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New Year’s Resolutions Every Photographer Should Make in 2017

Every year I learn more about photography as an art form and a business. I’ve struggled over the past few years with finding a balance between pursuing the photography I love and posting things to social media that get the most likes. I’ve seen creative photography blossom with smart phones and affordable dSLRs and take an ugly down turn with selfie sticks and social media vanity.

Some days I feel more inspired than ever, and others I feel like packing up my gear and moving on. I think a lot of us are caught up on the daily chore of posting 3 photos at exactly 9am, 12pm and 6pm EST on 3 or 4 social networks, and losing focus on what really matters. For me, photography isn’t just a job, it’s a passion that comes from my heart. When I take an image I’m proud of I feel a sense of accomplishment. I feel proud. When I share that photo and it inspires others, I feel happy. It’s a simple joy that gets weighed down by the pressure to post in an unnatural way.

My advice to you this year is directed at your heart, your big, raw artist heart, and the passion behind your photos. I know you’ve already taken the time to fiddle with all your camera buttons and learn about gear and spent hours and hours practicing right? Good!

Believe in your art.

Beyond the technical skills required to take a photo and the eye to compose it, is an undefinable art form.

Who defines what makes a beautiful photograph? YOU DO. It’s your art.

We all struggle with doubt. Is my photo good? Will people like it? To this day, every time I finish working on an image, I ask my husband who is a pilot, not a photographer, “Is this a good one?” Sometimes he says a definitive yes, other times he shrugs and asks me what I think. “You’re the photographer,” he says. True. I am. I have been for quite sometime. So why do I still doubt my work?

There is a difference between pushing yourself to be a better photographer, and being self-critical. The later is extremely dangerous to your progression as an artist and it’s something we should all nix this year. Believe in your work. Believe in yourself. I do!

lisadyrholeah

Impress yourself.

Spending all your time trying to please others is so 2016. It’s your photography, so impress yourself with your work.

If you like your photos and believe in them, then you have power and intention behind your work.

I will admit to taking and posting many photos because I thought people would like them, but didn’t really like them myself. I’ve also done the reverse where I’ve loved a photo I took, but because it didn’t really fit into my normal social media stream of photographs, I didn’t post it. There are a lot of photographers who take beautiful photos, but lack personality and conviction. If you aren’t 100% into your photos, then why bother? I ask myself this all the time. Let’s all agree to put our passion into our photos and not give a second thought to what anyone thinks about them. Ok? Good. I feel better.

No more FOMO (fear of missing out).

There is always someone better. There is always someone with better gear, more free time, and more experience. Before Instagram, we didn’t really know about these people. But now we do and we get it rubbed in our jealous little noses on a daily basis. There are days where I’m sitting in my pjs staring out of the window at an uninspiring landscape of the small Canadian air force town that I am currently living in and a really amazing image of a sunset and hot air balloons comes into my feed and for a minute I feel bad. I start searching my Lightroom catalog for something equally as cool from the past 8 years, and come up empty handed. I waste a lot of time on this behaviour and it’s gotta go!

I am extremely fortunate that I can travel as much as I do, but my life is not my social media feed. I post images from over 8 years of my adventures, so I’m not always standing under an ancient temple in Tokyo or running down a beach in Hawaii. 90% of the time, I’m in my new pirate pjs which I got for free due to an Amazon prime delivery mishap. The point is, don’t have FOMO, because no one’s life is a perfect Hawaiian sunset everyday. I find that consuming chocolate whilst experiencing FOMO often helps.

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Enjoy the journey.

Now that you’ve stopped caring what others think and what beach they are currently sunning on, you can enjoy YOUR journey. After all, this is the only journey that matters. Set your goals, both the practical and the lofty, and then take a deep breath and enjoy the process knowing you are working towards something you really want. Choose to be positive and appreciate the things that you have.

Take photographs that bring you joy, work on projects that are uplifting, and give back to those who matter to you.

It’s really simple once you strip away the doubt, the jealousy and all the nasty negative thoughts.

Risk, fail, and keep going.

