While others are making resolutions to eat better and get more exercise, most photographers are making a list of resolutions to help make them better artists. Here are some ways you can start!
#1 Shoot Regularly
For some, this may mean shooting daily by taking on a 365 project. For others, a Project 52 with the goal of making one good image a week is more realistic. If there are seasons where you are less busy, try a “100 days” project where you shoot 100 Days of Winter or Summer or just about anything! Other ideas are 100 images of a child, capturing images of 100 things for which they you are thankful, or 100 self-portraits. One great way to make sure you shoot regularly? Take your camera with you whenever possible! Other great ways to take on projects are by going through guided books such as The Visual Toolbox: 60 Lessons for Stronger Photographs by David DuChhemin, Picture Perfect Practice by Roberto Valenzuela, or People Pictures: 30 Exercises for Creating Authentic Photographs by Chris Orwig. A camera bag that is easy to grab and go like the Manfrotto Windsor Backpack is a good choice to help you carry your gear safely wherever you go so that you can shoot more while being discrete.
#2 Seek Out Constructive Criticism
All photographers love to hear what others love about their images, but it’s not as easy to hear about flaws. Without learning about how you can improve, you never will. Seek out a more experienced photographer, whether it’s a friend, a photographer you admire, or a group online and ask for constructive criticism. Other experienced photographers will likely notice things in your images that you never did, identify your bad habits, and have great suggestions for how to improve your images going forward. There are also plenty of Facebook groups and local photography groups that offer critiques as well. Be open to suggestions! Even the best and most experienced photographers know that there is always room for improvement and are constantly seeking to better their work.
#3 Invest in Photography Education
While it is tempting to buy the next piece of gear on your wish-list, taking a great class will be a much better investment in your photography. CreativeLive is an excellent source for affordable, on-demand photography classes from industry leaders on just about every topic imaginable from the technical aspects of shooting and lighting to editing to just about every specialty imaginable from portraits to food to night photography to boudoir and experimental techniques. Another great place for education is Click Photo School that has forums where members can post images and ask questions and classes that start monthly where you can sign-up to receive individual feedback or follow along with the class as a silent participant. Classes range from everything to shooting indoors with natural light to creating stronger images through creative techniques.
#4 Don’t Overlook Editing
While it’s important to try to get as much as possible right in-camera, an important component of digital photography is learning how to edit. Adobe makes the post popular editing products available and everyone with a DSLR should own at least one. While Photoshop is the most well-known editing program, programs that are easier to use like Lightroom and Photoshop Elements are very powerful and used by many of the pros. Try an inexpensive quick-start class on Lightroom for Beginners or Photoshop Elements to get started. Or, if you are already an experienced photo editor dive deeper into Photoshop with any one of these classes. Editing regularly is just as important as shooting regularly!
#5 Get Your Gear Lust Under Control
There is always a new lens to buy or a more powerful camera body out there. While a good camera and sharp lens are indispensable tools for a photographer, great images can be made with nothing but a simple mobile phone if the photographer knows what he or she is doing with light, composition, color, moment, and editing techniques. Keep that in mind when you become convinced that a new (probably very expensive) piece of gear is all that is standing between you and amazing photos. A good rule of thumb to follow is to invest in new gear only when you can clearly articulate how your current gear is limiting your work. If you simply cannot get great night shots because of camera shake, then it is probably time to invest in a good tripod like the Manfrotto 190 Go!. If you are becoming an avid landscape photographer, then you may need to invest in wide-angle lens. Where possible, rent great before buying to ensure the gear you want is actually something you need.
#6 Learn Something New
Keep photography fun by learning something new. Learning Night and Start Photography or learning about micro photography for flowers and plants will help you learn more about how you can push your gear and reenergize you for the year ahead. Or, experiment with a new creative lens like a Lensbaby. If you need help with something specific, like posing, take a class that will help you learn what’s missing from your arsenal.
#7 Connect with Other Photographers
Taking on photography can be daunting! Connect with other photographers either locally or online who can help answer your questions when you get stuck, who enjoy talking shop as much as you do, and with whom you can share information about great resources or shooting locations. Chances are most of your friends will tune out as soon as they hear the word “aperture” so find your tribe!
#8 Print Your Photos
It is all too easy to simply allow photos to languish on your hard-drive, but photos were meant to be printed. If you have an empty wall, thing about ways to fill it with your photos! If you need décor for your kitchen, print some photos of fruit of your favorite foods. Frame family photos for the living room. Look back on your photos from the year and create a photobook. If you have photos of friends or family that they love, print them out to give as gifts throughout the year. Skip the “prints in an hour” labs and go for a quality lab like Mpix if you don’t have a pro lab to ensure your photos look their best.
#9 Share Your Work
Even if you think your photographs aren’t “good enough,” go out on a limb and share your photographs. Post on social media, where you will find your audience, or share only with family and friends. Sharing will give the motivation you need to keep going and to keep improving.
#10 Appreciate Other Artists
Look at other artists’ work to gain an appreciation for how they approach their art. Don’t look just to other photographers, but visit art museums to study the masters, listen to great music for inspiration, and turn to movies for more ideas on storytelling and composition. Think about what you like about other visual art that you see to learn more about your own voice and style. Are you drawn to certain colors? Do paintings with strong geometric shapes draw you in? Can you sit in front of moody low-light photos for hours? Once you determine what you are drawn to, you can start incorporating those elements you’re your own work more regularly to create image after image that you love. Inspiration can strike at any time and be sure to be open to it when it does!
Have a great year – and whatever you do, be sure to take on resolutions that will get you committing to shooting more and growing as a photographer.