Monday, January 2, 2012
Five New Year's Photo Resolutions You Can Keep—01/02/12
How to make 2012 your best year ever as a photographer
|This Article Features Photo Zoom|
1. Some folks go for a photo a day for a whole year. It's certainly a doable resolution, so I won't stop you if you're itching to try. But if that seems a little more ambitious than you're willing to attempt, consider something smaller. Maybe take one great portrait every week. That seems reasonable, right? And if you stick to it, by the end of the year you'll have a portfolio of 50 great portraits under your belt. No reason you can't double up some weeks and take others off. I have a feeling this is way less pressure than knowing that your "photo a day" project is a failure if you skip a single day. The bottom line is that you want to shoot more, and setting a project-related goal can help you do that—whether it's daily, weekly or monthly.
2. Photograph something you've never done before. It's just one shot, and you've got a whole year to do it. So yeah, this one's definitely realistic. But because it's so ostensibly "easy," you've got to push yourself too. None of this, "I've never photographed my house before so I'll just snap one and call it quits" sort of stuff. I want you to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Have you ever worked with studio strobes? Rent a set for a day—which is fairly affordable—and do a portrait session with your friend or dog or yourself. Never photographed a sporting event from the sidelines? Ask around and get some access—even to a high school game—and shoot away. Choose something that's always interested you but that you've never done. That could be a specific technique, a specific subject, or in a specific place. But whatever it is, if you push your comfort zone you'll become a better photographer for it.
3. Learn every button and setting on your camera, and try them all once. This one seems daunting, no? But it doesn't have to be. You can probably achieve the whole thing in an afternoon. The first step might be to read your owner's manual simply to familiarize yourself with those buttons you don't often use—perhaps the AE lock on the back of the camera, or the depth of field preview on the side of the lens. Even professional shooters have some "dead zones" in their cameras—buttons and settings they generally ignore. For instance, I know I should probably start learning to "back button focus" but I just haven't gotten around to it. If I carried out this exercise, and tried it just a couple of times, it might actually change the way I shoot on a regular basis. And as a newbie, learning those buttons and their functions is a great way to make a camera seem a lot less scary and complicated.
4. Process an image differently than you ever have before. This one is sort of the post-processing equivalent of the last one about learning the buttons of your camera. But because your computer and image editing software have almost infinite options available, it's not particularly practical to expect you to use all of them. So in an effort to broaden your digital comfort zone, consider processing the photos from a shooting session using none of the tools you normally do. This way you'll see if you're already doing it the best way for you, or if another method might be preferable. If you normally process images by downloading them into Lightroom and then outputting finished files directly from there, consider downloading files straight to your desktop and opening them for tweaking in Photoshop. If you normally make your edits in Photoshop, try making them in Aperture or Lightroom. If you don't want to change program, change tools within the program. Since there are so many different ways to accomplish similar edits in all editing programs, you won't have a hard time finding a new means to the end. It can be very beneficial to know at least a couple of routes through the digital workflow. Who knows, you might find a new approach you like even better than your current one.
5. Emulate an image you adore. This one is actually a fairly common photo school assignment, and for good reason. It helps you visualize the image you want to create, then take the technical steps necessary to get there. From camera, lens, perspective and composition choices, all the way through lighting, processing and finishing, emulating another photograph and recreating it for yourself is a wonderful way to broaden your skills. What's great is that this process works for photographers at every level. If you're a beginner your standards may not be quite as high, but that's fine. Simply getting lighting close to the original, or choosing the appropriate lens and aperture combo to emulate a shallow depth of field is plenty for success. Whereas a pro shooter may find herself closely recreating the work of a great photographer, perhaps even improving on it. It's a wonderful way to challenge yourself both creatively and technically, and in the end you're bound not only be a little better photographer, but you'll have a nice photograph to prove it.