If you're new to photography, but you're interested in embracing it as a hobby, congratulations! Photography is an immensely enjoyable pastime that you'll be able to enjoy and share with the people around you until the day you die.
If you're wondering where to start, try reading the rest of this article for a basic introduction to photography, starting with the most basic question of all: what is photography?
- What is photography?
Strictly speaking, photography is 'the process of producing a still picture by recording light radiation'. If we're being generous we could say that photography has been around since the early 1800s, but in terms of it being something open to the average person to get involved in, the agreed-on date is more likely to be 1900 - the year in which Kodak introduced the $1 'Brownie' camera.
Photography is somewhat unusual in that while it is definitely an art form (in that it's capable of producing something that appeals to the senses) there are strong technical elements to it as well. In this way it contrasts with an art form such as drawing or painting, where little or no technical knowledge of the medium is necessary. It's a rare professional photographer who isn't also an expert with the technical aspects of photography, though they do exist.
- What sort of camera will I need?
This question has two very different answers. On the one hand, any kind of camera at all can be used to make interesting images, so one could say that that's the answer: 'any kind of camera at all'. On the other hand, photography is arguably its most enjoyable when done with a camera that is versatile and easy to control manually, and so one could say that the answer can only be: 'an SLR'. Certainly if you don't currently own a camera, you're even remotely interested in taking up photography as a hobby, and you have the money, an entry-level (digital) SLR is the right way to go.
- How do I improve?
Unsurprisingly, getting better at photography involves a lot of trial and error. While digital photography makes trial and error a much better strategy than it used to be by massively reducing the cost of taking a photo, there's still no need to do this blindly. Reading about photography in books, magazines and online is also a useful way to improve, as is looking at a lot of photographs taken by other people. You'll quickly learn that people generally agree on a set of 'rules' that produce pleasing photography, and while eventually you'll break these rules to good effect, there's no question that it's worth learning them first.