I have a confession to make. My hobby sometimes annoys people. Sometimes, it causes me to stop in the middle of a pedestrian crosswalk. Sometimes it irritates people at neighboring tables in bars. Sometimes it makes me pull off to the side of the road when I'm on my way to an appointment. My hobby is really more of an obsession than a hobby.
Calling myself a photography buff would be putting it mildly. While I work part-time as a professional photographer, my hobby photography is a whole different world. When I'm on a job, I use a 35mm film camera and spend time adjusting for light levels and exposures. I change lenses, f-stops, and apertures with a professional frown. When it comes to hobby photography, however, all bets are off.
When I'm shooting photos for fun, I use a sturdy little digital camera. It has to be sturdy, because just as some women never leave the house without a hairbrush or a tube of lipstick in their purses, I never leave without my camera. If I'm not carrying a purse, it gets shoved into a pocket or slung around my wrist. My camera is battered beyond belief, but it still shoots like a champ. It has to be tough to live with me.
My friends are used to my photography. They will meet me for coffee with the resigned acceptance of those who know what is coming. They know that just as they raise their cups for the first sip they will be greeted with a rapid clicking as I capture them gulping the hot liquid. They know that sometimes, if we drive somewhere, I will see a tree that I just have to go back to, and sometimes I will drive a quarter mile backwards to find it.
My hobby has yielded unexpected results. I've had strangers start friendly conversations when they see me standing on the corner snapping away. I've also captured many priceless moments in time that would have been lost forever had I not had a camera handy and a penchant for using it. Because I have a photograph of the moment, I will never forget the look on my fiance's face when I presented him with a beagle puppy for his birthday. Other people might have focused on yelling Surprise! or making sure the puppy didn't wet on the floor. But I was there with a camera in hand, and his astonished expression as the puppy jumped up and licked his face (and wet in his lap, I might add) is ours forever to keep.
If you're thinking about carrying a camera around for a few days and seeing if it develops (pun wholly intended) into a hobby, I have a few suggestions. The first one is to use a digital. I don't particularly prefer digital photography, but a digital camera is hands-down the winner when it comes to rapid-fire shooting at inopportune moments. And trust me- there will be lots of moments. Sometimes you will have to fight the urge to whip out your camera when the light slants just right. And if you don't fight the urge, if you do get it out, you want to make sure you can shoot quickly before the light changes position or the kitty walks away or the baby stops smiling.
Another important tip is not to be afraid of the photo. When people see you taking pictures of random objects, believe it or not, they usually don't look at you as though you're crazy (although it has happened to me, particularly when I was crouched down in front of a trash can taking shot after shot of various angles). For the most part, they assume that you are on assignment from an art magazine, or that you are from a newspaper, and they leave you alone. If nothing else, they assume you're an eccentric artist. And carrying around a reputation like that is way more fun than it sounds.
Finally, don't keep your photos to yourself. One of the major joys of keeping a constant photo record of my days is sharing it with friends, family, and anyone who might be interested. There are lots of photo websites online that let you share photo streams for free. Even if you don't plan on making your photos public, uploading them will give you a place to keep them all for your own future enjoyment... and it'll also let you clear out your memory card in preparation for more shooting.