New Years Resolutions for Photographers (Updated)
This article is a complete rewrite of one I originally wrote now seven years. It may technically be a bit late this year, but I thought it would be fun to nonetheless. So, here are some updated ideas for New Years resolutions you can feel free to add to your own personal list.
Actually read the manual for your camera. New cameras come with an ever-increasing number of features. As such, camera manuals have been getting thicker over the years, or at least they would if they came printed anymore. You can't really tell how thick a PDF file is, but I'm betting you can learn a thing or two if you actually read the one for your camera.
Learn to use the lenses you already have rather than buying more. You don't always need a new lens to discover a new way of seeing things. Rather than simply mounting a lens you own on your camera and firing away, try mounting it and exploring the world around you while looking through it. Look at things from far away and from up close. You may just discover something new. Be careful so you don't trip over something.
Buy a new lens. If you need something to reinvigorate your love of photography, a new lens may be just the answer. You may not need it, but treating yourself can be a lot of fun. Just don't skimp on exploring the world with your new lens just as I suggested above for the lenses you already own.
Take a photography class or workshop. Even if you've been doing this for years, a good refresher can be well worth it. It's fun learning new ways of looking at familiar subjects.
Take a Photoshop class. Or in today's world, perhaps a class on Adobe Lightroom would be more relevant. I know photographers who learned Photoshop but got frustrated when Lightroom came out and never took the plunge. If this describes you, make this the year you learn about Lightroom.
Join a photo club. A club of any kind gives you the opportunity to hang out with like-minded people and perhaps make new friends. New photographers can learn a lot from joining a club. If you're an experienced photographer and think you're above such things, look at this as an occasion to give something back to those who could benefit from your knowledge.
Use your tripod more often. The very first Phototip article I wrote here was on using a tripod and I've revisited the topic a number of times over the years. If you still haven't discovered the many benefits of using a tripod, make this near the top of your resolutions for the coming year. You'll be doing yourself a favor. Really.
Learn to spot meter and use manual exposure. As good as cameras are these days at automatically metering for you, they can't really know what you want an image to look like. Deliberately over or underexposing a shot can be a wonderful tool in your creative arsenal. But you can only do this if you understand how to.
Shoot things in both horizontal and vertical. Film cost money, but shooting digital has no added cost once you've bought the gear. You can fit a lot of images on the newer high-capacity memory cards so why not use the space to experiment with. Shoot things horizontally and vertically. Shoot things every which way just to see what you can do. Have some fun. And if you really do start to run out of space on your card, you can always delete some that didn't work out after the fact. If you don't shoot it in the first place, you'll never know what works out no will you?
Convert to digital. If you have to add this to your resolutions for the New Year, you haven't been paying attention. The world has gone to digital photography. Once you make the shift, a world of creative options opens up that film purists can't dream of. Some shooters simply stopped shooting when film became scarce, not wanting to start all over again. But photography is still photography, it's just that digital gets rid of some of what limited you in the past.
Start shooting raw instead of jpeg. Bigger memory cards mean more room for bigger files. Put that space to good use.
Learn to use adjustment layers. Non-destructive editing is the name of the game. In Photoshop, that meant using adjustment layers wherever possible. With Adobe Lightroom, everything is inherently non-destructive. That means you no longer need to worry about damaging your original image files. Lightroom won't let you, so relax, and have some fun.
Learn to use color management. I've long been a huge advocate of color management. Not only does it let you stop wasting so much time and ink trying to get your prints to come out right, it gives you the confidence to know that your images really do look the way you think they do. Profile your monitor for starters, but take the time to understand why and how color management works to get the most out of it.
Set up your own website. You can post your images online in any number of places, but setting up your own site gives you complete control.
Organize your images. If you thought the shift to digital meant you could finally find any image you were looking for though the wonders of computer technology, you likely found out otherwise as you accumulated more and more image files. Set up an organized catalog in Adobe Lightroom, or utilize the third party program of your choice. The problem only gets worse the longer you wait.
Register the copyright for your photographs. Registering digital images with the Copyright office is so much easier than it was with film since all you need is the jpeg thumbnails to do it. No more printing images or sending duplicate slides. You know you ought to to protect your rights, so just do it.
Find a new place to photograph. There's always somewhere new to go. Find one. And it doesn't need to be a national park or roadside attraction. Unmarked side roads and random side trails may lead to new adventures.
Explore a well known location all over again. Go shoot your favorite place again for no other reason than that it's there. But don't stop there. Perhaps the most overlooked location you already know is your own back yard. Sit down and get comfortable with your camera. Or bring something of nature indoors and shoot it up close and personal on your kitchen table.
Take more pictures. This is always good advice and doesn't need to wait for New Years to put into practice. Make this your resolution every time you go out. Make this your resolution to get you to go out shooting more often all year round.