So You Want to Learn Photography in Retirement?

Couple Hiking Taking Pictures

Taking Up Photography Later in Life

Perhaps you have always wanted to learn more about photography but you’ve never had the time. So, now you’re retired and suddenly you have lots of extra time to cultivate a hobby that you can really enjoy and have a lot of fun with!

Photography has been described as “painting with light.” Certainly, any visual artist will tell you the tools of the trade are important.

If you want to get into photography in a serious way, here are two basic guidelines:

  • Keep it simple: Avoid what is commonly referred as GAS (gear acquisition syndrome). You really don’t need the best, most expensive equipment on the market to achieve quality results. In actually fact, the most important piece of equipment is the person holding the camera!
  • Ditch the cell phone: Despite claims by one of the larger manufactures, serious photographers do not use cell phones as their primary camera. They do have their uses, but producing spectacular pictures isn’t one of them.

Next you’ll want to select a camera that has some minimal features:

  • Manual selection of exposure modes: Aperture, shutter speed, film speed (also known as ISO speed).
  • Selectable auto-focus mode: You need to be able to override the AF (auto-focus) mechanism to select a specific object to focus on. For example, you have a crowded room and want to single out one person. Where generic auto-focus will select several random points to align with, you really want a single point you control and align with the person you want.
  • Simplicity of picture retrieval: Some cameras will support Wi-Fi, some even support automatic offload to a cloud service (e.g. Dropbox). In this case, you don’t have to even think about offloading your pictures. Others provide simple-to-use software in order to make retrieval/storage of your photographs very easy; just make sure the software is compatible with your home computer.
  • Ability to support an external flash: This is really the only way to get rid of dreaded red-eye and the best way to photograph in low-light conditions. An external flash is also essential when photographing in some common, challenging lighting situations such as outdoors in the bright sun with sharp shadows. In this case, you should use a powerful flash to “fill in” the dark shadows, which gives more even lighting.

Other Considerations

Interchangeable Lenses Versus Zoom Lenses

Modern zoom lenses allow extremes anywhere, from cases like wide-angle photographs of landscapes or large groups, to capturing an amazing close-up of something like a wild animal you can’t practically get really close to.

All that being said, interchangeable lenses do offer better optics, if you are looking to get really serious with your shots.

Rechargeable Versus Standard Batteries

Rechargeables are by far the most environmentally-friendly option. They also offer a better high current discharge rate (i.e. allow faster flash cycles, so you can take another picture in less time). However, not all cameras come with or can support rechargeable batteries.

DSLR Cameras Versus Mirrorless Cameras

While DSLR (digital-single-lens-reflex) cameras do tend to offer better functions, don’t rule out higher-end mirrorless cameras (they used to be known as “point-and-shoot”).

On the other hand, the big advantage of a DSLR camera is you’ll always be viewing exactly what is being captured by looking through the lens, even in the brightest sunlight conditions. This is something that can’t be said for any camera that depends on you looking at a display.

Now that you’ve picked a camera suitable for your needs, don’t be afraid to experiment with it. Don’t just find the most convenient automatic setting and leave it there.

The beauty of a digital camera is you can easily take hundreds of photographs and try out the various modes and exposures that your camera supports.

Many free online courses are available to guide you through the science and art of making a good photograph in the many environmental conditions you may encounter. Enjoy!