With endless amounts of gear to choose from, photography can be a very expensive hobby, and of course the best gear still won’t make you a good photographer; you still have to learn how to use all your equipment. If you’re on a budget – having spent all your money on your new camera and lenses – you may not have much left in reserve for a traditional formal photography education from some hallowed institution or for a workshop from your favorite photographer.
Thankfully, there are plenty of resources to help you learn and improve your photography and here are 5 ways I learned without spending a dime.
1. Photography Mentor
A mentor is one of the most valuable resources you can have in any field; Learning from someone who has the knowledge and experience earned from being in the trenches is invaluable, and can help you learn faster, avoid costly mistakes, guide your fundamental education, and develop your own style, business, etcetera.
The easiest way to find a mentor is to begin developing a network, both online and in person. Think about the people you know that are photographers – you could ask them to mentor you or if they know anyone that would be open to the idea. I don’t recommend cold calling or emailing random photographers you don’t know, but you can begin hanging out where photographers hang out – online (like the SLR Lounge Facebook Community) and at photography get togethers around your city. Get to know people with like-interests and learn from them or learn together.
When I decided I wanted to learn wedding photography, I contacted my own wedding photographer and asked if I could tag along at a wedding with him. He invited me to third shoot (unpaid), and before long, I was hired and began second shooting for his company. I learned everything I needed to know, about not only wedding photography, but about the wedding photography business, and much more.
Around the same time, I went to a photography networking event where I met SLR Lounge writer Matthew Saville, and together we would take one of our model-friends and spend a few hours shooting. Matt taught me all about off-camera lighting and we spent hours practicing various photography techniques.
2. Local Photography GroupS
As mentioned above, start looking for local photography groups. There are many groups that meet up to learn together, network and do photo walks. A quick search on Google or Meetup.com should find a ton of resources for you to check out. If you live in a small city and there isn’t a group to be found, start your own!
When I began in photography, there weren’t any photography groups that did meet-ups, and so with Matt’s help, we created our own shootout group. We would host events every other month and invite photographers to come, shoot, network, and learn from willing professionals who would volunteer their time to teach. Pye actually came out a few times and taught our groups about lighting.
3. Books About Photography
If you like to read and like to learn from reading, check out your local library for their selection of photography books. You might be surprised at the selection they have. Many libraries now have digital lending libraries so you don’t even have to leave the couch to grab some great photography books.
Here are a few of our favorite books about photography: 8 BEST PHOTOGRAPHY BOOKS TO HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER PHOTOGRAPHER
The coolest thing about CreativeLive is that you can learn almost anything from some of the best teachers in all types of different fields, and you can do it for free if you catch it live. I’ve watched courses from some of the best photography teachers in the industry like Lindsay Adler, Sue Bryce and Peter Hurley, and also learned a ton about business, crafting, and more.
Make sure you click on their On Air calendar to see what classes are coming up. They are free when you RSVP and watch them live, but paid if you want to watch them after.. Right now they are also having a huge sale of 30% off any course across the board.
5. Photography Websites
You can pretty much find anything on the Internet these day, and if you want to learn photography, there are a million tutorials on the web that can help. But there is so much out there, that sometimes it’s hard to know where to start and what some of the best resources are.
Here are a few of my personal recommendations and the sites I’ve visited often to get my learning on:
Malcom Gladwell wrote in his bestselling book, Outliers, “ten thousand hours is the magical number to greatness.” So grab all that gear and start learning how to use it!