2016 was by far the most successful year for my career in photography, which should be expected as each year you gain knowledge and confidence. The jump I saw in my income from my photography was astronomical. This was the first year that I didn't have to work a side job to make ends meet, all income came directly from my photographic work. One of my biggest issues was that I used to wait to be inspired, but now I find inspiration in my progress.
I decided that I wanted to share some of the things I have found that contributed to my success, so here are ten photography New Year's resolutions to help make you a better photographer in 2017.
10. Try a Different Genre
If you're a landscape photographer, shoot some portraits. If you're a wedding photographer, try your hand at some macro. Get out of your comfort zone. I started out shooting primarily photojournalism. Had I not tried new things, I wouldn't be doing what I am or be as happy today. Furthermore, if I only shot storms, I wouldn't know how much I enjoy astrophotography or photographing the bluebonnets.
9. Shoot at Night
Night photography can be incredibly challenging. Setting up in the dark, using a tripod, manually focusing, and calculating longer exposures forces you to really slow down and think about the task at hand. I always tell my night photography workshop participants that if they can master their camera in the dark, using it in daylight will be much easier.
8. Get a Speedlight and Use It!
Using a speedlight to add some fill flash to a portrait or kick some extra light into a landscape will give you more control over your final image. Every portrait I shoot or night scene I photograph includes the use of secondary lighting. When I hear a photographer say they are "natural light photographers", I simply hear that they are too lazy to learn and use a speedlight.
7. Revisit the Location of a Previous Shoot
While it's definitely a good thing to get out and shoot at new places, there are definite advantages in revisiting locations of previous shoots. Often we get caught up in the moment of shooting at a new location. When we return home, we may see things that could have been done better. Perhaps a different angle or better light would make a particular image more successful.
Find an image you like, then go back to the same location and try to top yourself.
6. Take an Online Course
Many photographers (myself included) offer photography and photoshop courses through their websites. These are a great way to learn new tricks from professionals at your own pace and on the cheap.
5. Attend a Photography Workshop
Attending photography workshops is the best way to quickly improve your skills and get portfolio images in the process. The photography workshop market has a wide array of options and prices to fit your budget and learning needs. When choosing a photography workshop, be sure to do your research as taking good pictures and teaching others to take good pictures are two completely separate skill sets. Ask for reviews/references and see what others who have attended a given workshop have produced to assure good value for your money.
4. Join a Photography Club
Photography clubs are a great way to meet like minded people and even find shooting buddies. Most meet once a month and many hold contests, organize field trips and even hire professionals to speak and host workshops exclusively for their club.
3. Create a Website and/or Blog
Social media is a great thing, but if you want to be taken seriously you need a website that showcases your work and skill sets. Furthermore, you need to have good SEO (search engine optimization) so people can actually find you and your work. The best SEO is organic, which comes from actively updating your website with quality content (blogging) and having other websites link back to you.
2. Shoot Timelapses
I started shooting timelapses in 2014. In 2016 they have become my primary objective in my landscape photography. The great thing about timelapses are that they force you to be sure you get it right, much like film, because once you setup and start your timelapse, you really can't make any adjustments to the composition or your settings without having to start over. I usually setup my timelapse, then use a second camera to capture different compositions for my still images.
1. Do Something Photo Related EVERY Day
Straight out of college, my focus was paying bills which put photography on the back burner. I was lucky to do something photography related once a week. In January, I decided to do something, anything, related to my photography each and every day.
Whether it's editing an image, working on a video, writing a blog, posting to social media, or adding to a website... do something photography related every single day (no matter how big or small). Since I forced myself to do that I have seen my career really start to take shape.