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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
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    January 2, 2010 at 4:36 PM

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Robert Vinet, Photo Addicts. Photo Addicts said: 10 New Years Resolutions Every Photographer should make: A call to action for aspiring photographers! http://bit.ly/4Y7loS […]

  • Reply
    Paul Henman
    January 2, 2010 at 5:00 PM

    Great list – it reads like a breakdown of my photography goal for 2010 @ http://henman.ca/blog/2010/01/01/mmx/

  • Reply
    uberVU - social comments
    January 2, 2010 at 5:31 PM

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by photoaddicts: 10 New Years Resolutions Every Photographer should make: A call to action for aspiring photographers! http://bit.ly/4Y7loS

  • Reply
    Rich Charpentier
    January 2, 2010 at 5:43 PM

    Hey Lisa! Good list. When I saw the title I said, “Get ready to add to your own list.” Glad to say, many of the resolutions here have been some of mine from previous years.

    #4 is added to my personal list. Glad I’m happy with most everything I have, and I’m not lusting after too many lenses now! :)

    Well, have a great New Year!

  • Reply
    The Airstream Chronicles Continued › Resolved
    January 2, 2010 at 6:21 PM

    […] I saw a great list over at MostlyLisa’s site, and I’m linking to her post.  In my opinion, she’s offering a “doable” list.  Something that one can […]

  • Reply
    January 2, 2010 at 8:29 PM

    Wonderful list of resolutions! On your point #8, would you be willing to critique my portfolio?

  • Reply
    Jacob Shea
    January 2, 2010 at 9:06 PM

    Lisa, thank you so much for this post, great timing for the New Year. I finally upgraded from a pocket shot camera to a Canon EOS 500D/Rebel T1i, very happy with it but like you pointed out, I really want to learn to use the camera without the Auto Setting turned on.

    I just picked up a Rockfish tripod as I’ve wanted not to use the flash so much, not liking my blurry photos any longer :) Especially as I start my first Project 365 on Flickr (http://bit.ly/Proj365)

    Thank you again, have a great New Year.

  • Reply
    Kathie M Thomas
    January 3, 2010 at 12:20 AM

    Just learnt about this list at a photography forum so had to come over and have a look. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Mike Squire
    January 3, 2010 at 1:15 AM

    Im so happy you have your camera in hand i just did exactly that and came up with the following..

  • Reply
    Mostly Lisa
    January 3, 2010 at 1:12 PM

    @Rich Charpentier: great to hear! i just find it more productive to spend my time actually using the gear i have, than lusting after what i don’t. Although i find it reeeeeally hard!!

    @Chris: just took a look! For portraits, if you are using natural light, you need a catch light in your subject’s eyes or the image will fall flat. buy a small reflector and feather some light on your subjects face. you’ll get less shadows on your subject’s face and it will really lift the shot. Also try to fill the frame with your subject. some of your shots are too far away to convey the emotion of a loving couple. your landscapes are your best work & the gecko one is my fave. i think all your photos could benefit with some processing. some seem a bit too dark. maybe increase the exposure or just the whites. hope that helps!!

  • Reply
    Chip Sprague
    January 3, 2010 at 1:57 PM

    Hi Lisa, All,

    With regard to Lightroom (I am on a post processing learning binge myself) you can use the Lightroom 3 Beta for free until the end of April:


  • Reply
    Al Doan
    January 3, 2010 at 2:26 PM

    Hehe, I don’t know what it is about that manual but it’s just so ‘non-geeky’ to sit down and read it. Manufacturers should start giving it on audible or something :)

  • Reply
    January 3, 2010 at 3:26 PM

    @Mostly Lisa:
    Thanks, Lisa! I’ve been shooting landscapes for awhile and have recently started focusing on portraits. Your advice will be extremely helpful!

  • Reply
    January 3, 2010 at 7:09 PM

    I’ve been reading this blog for quite w while now. One of my resolutions was to buy a DSLR camera. Buying the Nikon D5000 this week. After I do that most of the points on your list will have to be added to mine ;). Great blog, btw. Keep it up!

  • Reply
    Bob Goyetche
    January 3, 2010 at 9:55 PM

    Thanks for the list Lisa! 5/6 have been the hardest for me to adapt to.. Silly me , I thought this new hobby would get me AWAY from the computer!

    Thanks for the nudge!

  • Reply
    Jim Martin
    January 3, 2010 at 9:57 PM

    Lisa, I like the design of your site (lisabettany.com). Where are you hosting it/what software is driving it? I like the flyout photo info, the scrolling thumbnails, etc.

