Some people became interested in photography because they saw a memorable picture: the unknown GI kissing an anonymous woman in times square the day World War II ended, the American flag being hoisted on Iwo Jima, or the alleged photo of the Loch Ness monster (almost certainly a fake). That was in the day of film photography, when equipment was expensive and anyone who wanted to take a decent photograph needed some specialized knowledge. Photography as a hobby was fairly widespread, but not ubiquitous as it is today.
Digital cameras changed everything, and the advent of cell phones with photo capability has made virtually everyone into an amateur photographer. Snapping a few shots with a cell phone seems to have an addictive effect. It’s not a big step from taking a picture of a friend waving goodbye to adopting photography as a hobby. Today, with inexpensive digital cameras, no fussing with film, and sophisticated editing software, it’s easy to get into photography—and not difficult to end up with a professional-looking final print, or at least an interesting shot that can be shared on the internet.
Some people get into photography as a hobby to develop a record of important events or things they’ve seen: baby’s first step; the Taj Mahal; Mom’s face at her surprise 60th birthday party. Nobody goes on vacation these days without a camera, and even in casual circumstances, if anything that might be considered memorable comes up (or even if it’s not memorable at all), someone is bound to pull out a camera or cell phone and start clicking.
Different hobbies cost different amounts of money to get into, and the ongoing expenses vary greatly. A fisherman can start with a rod and reel that costs a few dollars, but anyone who gets serious about fishing as a hobby will buy a boat and lots of tackle, and the cost will soon escalate into the thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. And though sophisticated lenses and cameras are expensive, anyone can be a reasonably serious photographer for an investment of a few hundred dollars.
With digital memory at a minuscule price compared to film or fishing tackle, the photography hobbyist can have fun and make memorable pictures with a modest digital camera, a computer and inexpensive photo editing software. A hobby that’s cheap and easy – how can you beat it?
Many people believe that in order to take a professional looking picture, you need a lot of expensive cameras, lenses and studio equipment. However, many retailers offer digital SLR kits that come with all the equipment necessary to take a professional looking photo – you just have to know what to look for.
The first thing you will need is a high-end consumer digital SLR (also known as DSLR). The most prominent manufacturers are Nikon and Canon. The difference between the two is lens and flash capability as well as mounting, but both offer great options at most price points. For those just getting into photography, older models such as the Nikon D80 or Canon Rebel XTi offer a great introduction to professional photography. These camera bodies can be found for under $300 at many retailers and even cheaper when found used on sites such as eBay. Both offer a 10 megapixel count which produces beautiful photos even when printed on large formats.
Lenses are the other half of your photography setup – a good lens can make or break a photo. Generally it is a good idea to go with lenses made by the same manufacturer of your camera as third party lenses can often be of lesser quality. Canon and Nikon both offer beginning “kit” lenses that usually come bundled with their camera bodies if purchased from a retailer. These lenses offer the most flexibility in terms of aperture and focal length. If you are looking for more specialized lenses such as a telephoto lens for long distance photos (such as surfing when shooting from the shore), it would be wise to invest in a lens specific for that purpose. Both Canon and Nikon as well as many third party manufacturers offer lenses for all types of photography from macro (close up) shots to telephoto (far away) shots.
In terms of accessories for your camera set up, you will want to add a flash and possibly even a diffuser. A flash can help add lighting to a situation where there is little light to take advantage of such as at a show or nighttime shot. A diffuser is an accessory for you flash which diffuses the harsh flash lighting and makes it appear more natural and soft, allowing you to photograph your subject and not blow out any lighter colors.
With a beginning camera body, lens and flash accessory, you can find yourself taking professional quality photos for well under $500 if you know where to look.