What is Photography?

Learn the art and science of photography to capture and interpret the world around you. Discover how studying photography can lead to a fulfilling career with opportunities to travel, meet new people, and earn a substantial wage, particularly in lucrative specializations like wedding photography.

Key Insights

  • Photography involves creating an image by recording light with a camera and offers various possibilities with the use of digital cameras and editing software.
  • Professional photographers typically use Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras, but some opt for compact mirrorless models due to their lighter weight and cheaper cost.
  • Learning and practicing photography requires a significant upfront investment in equipment, including a high-quality camera and editing software like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.
  • Photography can lead to a rewarding career with opportunities to travel, document important events and meet new people. Fields like wedding photography can offer a substantial wage.
  • The field of photography offers numerous specialties, including studio portrait photography, event photography, nature photography, wildlife photography, photojournalism, and advertising photography.
  • Skills comparable to photography include videography, video editing, and graphic design. These skills often overlap in professional settings, providing additional career opportunities.
  • Noble Desktop offers comprehensive training in photography and related skills through in-person and live online courses, with options for individual Photoshop courses or a digital photography certificate program.

Photography is the art of producing an image by recording light with a camera. Digital cameras and editing software create lots of possibilities for the photos you’ll be able to produce if you choose to study photography. In this overview, you’ll learn more about what photography is, what it can do, who uses it, and how to learn it so you can determine how to add this skill to your professional toolbox.

What Can You Do with Photography?

Since the first photograph was taken in 1826, creators have been using this skill to capture images of the world around them. Photography allows people to document events, moments in time, and things they have seen. It can also help human beings gain a better understanding of the world, in the case of scientific photography or photojournalism. Photography is also an artistic medium—the Photographer presents their interpretation of the human experience through what they choose to document and the perspective their photos show.

Another important aspect of photography is that photographic images can be reproduced, allowing them to be circulated and distributed worldwide. Even before digital photography, a film photograph was easier to reproduce than the paintings and drawings that had previously been the best way to convey an image. One early example of how the new technology of photography rapidly came to shape the world is the work of Matthew Brady. His photos documenting the American Civil War showed the brutality of the war’s impact, powerfully influencing public opinion about the conflict.

Now, with digital cameras, the distribution of photographs can be nearly instantaneous, and reproducing one only requires uploading a file. Also, the powerful editing software available to modern Photographers makes remarkable transformations possible. Social media has shown some of what one can do with the opportunities provided by digital photography, with photos of dramatic events witnessed by private citizens being rapidly distributed all over the world. However, the full potential of digital cameras and photo editing software may have yet to reveal itself.

How Do You Get The Tools You’ll Need For Photography? How Much Does it Cost?

While smartphones take 92.5% of digital photos today, you’ll need a digital camera to become a serious Photographer. There are several different types of digital camera, with varying features and capabilities. You can buy a digital camera from a camera store or order it online.

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The most basic digital camera is a compact one, often referred to as a “point-and-shoot” because you can easily use it to take photos without altering any settings. You can get a point-and-shoot digital camera for as little as $60. However, if you are serious about studying photography, you’ll need a camera that can do more. Professional Photographers typically use what’s called a DSLR camera. DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. These are designed like film cameras, with lenses you can switch in and out depending on your purposes. They also have a wealth of settings you can employ to do exactly what you want with your photo, once you know how to use them. The average cost of a DSLR is about $500 new for an entry-level model, and each lens will be several hundred more. If you prefer a more lightweight option, you might instead buy a compact mirrorless camera for around $850. These have more settings than a point-and-shoot and can also take interchangeable lenses, plus they are more portable than a DSLR because they don’t have the mirror that makes DSLRs bulkier and heavier. DSLRs remain more popular among professional Photographers, but many Photographers are adopting mirrorless cameras. If you decide to buy a DSLR, it may be a good idea to buy a used one, since DSLRs haven’t been substantially updated in some time. 

You’ll also want to acquire high-quality applications for editing your photos. Adobe products, specifically LightRoom and Photoshop, are critical tools for Digital Photographers. These are paid applications, although you can typically start off with a free trial. Lightroom cost $9.99 a month as of November 2022, and a Photoshop subscription cost $20.99 at that time. You can download these products from the Adobe catalog. If you want a free option at the beginning, you can try RawTherapee instead of Lightroom and Pixlr instead of Photoshop. However, if you’re looking to go into photography for professional purposes, you’ll want to learn how to use industry-standard Adobe products.

What Are the Benefits of Learning Photography?

There are a host of reasons to learn photography, both in terms of enriching your life and with regard to building a career. Photographers say that photography allows them to see the world differently. It keeps them in the present and allows them to capture moments. It also helps the Photographer realize what their perspective on the world is because the specific photos they take express who they are. 

Photography can also be a great career choice. Once you’ve invested in your equipment and studied your craft, you can earn a substantial wage as a Photographer, especially if you go into a lucrative field like wedding photography. Photographers often travel to new places and meet new people as part of their work. There is also an active community of professional Photographers that you can learn from and contribute to.

Read more about why you should learn photography.

Photography Careers

Within the field of photography, there are many possible specialties. Whatever your particular interest, photography has much to offer as a profession, in both personal fulfillment and practical value. In terms of career outlook, the employment rate for Photographers is projected to grow 9 percent between 2021 and 2031, which is above the average across all professions.

