The new year brings New Year’s resolutions, and for photographers these commitments are a great way to set the right tone for the coming year to achieve the goals you have. While consistency might be the buzzword for all of the items on this top ten list, everything from DSLR lenses to film SLR cameras also shows up.
1. Start a big, long-term project with weekly or monthly milestones.
The best way to make yourself more consistent is with a large goal comprised of several smaller, more proximate goals. Giving yourself hard deadlines and tangible milestones will ensure you consistently attempt new things and push yourself, while also producing one impressive product at the end to show for all your hard work.
2. Slow down to “read” and learn from the photos you see that evoke a reaction.
With all the photos we see online and in the media every day, we have countless examples to learn from photos that are powerful and those that fall flat. If you slow down and analyze why you like or dislike photos, you can learn a lot about what makes photos good for different contexts.
3. Push yourself to learn a new photographic technique.
Whether you find something on a photo blog, from a photo you see, in a class, or reading about photography techniques, learning more specific skills requires practice and focus. Early in the year you should identify one skill or technique that you really like and which meshes well with your style. Then push yourself to work on it all year.
4. Review photos from a “session” more effectively.
Digital photography leads to taking more photos and keeping more junk photos in backup. Committing to process of reviewing them, more closely and in one sitting, enables you to throw away unnecessary photos and to evaluate your work, identifying the photos that worked and those that turned out poorly. This process makes learning and improving much easier and more constructive.
5. Research and practice to actually work on weaknesses you identify through review.
This is less explicit, but the idea is simply to identify weaknesses, identify proven strategies to work on them, and then spend the time to improve. Most people who make good on this resolution come up with a clearer way to measure it, such as photo project that requires them to take actual photos towards a long-term goal, and on in which they won’t succeed unless the directly address certain weaknesses. This resolution is like saying “get better at photography,” but focuses on the how of that goal.
6. Learn to edit and improve at editing your photos.
Digital photos make editing easy, so it’s time to take advantage. We all take OK photos that we could cheat and sweeten with a photo editor. Dedicate time to learning how to do so. Even if you just figure out how to crop your photos and deal with the overexposed portions you’ll end up able to salvage what would otherwise end up deleted. Depending on your goals, that could be a perfectly legitimate way to get some beautiful wall art that you can look upon with pride and enjoy the memory of the photo.
7. Organize your photos into an intuitive, navigable folder system.
You have how many gigs of photos on your hard drive? Unless your photos are organized well, going through them to find the ones you want to print or use for some other project will be a huge hassle, not to mention the difficulty of winnowing out duplicates and bad shots if you haven’t already uncluttered. Take the time to organize your photos in an intuitive way, such as by year, by month, and then by date, event or subject, and location, and finding them later will be much easier. After all, one of the best things about photos is getting to enjoy them later, but you can’t do that if you can’t find them.
8. Back up photos on a hard drive and the cloud more regularly after sorting.
Once you’re photos are organized and you’re in the process of reviewing and purging, you can get into a regular and reliable backup habit. Most people who care about their photos advocate two backups: one on an external hard drive and one on a cloud service. This isn’t free and it is time consuming, but it ensures that neither hacker, nor virus, nor house fire will rob you of your irreplaceable photographs.
9. Explore the range and sweet spots of less-used gear.
Whether you just have a kit lens that you’ve grown comfortable with or you don’t ever rotate between DSLR lenses, if you’re like most photographers you have gear you aren’t using to its full potential. Take some time to read up on your camera body and all of your lenses, then practice using them with their “sweet spot” settings to achieve your other photography goals. This point of this resolution is to stop forcing camera equipment to do jobs for which it wasn’t designed and instead get familiar with each component’s strengths.
10. Contribute to a website/start a blog/update your blog on a regular schedule
There’s nothing better than external accountability to make you do something. Promising a regular contribution to a photo website or starting your own blog and owing your readers adds extra pressure to develop your style and skill, if only by virtue of having to regularly produce new photos worthy of publication. Add that this can help you work to find a focus or theme, which is a great way to avoid running into the problem of struggling to find content, and you benefit a great deal just from the act of contributing.
These are just 10 of the best Near Year’s photography resolutions that can help you do more with your amateur love of photography. Try one or more to get better photos and improve, whether or not you take the time to invest in new DSLR lenses.