couldn’t believe how a lens could dramatically change the look of an image.

Over the years, I have met many photographers who are in the same boat I was in when I started.

You invested in the DSLR camera and don’t have a lot of money left over to keep buying camera equipment.

So how do you learn to grow as a photographer and learn about photography on a budget?

This post is exactly what new photographers must read. Read - "How to Grow as a Photographer (Even if on a Budget)"
Read more: What I Wish I Knew When I Started Photography

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  • No.
    Purchase a quality prime lens

    Camera lenses are quite expensive. High quality zoom lenses can run well over a thousand dollars. However, a high quality prime lens can be anywhere from a $100 to $200.

    The lens I recommend starting with for Nikon users is the 50mm 1.8 or the 35mm 1.8. If you do a lot of indoor shooting I would go for the 35mm 1.8

    The lens I recommend starting with for Canon users is the 50mm 1.8 (unfortunately, Canon does not currently make a 35mm 1.8).

  • No.
    Avoid gear envy

    It’s very easy to look at other photographers work, find out what type of gear they use and think…If only I had that type of camera or lens then I too could take photos like that.

    This is not always the case. That photographer who’s photos you love has worked on the use of light, composition, and editing to create these amazing photos.

    Yes, gear has something to do with it but I bet you can capture an image just about as stunning if not more than that image with the gear you have.

    Learn the ins and outs of your camera. Figure out how to use it, really use it.

    Do not upgrade your camera until you know exactly what it is that a new camera can do that your current camera can’t do.

That means you can’t say to a photographer friend, “I think I want a new camera, what do you recommend I get.” If you truly have out grown your camera then you will know exactly what you are looking for in a new camera.

    Read more: When to upgrade your camera

  • No.
    Rent gear instead of purchasing new gear

    Listen, I completely understand the need to want to have new lenses and capture your next beach vacation with an awesome wide angle lens.

    Instead of going out and purchasing a new lens, rent a lens instead.

    It not only saves you money from investing in a new lens but it helps you to know if that is truly a lens that you want to purchase.

    I recommend renting any lens before you purchase it to see if it’s truly the photography style you are looking for.

    A few years ago a lot of my friends starting shooting a lot of macro photography. I fell in love with their images.

    So I saved up and purchased a macro lens for myself.

    About a week after the lens arrived I quickly realized I did not enjoy macro photography. I love the images my friends took but I did not like shooting stationary objects.

    That lens sat on my shelf for months collecting dust and reminding me to not to purchase something just because I loved the look of the images that my friends were taking.

    It was an expensive lesson to learn.

  • No.
    Tackle a photography project

    One of the best things you can do to improve your photography is to start a photography project.

    A couple projects to consider starting are:

    • Project 365 – Take one photo everyday for a year. This is by far the single best thing I ever did for my photography. By challenging myself to pick up my camera every day will help your photography to grow by leaps and bounds.
    • 30 day challenge – In The Unexpected Everyday
      you receive 30 days of prompts & skills to focus on to take photos of your kids everyday moments.
    • A day in the life – This is a fun one that you can do in a single day. Simply take a photo each hour or photograph each activity for the day. At the end of the day you have a photography story that shows what your life was like on that day. This is fun to do once a year in the same month to see how it all changes.
    • Choose a theme – Pick a theme for a week or month. There are a lot of different option. You can pick a color to photograph, things you are grateful for, or maybe a particular item like the flag.
  • No.
    Take a free photography class

    Soak up as much free information as possible.

    When I started years ago, there were a handful of photography blogs out there and I checked them daily devouring all that I could about photography.

    Now there are a lot of different photography sites out there and some even offer free web classes like I do.

Yup, you can take a free web class on 5 Actionable Tips to Better Everyday Photos.

    Learn exactly what I do each day to take outstanding images of my kids. Plus, I share different techniques to keep you kids from running from the camera.

    Join the free class today.

  • No.
    Check out books from the library

    There are tons of informative photography books for beginners.

    Some of my favorites are Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson & The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby.

    Read more: 5 Must-Read Photography Books

  • No.
    Get out and practice

    It’s really tempting when you are learning about photography that you sit at the computer or behind a book and devour as much as you can.

    I was guilty of this too.

You want to consume everything there is about photography. Maybe you stay up late learning about ISO or watching more video on how to edit in Lightroom.

    Here’s the secret to reading photography books or blogs. You have to actually apply what you learn.

    Read the blog post or the chapter in the book and then pick up your camera and practice what you read.

    The information is more likely to stick if you put it into practice.

    You can grow as a photographer and learn more about photography on a budget. So go pick up your camera and start learning.

  • Brandi
    October 31, 2017 at 3:13 PM

    As a beginner I have low confidence in my photography and sometimes I would just like to find another photographer to follow so I can just see what they do and how they operate . But another obstacle is time I work full time and don’t have time to do photo shoots in the week etc. so any tips will be helpful I just got my hobbyist license and need some direction and tips on how to market and have fun with it ;), thanks!

  • Pau
    November 1, 2017 at 12:06 PM

    Hi Courtney,

    I have been using my 50mm 1.8 lens for a year and would like to purchase another prime lens that delivers the same quality but is a bit wider. What do you recommend?

  • Staci DeVries
    November 1, 2017 at 3:09 PM

    Hi Courtney! What an incredibly helpful post. I have a Canon and have a Sigma zoom lens (17-50) and a 50mm prime lens. BUT it’s almost cold, dark weather and I shoot inside much more. I would love to pick up a 35mm but the price point for a Canon 35 prime lens is closer to $700-$800. Worth it?

    • Mer
      November 7, 2017 at 10:56 PM

      Staci, I bought a 35mm for my Canon this year and it was totally worth it. Mine opens to 1.4, so it’s perfect for indoors in low light over winter, and the focal length is wide enough, too. I now prefer it over my 50mm indoors.

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