  • Reply
    January 3, 2010 at 10:25 PM

    My goal is to clean the sensor :-(

  • Reply
    January 4, 2010 at 4:32 AM

    Great list, I will surely follow some of your advice.

  • Reply
    Favorite Photos of 2009 | Canon Blogger
    January 4, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    […] Years Resolutions I am going to try to commit myself to for 2010.   Some are personal, some are inspired by others.  I’ll likely share more of these commitments going forward as well.  Do you have any […]

  • Reply
    Jacob Shea
    January 4, 2010 at 6:14 PM

    (I have additional one for the New Year)

    11. Experiment with HDR Photography

    I just finished my second one, very happy with results. I love using the camera out of Auto, the camera becomes so much more dynamic. Feedback welcomed.


  • Reply
    January 4, 2010 at 6:20 PM

    Can someone direct me to some great photography blogs? I follow a few, but would like to follow more. Google results aren’t helping much.

  • Reply
    Kathie M Thomas
    January 4, 2010 at 8:51 PM

    Nathan do you mean teaching type photography blogs or photoblogs, i.e. ones that showcase their photos. I do a photo a day on mine, linked here.

  • Reply
    Mostly Lisa
    January 4, 2010 at 9:10 PM



    Digital Photography School: http://digital-photography-school.com/tips
    Shutterbug: http://shutterbug.com/
    F-stop Magazine: http://www.thefstopmag.com/

    Photography Blogs:

    Strobist: http://www.strobist.blogspot.com/
    Joe McNally’s Blog: http://www.joemcnally.com/blog/
    Chase Jarvis: http://chasejarvis.com/blog
    Photojojo: http://photojojo.com/content/
    Zarias: http://www.zarias.com/
    Nick Onken’s Blog: http://www.nickonkenconnection.com/shoptalk/

  • Reply
    Jason Collin Photography
    January 4, 2010 at 9:16 PM

    I had been impressed you did all your work up until recently with just an XTi.

    Setting goals is a good idea too. Before I left Japan I set a goal of getting a photo as the Photo of the Week in the weekly English magazine, Metropolis. I tried and got one in sooner than I expected!

    I’ve been weeding down my portfolio more and more and need to get an extra pair of eyes or four on it to help me cut the sentimental choices even more.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2010 at 9:16 PM

    @Mostly Lisa:

    Thanks a lot Lisa! Bunch of new bookmarks =)

    @Kathie M Thomas:

    Thanks, I’ll take a look at it frequently

  • Reply
    Mike Page
    January 5, 2010 at 8:28 AM

    A fantastic list. I’m only shooting for the “advanced hobbist-something to do after I retire” category myself though. I tried to get out of the winter photo rut by going on a canoe-photography trip, got few pictures, and the 50mm f1.4 jumped ship. Ok, so maybe it was fumbled, same thing. It went overboard. :( But, got the new one yesterday, so I’m back in bid’ness.

  • Reply
    Frederic Sune
    January 5, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    Hello Lisa,

    Nice post. I like these ones:
    *I will build a network of creative producers, stylists, make-up artists, and models
    *I will get my photography published in a major publication this year

    It will be at the top of my new year resolutions list plus I add:
    *I will have my first exhibition in Ottawa.


  • Reply
    January 5, 2010 at 3:31 PM

    My “I will tame my gear lust tendencies” resolution took a massive hit this morning with the announcement of the next-generation EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    Marco S
    January 6, 2010 at 5:02 PM

    Great goals, and some of the stuff you wrote I’ve been doing myself and I need to gain more confidence even though I am just beginning. Thank you for this, I’ve also put up my website so some of my stuff can be critiqued as i know i need to get waaaay better then i am now. http://www.ohsnapshot.com

  • Reply
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    […] I recommend checking out Lisa’s full article at MostlyLisa.com […]

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    The Story of Today » It’s here! It’s here!
    January 7, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    […] public vow right now to read the manual.  I will.  I promise!  I read this great blog post on 10 New Years Resolutions Every Photographer Should Make and am starting with #1 “I will learn how to use my camera”.  I am really looking […]

  • Reply
    January 8, 2010 at 12:09 AM

    OH MY GOSH! THIS HAS SO INSPIRED ME! I Love to take photos, but keep finding excuses since all I can afford right now is a lowly point in shoot. someday i will own a canon or nikon slr… but for now i say thank you! *off to find my camera* thank you, you rock!

