11 New Year’s Resolutions for Photographers

In Features by Brad Goestsch2 Comments

Regardless of where we stand in our photography, there is always something we can do a little better. And, let’s face it, those typical cliché New Year’s resolutions like, “lose some weight” or “stick to my budget” are doomed to failure before we even hit January 1. So, perhaps we should focus our efforts on something that is more likely to capture our interest. Enter New Year's Resolutions for Photographers. If you’re struggling with inspiration when it comes to picking a New Year’s resolution that fits you as a photographer, I hope you find the following list helpful…

1. Shoot More

This is probably the easiest item to add to the list and makes the most sense, especially for those of us who focus on photography as a hobby. If you’re going through your Lightroom catalog for the past year to work on your annual #phototacotopten, and you realize that you would have a lot more to choose from if you had just gotten out to shoot a little more, then this resolution is right for you.

What this means for you may be different than for others, so keep things in perspective and always look inward. I saw one person on social media excited that they increased their photographic production to over 4,000 frames in 2017, while another person lamented that they only took 21,000 exposures during the course of the year.

2. Shoot Less

This one is a lot less obvious than (and may seem to contradict) #1, but I think will resonate with many of you. The idea here is to eliminate some of the “spray and pray” that we are all guilty of from time to time.

Slow down, work on your process and “create” an image rather than “try to capture” an image. Focusing on your artistic process can take you miles in your photography.

The focal point of my own resolution in the coming year is to do both number 1 and 2 in large part. Get out and shoot more but at the same time be more methodical and deliberate in the way that I work in the field to try to create greater images without so much of the “spray and pray”.

In capturing this image, I tried to go slow and focus on what I wanted the result to be. I wanted to make sure the exposure was very long, showing the sun setting a bit and blurring the clouds. Canon 6D; EF 24-105 f/4L; 25″ f/18; ISO100. 10 stop ND filter

3. Improve Your Business

If you’re a photographer who recently (or not so recently) started your own business, then this is the resolution for you! If you’re pursuing the dream of making your passion into something that can financially support you/you and your family, I applaud you! It’s hard work, no doubt but well worth it.

For many photographers, the winter months represents a slow time in the season, so now is likely a perfect time to go over your business model and consider ways to improve. Improvements can come in many forms:

  • Better marketing strategies
  • More efficient workflows
  • Improved accounting/expense management
  • Sell off some gear you don’t use and learn how to do more with less
  • Invest in new gear that is likely to help you produce better work and increase your bottom line
  • Anything else you identify in your day to day business

4. Try Something New

If you haven’t found yourself in the bottom of a photography rut, you will. If one of your own ruts has aligned itself with the new year, now is the perfect time to resolve to pull yourself out of said rut.

One of the best ways that I have ever found to do that is to try something totally new. Something new can come in many forms. Always shoot portraits? Try landscape. Always shoot landscape and dislike portraits? Try macro. Troll Pinterest, Instagram, 500px or Improvephotography.com for some inspiration and break that funk!

I recently had the opportunity to shoot with an infrared converted camera that a friend loaned to me to try out. I found that my curiosity and my creativity spiked dramatically once I had this new type of photography at my fingertips. As a bonus—the best time for infrared photography is midday which would allow for a new time in which to shoot and thus offering a possible approach to resolution #1. Infrared converted cameras can be rented from lensrentals.com.

Captured using an infrared converted camera (715nm) Canon 5D MK II, EF 17-40 f/4L. 40mm 1/200″; f/7.1; ISO125  I have fallen in love with the infrared look, especially in monochrome.

5. Start/Complete a “Photo Project”

Photo projects have been on my mind for quite a while now. I think they are an intriguing way to encourage yourself to get out and shoot more. They also serve as a powerful tool in giving your photography some special meaning.

Projects can come in many forms. Some examples are:

  • Themes (shooting one color for example)
  • Shooting for a charitable cause (portraits of pets at a local animal shelter to help get them adopted, etc.)
  • Taking on a project 365 (or 52)—See resolutions 1 and 2
  • Telling a story from start to finish
  • Showcasing something previously unseen
  • Anything else you can think of!

The key to photo projects is finding something that will keep your interest and push your creativity. Keep in mind that many of the most successful photo projects span multiple years, so perhaps the resolution is to just find a meaningful project and a resolution for the future might be to finish that project. Creating a book (whether or not it goes to a publisher) is a great way to organize and display a photo project.

For me, the 2017 Eclipse was a photo project. I started planning in 2011 and had a shot like this in mind. Canon 70D; Tamron 160-600 G2. 4 shot exposure blend to show details including “Earth shine” on the Moon.

6. Learn a New System

Learning a new manufacturer’s camera system can be a beneficial way to improve your photography. I am not intending for this to become a debate over which camera brand is king and which one(s) don’t deserve to be part of a serious discussion because I think such fanboyism is not helpful.

I am more focused on the idea that trying a new system will force you to slow down and think about what you are doing and why you are doing it. As a result, you will be more focused on your process in creating an image. The best way I know of to try a new system is to rent it for a while. So, you’ve always wanted to try shooting with a Hasselblad? Give it a go! (just make sure you insure it)

A bonus to this resolution—You will become knowledgeable in that system! One of the things I love to do with my photography is teach workshops. It is unusual for every attendee to show up with the same system I shoot, so knowing how to shoot manipulate the other systems is very beneficial!

