In a world where most of us have in our pockets the capability of capturing an image, the field of photography is more accessible than ever. Gone are the days of finishing a roll of film and then waiting for it to be developed—hoping a few good images were captured.

Smartphones and DSLR cameras are everywhere! We can capture an image and in an instant view it, enhance it, and share it. If you (or your child) are interested in learning more about photography or possibly pursuing a photography career—read on!

I spent four years honing my photography skills and building and running a successful portrait business. I can tell you with confidence that you have everything you need to get started! Following is some information and tools to get you going in the right direction as well as possible career paths for aspiring photographers.

The Basic Elements of a Good Photograph


This is how your subject and the environment are placed in the frame of the image in order to achieve a desired result. You can use the rule of thirds, framing, leading lines, and negative space to change the composition and feel of an image. You need a good understanding of these tools and how they affect an image in order to capture a well-composed photo.


Photography literally means “drawing with light.” The tools that will affect the exposure (light), and therefore the overall mood of an image are aperture (the size of the opening in the lens), shutter speed (how long the lens stays open to let in light), and ISO (a setting that affects your camera sensor’s sensitivity to light that enters through the lens).

Depth of Field

This refers to the depth of the area in focus in an image. This effect is achieved through adjusting your lens aperture. The lower the number (called an “f stop”) is, the shallower the area in focus will be. The higher the number is, the deeper the area in focus will be. The term “bokeh” is directly related to your depth of field and refers to the aesthetic quality of the blur effect in the out-of-focus areas of an image.

So how can you learn and practice all this with a smartphone? Most smartphone cameras do not have the capability to allow you to change settings like shutter speed or aperture. That’s fine! Focus on learning about the technical aspects you can’t yet practice, and practice your composition and lighting until you have those down. Learning how to use composition and light to capture the same scene a dozen different ways and then evaluating how the use of those elements affected your final image will train your photographer’s “eye” to “see” the final image you want. Great photographers do this without much thought because they have used these tools so often, it’s ingrained.

Once you grasp these “tools of the trade,” you may want to invest in some gear. Here are my recommendations:

• A DSLR camera capable of using interchangeable lenses. Cropped sensor cameras are more affordable and still very powerful.
• A lens. A telephoto lens will get the job done, but a 50mm or 85mm lens with at least a 2.4 aperture will allow you to capture well-exposed images even in low light conditions.
• A memory card, extra battery, a collapsible reflector and editing software.

If you use Photoshop, I highly recommend taking a course to learn basic functionality. There are many free tutorials on YouTube. Speaking of tutorials, I highly recommend checking out Lynda and CreativeLive for photography and software training.

What to Do With Your Photography Skills

Once you have learned how to consistently create great photographs, you may want to pursue photography professionally. For most photography careers, specialized training is not required. Your portfolio shows your talent, style, and proficiency to prospective clients and employers. That is your first step—putting together a portfolio of your best work.

Possible jobs for a talented photographer:

• Wedding/engagement photographer
• Portrait photographer. Specialty areas include newborn photography, family photography, headshot photography, pet photography, etc.
• Group/school/team photographer
• Landscape photographer
• Photojournalist
• Commercial/advertising photographer
• Fine art photographer

Research photography careers and find out which are a good fit for you. If you’re not a “people person,” you may prefer to photograph nature or pets. If you perform well under pressure or enjoy an exciting, fast-paced environment you could excel as a wedding photographer. If you love babies and children, portrait photography is rewarding. As you build your portfolio, you will see what you have a knack for and what is most rewarding. Whatever you choose, photography—as a hobby or a career—can be a fun, challenging, and rewarding pursuit!

Copyright 2019, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.

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Cassandra Simpson is a homeschooling mother of six and the wife of a retired army veteran living in the Midwest. She is entering her fifteenth year of home educating. Cassandra owned a portrait studio in Washington for four years before moving back to her home state in 2017. She still enjoys photography as a hobby in addition to reading, writing, creative planning, cuddling with her Saint Bernards, and spending time with friends and family.