If you don’t risk, you fail by default. Nothing ventured, nothing gained right? Everyone fails, but eventually those failures will turn into something worthy of picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and starting all over again. Photography is a lovely discipline, because our failures are fairly small. A few bad photos isn’t the end of the world, and in the minds of our attention deficit followers, they probably didn’t even register.

Don’t be scared of trying something new, something creative, something with wacky, crazy colours or none at all. Why not? Absolutely no reason. I double dog dare you! Now you have to do it.

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Be authentic.

Pretending to be someone you are not is exhausting. The pressure to fit into some predetermined, one-filter, samey same photography style is ever present. Social media popularity does not necessarily translate into real world success and income. Sure, sometimes it does, but compromising your style and your art to pursue this goal is, in my opinion, a waste of your passion.

Allow your photography to transcend the popularity game and be authentic to who you are and what you like.

I couldn’t imagine using the same filter day after day and taking the same content week after week. Some days I want to photograph waterfalls, some days airplanes, other days blurry artsy shots of grass. I’m curious about different photographic styles and techniques. I never want to stop learning. I maintain a certain style throughout my photography, but different photographic genres influence this style in different ways. I’m not going to make a photograph of an F-18 soft, pink and feminine, like I would say, that blurry piece of grass.

So for me, being authentic means taking pictures of lots of things and learning different techniques along the way. When I compromise this and only post photos that I think people will like, I stop enjoying my journey. I start to feel heavy from the weight of being someone I am not.

Don’t be fake. Don’t compromise. Be authentic and original.

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Be present.

I find this to be one of the hardest things and for me this is my major resolution this year. My head is always swimming with ideas and I’m sometimes a frantic photographer. I find myself running around, heart pounding, temples sweating, during every single sunset. “Where is the best shot?” I say over and over as I pace around, not even noticing the beauty right in front of me. I’m more concerned with the end product than experiencing the moment. This year, I’m taking a big, deep breath and trying something new. Something like this:

Look outside. Notice the little things. The sunlight dancing on the grass. Watch the clouds pass by. Listen to the wind. Feel the ground underneath you, supporting you. Try to connect to your surroundings. Be present in that moment. Tune out the emails, the nattering text messages, the worry, the grocery lists… Just be.

When you are present you notice more, you feel more, you feel less out of control. Try this with your photography. The next time you are photographing something, set up your gear and then be present in that moment. Stop fiddling around with every little setting and just enjoy that moment. It’s in this moment of being present and connected that you can actually appreciate what is in front of you and actually capture a photograph with meaning.

To sum it all up: Be positive. Believe in yourself. Stop competing with others. Be yourself. Be present and connect to the world and your art. I think that’s pretty good advice. Hopefully, I will listen to myself this year. Wishing you a beautiful journey in 2017.

Thoughts, comments, let me know if I missed something!

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34 Comments

  • Reply
    Edward Iglesias
    January 3, 2017 at 7:07 AM

    Really great advice. Yesterday I booked a flight to Rome for the Spring. It will be my first time but I am determined to try new things this year. Not as cool as Iceland, but the food is better.

    • Reply
      Mostly Lisa
      January 3, 2017 at 7:46 AM

      Rome is a vibrant and ancient city. Let me know if you need any recommendations! And I agree, Italians know their food! I’m excited for you!

      • Reply
        Edward Iglesias
        January 3, 2017 at 10:53 AM

        All recommendations are welcome. So far I’m thinking catacomb underground Atlas Obscura stuff. I’ll be there for a week so I guess I’ll look at the must see stuff as well.

    • Reply
      Bill H
      February 2, 2017 at 10:21 AM

      I really liked the food in Iceland ;-)

  • Reply
    Len Erickson
    January 3, 2017 at 8:06 AM

    Thanks Lisa, excellent post. No truer words than: “Enjoy the journey. Take photographs that bring you joy!”
    I really enjoy your work!

    • Reply
      Mostly Lisa
      January 3, 2017 at 4:18 PM

      Thank you! So lovely to hear from you.

