Let’s face it, it’s the new year. Your heart is full of hope and your head is bursting with ideas on what you want to do this year, be a better photographer, and how you will go about executing it. You have so much hope in your heart that you will achieve your all your 2018 goals, that you walk around with a goofy smile plastered on your face!
Am I right or am I right? Or have I just described how I have been feeling ever since that clock struck midnight and we ushered in 2018!?
It is 2018 and let’s start the year right with a few simple, easy yet powerful things you can do if one of your goals is to become a better photographer in the next 12 months.
1. Rock the gear you currently own without buying more
Do you feel limited by the gear you own? Are you telling yourself you really need to upgrade your camera, lens or both? Great! you are exactly where I need you to be.
Challenge yourself to use your existing gear consistently for a few weeks or months. Try to get creative with what you already have instead of hitting purchase on that gear that is sitting in your cart or Amazon checkout.
2. Photograph in every possible lighting situation
I really believe there is no such thing as bad light. Light is light – it is just different at different times of the day and night. One of the best ways to understand light is to photograph in different lighting situations and challenge yourself to create something unique and different that you are proud of.
Each lighting situation will demand different things from you and your gear. Harsh midday sun will have you rethinking shadows and light. Early morning light or golden hour will have you thinking of ways to create magical images that highlight that golden light. Blue hour may challenge you to bring out the external flash so you can get creative with colors.
Use this exercise to really understand and make the most out of each scenario.
3. Treat every subject as a rock star
Not every subject is going to be your ideal client. Until you are in a position to only attract your ideal clients, use every opportunity to work towards building your portfolio for your ideal clients. Each client deserves to be treated like they are rock stars. So it is your duty as a photographer to give them the best experience possible – be it in posing, editing, styling or general customer service.
4. Deliberately limit yourself
Today’s DSLR cameras are quite sophisticated pieces of equipment with multiple shutter clicks per second (continuous) and creative photographic modes (Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority) that do a lot of the work for you.
Instead of using those, I challenge you to limit yourself. Think like a film camera photographer and only use 24 or 36 frames to tell your story. Change to Manual mode and try to figure out how shutter speed, IS, and aperture really work to help you take more control of your photography.
5. Take an art class
This has nothing to do with photography, yet at the same time, it has everything to do with it. Sometimes stepping away from the thing that we love the most or obsess about can be a really good thing. I have found art, particularly drawing and painting, to be very therapeutic and relaxing. It also gives me a chance to look at creativity with a new lens. As I analyze shapes, sizes and brush strokes – I look at color, patterns and composition in a new light.
6. Study your camera’s manual
I remember taking a technical writing class in graduate school where we had to create a user manual for a product. It was one of the hardest classes I have ever taken because we really had to think as a layman user to design, craft and write the manual. It made me realize that manuals, if done correctly, are incredibly powerful learning tools because they really break down every aspect of the product individually as well as collectively. So don’t be so quick to throw away the camera manual – it might be just the thing you need to really understand the workings of your camera.
7. Use a traditional film camera
This ties in to point number four above. A film camera is a great way to learn the manual mode of photography because it really makes you think about light, exposure, ISO, and aperture to produce a good, clean image. Also, there is no chimping at the back of the camera screen so you really have to slow down and think of the photo you are trying to produce and then click the shutter.
You have a limited amount of frames per film role and have the additional cost of developing and scanning your pictures at the end of the day. All these factors make you a more intentional photographer as opposed to a “spray and pray” photographer (one who takes several pictures in automatic mode and hopes that at least one will work in his/her favor).
8. Study the work of other photographers
I am sure you have a lot of photographers that you really look up to for various reasons – how they compose, how they handle difficult lighting situations, how they interact with their subjects or even how they run successful photography businesses. Follow them, study how they do things, figure out what makes them tick and how they succeed, and use those ideas to reflect in your own road to improving your photography.
9. Experiment with new techniques
Contrary to popular belief, I feel that photography is not something that you can study in a limited amount of time and then say you are an expert in this field. The field is constantly evolving and expanding and there is always something new to learn.
Become a student no matter what your level of experience and be open to learning new and exciting things in this art of form. It is sure to bring forth much progress in your craft overall.
10. Evaluate your own work with a critical eye
Really think about what the work you are producing. Before asking for critiques, refer back to your work and figure out what you like and don’t like in your own work. Chances are you will find several things to add to that list.
Also don’t be quick to delete photos you may not like right now. Wait for a few days to look back and assess all your images. You are more likely to find some new favorites among photos that you previously thought were not correct or worthwhile.
I hope these 10 tips really helped shift your mindset a little bit towards your photography. Hold on tight to that feeling of being invincible that often comes with the new year and use it to the best of your abilities to better your skill and craft.
Tell us about your photography goals for this year in the comments below.