Decide what medium of photography you will be learning with, digital or film. Since digital is the more popular option I am going to be referring to that for the rest of this article.
Get a digital camera that will allow you to use it on manual. So that you can adjust the f stops and shutter speeds on your own.
F stops control the amount of light going into the camera. Shutter speeds control how fast the light goes in.
Never shoot without a tripod under a shutter speed of 60 or you can get motion blur.
Don’t shoot on automatic.
Think about what subject matter interests you the most. Do you prefer landscapes over people or maybe you like taking still life or food.
Focusing on a particular subject matter over a length of time will greatly help when you decide to create a portfolio in the future to find work.
Most people have a tendency to center their subject and shoot. Try not to do this. Pretend there is a black spot in the center of the frame and try shooting your subject outside of that spot.
Don’t stick an actual spot to your camera lens though!
This will help you to see things from a different perspective and work on your composition skills.
Composition is a huge factor in creating a great photograph.
Get a notebook and pen.
Take some time to really pay attention to the settings on your camera.
Most digital cameras have great built in light meters. They take a reading and tell you what it thinks is an even balance of the light in the frame based on a specific shade of gray, 18%.
Photo stores even sell cards that are this exact shade of gray for light balancing. You don’t need to buy one of these though.
Take one frame based on what the in camera light meter tells you is correct.
Write it down the settings and frame number in your note book.
Then change your f stop 1 stop higher than the camera says and record those settings.
Then change your f stop 2 stops higher than the camera says and record those settings.
Then change your f stop 3 stops higher than the camera says and record those settings.
Then change your f stop 1 lower than the camera says and record those settings.
Then change your f stop 2 lower than the camera says and record those settings.
Then change your f stop 3 lower than the camera says and record those settings.
This is called bracketing. Do this for each picture for about 36 pictures
Download the pictures into your computer and save.
Format (erase) your memory card.
Now go through the pictures and your notes.
What do you notice? Is the background blurrier in some pictures than others? Is the overall image lighter or darker.
Your notes will help you to see how the different setting (over and under exposing) affect the image.
Then it’s up to you to find settings that you like.
For example I know that I like the background blurry (low depth of field) and slightly over-exposed (light meter is in the + range or higher than recommended).
Take your 8 to 10 best images and print them.
I get my work printed through www.Adorama.com. They have a great system and are very cheap. even cheaper if you live in New York City and can pick the prints up.
Once you have your printed images have your friends and family look a at them and tell you what they like and don’t like.
Remember to take the negative comments with the good since every comment may help you in the long run.
This is just one exercise that can help you to become a photographer and not just another person taking snapshots.