By Theresa St. John in Saratoga Springs, NY
I grew up with four sisters in a small rural town in Massachusetts. Mom was a stay-at-home 1950s wife, and dad worked two jobs to pay the bills.
They always found time for us, though. I remember spending hours in the kitchen with my mother, learning how to cook recipes passed down through the generations. Our time together was precious.
Dad worked a gazillion hours—it was harder to find time alone with him. The five of us figured that out early. He loved model airplanes, which three of my sisters found interesting and began helping him build.
He also loved to fish. Another sister spent time hunched over lures and rods, catching and skinning their catch for dinner in the warmer months.
And then there was me. At 4 years old, I was curious, running around the yard on chubby little legs. I noticed that my father was always out with his camera. I would watch him catch big, ugly bugs or beautiful butterflies in glass jars. He’d bring them home, pinning them to a big board, photographing them for a science project he was in charge of at work.
When he saw me express an interest, he bought me my first camera: a Brownie. He didn’t understand that I couldn’t have cared less about photography—I just wanted to spend time with my dad.
My love for the craft grew, though. Over time, we’d photograph flowers, the family, landscapes, our animals. I learned about composition, the rule-of-thirds, and more of the technical stuff a photographer needs to know.
As a kid, I taught him more about relaxing, having fun with our cameras, taking images from different angles to make them more interesting than the straight-on shots he was fond of taking.
Here are some reasons I think everyone should try their hand at photography, even if there’s no affinity from the get-go.
1. You can start your love affair with photography at any age, with any camera.
Some people are quick to say, “Yes, but you’ve been photographing things since you were 4!” And? Honestly, it doesn’t matter. People can begin capturing life around them at any age—with a cellphone, point-and-shoot, full-frame, or DSLR.
2. Photography encourages you to learn about the world around you.
There’s nothing better than learning about the world around us. It makes our lives bolder, and drags in color and emotion we might not have noticed before. Having a camera in hand when you travel—whether it’s downtown recording an annual event, taking photographs of family and friends, or standing in some far-flung destination—helps us learn about culture, people, and the environment around us.
3. Photography makes you slow down and notice details.
Modern life—at least in normal circumstances—can be pretty hectic. Every waking moment seems full of to-do lists for all of us. We rush from one thing to the next, always wishing there were more hours in our day. For me, photography helps slow down the craziness. If I’m out with my camera, it’s easier to focus on moments. I can concentrate on capturing the best image. I start to notice things around me more, becoming calm inside.
4. You get to take someone with you.
Frequently, a picture you capture with your camera helps tell a story. I might take a series of photos that helps show how I feel about, say, the power of a lighthouse. The images might include an early morning sky, or a thunderstorm with jagged streaks of lightning brightening up the darkness, or a clear day with boats sailing in and out of the harbor.
5. Taking photos teaches you to have fun.
I have learned that photography isn’t all about mastering the technical aspects; it’s more about having fun practicing to get the shot. Don’t take it so seriously. Take photos of people acting natural, not posed, kids being silly, not staged. Be spontaneous.
6. Every culture understands photography.
Another awesome thing about photography is that it speaks to everyone. Even if you’re in another country and can’t speak their language, if you see an image, you can most often understand what the photographer is trying to say. It can be of a beautiful landscape, a baby crying, someone standing in line at the food pantry, an old couple holding hands—if the message is clear, you’ll be able to figure it out.
7. Last but not least, you can make money at it!
Today there are so many ways we can make money with our love of photography. Whether we choose fine art, stock photography, conceptual or astrophotography, black and white, environmental, or humanitarian images, there’s a market for all of us.
Don’t wait a minute longer. Grab a camera and find out how you feel about this art form. Whether it’s a hobby or a passion, you’ll have fun finding out.