My first real camera (that I purchased by myself, for myself) was a Panasonic GH1 back in university. I remember taking loads of photos during campus functions, but it was totally hobby status; not a career. But I fell deeply in love with the hobby when I bought an adapter for a vintage 50mm Canon lens, which made my camera much more fun to use — especially for portraits. Then I kept on buying different lenses for that first camera and there was no looking back. My hobby had turned into a full-blown obsession.
Here's what I wish I'd known back then
Photography can really get to be an expensive hobby, especially when you haven’t developed your own particular style. I have plenty of lenses that I don't use anymore because I wound up gravitating to wide angle lenses for vlogging. I still dabble in long glass for portraits but it definitely isn't a priority for me anymore. Even that old Canon lens that I bought — the one that sold me on photography to begin with — is collecting dust because it's just too long for my purposes.
When it comes to focal length, sometimes simply moving your feet (instead of your wallet) can make all the difference. Take time to know your machine inside and out because there might be settings or practices that get the look you want... with no $$$ required.
Move it to M
As soon as you possibly can, move into manual modes so that you can understand the exposure triangle, focus settings and best practices for your needs. Knowing what settings work for your most frequent photo situations takes a lot of guesswork out of the process. You'll have a better idea of what lenses you might want in the future, how to get a desired "look" without too much trial and error, and (bonus!) you’ll be able to pick up most any camera and make it work for you.
Whether they're friends, colleagues or complete strangers you meet in a photo class or on a walk through the park, working alongside other photographers can step up your game in a big way. You learn different styles, get reminded of certain practices you could be neglecting, and — if nothing else — you'll have handy models for your photos so you don’t need to awkwardly snap strangers.
Shoot it all
Within reason, bring your camera with you everywhere; you never know when creativity will strike or when you'll be in a situation worth documenting. Capturing memories is always fun, and if you are taking photos all the time, you'll improve much more quickly.
Don't fall into the slums of complacency with your photography (or videography) — switch things up at least occasionally. Whether that means a new lens, a new environment or even just a slightly different shooting angle, any of these will flex your creative muscles and and might just unlock a brand new perspective.