I didn't grow up knowing that I would be a photographer. I thought that I would become a famous writer. And although I am a writer--not so famous--I have taken to photography with the same amount of passion I have for writing.
I was about 20 years old when I bought my first point-and-shoot camera from Best Buy. I didn't know anything about photography aside from learning my father took a few baby pictures of me, that for a time, I thought they were taken by a professional photographer. I just wanted to take pictures; I was fascinated.
As I got older, I started to take shooting pictures more seriously. I graduated from taking amateur pictures of flowers and birds (not that these types of pictures are less valuable or meaningful) to playing with lighting, buying camera bodies, lighting kits, and lenses. I didn't go to a well-known school for photography nor did I intern under a master photographer. I never had a mentor, either. Like a lot of professions, photography is competitive, and whatever secret magic photographers think they have to overshadow their competition, they keep it tight to the vest.
The secret magic to photography is passion. My career has been a lot of trial and error, reading and researching, and approaching opportunities with creative drive and humility. When people ask me advice about photography, I am always open to telling them anything I know that will help them grow in their craft. But perhaps, the best advice I can give to any photographer: just shoot. The best camera body or top-of-the-line lens doesn't make you a photographer any more than an expensive laptop makes someone a writer. Find a camera, learn everything about it, throw passion behind it and make magic.