Another year has passed by in a flash and there have been many developments in the photography world. I achieved a lot of my personal goals for my photography in 2010 and I hope you all did too. If you aren’t quite sure where to take your photography in 2011, here are some suggestions to help you on your way!
1. Learn to use your camera’s histogram
If you don’t understand your camera’s histogram now is the perfect chance to learn about it. By understanding what your histogram is trying to tell you, you’ll really begin to appreciate what the light is doing in the scene you are photographing. Don’t just look at the image on your LCD screen take a look at the histogram too. Michael Reichmann has an excellent article on his website explaining all the basics.
2. Enter a photo competition
The internet is full of photography competitions these days but BEWARE, many of them have rules and regulations that grant the organizing company a license to use your images for them to save, or make money! So read the fine print carefully and stick to the big competitions like the Sony World Photo Awards which has both professional and amateur categories. For professionals, winning one of the bigger competitions or categories is a great promotional tool to include on your websites or in your newsletters. Entries for this years World Photo Awards close on January 5th so if you are quick you may still have time to enter!
3. Backup your photos
Last week I wrote about my backup routine and I urge you to have a read of it. If at any point you come across something that you do not do with your photos then make it your resolution to patch that hole in your routine or at some point in time you will loose images that are either precious or valuable to you.
4. Print some photos!
This is something we all used to do without thinking when we shot with film but its become a rarity in the digital days. I recently printed up some images to send to family members for Christmas and it reminded me how great it is to hold a stack of photos in your hand. Gathering round a computer screen is one thing, but being able to pass around physical prints brings an extra connection to your photos. There are lots of great promotions out there to try and entice digital shooter to get back into printing so why not print your ten best photos from 2010 to show your friend and families.
5. Shoot a short video with your DSLR
If you have a DSLR purchased in the last 12-18 months then chances are that it has the ability to shoot HD video as well as photos. Many photographic compositional skills translate very well into film making so why not learn how to shoot a video with your DSLR. There are many great tips on HDSLRCoalition and ProVideoCoalition. Many professional are already finding their clients requesting both video and photos from an assignment so get a jump on those who haven’t figured it out yet.
6. Update your website portfolio
Nearly all of us are guilty of this at one point or another. We spend days or weeks building portfolio websites and then we leave them stagnant for many months or years with the same photos. I believe my photography improves yearly as I take more and learn more, so it only makes sense to update my site to reflect more current work. Take an afternoon to sit down and go through your photos from the last year and add your best ones to your website. Remember to remove some from the site first though! Nobody will ever wade through hundreds of photos on your site so keep a tightly edited selection of your very best.
7. Give up on-camera flash
On-camera flash is harsh and unflattering. Even moving a flash just a few inches off the camera will improve your photos tenfold. For everything you need to know about off-camera flash check out Strobist.com. If you have a shoe-mount flash then spending a few bucks on an extension cable to let you hold the flash away from the camera will make you wander why you never did it before.
8. Don’t give away photos for free
Sara Frances wrote a great article on this just the other day which I urge you to read. Photographers are often tempted to give their photos away for free, in return for a photo credit. It might be fun to see your name up in lights but it’s the beginning of the end to your career if you do that, even if you are just starting! Does that make sense? Giving photos away for free belittles your work and pegs you as a photographer who does not value their craft. Start as you mean to go on. If you want to be a professional photographer then act like one from the beginning and charge people for your photos at the proper rate. It might take you a little longer to see your name in a photo credit but at least you’ll be able to pay your bills when it happens.
9. Have a camera of some sort on you at all times
With the invention of the iPhone this is something that has become a lot easier in the last few years. You just never know when a photographic opportunity will present itself. I actually don’t have an iPhone so I keep a Canon s90 point and shoot on me at all times. Whilst the photos from it are rarely acceptable quality for my professional work, I use the photos all the time to record reference photos for possible locations or photos for my blog posts and Facebook fan page.
10. Keep your photos organized!
With another year under your belt you probably shot another few thousand photos, in many cases more than that. If you don’t do it already then you’ll want to start organizing them in a way that helps you locate specific shots in the future. Importing photos onto your computer with Aperture, Lightroom or even iPhoto will give you some organizational options. Tag the photos with keywords on import that will help you locate them faster in the future and store them in a folder with a date. There can be a tendency to think “I’ll start doing that next year” but soon things will get out of control! Trust me, I still have thousands of photos from 2005 when I first started shooting that aren’t keyworded and I wish I’d been far more organized from the get-go.