Attractive Interests: Expert Tips for Amateur Photographers


Photograph by Saskia Nelson

With phones and tablets coming equipped with cameras as standard, it has never been easier to take up photography as a hobby, and our recent study of eHarmony singles’ interests shows that it just might bag  you more dates too.

But if you’re looking to get serious about snapping, where do you start? We asked expert dating photographer Saskia Nelson, of Saturday Night’s Alright, to share some of her top tips.

Start small

You don’t need to go out and buy an expensive camera to start with. Photography is less about the camera and more about the photographer and their interpretation of the world. Smart phones have great cameras these days and there is a whole movement called iPhoneography which is really inspiring and exciting. This is a great way to improve certain elements of photography like

  • developing or finding your style
  • learning to frame or compose subjects well
  • starting to understand how light works in photography
  • discovering if you have an eye for it
  • discovering if you have a passion for it
  • the smart phone is the camera you always have on you so it’s perfect for capturing all sorts of cool moments

However, a smart phone is very limiting when you want to start getting more creative and more in control of your photos, so if you decide you want to crank things up a notch, I would recommend buying a good quality camera second hand. I’m a Canon girl, so recommend Canon 70D or 6D if you’re an enthusiast and maybe a Canon 700D if you’re a beginner and not sure where it’s going to lead.

As long as you buy from reputable second-hand shops, you should be fine. Many of my cameras have been second-hand. Websites like Carmarthen Cameras and MPB Photographic usually have great quality second-hand cameras and equipment.

Experiment and practice

The only way to really learn, when it comes to photography, is really by trial and error. Get out there and start practicing. Play around on the camera as much as possible and just try things out. The most important thing to experiment with is lighting. Photography is all about light – the quality of the light, the different effects different types of light will have on photos and it’s not something you can learn from books or youtube videos, you need to go and experience different lighting set ups and practice and learn first-hand the effect the light has on your images. The best light tends to be first thing in the morning when the sun comes up, or the hour or so before sunset (the golden hour). The quality of light around water is also amazing – so head to the seaside, rivers, canals or swimming pools and experiment.

Courses and self-study

I started my photography journey with a couple of short courses at Central Saint Martins, which offers some of the best teaching in the country. Local college courses are always a good place to start though if you can’t afford Central Saint Martins or you aren’t London-based. There are lots of photography businesses which offer courses too, so check out local studios and businesses which offer a style of photography that you like.

A cheap and easy way to improve your photography is to head to the popular global website Meetup and join lots of photography groups in areas that you’re interested in exploring – landscape, street, fashion, portraits, wedding, events etc. This is a great way to find out which genres of photography excite you, to learn from professionals and learning from your peers and to build your confidence in a friendly environment. Meetups are usually very sociable too, so most groups will have sociable nights out where you can meet and chat with like-minded people over a drink. This is great for networking and finding out from others how they are building their portfolios. The added bonus is you’ll probably make some great new friends. I can honestly say that joining Meetup groups was one of key things that gave me the confidence to take my photography to the next level.

There are of course, tonnes of YouTube tutorials that you can access for free too and which can really help you improve anything from using professional editing packages such as Lightroom and Photoshop, using flash, getting to grips with lighting set-ups, exposure etc. It’s best to explore these for yourself as I like a certain style of photography which may not be yours. Just start googling and seeing what’s out there.

Working with people

As a portrait photographer, it’s obviously really important to be someone who is good with people. A huge part of the job is helping to prepare people for their shoot, helping them relax in front of the camera and helping them understand how you want them to be in front of the camera. My top tips are to ask them to act out a scenario rather than giving them orders like telling them to ‘smile’ or something. This helps them understand what look you are going for and get in the right mindset. For example with dating photos, I might say to my clients, “I want you to imagine that today you’re on holiday, strolling barefoot on a beach somewhere feeling really carefree’, and they start to give off the natural, relaxed, happy vibe that I’m looking for. Practice on friends, friends of friends etc and post on social media so that people can see what you’re doing. When you start getting good, you’ll find these people are the best advertisement for you as they are likely to share great photos of themselves and tell people all about you.

Camera equipment

I mentioned earlier that the quality of the camera isn’t as important as people may think. Good photographers can take photos on a whole range of cameras. However, the one thing that can make the difference between an OK photo and an amazing one (aside from the photographer) is the quality of the lenses. Investing in decent lenses is the one thing worth doing when you decide you want to get more serious about your photography. Decent lenses are usually very expensive (photography is generally an expensive hobby to have) but they are so worth it. Prime lenses are better than zoom ones – they have less moving parts so that makes sense. But the type of lenses you need will depend on what kind of photography you’re into. Portrait, wedding, fashion, sport, event, landscape etc will all have their own lenses to suit the genre, although some of these will cross over to different genres. The only way to figure out which lenses are best for your needs is to do lots and lots of research online.

My top recommendations for equipment

  • Smart phone (for trying out ideas quickly or checking composition etc)
  • Good quality second-hand camera
  • Good quality memory cards
  • Best lenses you can afford
  • A reflector (if you’re shooting people)
  • A tripod (if you’re shooting landscapes or night photography)
  • A flashgun
  • A good camera strap (black rapids)
  • A spare battery
  • A decent camera bag (to protect your equipment

If you’ve got the photography bug and fancy winning £1,000 with your portrait of love then enter our Love Captured competition today.

If this article gave you the confidence to find your match, try eharmony today!

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