It's not about the camera.
Credit: Photograph by Ant Green

The first assumption of any budding shutterbug is that the magic comes from the equipment. There's certainly an ounce of truth to that – great lenses do take great shots – but Steinmetz cautions that you can't buy your way to photographer status. "I find this obsession with camera brands persistently astounding," Steinmetz says. "Nobody ever asked a great writer, 'What software do you use? What keyboard do you use?' Because it really doesn't matter. The important thing is to be in control of your medium first, and that means learning the craft."

Steinmetz says that whether you stick with a point-and-shoot or upgrade to a more advanced camera, you should be sure to get one with manual controls for shutter speed, ISO rating, and aperture. Then actually take the time to learn how to use them comfortably. "It's important not to get something where there are just a whole lot of automated features. It's nice to use those from time to time, but you want manual control."