The Newbie Photographers Learning Curve - Peter Stewart Photography

By Peter Stewart | 28th May 2014

A somewhat comical look at the steps and stages newcomers to the photography world go through on the journey of discovery. This list is not meant to be taken seriously, even though it's partially inspired by some of the things I did whilst starting out in photography. 


In The Beginning


- Get's first DSLR complete with kit lens. Honestly cannot tell the difference between a Nikon and a Canon. Buy's whichever has more megapixels. 

- Frames everything dead centre in the viewfinder. 

- Shoots on the 'Full Auto' mode. Can't understand why the flash keeps popping up all the time. 

- Discovers 'macro' mode. Spends the rest of the month shooting nothing but close ups of daffodils.  

- Walks around the neighborhood taking arty pictures of signposts and mailboxes. 

- Shoots everything from eye level whilst standing up.

- Wonders why half his/her images always come out blurry. Doesn't this thing have image stabilisation?


Sepia makes bricks look cool!

Phase One

After a while you start playing with more ways to style your images on the computer and decide to seek out new subjects to photograph, except when it's raining! No one takes pictures in the rain. 


- Starts converting everything to sepia toned.

- Starts applying selective color to everything.

- Vignetting and cross-processing filters. Now I can really stand out amongst the crowd!

- Wonders why the auto-focus has chosen the background instead of the main subject in half his/her shots.

- Shoots at ISO 800 in noon day sun. The only time of day for taking proper pictures.

- Learns that pop-up flash won’t light up that skyscraper you’re taking a shot of at night.

- Learns that pop up flash won’t add anything to that photo you’re taking of that iguana behind a glass window at the zoo.

- Starts shooting landscapes….with aperture set to f/2.8.

- Buys a tripod. Still shoots wonky horizons.


Selective color and vignetting really draws your attention to those apples!

Phase Two 

Now that your interest in photography has started to pick up, suddenly you find yourself looking at new lenses and other ways to edit beyond using the 'auto-enhance' button. 


- Buys a fisheye lens, because wide angle thats why!

- Buys a prime lens because the man said you can take pictures in the dark with it. 

- Discovers RAW. Wonders why everything looks rubbish now on the back of the LCD.

- Discovers HDR and Photomatix, spends the next year seeking out abandoned buildings to test out newly acquired HDR skills on. 

- Discovers panoramas and stitching. Shoots every panorama in landscape orientation.

- Experiments briefly with HDR panoramas. Promptly gives up.

- Experiments with portraiture. Shoots everyone with their back arched to a tree or a brick wall.


When you need a little extra pop. Try HDR!

Phase Three 

- Discovers the rules of composition and learns more about exposure.

- Cropping. Wow....thats actually useful!

- Stops using Photomatix and learns to exposure blend in Photoshop. 

- Purchases an off camera flash. 

- Discovers street photography. Shoots everything in Black & White...because thats what Cartier-Bresson would do!

- Buys a film camera. Has to actually learn to shoot properly now.

- Discovers ND and Grad Filters. Now can actually get the right look in camera.

- Learns to shoot in manual mode. 

- Declares themselves a photographer! Puts up a facebook page complete with horrendously oversized watermark.



Whether you're an amateur or a professional photographer, I'm sure a few of these statements will have applied to you at some point or another. It's all part of the fun of the learning process.

Even though I look back now at my early images and cringe, It's interesting to me to see what stages I was at then with my focus being purely on the technical aspects of taking pictures, as opposed to now where camera settings have become second nature and my focus has turned to the more important aspects of subject, light, composition. 

I'm still bloody useless with flashes though!


“The only photographer you should compare yourself to is the one you used to be.”



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