What Is Photography?
Photography is the art of capturing light with a camera, usually via a digital sensor or film, to create an image. With the right camera equipment, you can even photograph wavelengths of light invisible to the human eye, including UV, infrared, and radio.
The first permanent photograph was captured in 1826 (some sources say 1827) by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in France. It shows the roof of a building lit by the sun. You can see it reproduced below:
What Is the Bare Minimum Gear Needed for Photography?
Camera. If you buy a dedicated camera (rather than a phone), pick one with interchangeable lenses so that you can try out different types of photography more easily. Read reviews, but don’t obsess over them, because everything available today is pretty much equally good as its competition. Find a nice deal and move on.
Lenses. This is where it counts. For everyday photography, start with a standard zoom lens like a 24-70mm or 18-55mm. For portrait photography, pick a prime lens (one that doesn’t zoom) at 35mm, 50mm, or 85mm. For sports, go with a telephoto lens. For macro photography, get a dedicated macro lens. And so on. Lenses matter more than any other piece of equipment because they determine what photos you can take in the first place.
Post-processing software. One way or another, you need to edit your photos. It’s ok to start with software already on your computer, or software that comes with your camera. But in the long run, a dedicated program will do a better job. Adobe sells Lightroom and Photoshop as a bundle for $10/month, or you can buy standalone software from another company if you prefer; there are tons of options. Whatever you pick, stick with it for a while, and you’ll learn it quite well.