New Years Resolutions for Photographers
Welcome to 2006. I know it really doesn't seem like another year could have gone by, but it has. As a new wrinkle on an old tradition, here are some ideas for New Years resolutions you can feel free to add to your own personal list.
Actually read the manual for your camera. Whether you have a film camera or a digital one, take some time to read the entire manual that came with it. Even if you've had the camera for several years, reread the manual. Chances are you can pick up a few new tips.
Learn to use the lenses you already have rather than buying more. No matter how many lenses you have, it's easy to think that you can improve your photography by buying yet one more. But you can probably improve at least as much by making more effective use of the lenses you already have. Learn to use aperture to control depth of field. Learn to use shutter speed to control how motion is rendered.
Buy a new lens. Sometimes a new lens may actually be a good idea. Sometimes it can be worth getting one just because you want to. John Shaw once said that before you buy a new lens you should make a list of at least three reasons why you need it, but that "lust" counted for two out of three.
Take a photography class or workshop. If you're in a rut and looking for a way to jumpstart your photographic endeavors, find a photography class or workshop that interests you and sign up for it. Regardless of your experience level, there's bound to be something that suits your fancy.
Take a Photoshop class. If you've mastered your camera but are frustrated by your computer, take a Photoshop class instead of a photography class.
Join a photo club. If there's one in your area, join a photo club to network with other photographers and give yourself an ongoing source of encouragement and motivation.
Use your tripod more often. It's not enough to own one, you have to use it. Not only will this make your images sharper by holding the camera steady, it will also force you to slow down and work more methodically so you can concentrate on composition as well as technique.
Learn to spot meter and use manual exposure. Modern cameras are truly wonders of technology, but you can often do better than even the best camera at determining the best exposure. Spot metering lets you know just how bright the highlights are and how dark the shadows are. Any point in the scene that is of interest can be metered without other parts influencing the reading. Manual exposure lets you make the most of all this useful information.
Shoot things in both horizontal and vertical. Just because a camera is easier to hold horizontally, vertical shots can be well worth taking as well. Remember, magazine covers are vertical.
Convert to digital. Digital is here. I know saying "don't get left behind" sounds somewhat cliché, but it really is getting to be that way. Film will be around for quite some time to come, but quality processing is already getting harder to come by. Just something to think about.
Start shooting raw instead of jpeg. If you get everything exactly right in-camera, jpeg can be just fine, but if you want to get the most from digital, start shooting raw so you can tweak exposure and white balance after the fact.
Learn to use adjustment layers. The magic phrase is "non-destructive editing." If you directly use Levels or Curves on an image, the pixels are permanently altered and there's no going back once you've saved things. Adjustment layers allow you to revisit your changes without affecting what you've done since then, even if the document has been saved and re-opened.
Learn to use color management. Stop wasting paper and ink (as well as time) and learn to use color management. Start by profiling your monitor. Until you do so, the cost can seem an extravagance. After you see what it can do for you, it will become one of the best investments you've ever made in getting quality results.
Set up your own website. The web makes it easy to share your images with family, friends, and potential clients. Putting your work online also gives you a great excuse to spend more time with your own images. Doing so can teach you a lot about what you really like, and perhaps what you don't.
Organize your images. Keeping your photos in a shoebox doesn't make much sense, but what most of us do with our digital images isn't much better. Work out a system for organizing your image files and stick with it. Also remember to back everything up to guard against the inevitable.
Register the copyright for your photographs. Images are copyrighted the moment you press the shutter, but registering that copyright can make dealing with any infringement problems a whole lot easier down the road. If you live in the United States, visit the Library of Congress website to get the details on how this is done. Like filing your taxes, it can seem complicated until you get past the legalese. Laws in other countries may vary somewhat but are often similar.
Find a new place to photograph. Sit down now and study a map, a guidebook, other people's websites or whatever it takes to find a new place you can go shoot. Look for somewhere near where you live too. Your new place doesn't have to be in the heart of deepest Africa (unless that's where you live of course).
Explore a well known location all over again. If there's a place near you that you've already photographed more times than you can count, don't let that stop you. Go there with the aim of finding something new. To make this a bit easier, set some ground rules first and then live within them. Try shooting only from ground level, or force yourself to use only slow shutter speeds even if the wind is blowing. Have some fun with it. Especially if you shoot digital, you have nothing to lose. You can always delete the shots that don't come out and no one will be the wiser. But when you show people the shots that came out well they'll be impressed with your creativity. And so will you.
Take more pictures. If nothing else here strikes your fancy, at least commit to getting out and taking more pictures in 2006. Practice may or may not make perfect, but you should have fun trying.