Dear friend,

My first camera was one of those Fujifilm disposable cameras that my parents got us kids when we went on a family vacation. Most of those photos turned out pretty bad. I was proud of the fact that I had a camera that I could take pictures with.

My dad got me my next camera when I was about eight. It was a miniature camera.

I’ll give you three guesses as to how fast I lost it. I will say, it was super cute and I was bummed when I misplaced it.

Finally, when I was in middle school, my parents gave me a little digital camera. It was blue and silver.

Around the same time, my mom had me take a kids’ photography class for a week in the summer. I had fun with it, but I didn’t do much with what I learned until I was seventeen.

When I was seventeen, I took a year-long college-level graphic design class. In that class, we had a few photography-based projects that I enjoyed.

It inspired me to pull out my camera more often than just the odd vacation. That year, my mom gave me her old Canon DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera which was much more powerful than the little digital camera I had up to then. I spent several hours playing with settings and taking pictures of things around the yard to figure out how to get things to look good.

The autumn after I graduated high school, my family and I went on a trip out west to see Yellowstone and Glacier National Park. It was on that trip that I really got to know my camera. There were so many interesting things to see with so many variables that I got to experiment with.

There were many interesting textures that made great macro photography opportunities. I took panoramic photos of stunning scenery. And my family was a great way for me to get fantastic candid pictures.

The first camera was made in 1816 by French inventor Joseph Nicephore Niepce. Since then, people have been fascinated by photography. It’s no wonder. Pictures tell stories and record history. Read more about the importance of photography in my article from last week.

The most important thing about photography is that you have a camera. When you first start out, you can even use your phone camera. If you decide that you want to get a better camera after a little while, see if you can borrow a friend or family member’s camera to see how you like it.

Here are some principles of photography that you can play around with.

1. Viewpoint

Or you may have heard it called “perspective.” When you take a picture of an object or person, your first instinct may be to take it face on and center in the image. Instead, try taking the picture from below, above, or from either side of (or even behind) it.  

2. Rule of thirds

Imagine a tick-tack-toe board overtop of the image you want to take. Line up the interesting parts of the picture to those imaginary intersecting lines. The human eye loves odd numbers, so aligning the object of an image with one of those thirds lines makes the photo far more interesting.

3. Pay attention to negative space

Negative space is the space not taken up by objects in the image. Also called white space, this negative space should take up approximately one-third or two-thirds of the image.

And the most important thing…

Have fun! This is your hobby. Make it fun. If there’s something you want to try, what’s stopping you?

Once the simple principles begin to come naturally to you, there are plenty of articles that talk about other good photography, like this one by Hartford Photography. The more you learn and experiment, the more you’ll find inspiration for your photography.

Well, what are you waiting for?

Go take some pictures!


R. J. Catlin