  • Reply
    Massimo
    January 3, 2017 at 8:33 AM

    Hi Lisa
    Great post and good resolutions. I agree with you about the worst use of Instagram where everyone should post 3 shots everyday… Without thinking of creativity, heart, inspiration, mood… I already post on social only when I want, but I need do more and better.
    Thanks for this because I’ll try to take some time for me trying to hear my deepest emotions also behind a window in front of the sea.
    Thanks again and yes, in Italy we are in love with our food :)
    Ciao

    • Reply
      Mostly Lisa
      January 3, 2017 at 4:17 PM

      I’m glad you are posting when you want. That is a great start. And yes, please take some time to stare out at the sea. It’s one of my favourite things to do :)

  • Reply
    Steve Trupiano
    January 3, 2017 at 8:38 AM

    Wow so well written! The first statement that hit me was “Who defines what makes a beautiful photograph? YOU DO. It’s your art.” Then as I continued reading, I kept finding myself saying, yep that’s me, yep that me. So much insight and great advice. I hope I can absorb some of it and keep it in my memory bank next time I’m out shooting. Thank you Lisa!

    • Reply
      Mostly Lisa
      January 3, 2017 at 4:16 PM

      I hadn’t written a blog post in a long while and I just sat down today and all these thoughts rushed out of me. I guess I had some things to share :) So happy they touched you.

  • Reply
    Pablo V.
    January 3, 2017 at 10:01 AM

    Thank you so much for posting this! I needed this! I love photography but I dont consider myself a photographer. However, in 2016, a series of events showed me that I must walk the path of photography. This year I’m determined to start the journey. Thanks for encouraging me!

    • Reply
      Mostly Lisa
      January 3, 2017 at 4:12 PM

      We are all photographers really. Nothing really defines you as a photographer. Just take photos if it makes you happy and enjoy your journey and then work hard at all those business things ;)

  • Reply
    Luc Desaulniers
    January 3, 2017 at 11:58 AM

    Great article Lisa. I love how it is not technical-oriented but more on the development of the individual as a photographer. Thank you so much!

    • Reply
      Mostly Lisa
      January 3, 2017 at 4:10 PM

      I’ve written so many technical articles in the past, and honestly, I bore myself as I write them. This year I wanted to speak from my heart and let you into my thoughts and fears. Happy you enjoyed the post.

  • Reply
    7 New Year’s Resolutions Every Photographer Should Make in 2017 – Photography News World
    January 3, 2017 at 12:48 PM

    […] About the author: Lisa Bettany is a Canadian photographer, travel writer, and tech entrepreneur. When she is not capturing the beauty of the world or making iPhone apps, she enjoys flying small planes, reading WW2 themed books, watching movies starring Ewoks, and drinking tea. You can find more of her work and words on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This article was originally published here. […]

  • Reply
    Carsten Schlipf
    January 3, 2017 at 1:04 PM

    Consuming chocolate whilst experiencing FOMO would be a very unhealthy advice at least for me :-)

    I had followed you long ago on G+, but somehow lost track. So happy that I’ve found you back. Wonderful article with plenty of good advice I have will have to recall frequently in my mind. Thank you!

    • Reply
      Mostly Lisa
      January 3, 2017 at 4:07 PM

      haha… sorry for the rotten advice :P Happy you found me again!

  • Reply
    Frank Loforte
    January 4, 2017 at 3:41 AM

    Great article, I love your advise Lisa! I started following you when I first got Camera+ years ago. I will be going on a Mediterranean cruise this year and hope to use your tips. Keep up the good work, I love your photos and videos!

    • Reply
      Mostly Lisa
      January 4, 2017 at 10:19 AM

      That is a beautiful spot! Good luck on your travels :)

  • Reply
    Donna
    January 4, 2017 at 6:47 AM

    Excellent advice. This past year, I finally realized the things you’ve said. I had to make breaks from those who kept pushing me to “am up my Instagram” and I just concentrated on what was important to me. It’s the first time in a long time that I was completely at peace with my photography. Then, I stumble across your blog post and it’s as if you wrote exactly what I realized over the course of the last year. It was refreshing to see it in writing and so eloquently stated. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Mostly Lisa
      January 5, 2017 at 10:37 AM

      You’re welcome. I’m so happy you found peace amongst all the social pressures. I think we know when something feels right and for me, it has to be a calm, peaceful process. When I’m frantic and pressured, I start to not like my photography. I start focusing on the flaws instead of the beauty in each moment and each photograph. Best wishes for 2017.