7. Learn a New Process

Learning a new approach or process is a great way to breathe new life into your photography (or even resuscitate it depending on how bad it is). A new process can be as simple as finally learning how to dodge and burn or a little more advanced such as incorporating luminosity masks into your workflow.

This doesn’t have to be relegated to the world of post-processing as it can be something you focus on in-camera. Ideas here might be: composition, focus stacking or even just learning a proper way to bracket shots to extend dynamic range.

If you’re looking for a great source of ideas for new processes or approaches, I highly recommend IP+. It is a true treasure-trove of helpful tutorials, ideas and ways to improve your photography. Every time I visit the site, I walk away with new ideas and inspiration!

I spent some time over the past year working on adding sky replacements to my Photoshop abilities. Complex foregrounds make for a fun challenge.

8. Re-Discover Your Photography Passion

In today’s world, it is far too easy to get distracted and lose sight of the reasons you picked up a camera to begin with. Take some time to re-focus on your photography passion and you will find that it will pay you dividends.

Think back to when you first fell in love with the craft. What were you shooting? What made you enjoy it? If you’ve taken the plunge and made photography your full-time gig, this is an extremely important resolution for you.

This image is from my early days. Taken in the Summer of 2004 in Grand Haven, MI. Looking at my early work always inspires me and reminds me why I have always loved photography. Canon Elan7E; EF 75-300. Kodak Film ISO400

9. Master an Area That Needs Work

No matter how long you have been chasing the light with camera in-hand, chances are, there is some aspect of the art that you need to work on. The key is going to be pinpointing that weakness. My single best tip is finding a mentor that you trust to help you to figure out what that trouble area is so you can attack it head on.

In finding this mentor, you want to make sure that you find someone who isn’t going to simply state that your images are perfect and awesome just the way they are but rather one who will be constructively critical. Constructive criticism should come with a solution and not just a judgement.

For those of you on IP+, you are probably already aware of the portfolio reviews that Jim does on occasion for members. Before I was writing on the site, I took advantage of one of these sessions and I was completely blown away by the helpfulness of it! If you haven’t taken advantage of this in the past, I strongly recommend it!

One of my portfolio images presented during a review with Jim Harmer. I loved the image in color as I presented it and Jim made the simple suggestion that I try it in Black and White, something that hadn't crossed my mind. That suggestion and change cemented this image as one of my all time favorites.

10. Find Friends to Shoot With

Perhaps a person or persons to shoot with is all you really need to get out and make better photographs while having fun doing it. When shooting with fellow photographers, you will find that the creative juices flow a little more freely and ideas bounce around like crazy. You will be less stuck in your own ways as you talk with others about how they are approaching the shoot and you will learn new things. As a bonus, you will most likely have a positive impact on those around you as well. Everybody wins!

Chances are that there are people in the facebook groups you are most likely a part of that would love to get out and shoot with you and others. You just have to be the one to ask! More traditional photography clubs are also a great source of fellow photographers.

A group of us Nebraska photographers enjoying a night under the stars. Canon 6D; Rokinon 14mm f/2.8; 25″; f/2.8; ISO8000

11. Take At Least One Dedicated “Photo Trip” in 2018

Don’t think that you need to pack your bags and buy an expensive airline ticket to make this resolution a reality for yourself. You don’t have to travel to Iceland (though you don’t have to NOT go to Iceland eitherJ). You can do something as simple as take a day-trip somewhere in your own geographic area. The point is that you are getting out and shooting.

One of the most helpful tips I have heard for making sure you don’t back out on your day trip is to plan to go with a friend and rent a car for said trip. If you’ve got some skin in the game, you’re more likely to follow through and make it a great experience.

If you're in need of an epic photography trip idea, I would suggest the Improve Photography Retreat.

The stunning and desolate landscapes offered by the Sandhills region of Nebraska are within an easy day's drive of my home. Photo just off Hwy 83 South of Valentine, NE. Canon 6D; EF 24-105 f/4L; 1/30″; f/8; ISO100

12. (BONUS!) Stop Chasing “Likes” on Social Media

This one is a great one for a list on New Year’s Resolutions for Photographers, and when I thought of it, I just had to add it. The true value of a “like” is actually very small. Interaction is great and certainly beneficial, but far too often I see photographers value or devalue their work based on how many likes it got in a social media post.

An excellent resolution for you as a photographer in the coming year is to focus on what it is that makes you happy behind the camera and deal in that. Chances are that your creativity will shine through brighter and your work will be even better!

Conclusion

Whatever it is you resolve to do to improve your photography over the course of the next 12 months hopefully you find something that will lead to more enjoyment and better quality in your work. Cheers to the new year full of great photography!


About the Author

Brad Goestsch

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Brad loves all thing photography but specializes in landscape, landscape astrophotography and sports photography (primarily golf). Also a regular leader of workshops, Brad has a strong passion for helping others to reach their goals. This leads into his full-time employment as a faculty member in the PGA Golf Management Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he works to prepare people for successful careers in the golf industry. You can follow his work on Facebook or via instagram (@bunkershotsphotography) and at his website: bunkershotsphotography.com

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