Editor's note: This month only – buy my latest ebook Up Close: A Guide to Macro & Close-Up Photography for just $10. Start making beautiful close-up photos today! Thanks for reading, Andrew.
The beginning of the year is an ideal time for making decisions about the ways you can become a better photographer. Taking steps now to think about where you’re photography has been, and where it’s going in the next year, will help you make plans and give you a sense of accomplishment. It also gives you something to look forward to during the year!
The be a better photographer plan
You’ll get far more out of the exercise if you take a structured approach. With that in mind, I’ve put together a plan you can follow to help you become a better photographer this year. It has four steps, so let’s take a look at them.
1. Learn more about contemporary photographers
A great way to get inspiration and think up new ideas is to study the work of contemporary photographers.
I’m not just talking about looking at photos on Instagram or websites like Flickr, although that can be part of your practice.
But it’s more useful to find work by photographers that you wouldn’t normally see.
For example, I like to look at the work of photographers who photograph children, as a way of getting ideas and inspiration for photographing my son Alex. The Clickin Moms website is a great resource for this.
Books are a great way of getting to learn more about both contemporary and historical photographers. I recommend the “Read This if You Want To Take Great Photographs” series by Henry Carroll to get started.
The idea is to find photographers who inspire you. What themes and projects come to mind as you look at other people’s work? You might want to make notes as you go along so you don’t forget any good ideas.
2. Master new photography skills
The second part of the plan is to identify the new skills and techniques you want to learn over the year.
Many of us are likely to be spending more time close to home than we normally would. So it make sense to study new skills that you can put into practice in your local area.
You may find it helpful to start by looking at your favorite photos from last year. What themes emerge? What skills do you need to learn to help you evolve as a photographer?
For example, you may decide that you want to master close-up and macro photography, as this is something you can easily do at home.
These are questions you could ask yourself to help the process.
Do I need to buy any new equipment to do close-up and macro photography? If the answer’s yes now is the time to do your research and decide what you need to buy.
What new skills and techniques do I need to learn? For example, you might decide that you need to learn how to focus stack. In that case you can look for tutorials, and figure out a way to practice the technique until you master it.
What subjects am I going to shoot? If you want to make photos of flowers and other botanical subjects, you’ll need a plan.
For instance, you could:
- Plant flowers in your garden to make photos of later in the year.
- Research nearby gardens that are open to the public.
- Look for nearby natural habitats with interesting plants and flowers to photograph.
Who inspires me? This is where your research into contemporary photographers helps. Look to other photographers for inspiration and ideas.
What resources can help me? Can you buy a book or enroll in a video course to help you achieve your goals?
You can apply these questions to any type of photography that you’d like to try in the coming year.
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3. Pick themes and projects for the year
The third step is to pick some themes to explore in the coming year. You could even start a long term project. Your ideas should grow from what you’ve learned in the first two steps.
An emerging theme for me is taking photos of my three year old son Alex holding things he’s found. This is a fun project that we do together.
Another idea that interests me is making prints. I’ve moved so many times in my life that I’ve never bought a photo quality printer. So this year I’m buying one and I’m going to learn how to make fine art quality prints.
I’d also like to go further and learn about chemical based processes like the cyanotype process.
Take your time picking your themes and projects as your decisions will have a big effect on your photography this year. And of course, it’s fine to change your mind as the year goes on. It’s all about finding the ideas that work best for you.
4. Set some goals
The final step is to set some goals. What do you want to achieve by the end of the year?
For example, you might set yourself a goal to make ten photos that are good enough to print out and hang on your wall. Or you might decide you want to turn a theme or project into a photo book. You might even be thinking about ways you could monetize your photo project.
Having clearly defined end goals helps you get motivated and measure your progress as the year goes on.
January is a natural time to reflect on your creative activities and make plans for the year ahead. The idea of creating themes and projects is a powerful one that will help you build a body of work and develop as a photographer.
Check out the tutorials linked below to learn more about the creative side of photography. And of course don’t forget to look at our ebook The Creative Photographer for a deeper exploration of creativity in photography.