What are the steps of starting amateur microscopy?

The are several ways in starting out a hobby, but I recommend the following steps.

  • Get yourself acquainted with the parts of a microscope. You will need to know the terminology before being able to understand Websites and Forums. You can either buy yourself introductory books about microscopy or try to find information on the Internet. Be aware that many published books that deal with microscopy are targeted to the research market and are therefore quite specific. Do not get bogged down on technical details but rather get a good overview.
  • Read some web forums that deal with amateur microscopy. Have a look at the videos and images so that you know what to expect to see when you look through a microscope. The forums will give you a good overview on the things that other people observe and on the different branches that characterizes amateur microscopy
  • Teach yourself proper microscope usage with the help of videos and reading materials.
  • Buy yourself a microscope. Fix your budget first and also be clear on your observation interests. Decide if you want to buy a stereo microscope or a compound microscope (or both). You need to match your budget with the desired capabilities of the microscope. Low cost devices can produce image qualities that are equal to expensive microscopes, but at the cost of modularity and lack of extensibility.
  • Find a microscope dealer who is specialized on selling microscopes. Do not buy used microscopes from private people, who have no experience with microscopy. Sometimes they do not even know what they are selling you and if the price is appropriate. And neither do you.
  • Try to find a natural history museum where they have microscopes on display for visitors to look through. Alternatively you might want to establish contact with educational institutions such as schools or colleges which have microscopes. Maybe you can obtain some advice there.
  • “Join a microscopy club” would be the easiest answer. The fact is, that there are not many of these around. Many Amateur microscopists network over the WWW to share pictures and information and I would recommend to join one of these forums.