  • Reply
    Fredagstipset – 8 Januari 2010 | Carlbom Foto
    January 8, 2010 at 4:56 AM

    […] Denna förtjänar nästan en helt egen post eftersom den är så läsvärd. Har du haft svårt att ge dig själv lite nyårslöften eller kanske bara funderar på vad du ska sträva efter med kameran under 2010 så har du här 10 st tips på nyårslöften som alla fotografer borde lägga enligt Mostly Lisa. […]

  • Reply
    January 8, 2010 at 6:39 AM

    Meaningful, Relevant and Worthwhile List ..
    Making a post it note and put it my camera bag..

    Thanks for sharing

  • Reply
    Stephen McGrath
    January 8, 2010 at 9:29 PM

    Thanks Lisa. You’ve effectively summarized all the tips I’ve been giving my friends in a rather chaotic fashion for the last couple of years. You’re like the organized portion of my brain ;-)

  • Reply
    January 10, 2010 at 1:28 PM

    Great advice, Lisa. Dare I add another point? I’ve often found myself, particularly with a camera phone, not taking the time to frame the shot properly or even keep the camera still, kidding myself that with this one I’m just recording an event or object – that it’s not one of my proper images.
    From now, I’m going to try and treat each shot as if it really matters and take better care of it.
    Really pleased your site has returned to my favourite theme, by the way.

  • Reply
    Welcome to ickledot
    January 10, 2010 at 1:34 PM

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  • Reply
    Craig Taylor
    January 10, 2010 at 8:52 PM

    Great list Lisa. I really like #4.

    I mean, how often do we get struck with the “if only I had this lens” or “if only I had that camera.” A better camera doesn’t necessarily mean better pictures. And in fact if you don’t get your butt out there and shoot it doesn’t matter what camera you have collecting dust.

    I always laugh and get slightly offended when someone says “nice picture –you must have a great camera.” After all, its the photographer not the gear that makes the picture. Yet I have no problem feeling gear envy when someone else takes a nice picture with a newer/ more expensive camera, lens, or lighting setup.

    I think the other resolution that struck me was “I will learn how to process my shots”. I still feel quite inadequate with my processing. I can do the basics and know enough to wreck a perfectly decent shot. That’s one resolution I think I’ll have to work on.

  • Reply
    January 11, 2010 at 7:16 AM

    Gracias por los consejos….

  • Reply
    Mostly Lisa
    January 12, 2010 at 1:27 AM

    @Al Doan: haha agreed! what’s a book? huh? pages? made with paper?

    @Frederic Sune: Good luck!!

    @Mike Page: aww!! i dropped my 50mm on the ground (well lightly tapped it) and the motor stopped working. i feel your pain :(

    @Spike: haha! i’m totally guilty of ogling at that. mm sexy.

    @Larissa: aww! so happy to inspire you! remember to share your picts!! send me your flickr link when you’ve got some shots up!

    @Stephen McGrath: now if only i could find the organized part of my mind…. we’d be ok!

    @John: agreed. framing and composition are the key to good photos. take your time composing. pick different angles and experiment.

    @acarafi: ¡de nada!

  • Reply
    January 12, 2010 at 10:14 PM

    Hi Lisa,

    Thank you so much for the inspiring list. I’m currently learning how to use all of my camera’s crazy settings (I invested in a Nikon D5000 this past summer…it was a present from me, to me!). I’m a journalism major who wants to add photography to her list of skills, and these tips will really help me get organized for the new year.

    Thanks again!

  • Reply
    January 14, 2010 at 8:17 PM

    Great list and those are some really good photos.

  • Reply
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    January 15, 2010 at 9:47 PM

    […] not to late to start working on a new and better you for 2010.  Mostly Lisa has a great article on 10 New Year’s Resolutions Every Photographer Should Make.  Highly recommended […]

  • Reply
    January 19, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    Oh no you’ve done it now! Cool list but now I’m going to have to follow through on some of these (or most of them)…

    Thanks I needed to know I’m not the only one who wants to do this – just need to do it now!

  • Reply
    Mark stagi
    January 20, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    That’s a great list to have. Not shooting with on camera flash should be a resolution for everyone!

  • Reply
    January 21, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    thx for the helpful tips, i’m kinda new to photography but i’m trying to do my best , i photograph mostly on my spare time since college is so time consuming but i think a list like this will help alot, thx ^^

  • Reply
    Thomas Tomchak
    January 21, 2010 at 2:27 PM

    What an awesome inspiring post Lisa. I loved the message and writing style.

  • Reply
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