If you’re reading this right now, you’ve probably asked someone close to you something along the lines of “which camera should I buy?” and they sent you this link. Or, you’ve been scouring the internet trying to find your next big camera purchase.

Well, in this episode of ‘Is This Thing On’ I’m going to tell you exactly what you need to invest in to take better photos:

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There are countless videos out there that demonstrate that a camera is simply a tool, but none of them dictate what you have to learn before you even pick one up. Once you understand the basics of controlling your Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO, otherwise known as the Exposure Triangle,  it’s time to jump into your first lesson in developing your art.

1. Composition

I’m talking about more than just the rule of thirds. There is so much more out there (e.g., diagonals, leading lines, symmetry, geometric objects, triangles, circular patterns, etc.). This doesn’t even touch on ambient lighting, color theory, or pretty much anything you can use to draw in the viewer’s eye. Take a moment to really analyze the patterns and shapes in your scene and see how you can best utilize them in your frame before even picking up your camera.

2. Lighting

The word photography is derived from Greek roots and was first translated as “drawing with light.” It is simply understood as the study and capture of light. Listen, I don’t care if you are a natural light photographer. That shouldn’t stop you from studying how to add and modify light. By going through the process of learning lighting, you can better understand how to manipulate light for your desired look.

3. Pose & Direct Your Subjects

This is one aspect of photography that will never be outsourced to the camera. Posing and directing are skills that only humans possess because they require interaction and intention. Each photographer has a specific way in which they pose and direct, which makes the talent an irreplaceable resource.

4. Post-Processing

Editing your photos is as much as an art form as the actual capture. This is not me telling you to “fix it in post,” but rather that post-production can help us to achieve results that would be otherwise impossible.

Once you’ve got these four topics down, move on to the more advanced level of education that dives into specific genres of photography that you want to focus on. There is no point at which you can truly say, “I’ve learned everything there is to know about light.” You should constantly observe and absorb information and techniques.

When Should You Upgrade Your Gear?

You must be thinking, “I will need new gear at some point, right?” After you can create what you’ve envisioned in your mind with your camera, then it’s time to start thinking about gear and what to buy next. Until then, a camera is just an object that is holding you back from achieving your vision. Will buying that new lens speed up your workflow? Think about if buying a new piece of gear will make your life better, not make your pictures better.

Think about it this way; even if you went crazy and binge-watch 100 workshops, it won’t cost you nearly as much as the thousands of dollars camera companies want you to spend on new gear. In addition, the knowledge that you gain through this education is going to serve you for decades ahead, whereas the gear you own only lasts a couple of years.

Recommended Video Tutorials

Photography Fundamentals

Lighting Tutorials

Wedding Photography Tutorials

Photography Business Tutorials

Lightroom Tutorials


Headshot Photography Tutorials

Portrait Photography Tutorials

Landscape Photography Tutorials

Commercial & Architecture Tutorials

Recommended Reading Resources

our 2018 gear Guide