Mentioned in this Episode


Hey, how’s it going? I’m Andy Jones, and this is episode 138 of the Photography Side Hustle podcast. It’s also the first episode of 2024, so Happy New Year.

I hope you had a relaxing holiday and are eager to get started. 2024 is going to be a great year to be a photographer. I can feel it in my bones.

Okay, this episode is “7 Things I wish I had known when starting out.”

So let’s get started …

#1 – Know your camera
I know it looks a little daunting if you are just starting out. But don’t be put off. It’s as easy as learning to drive a car.

So, the first thing you need to do is sit at a table with your camera and the camera manual. It’s no good just reading the manual without the camera. You need to apply the settings as you read the manual.

I don’t expect you to go through the manual and remember it all. The first thing I always set up is the date and time, then the copyright section. The copyright info puts your business name into the metadata, like “Copyright Andy Jones Photography.” So, if someone steals your image, it might be identifiable using the copyright field in the metadata.

Once that is done, I set up the file type I want to capture, RAW or JPEG. Next, you need to learn how to change the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

Remember, you only need to learn enough to capture the photos you want. Keep the manual in your camera bag, you never know when you might need it.


#2 – Use the Histogram
If you don’t know, the histogram is the graph that shows on the rear LCD screen. It shows you what the photo is made up of. The left-hand side shows blacks (shadows), and the left-hand side shows whites (highlights).
If the graph touches either side, then that means the shadow or highlights are pure black or white. You don’t want that because there would be no detail in that part of the image.

Ideally, when you look at a histogram, you want to keep the graph just inside of the right-hand edge. If it touches the edge, you need to reduce the amount of light coming in using a faster shutter speed or a lower ISO setting.

You don’t need to check the histogram after every shot. Take some test shots and check it, then just keep an eye on it as you work through the session.

Doing this will save you a lot of editing time and heartache.

#3 – Depth of Field
Understanding depth of field is something you have to learn. It isn’t difficult. In fact, a free app called PhotoPills can work out the depth of field for you.

If you don’t know, the depth of field is the distance in front and behind the focus point that is in focus. A good example of a shallow depth of field would be a portrait with a background that is soft and out of focus. Landscape photographers usually want everything from right in front of them to infinity in focus.

Depth of field is important because it is your first consideration when taking a photo. What do you want in focus? and everything else is out of focus.

#4 – Keep your photos simple
When you are about to take a photo, take a second look at what is in the frame. Is the background distracting? Is there a tree branch, flower bed, car, or anything that distracts or complicates the image? It could just be the colors in the background.

If you are shooting portraits, keep the scene as simple as possible. You can use a shallow depth of field to blur a complicated background.

The only thing that should grab your attention is your subject, especially if it’s a portrait.


#5 – Lenses
Understanding the importance of good-quality lenses is crucial to your work. There isn’t a shortcut to producing sharp-focused professional photos.

Professional lenses are expensive because they are made for the job. A 75-300 hobbyist zoom won’t let you capture the sports images you and your customers want. The photos must be tack-sharp; you will only get that quality with an f/2.8 lens or better. By better, I mean a lens with a bigger maximum aperture, that is, a lower f/ number than 2.8.

If you shoot portraits, you need an f/2.8 zoom or a couple of prime lenses, like 50 and 85mm. Prime lenses ideally need to be f/1.8, 1.4, or even really expensive f/1.2 type. F/4 is okay, but they aren’t the same quality as the others.

I know that professional lenses are expensive, but you need to produce the best photos possible. They are tools of the trade.

If money is tight, start with a used 50mm 1.8 and make some money shooting portraits. Reinvest that money and gradually expand your equipment.


#6 – Knowing where to stand
Once I started thinking about where I was standing, my photos really improved. Don’t just walk up and start shooting. This is the same for all types of photography.

Let’s say you are taking some photos of a small child. They are sitting on a bench under a tree. You walk up and take some photos of the child looking up at the camera.

But, if you walked around the scene and checked out every angle, you might find a better composition.

Try getting down to the child’s level or lower, and avoid shooting down.

Check out what is in the background. Moving one step to the right or left might change the composition completely.

Considering your options will only take a minute, and your results will be way better.

Okay, last but not least is …

#7 – Light
This is your number one consideration as a photographer.

You need to think about where the light is coming from and what effect it has on your subject.

Your job as a photographer is to control the light, whether it’s blocking sunlight from hitting your subject or reflecting sunlight onto the subject.

You can buy a large 5-in-1 reflector kit from Neewer and Godox that measures 150cm x 200cm or 59” x 79”. You get white, black, gold, and silver reflectors and a transparent white one. I mention this because if you are shooting in natural light, it’s not easy to find a nice location with good light at the time you want to shoot.

This is where you need a scrim, a transparent white material that you put in between the sun and your subject. It acts like a softbox and diffuses the sunlight, putting a nice soft light onto the subject. The 59”x79” transparent white scrim in this kit will work great for family portraits in natural light.

If you want to take full control of the light and be able to shoot in any location at any time, you need to use flash.

When I started out, the thought of using flash scared me. But they really are easy to use. It made shooting weddings way easier, and my photos were more professional.

As I said, this is your number one consideration as a photographer: controlling the light.

Right, I hope you find those seven tips helpful and they speed up your photography journey.

Just a reminder that the Photoshop Course is available over at

If you would like to support the podcast, you can buy me a coffee through the link in the show notes or on the website.

Okay, I’ll be back next week with a softbox full of waffle, talk to you soon, bye.