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.
It’s winter in the northern hemisphere as I write this and for many of us that means bad weather. At this time of year it can be difficult to find motivation and be creative with your photography.
But it’s also an ideal time for reflecting on your photography and recharging your creative batteries. It’s an opportunity to look forward to the coming year and planning out your photographic activities so you can make the most of it.
In that spirit here are three creative photography ideas you can use to set yourself up for this year’s photographic activities. If you take the time to work through all the ideas in this tutorial then you’ll have a much more productive and creative photography year than you would otherwise!
Of course, you can work your way through this exercise at any time of year. It’s just that January or February is an ideal time for exercises like these as we tend to start a new year with a sense of optimism, hope and creative renewal.
Photography idea #1: Identify what you want to learn this year
Your first activity is to sit down and have a think about what new photography skills you’d like to learn over the next 12 months.
The danger is that you’re likely to pick more things than it’s possible to learn. So here’s what I suggest.
1. List the photography related skills you’d like to acquire
Write a list of everything you’d like to learn about photography (there’s a good reason for making this suggestion which you’ll see in a minute).
This, for example, could include items like the following:
• Learn how to do close-up or macro photography.
• Learn how to use neutral density filters.
• Learn how to convert photos to black and white.
• Learn how to use a new plugin.
• Start a photography project with a specific theme.
• Learn how to create portfolio website.
• Learn how to make photo books.
• Learn how to get organized in Lightroom Classic.
• Learn how to take great photos of kids (this one’s for those of you with young families!)
• Buy a new lens and learn how to use it properly.
• Get better at photographic composition.
And so on.
Are you ready with your list yet? If not, you might want to take a few moments to write it down before reading the next bit.
2. Pick your three favorite photography ideas
Now here’s the key bit. Pick the three most important things to you on that list. Then ignore everything else. The everything else is a distraction that keeps you from achieving your main photographic goals.
This exercise (based on a similar idea from Warren Buffet) gives you three photography related skills you can learn and practice over the next twelve months. Restricting your learning to three different skills lets you dive deeper into and get better at each one. It also helps prevent you getting overwhelmed or distracted by the others.
Photography idea #2: Organize your photographic year
The early months of the year are a great time for planning from a photography perspective. It’s especially useful if you have a busy schedule and struggle to find as much time as you would like for photography.
This idea also ties in with the previous one of identifying the three main photography related skills you want to learn.
For example, let’s say you’ve set yourself the goal of learning more about close-up and macro photography.
There’s several things you could do to help you with this.
• Read online tutorials and articles to help you learn the basics.
• Borrow or buy some books about close-up and macro photography.
• Take an online course.
• Go on a workshop that teaches you these skills. You’ll need time to research this and book ahead.
• Buy a macro lens, a close-up lens or extension tubes. You’ll also need to set aside some time to research your purchase.
On top of that you’ll need to find time to practice your new skills. For example, you might want to:
• Photograph ice crystals with a macro lens (see photo below).
• Photograph close-ups of flowers.
• Photograph insects such as ladybugs, dragonflies, bees and butterflies.
• Photograph close-ups of autumn leaves.
All of these are seasonal activities. In fact, if you plan your year wisely, you can build in time to photograph a variety of interesting subjects across all four seasons.
Photography idea #3: Create a photo journal
Photography means different things to different people but there’s no doubt that some photographers take more of an artistic approach than others. I’m not referring to the use of certain photographic or Photoshop techniques, but more to an attitude or state of mind.
For me, a fine art photographer is one who creates thoughtful images of the world around them in ways that capture beauty in a subtle way. A fine art photographer is happy making photos close to home because they are comfortable exploring beautiful light and looking at familiar things in new ways.
For example, a fine art photographer may look at trees in winter and put together a series of photos taken in beautiful light like the ones below. The approach is subtle because it’s exploring shape, form, pattern and light rather than photographing iconic locations.
If this is your approach to photography then you could benefit from creating a photo journal.
What is a photo journal?
A photo journal is like a visual diary where you keep photos you make of your daily life. The idea of creating a journal is that it’s both a record of your daily life and also helps you develop as an artist. This is because you can look back through the images and look for connections, ideas and themes.
Creating a photo journal is easier if you have access to a printer and don’t mind printing photos out to put in your journal.
But there are other ways to do it to. For instance, you could set up an Instagram account solely for your journal (you can make it private if you don’t want other people to see your photos). This is a good approach because it removes friction from the process – it’s quicker and easier to upload a photo to Instagram than it is to print one out.
Create your photo journal with Chatbooks
You can keep the printed element of the photo journal idea using a service like Chatbooks to print out your Instagram photos.
Chatbooks is a great idea for busy people because it automatically prints a new photo book every time you add 60 photos to your Instagram account.
The benefit of using a service like Chatbooks for this exercise is that it doesn’t take a lot of time to set up. And once the automated process is going it takes hardly any time to upload photos to Instagram and create your photo journal.
If you’d like to give Chatbooks a try, just follow this link. It’s a referral link that gives you a $10 discount on your first order.
The early months of the year are a natural time for reflection and renewed optimism as we think about the things we’d like to in the year ahead. When it comes to photography you’ll benefit greatly from identifying the key skills you want to learn and making plans to give yourself the opportunity to learn and practice them. In addition to that exercise, a photo journal of some description will let you see the progress you make.
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.