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10 New Years Resolutions Every Photographer should make

(I will learn to put the umbrella on the right way :P)

I am clutching my 5DMKII and literally buzzing inside, thinking about the photographic potential of the new year. The possibilities are endless. Now, I just have to commit the time and passion required to become a great photographer.

In that spirit, I think we should all try to keep these 10 New Years Resolutions. Now, everyone say after me:

1. I will learn how to use my camera.

This seems like an obvious point, but we are all guilty of skipping our camera manual and just fiddling with settings. Ah, this one works right? Spot-metering? Why not. Hey, what does that button do? Seems to make things darker. Hmm.

I’m going to admit something to you that I ask you to keep hush-hush. I haven’t actually read my 5DMKII manual. I know. Horrible! I’m guilty of arbitrary button pushing and royally messing up shots because I don’t really know how to use my camera. Let’s all become technical experts of our cameras this year. Deal?

2. I will not use the Auto setting on my camera.

Instead of relying on your camera’s dubious Auto settings, force yourself to learn how to use manual settings. Upgrade to Aperture priorty mode (AV) first. Once you understand Depth of Field, jump into Manual mode. You will make mistakes and feel frustrated when you completely blow-out a shot, but this is the way we learn. Don’t get discouraged by your mistakes. Learn from them and push on!

i miss summer.

3. I will not use on-camera flash

The only photos you should take with an on-camera flash are ones that end up on your Facebook wall of shame. Tape down that pop-up flash if you have to. Instead rely on your skills as a photographer to capture shots in low-light.

Shoot with a wide-open aperture, as low as your lens will go. Decrease your shutter speed & increase your ISO. Steady your camera on a tripod, gorilla pod or table top. Invest in a good lens. I suggest the 50mm f/1.4 or the f/1.8 if you are on a budget.

Shauna headshot
Canon Xti + 50mm f/1.4 + 430EX strobe shot through umbrella

4. I will not be hindered by the gear I do not have.

You can take great shots with any camera. From an iPhone to a $20 Holga to cheap point and shoot to a 1DMKIII. Don’t let your lack of gear limit you, but rather let it open up new possibilities to be creative.

Until 6 months ago when I upgraded to a 5DMKII, I was shooting on a Canon Rebel Xti (400D). I shot weddings, actor’s head shots, fashion, landscapes, you name it. You don’t need a 5DMKII to work as a photographer. Get creative. Be resourceful. Rent lenses. Make reflectors with $2 poster boards. There is always a way to do things cheaply, you just need to hunt around a bit.

5. I will shoot in RAW

Everyone, go find your camera right now. I’ll wait for you. Got it? Ok. Set your picture quality to RAW. Done? Good! Take some snaps in RAW right now. Feel the power. Now you can start shooting for real.

Beauty & the Bokeh

5DMKII, 85mm f/1.8, 1/200 at f/2.0, ISO 100.

6. I will learn how to process my shots

No shot comes straight out of the camera perfect. Every shot needs a little bit of processing TLC to take it to the next level. Learning how to process photos can feel overwhelming at times especially if you are technically challenged. It really isn’t that scary, just time consuming. I recommend starting with Lightroom. You can download a free trial and take it for a spin. If you are completely confused, sign up for a Lynda.com account. It’s the best video tutorial site on the web.

7. I will share my photos with others on the web

I know so many photographers that take thousands of photos, upload them on their computer, and never share them. Some lack the confidence, some are worried about copyright infringement, and some just don’t find the time in their busy schedules to share their photos. What a waste! If you are not currently sharing your photos, go right now and join Flickr, Tumblr or Facebook and post three of your best shots. Done? Great. Hi-five!

8. I will accept critiques of my work.

Receiving criticisms about your photos is difficult and sometimes hurtful, but it is the only way we can progress as photographers. Yesterday I asked Joseph Linaschke to look at my portfolio and tell me honestly which shots should go. He told me to ditch 4 pictures out of 16. Pictures that I had spend hours shooting and retouching. I didn’t want to get rid of them and it physically hurt me to remove them, but after I did, my portfolio was much stronger.

light in love
Canon 5DMKII + 85mm f/1.8 + bare strobe 1/4 power behind.

9. I will set goals and be proactive about my photography career

I have personally been in a photographic rut for the past couple of months. The weather has been rainy and miserable. I’ve had been taking on other work to pay the bills and I’ve lost focus with what I want to do with my photography. So right now, you and I are going to sit down and set some goals, both small stepping-stone goals and big lofty life-changing goals. These are some of mine:

*I will learn one photography-related skill every day
*I will continue to improve my Photoshop skills on a daily basis
*I will book at least one creative fashion shoot every week.
*I will build a network of creative producers, stylists, make-up artists, and models

Lofty goal:
*I will get my photography published in a major publication this year!

Your turn! Write them down and post them on your blog, Facebook page, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. Get them out there in black and white type where you can’t dismiss them.

10. I will connect with other photographers

There is a vibrant and passionate photography community sharing their knowledge and experiences everyday. If you aren’t currently visiting the vast array of photography blogs and resource sites, you are missing out on a wealth of knowledge that won’t cost you a cent. Right now, join Twitter and follow these photographers

Let’s make 2010 a productive and inspirational year! What New Years resolutions are you are making?

Friend me on Facebook, Twitter, & Flickr.

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  • Reply
    January 30, 2010 at 2:50 AM

    I couldn’t agree more Lisa – great list which will hopefully motivate me to get off my ass and take some photos.

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    FRALIN, HUONG » 10 New Years Resolutions Every Photographer Should Make:
    January 30, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    […] up on these resolutions in detail in this article by Lisa Bettany. I have never been to her site before reading this post but will most certainly […]

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    Alonso Deliso
    February 1, 2010 at 6:42 PM


  • Reply
    February 2, 2010 at 3:28 AM

    Hey Lisa,

    one month one blog-entry?
    Twittering 2 times a week?

    Where are you?

  • Reply
    Karl Espernberger
    February 4, 2010 at 3:08 PM

    Hey Lisa – great post!

    I stumbled across your blog via twitter and love the way you write and your portfolio.

    I will definitely be keeping these steps in mind this year :)

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    Anya Rohrbach
    February 7, 2010 at 9:08 PM

    That was stimulating . I like your style that you put into your writing . Please do move forward with more similar to this.

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    October 7, 2010 at 8:18 PM

    “I will not be hindered by the gear I do not have.” I think I completely fall in love with you now!!

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    January 13, 2011 at 2:06 AM

    OK, so I’m a year late…I just found your site today Lisa and I love it. The only slight snag is that I’m using someone else’s computer so there isn’t an easy way for me to bookmark you or email myself your link. Facebook, twitter etc are all set up to someone else’s account…

    New Year’s Resolution for 2011? Add a few more social media icons to your blog! (I think “Share and Follow” have a nice plugin that lets you do this.)

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