A Young Photographer’s Guide to Getting Started in Photography

macro spider photography

My passion for photography began when I was around eight years old, after receiving a tiny Canon point-and-shoot camera for Christmas.

I spent hours in the garden every day taking photos of different flowers. Looking back, the images I produced were mediocre at best, but to me, it was as if I had unlocked a door to a whole new world.

young wildlife photographer
One of my first attempts at focus stacking – this image was created from 17 different photographs stitched together.

It was then that I decided that everything – even the most mundane of objects – looked good up-close, a mantra I believe still holds true.

Furthermore, lockdown played a pivotal role in encouraging my love for photography. With nothing else to do, I spent every break from online lessons in my garden, photographing insects.

With so much time on my hands, I began to be less afraid of taking risks which led to my experimenting with new techniques, such as focus stacking.

One of my first focus-stacked images is one of a bee crawling out of a flower which remains one of my favourite macro photographs I have taken to this day.

Unique perspectives of young photographers

Young photographers certainly have a unique perspective, something that I believe is particularly shaped by the limitations many of us face in our pursuit of images.

In particular, travelling poses a myriad of problems to young photographers due to legal limitations.

While not essential, many wildlife photographers have specific subjects they aspire to photograph. This often involves travel, which, as a young photographer, besides the expense, usually requires travelling with an adult.

Whilst this may not sound like an insurmountable obstacle, it can make things more complicated, especially as the process of taking high-quality wildlife photographs is often decidedly unglamorous, and thus finding an adult who is willing to come along for the ride can be particularly challenging.

macro spider photography

However, I strongly believe that with limitation comes ingenuity. For me, this manifested particularly in concentrating on subjects closer to home.

Often, we encounter elements of nature so frequently in our day-to-day lives that we become almost immune to their beauty.

Nature photography is a fantastic way of removing this so-called immunity – by consciously focusing in on the wildlife in and around our homes.

For example, insects have become one of my favourite subjects to photograph, and many of my most successful insect images were taken merely a few strides from my front door.

Another advantage that I believe young photographers have is that we have not yet had the chance to test our comfort zones, and, as such, our comfort zones don’t really yet exist, so we are able to consciously shape them.

I did this during lockdown by forcing myself to photograph spiders whenever I saw them.

macro spider photography
One of many jumping spider images taken during lockdown.

As an arachnophobe, I assumed that my fear would transcend through the lens; however, I found that when I have the camera between the spider and myself, I am able to momentarily forget my phobia and concentrate on photography.

From this experience, I learned that my expected comfort zones were often not aligned with my actual comfort zone, and the only way to establish what subjects I really am comfortable photographing is by giving everything a go with no reservation.

This is something I would recommend all young photographers do.

Social media and online competitions

Immediate access to the internet and social media is an advantage that young photographers should grasp with both hands.

Young photographers are able to benefit from a practically unlimited source of articles, tutorials, and endless images from which we can take inspiration.

young wildlife photographer
‘House Hunting’ – my photograph that won the young category of Nature TTL Photographer of the Year 2023.

I am a naturally very competitive person, and as such, online competitions were a great way for me to find motivation to improve my photography as well as attempt new things.

Many photography competitions, including Nature TTL’s Photographer of the Year competition, have youth categories with free entries.

This is another fantastic way for young photographers to get their work out there.

Photography as a creative outlet

Nature photography can be a fantastic creative outlet, not least because dealing with something as inconstant as nature means that no two images will ever be the same.

bear photography Finland
For the entirety of my trip to Finland, I had been planning around getting a shot of bears reflected in water, so it was incredibly rewarding to achieve this image on the last night of the trip.

Planning around the fluidity of nature – be it weather, the uncertainty of finding a subject, or subject behaviour – adds another engaging step to the creative process, making nature photography a fantastic option for individuals seeking a creative outlet.

Because of how many different elements are at play in the planning of nature photography, it becomes all the more rewarding when everything comes together, and you are able to capture the image you had planned all along.

bear Finland photography
Taken on the same trip to Finland, this bear was on the wrong side of the lake for a reflection shot, so I instead opted to use the lake as a misty backdrop.

However, the unpredictability of nature often means that plans fall apart within moments, and while this can sometimes lead to disappointment, it can also lead to unexpected opportunities for different types of images.

So, it is key to grasp any opportunity, regardless of whether it was planned or not.

Photography as a means of environmental advocacy

There are many different ways to approach this. People tend to associate environmental advocacy with photographing rare or endangered subjects; however, this is not always the case.

Showcasing the hidden beauty of the most mundane parts of nature is also environmental advocacy.

arctic fox Svalbard
An arctic fox in Svalbard – one of the many species that are currently most affected by climate change.

It is important to remember that every part of nature is part of a fragile ecosystem and thus is somewhat interdependent.

With the looming threat of climate change, it is easy to feel helpless, but doing something small to help is better than doing nothing at all, and using nature photography to showcase the unique beauty of our planet is an excellent way to start.

Affordable gear options

I think the most important tip for a young person looking to get into nature photography is to start with simple equipment and work up from there.

Secondhand equipment is a fantastic option for beginners, and there are many places from which high-quality secondhand equipment can be purchased, with my personal favourite being MPB.com.

However, it is important to note that it is not essential to buy actual camera equipment to partake in nature photography; with phone cameras becoming more and more advanced, it is definitely a viable option.

For those interested in this, it is also possible to buy phone lens attachments – including macro and wide-angle attachments – for under £10 on Amazon, and it is a great way to discover if you have an ‘eye’ for it.

Additionally, many competitions offer money or vouchers as prizes, so entering competitions can be a fantastic way to save up for gear – this is how I have bought much of my equipment.

What I hope to achieve with my images

I am acutely aware of how lucky I am to have seen some things in the past few years that not many people will see in their lifetime.

Having had this good fortune, I feel it is vital for me to document it in a way that allows others to see the beauty of our planet through my images.

lizard photography
This lizard (Podarcis lilfordi) is found only on the island of Cabrera, so I was incredibly lucky to be able to photograph it.

Particularly in the fight against the climate crisis, it is crucial for people to have a motivator, to know exactly what they are fighting for. Wildlife photography is of utmost importance in inspiring that motivation and showing people exactly what is at stake.

In conclusion

It is important not to be discouraged by setbacks or negative feedback, something that many beginner photographers will face.

The beauty of photography is that it is entirely subjective, so my best advice for beginners is to keep going regardless of criticism and continuously experiment with different techniques and styles until you find what works for you.

Visit Lucy's website

I am an 18-year-old photographer based in the UK. Whilst experimenting with many different genres, I found that I have a particular passion for wildlife and macro photography. Being in a male-dominated industry, it is my aim to encourage more young women to have the confidence to pick up a camera.

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