If you enjoy meeting new people, studio portrait photography or event photography could be good options for you. For those who prefer the outdoors, nature photography is a popular field. A student who likes to travel might consider becoming a Wildlife Photographer or a Photojournalist. Advertising photography can be a lucrative career, especially when combined with skills in marketing or graphic design. 

Photography can be useful for other careers as well. Graphic Designers often make use of their own photographs in their work. Being able to design with their own photos saves them the time of working with a separate Photographer, or, alternatively, the money they would pay for the right to use someone else’s pre-existing photo. While Photojournalist is a specialized career in itself, Journalists who primarily work in written form also sometimes find it useful to be able to take their own excellent photos in circumstances where they may not have a separate professional Photographer with them. Social Media Managers or Professional Influencers will also want to be skilled in photography, especially if Instagram is one of the formats they use. Regardless of your career, employers and co-workers also value having someone around who can document major events or snap impromptu photos of happenings around the office. 

How to Learn Photography

Taking live classes, whether in-person or online, gives you real-time access to an expert instructor. For a successful study of photography, it’s useful to connect with a skilled Photographer who can answer your questions, provide feedback on your work, and guide you as you proceed through your studies. Those who like to be in the classroom can find a list of in-person Photoshop classes through Noble Desktop’s Classes Near Me tool. You can also check out the available options for studying Photoshop live online.

You may find that a self-paced class fits better into your busy schedule. If so, Noble can help you find on-demand Photoshop courses that will suit your life and needs. These cater to a wide range of skill levels, with substantial variation in length and intensity. On-demand lessons generally come in video format. Most require a subscription to a learning platform such as Udemy or Skillshare.

There are also free materials available that can help you learn more about photography. A great place to start is Noble’s free Intro to Photoshop tutorial video. Noble offers free seminars on many topics, including this photo retouching seminar. Video playlists, like this YouTube playlist on photo editing, are a good way to start investigating the topic. More of a reader than a watcher? Take a look at this hub of photography articles, tutorials, and resources. On the Noble Desktop blog, you can find tutorials like this Photoshop tutorial on how to restore old photos, and informative posts like 3 Essential Ways Photographers Use Photoshop. You’ll also want to check Noble’s full list of available photography courses.

Read the full guide on how to learn photography.

A Brief History of Photography

The first photograph dates from 1826. At first, the photographic process was intensive and costly. This changed in the 1880s when George Eastman pioneered the use of standard photographic film and created the simple and affordable Kodak camera. By the turn of the 20th century, over 1.5 million Americans owned a Kodak. Photographic techniques became increasingly sophisticated as film cameras evolved. Amateur photography also emerged as a hobby after cameras became affordable, versatile, and portable.

The digital camera, invented in 1975, became the most common photography tool once it was financially accessible to ordinary citizens. In 2003, the digital camera outsold the film camera for the first time. Later, with the advent of the smartphone, phones supplanted the digital camera as the most popular tool. However, they have yet to surpass its capabilities in terms of quality.

Comparable Skills

Videography and Video Editing are comparable to photography. Both involve someone manipulating a piece of physical equipment to capture images, and that person or someone else using software to edit the recording that results. However, video has the additional element of unfolding over time and often includes sound. This makes video editing more complex in some ways, as it requires a broader variety of skills. Depending on the Photo Editor or Video Editor in question, it can also be more time-consuming.

Graphic Design is also somewhat comparable, but Graphic Designers primarily work with premade images. They use software that lets them arrange these images, along with shapes, text, and other elements, to create a specific visual effect. Graphic Designers must also learn design principles, which differ from the principles of photography.

Learn Photography with Hands-on Training at Noble Desktop

Noble Desktop’s small class sizes and expert instructors make it an excellent environment for learning photography and related skills. Students can choose between in-person and live online courses, depending on which is better for their particular situation. Students can also retake Noble classes for free, which can help expand their knowledge of the topic.

Noble offers a certificate in photo retouching specifically, delving more deeply into critical skills that Photographers should have. Another option is Noble’s popular Graphic Design Certificate, which covers Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and graphic design principles. If you don’t yet want to commit to earning a certificate, you could take an individual Photoshop course to start with. You can also do a Photoshop bootcamp for beginners with Noble.

When you do a digital photography certificate at Noble, you’ll acquire foundational skills for photography and photo editing. Students learn to use manual settings to help them make the most of what a high-quality camera offers. They also discover how to work with different types of lighting, both inside a studio and out in the world. In terms of digital photo manipulation, students explore how to manage their photographs with Adobe Lightroom and edit them using Adobe Photoshop.

Key Insights

  • A Photographer creates an image by using a camera to record light
  • Smartphones take most photos today, but you still need a dedicated camera for serious photography
  • Professional Photographers most often use Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras, though some opt for the lighter and cheaper mirrorless models
  • Studying photography requires a significant advance investment in equipment
  • Film cameras first became readily available in the 1880s, when George Eastman invented the Kodak and popularized the use of standard photographic film
  • Film was the sole means of taking photographs until the invention of the digital camera in 1975
  • By 2003, digital cameras had surpassed film cameras in popularity
  • Skills comparable to photography include videography, video editing, and graphic design
  • You can receive comprehensive photography training through an in-person or live online course with Noble Desktop

How to Learn Photography & Photoshop

Master photography, photo retouching, and Photoshop with hands-on training. With tools like Photoshop and Lightroom, you can easily edit, retouch, organize, and share your photos.

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