As we’re nearing the end of 2021, it’s time to plan for a new year as a photographer, but how exactly does that process go? Does it follow the same guidelines as goal-setting projects, of New Year’s Resolutions or exactly how?
Without needing to create huge expectations that are settled for failure, we’ll explore step-by-step an efficient plan to improve as a photographer in 2022. Let’s get started!
One common misstep when setting New Year Resolutions is to go through a HUUUUGE list of plans and expectations that match what we believe we should be standing, instead of what we in reality we need to look at. The reason for this? We look and craft those resolutions by taking into account what external validation looks like, instead of what resonates with our soul.
Let’s put a clear example for this: You’re a beginner photographer, skilled in portrait photography, but the learning material you’ve been using and the insights from others make you convinced you should work in fashion photography. Whereas this could be true, the first thing you need to acknowledge is if you actually like the catwalk and the thrill of shooting sessions under the clock, or if in fact, you enjoy more down-to-earth sessions with single customers, outdoors, or family gatherings.
There are no rights or wrongs here, as it’s strictly a matter of personal preference. However, the worse thing you can do is to force yourself to take on a niche that doesn’t spark your joy. That’s a 100% success recipe for burnout. Take some time to acknowledge what drove you into pursuing photography in the first place, then make a list of all the possibilities you can pursue if nothing could stop you (and I mean nothing: not money, skill, contacts, etc).
Once the niche you’re settled for is properly aligned with your vision, it’s time to evaluate where your skills stand against the required industry standards. You can take two different outlooks for this:
The reason to differentiate between the two positions is the requirements in terms of knowledge, gear, and mostly practice. There’s nothing wrong with being absolutely driven to improve as a hobbyist, with the same degree of passion as a professional, but again, it’s not a requirement to push so much in such a short time span.
Many photography communities online can serve as validating critiques of your work, thus you can learn from others which areas you need to improve (to which you could be blind from knowing), and then gather the next list of resources:
Each one of these resources is compelling to the formation of a professional photographer, so it’s up to you to assess which areas are you lacking in your preparation and opt for the best learning route.
If you learnt how to properly clean your camera sensor, that’s amazing. If not, don’t overlook the importance of taking your gear to the service, as it prolongs the lifespan of your investment, not to mention correcting issues such as sensor dirt.
It’s not a huge expense and should be done from time to time, so best plan ahead when could it be the gap in your agenda where you can take some days off and give your gear the care it deserves.
This step applies to camera bodies, drones, lenses, tripods (especially if they are exposed to considerable amounts of dirt and sand), lens filters.
Before 2022 starts, take some time off. Switch off from social media, TVs, and digital exposure. Embrace some lovely time outdoors and get in touch with nature to recalibrate your creativity gauge. By being indoors so long given the pandemic situation you’re likely facing digital overexposure symptoms such as eyesight strain, body aches (due to bad posture), anxiety, burnout, lack of concentration, and the list goes on.
Meditation is another more than recommended practice to make a habit in 2022, with well-known studies on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness for mental health.
Now that you took some time to reflect on what truly makes you fulfilled as a photographer, and also recharged your creativity, then it’s time to grab pen&paper and list down your goals.
Let’s tackle this with a snowball method, from the smallest to the biggest, more complex goal you can imagine. By following this tactic you are giving yourself momentum with “small wins”, hence inspiring you to push towards taxing items on your list.
Whenever in doubt, just take a look at the items you completed on your list and remind yourself that: YES, you were the one who managed to complete those goals.
If you feel you need some extra help, in terms of commitment to your new year goals, ask a friend or a loved one to keep you on track with your goals. A gentle reminder helps a lot when we feel overwhelmed by work and responsibilities.
Remember, even if you embrace photography as your means of living, it’s still about having fun while pushing for your aspirations. If you start seeing your craft as a “duty” you are “required” to perform, then you’re jumping out of the happiness wagon far too soon.
The mood you currently experience is vividly reflected in the quality of your service, and the end result of your craft. Frustration slowly builds up to a degree where even the things we used to love don’t matter any longer, and that’s not the outlook to start a new year with fresh new goals.
Take your time, have fun, and keep present that you’re not demanded to make perfect results out of this. Failure is one of the building blocks of success, as it teaches us where we were mistaken and how to improve each step of the road.