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 goals, that you walk around with a goofy smile plastered on your face!
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.
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. 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.