My Photography Journey and Some Things I’ve Learned

My Early Years as a Photographer

I can remember taking my first pictures when I was seven years old. While on a family vacation, my parents bought me a miniature camera for a few dollars. It used tiny little film and took tiny little black and white pictures. I remember taking them but I don’t really remember what I took pictures of and probably for a good reason; I didn’t know what I was doing and (I’m sure) they were lousy.

child photographer

“Little Photographer – Brooklyn Heights” captured by Marco

Thirty years and several cameras later, I still didn’t know much about taking good pictures. I would point the camera at someone, usually a family member, and press the shutter. When the film was developed (back in the days before digital), the good pictures went into an album and the bad ones went into a box. I have a lot more boxes than I do albums. That’s because I hadn’t learned anything about lighting, composition, aperture, or shutter speed. It wasn’t until I was in my 50s that I realized there was more to taking pictures than just pointing and shooting.

Learning to Throw Fewer Photos Into a Box

When digital cameras came out, I bought several early models and started enjoying taking pictures of places and things (landscapes and objects). In my late 50s, I got serious about photography and bought a semi-professional DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera. The first time I used my new camera, I was impressed by its better quality and how much better my pictures looked using it. One of the first pictures I took with my new camera was of a lighthouse lens. When I entered it in my local county fair and it won “Best of Show,” I was hooked on photography. I knew that it was just dumb luck that I took a good picture, because I was still just pointing and shooting. I began to wonder if I learned more about how my new camera worked and how to take better pictures, that maybe I might be able to add more pictures to the album and fewer to my boxes and possibly even take more award-winning pictures.


“Point Cabrillo at Sunset” captured by Anita Ritenour

From that time on, I started watching videos on the Internet, bought books, and subscribed to magazines trying to learn as much as I could about the basics of good photography and it has definitely helped me take better pictures. I would like to share something that I discovered about my pictures while practicing some of the things I learned.

Choose an Interesting Focal Point

Many of the photos that go into my albums (and now into my portfolio) have something interesting in them that can tell a story, evoke an emotion, or set a mood. In the case of the lighthouse lens, the interest is the lens itself. The viewers might wonder what it is, how it works, where it was was made, or what lighthouse it’s in. They might imagine a storm and a ship in need of some help. I have taken pictures of barns, bridges, railroad tracks, rivers, boats, sidewalks, buildings, lighthouses, piers, hammocks, and mountains. When composed well in my photos, they all have something to say.

railroad tracks

“Blue Sky on Rails” captured by Evan Leeson

When I’m out with my camera in a beautiful or interesting area, I sometimes get so caught up in that beauty or interest that I want to capture everything and am tempted to just point and shoot. It is then that I slow down and start to look at what is attracting me to the scene. There is usually something that stands out that can become a focal point to better capture what I see and even what I feel. When I draw attention to that point of interest using all the skills I have learned and use some or all of what is in the scene, I’m able to tell the story of what I see.

Look at Other Photographers’ Work

I have read that it is helpful to look at pictures from other photographers to improve my photography. I try to do this as often as possible. I recently noticed that the ones I liked the most were similar to many of my own in that they had a very specific point of interest. Seeing how they chose to capture theirs has helped me figure out how to capture mine. Now when I am out there looking for the best way to take my picture, I just have to remember to snap the shutter.

I believe my photography has improved since I was seven. I even sell some of my photos now. It is really a great feeling knowing someone else likes my photos and wants one for themselves.

It is my sincere desire that what I have shared will help you with your photography. Happy shooting!

About the Author
Jim is a landscape and fine art photographer from Northern California. After surviving leukemia in 2008, Jim purchased his first semi-professional camera and began a journey that has become a wonderful passion. He is now using a professional camera. You can see and purchase his photography at

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