The New Year is a time for many to rethink their goals. Many of you have made New Years Resolutions to achieve certain goals this year. I personally am not a huge fan of resolutions – they speak in absolutes and are often quite dramatic. A resolution might be to lose 50 pounds, or to run a marathon (when said person hasn’t run more than a mile in 15 years). They are often unattainable goals, and you let yourself down if such resolutions aren’t achieved. Think smaller. Think bite-sized and attainable. Set a long-term goal that doesn’t necessarily have to be achieved in a specific amount of time, and then set smaller goals and milestones that lead up to that goal. But goals aren’t enough. You’ll also have to remind yourself to keep yourself on track throughout the year.
As a photographer, no matter what skill level, I expect that you have set some goals for yourself for the year. Photography is a technical artistic medium, and it is very easy to get lost in the data and procedures. For that reason, it is important to start with a clear mind. Let’s kill the misconceptions and apply well practiced beliefs right from the very start. Here’s a list of tips that will help you to achieve your goals in photography, no matter what they are. Print it up or generate your own list and stick it in your wallet, or keep it posted on your memo board or fridge. Remind yourself often.
- Get Active – There is no better way to improve your skills than to continue to practice. So carry your camera as often as possible and get out there and shoot. Shoot often – even if it means setting aside 15 minutes a day to walk around the neighborhood with your camera.
- Get Involved – You’ll be amazed what feedback will do to your motivation. But you won’t get any unless you’re putting yourself out there. Join a community, start a Photo 365 Project or join a local photography group.
- Equipment Matters Little – You’ve heard me say it a dozen times, and you’ve heard it from other sources. I don’t care what you’re using, you can alway learn to use it more effectively. Take a look at Chase Jarvis’s project ,The Best Camera – photos taken with iPhones. That’s proof enough you can do incredible things with considerably poor photography equipment.
- Upgrade Only When Appropriate – This is somewhat related to the prior point. Sometimes the smallest upgrades make the biggest difference. Worry less about your camera or camera body, or even the lenses. Look into reflectors, extension tubes, filters or even a good camera bag instead. The goal is to make your photography simpler, and a camera upgrade may not do that. Only upgrade when you can no longer do what you want.
- Set Detail Oriented Tasks – You need to narrow the focus of your goals and milestones. This means you need to break it down into smaller chunks. Set specific tasks for specific intervals of time. For example, maybe shoot nothing but 50mm for a week, or shoot nothing but portraits for a week. This type of interval practice will not only help you to improve these specific tasks, but will have an impact overall.
- Experiment – Dabble in areas outside your comfort zone. One learns the most from experience and exposure to things unknown. So if you really want to grow exponentially, you have to go into those uncharted territories.
- Embrace Failure – Scientists will tell you that most of the time, their experiments fail. But it is from such failures that they learn. Contrary to what you may believe, failure is an essential part of our lives and we cannot succeed at anything worthwhile without first attempting and failing in some minor way. So learn to embrace and think positively about failure.
- Examine Your Work – You are your own best critic, so you might as well take advantage of that. You will be able to find some flaw in nearly every one of your photos if you can think subjectively. Put pride aside and identify aspects of photos that you’d like to improve. And then try again.
- Examine the Works of Others – Inspiration is best derived from someone or something other than yourself. In the digital age, there’s no excuse not to find the works of others. Don’t focus on the famous. Just focus on photos that are appealing to you. Figure out why, and see if you can create tasks or experiments to mimic that feeling in your own work.
- Eliminate Bad Photos Early – No use dwelling on photos that may never turn into anything. Analyze the failures, get out of it what you can, and get rid of them. If a photo sits in your workflow for too long, it will cut down on your efficiency and time. We don’t want that. If you aren’t initially struck by a specific photo, it’s probably not worth keeping. So delete them before they linger too long. You don’t want to develop unwarrented emotional attachments with photos that aren’t deserving. Still stuck? We wrote an article about this topic.
- Just Do It – Oh, you’ve heard this one before? Is this too similar to “Get Active” (above)? That’s because it’s the most important point here, and I cannot mention it enough. You need to get out. You need to shoot. If you’re shooting digital, all the better – no waste. If you used to shoot 20 photos a month, aim to shoot 40. Aim to shoot as much as possible.