It’s that time of year again when we’re all making New Year’s resolutions to improve our diets, kick our bad habits and take care of all those things we keep putting off every year. Why not add to the annual to-do list with a handful of things to improve your photographic pursuits as well? Here are three suggestions to help get every photographer’s new year off to a great start!
1. Resolve To Get Your Existing Photographs In Order
Do you have folders full of poorly labeled, disorganized digital image files? Worse still, are those folders spread across multiple drives, with little idea of how to find what you’re looking for? If so, take this opportunity to try to clean up, organize and—most importantly—back up your digital image archives. If you don’t know where to start, consider an organization application such as Adobe’s Lightroom. This way, you can import an entire hard drive full of images in one fell swoop and then quickly view them for naming, keywording and organizing purposes.
Following that, simply begin by organizing folders by year, then month, then subject. Or, skip the calendar-based organization and just name and organize file folders according to the subjects contained therein—like “Mom’s 60th Birthday Party” or “Zion National Park.” Once you’ve got a basic understanding of what’s where and how to find it, duplicate everything—either to an external hard drive (or drives) or to a cloud-based archive courtesy of a service such as Dropbox, Google Drive or iCloud. If you use physical drives for your backups, best practice dictates keeping them in a different location than the originals. So, if the originals are on the computer in the basement, take the backups to work, or to a storage locker, or anywhere else that will keep a single catastrophe from destroying all your images.
2. Master A New Technique
Whether you’re timid when it comes to manual exposure controls or if you’ve always wanted to learn how to use strobe lighting, the New Year is the perfect time to add some skills to your repertoire. You don’t have to become an expert overnight, just take baby steps to get better at the desired technique. If you want to become a manual master, start by learning how the aperture works. (Smaller ƒ-number correlates to a bigger opening and vice versa.) Once you understand how adjusting the aperture makes an image brighter or darker, move on to shutter speed. This way, you’ll master manual exposure before you know it.
The same approach works for strobe lighting. You don’t have to start by investing in a studio-style system. A simple speedlight, in fact, works just the same way. Put the flash in manual mode and learn how to adjust the exposure by moving it closer or farther from the subject or how dialing the output up and down impacts the illumination. These are the same principles at work in a high-end studio strobe system. Master one and you’ll understand the other. Whatever technique you choose to learn, take your time and learn it one step at a time in manageable bites. Then, by this time next year, you’ll definitely have grown as a photographer.
3. Further A Personal Project
This one might be the toughest challenge of them all. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro, one of the most rewarding aspects of photography is completing a personal project. If you’re new to the medium, this project might be something as simple as a portrait of a family member or a successful mission to make a landscape photograph at a nearby national park. For a longtime professional, though, it’s likely that personal project will be more involved, as well as the kind of thing that represents a departure from the daily grind.
Most professionals have at least one project we’re thinking of at any given time. The real challenge is making time for these extracurricular pursuits. They don’t pay the bills, so they can get pushed to the back burner. But it’s important to make the time to work on them! These personal projects keep our creative juices flowing and keep our passion for photography alive. So in 2020, think of the projects you’ve been putting off—whether it’s because it’s easier to never feel ready or because you just haven’t been able to find the time—and make the time to get one done. When you’re looking at the finished pictures, basking in the afterglow of a job well done, you’ll surely be glad you did.