Many people start off a new year with resolutions. Some are easy, some are hard. Some stick and some don’t. As a photographer we are no different, so I will not call them resolutions, but think of them as goals. These are 12 New Year's goals to make you a better photographer. It’s time to up your game.
Set some clear goals
Any good personal trainer will tell you that the first step to getting fit is to set some clear, tangible goals, and the same is true for your photographic fitness. Spend some time now thinking about what you’d like to accomplish throughout the year and that will give you something to focus on.
Share more (thoughtfully)
Social media has made sharing photos a very fundamental part of the photographic process, but it’s important that you consider what kind of sharing you should be doing. There are several facets to consider when revamping your photo sharing strategy. For some, the answer is to share more and build a following with interaction in order to raise their overall profile. For some, a good resolution is to be more careful when self-editing and only share work that they want seen. Another possible resolution is to simply reevaluate the current sharing strategy to figure out which platforms are really working, so they can become a primary focus.
If you want to keep it simple, resolve to sit down and look at how you’re currently sharing photos and really think about what you want to get out of it and how you can improve in that area.
Maintain your gear
We love our cameras, but many of us also have a tendency to take them for granted. After all, who wants to go through the trouble of putting everything away after a long day of shooting? But, you can’t do your best work if your gear isn’t in prime shape. Set up some best practices for keeping your stuff clean and serviced and don’t be afraid to get granular. Make a plan for keeping your batteries charged and your memory cards properly formatted.
Get your backups in order
Backing up your photos is one of the most tedious, but important parts of being a serious photographer. If you’re not prepared, a single accident or tragedy can literally wipe out years of work. You want to make sure that you have redundant copies of your photos, as well as another copy that lives somewhere else, like in the cloud or in a hard drive at a friend’s house. This is also a good time to check the health of your hard drives, which can often be done using the software that came with the drive when you bought it.
This should be the easiest resolution to stick to by a long shot. Get out there and use your camera. But this year, try to be more thoughtful and purpose-driven when you take the camera out of the bag. Pre-visualize your shots and dedicate your shooting time to honing the skills you really want to advance. You can take a million pictures in the coming year and not get any better if you’re not thinking about what you’re doing. Perfect practice makes perfect, as they say.
Get your gear lust under control
There are tons of new and awesome photography products hitting the market all the time, but new gear will only get you so far. Before buying a new piece of gear in the New Year, think about whether it will truly allow you to do things that you couldn’t with your current gear. Keep a written list of the gear you know you definitely want so you can work it into your budget and savings plans without getting sidetracked by flashy gadgets.
Print your photos
We look at tons of images on screens every single day, but we don’t print nearly as much as we used to. Looking at a photo as a physical object can give you a totally new perspective on the image, which can be a valuable learning tool. Making a large print of your photo will let you really examine its strengths and weaknesses.
Increasing your printing will also allow you to share your photography with others in a tangible way while helping to ensure that work you really like won’t languish forever unseen on one of your hard drives.
Network with other photographers
For professional photographers, networking is an essential part of running a successful business, but it can have a lot of value for enthusiast photographers as well. Find an active and supportive group of photographers you can bounce ideas around with and use to get insightful feedback. Online groups work, but finding a local camera club or other photography collective that meets in real life can be even more rewarding.
Stop comparing yourself to other photographers
A little friendly competition can be a good thing, but fixating on the work—or business success—of other photographers can be extremely toxic. Make a resolution not to be discouraged when other shooters book big jobs, win awards, or find financial success. Concentrate on your own skills and maximizing your own opportunities.
Learn some photographic history
Photographic history reaches back nearly 200 years and includes tons of extremely talented artists and fascinating scientists. Delving into photographic history can expose you to new styles and techniques that can fit nicely into your personal style. You don’t need to stick to your own specific genre, either. Just because you’re a portrait photographer, for instance, doesn’t mean you won’t get some valuable insight and context from researching iconic photojournalists.
Start a long-term project
Filling your schedule with individual shoots is great, but can become a grind when it comes to constantly coming up with new ideas. Having a long-term project to work on throughout the year helps ensure that you won’t get creatively stuck. Even if you can’t get out and shoot new photos for the project, you can work on the edit and plan future shoots. When planning your big project, have an idea of what you want the final product to look like, whether it’s a book, a gallery show, or just a collection of photos you want to hang in your home.
Enjoy the process
It’s easy to be results oriented, living and dying on the success or failure of our most recent pictures. But, this year make a resolution to be present in the photographic process and really enjoy it for what it is. It sounds a bit like new age hogwash, but if you find picking up your camera to be stressful instead of enjoyable, then something is wrong. Make time in this coming year to work on the fundamentals and shoot some photos that are just for you.