Chicken Soup for Amateur Photographers



This one is for you budding photographers. You who picked up a camera, want to learn more, and move forward with photography as a part of your life. When I first picked up a 3.2 megapixels compact digital camera, I was a happy man. Finally had something that I can take decent pictures with, I thought. But little did I know, there is a whole new world within photography.

Seriously, I never thought much about photography when I first got that camera. It is only when I started playing with the camera that I realized you can do so much with photography. Landscape, Macro, Portraits, Street, Food, etc… I came to love photography, and fought to tame the technical beast for a year.

To you who walk the same path, I understand that fun and confusion too well. This article may not be as much help technically, but it retraces my steps and my mindsets… these are stuff that kept me walking forward as a “serious hobbyist”.




I shall start off with my usual intelligent rant. What is a photographer? That guy with a camera who takes pictures? I guess that is what most modern day people think.

Sadly and thankfully, true photographers are much more than a “man with a camera”. Think about it. There are people who study photography for 3 years, and even have a degree for it. So… any guy with a camera is a photographer? I think that is kind of a sad situation we are in today.

If you are going to call yourself a “photographer”, even as an amateur, please have the decency to learn more about photography. Give some due respect to people who spent so much time and effort in photography.




A serious question every photographer need to ask themselves is “what is photography” and “where do I want to go with photography”? This may be a stupid question, but necessary. What do you want to show with your photographs? That is what differentiates a “photographer” from “a person with camera”.

When I first started out, it was “for fun, just trying it out”. Now, it has evolved to “show the world epic life, and passion through hobby”. Don’t need to think too deep if you do not already have an answer. Go out there and experience photography for yourself, and it will come someday. I only had my answer after years of shooting.




As a beginner, you cannot win the professionals who have years of experience. By that, I mean no point trying to win, no point beating yourself up either. First off, what is “the best photography”, or who is “the best photographer”? How do you beat “the best”? The hard truth is that no one has defined “the best”, and no one can.

There’s no point fighting against something that don’t exist, so the only thing that made sense to me is to outdo yourself every time. Photography is not about winning or losing, it is about getting better. It is about creating something that has the “wow” factor, a statement that people will remember. Here’s a piece of nugget for your thoughts:



Nope, I don’t entirely agree to “nobody cares about your photography”. I shall brush that aside and say “every work matters”. I used to come from the school of negativity too. Too many photographers, can’t win the best, my photos are crap. But somewhere along the line, a wise man taught me something that means a lot – the positive mindset and abundance.

My works are not the best in the world? The market is saturated? None of that matters. Why? Because nobody starts as a master of photography, and we learn by taking more photographs. Every photo is a step forward, an experience, a lesson, a statement, and a memory.

So don’t worry about being the best. Just share your works with the world. Somewhere out there, someone cares. Someone just wants you to improve, someone wants to share a moment of joy with you. So just keep clicking, improving, and sharing if you love photography. Does not have to be neck-breaking competition, it’s all about good fun and sharing that passion.



There’s a lot to learn, so keep an open mind when you share things online. You will get a lot of comments, critiques and criticism. By that, I do mean ignore the trolls who go “I hate your photo”, “you suck”, and the likes. It’s not the world of Pokemon where you need to “catch them all”. Don’t feed the trolls. It’s useless.

What you need to learn, is to listen to the constructive feedback instead. “I don’t like this because of…”, “I think I will be better if…”. These are the ones that will make you better. Just keep a humble mindset that your photos are not the best in the world.



Who does not make mistakes? I do hope you adopt that old saying of “failure is the mother to success”. Because that has always been how things are. I failed, I go into self denial, I accepted the mistake, I apologized and I improved. No one is perfect in this world. Learning to accept mistakes is but a step to becoming better.



Ever wonder why some photographers are so well known and remembered? Ever wonder why you give a modest camera to a pro and magic happens? Ever wonder why you give the best camera to a newbie but nothing good comes out?

It is all about the photographer and not so much on the camera. The secret is, good photographers already see the final photo in mind before taking the shot. We call this the Photographer’s eye and mind. The camera is but a tool, so even when the tool is restricting the photographer, he/she works around it in creative ways.

Technical knowledge is important, but having that edge in creativity is the one that gives you the “wow” factor. Hone your composition skills, create something that is uniquely yours. Does not matter if you only have a modest camera.



Yes, having raw talent does help you to become better. But here is the beauty of photography – you don’t need that much raw talent to begin, and photographic compositions can be learnt. I never thought myself to be a creative when I first started either.

What I think is important for a beginner photographer is not to be stuck with “I have no talent”. It kind of becomes a self limiter. Just keep learning, keep experimenting, and keep finding the style that suits you. Talent helps, but developing something to call “distinctly your style” matter more.



Photography is a big world. What do you want to shoot? What is your specialty? Food, product, portrait, macro, landscape, or creative? For those who already know which to dedicate yourself to – good. For those who are still looking around, don’t be discouraged.

There is nothing wrong with trying out photography from different angles. But I also have to warn that it is not healthy to become a jack of all trades in photography… as in it burns a hole in the wallet. Every different photography subject has their own specific “toys” and buying all of them is a difficult option. So start by trying out a little of everything, then select one to dive deep into.



Technology is constantly changing. Just when we thought film is done, there is something called “Instax” that brought it back to life. When we thought astrophotography is impossible in a city, it is possible now. Just when you think aerial photography is only open to the “big boys with wings”, we have drones now.

Photography is changing, and new things are happening so fast. Don’t stop at where you are. Adopt new technology where possible, you never know if they will open up a whole new world to your photography. Keep exploring and experimenting.



Stress, definitely. Competition, a lot. So how do we deal with it? Well, I tend to see competition in a different light now. Photographer X shoots with a $10,000 camera, and has studio equipment worth over $30,000. Nice. Envy. Now turn it into a fun challenge – how about we do better with lesser equipment? Maybe some cheap homemade tools, and even shoot with an iPhone.

Yes, that is my strange way of turning stress into positive motivation. Prove to the world that expensive gear is only expensive gear, creativity still wins in the end. No need to stress over all these things, use them, turn them into motivations and crazy ideas.



As long as you are human, politics happen… unless you are a hermit. I have seen so many photographers affected by human politics, and ended up “bailing out” or going “on hiatus”. It’s kind of a sad world we live in. Can’t hobbies and politics be separate?

I know it’s difficult, but I try to keep politics away from my hobby and passion. Don’t “bail out” simply because someone gives you a bucket of lemons. When I feel the heat from politics, I usually take a break, and go back to my landscape photography roots. Somehow that has always kept me going on. Photography has became some sort of soul searching for me.



This shall be my last recipe for the chicken soup. People do things best when they love doing it. What is your drive to do photography? For me, I think photography has taken “fun” and “soul searching”. Photography has led me to find different sides of myself… that I did not even know. I did not think I was a creative before, I never thought I will have so much fun with cosplay photos.

So what’s yours? I hope you find your drive, and it’s so important. It is something that will hopefully bring you somewhere someday. Keep shooting and have fun people!


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