  • Reply
    Andrew Noden
    January 4, 2017 at 7:02 AM

    Lisa,
    Having found you via Trey Ratcliff and the Stuck In Customs site, I came to your page and was immediately connected to you and what you have said. Although dabbled in Photography for over 30 years, the past 5 months I have started to really think about the photographs I take, the techniques, composition etc. Its like starting all over again and I know nothing. Living in Ottawa Canada, its sometimes hard to get really motivated to shoot especially in winter. But I realize what you have said is what really matters to me. I am finding myself again. Thank you

    • Reply
      Mostly Lisa
      January 5, 2017 at 10:33 AM

      Ottawa is a gorgeous city. You just have to see it through new eyes. My suggestion is the next time you have an out of town guest, take them to all the pretty places around town and listen to their reactions. What excites them? Maybe you can start to see old things with new enthusiasm. I would love to go for a skate on the Rideau Canal ;) Or take macros of snowflakes. It’s not about getting the “best” or most popular photo. It’s about enjoying the process and improving your skills. I hope you enjoy your journey this year.

  • Reply
    Shidan Bartlett
    January 4, 2017 at 8:03 AM

    Nicely written and said Lisa.
    Great advice. It’s always nice to see likes but sometimes the photos you put your effort and authenticity in, you realize are the ones that at times get the fewest likes, and i agree this doesn’t matter, sometimes it’s the opposite, and I don’t get it. However, sometimes it’s just the feedback we crave not for our ego, but for that creative journey, are we growing as a Photographer, instructor, etc…? Are we learning new techniques, is my style unique? Is my creative voice speaking? How is it speaking, is my story being told?

    Yes, believing in yourself, what you are doing, your voice/style and staying positive
    are the key, Thank you for the great blog post Lisa, always written with humour and authenticity! Now to post on IG I’m an hour behind….lol.

    All the best in your journey in 2017.
    -Shidan

    • Reply
      Mostly Lisa
      January 5, 2017 at 10:29 AM

      We all ask those questions, and for me it’s always the photos that I believe in the most, that get the fewest “likes”, but I think what we have to remember is someone tapping “like” has so many different meanings. For most people, your image flashes in front of their eyes for a millisecond and it’s gone. Maybe it resonated with them, maybe they got distracted, maybe they are in the middle of a meeting and didn’t click “like”. We can’t use these interactions as the feedback for our passionate work. Don’t let them decide what works for you. Keep moving forward. No regrets! :)

      • Reply
        Jorge Bayonas
        February 14, 2017 at 7:39 AM

        Exactly. Especially in social media like Instagram a “like”, “comment” or “Follower” is often used to create attention for advertising purpose from others if you are new or starting from scratch with your account there.

  • Reply
    Merielle
    January 4, 2017 at 10:34 AM

    I really love what you had to say here! Take away the tech, the megapixels, and the competition…this is where my own feelings of photography are heading. I want to have a more authentic connection to what I’m seeing and shooting. I am inspired, thank you!

    • Reply
      Mostly Lisa
      January 4, 2017 at 1:19 PM

      I think it’s the only way you can really put passion behind your images. I’ve tried the other way and been so unfulfilled, so here’s to a new year of purpose driven photography! I wish you all the best :)

  • Reply
    Wayne Berry
    January 4, 2017 at 7:16 PM

    Thanks so much for sharing. I’m sure its not a coincidence that I came across your blog post. I have felt this way for a long time. There is lot of truth and wisdom in your words. So glad you wrote this.

    • Reply
      Mostly Lisa
      January 5, 2017 at 10:25 AM

      I am happy my words touched you. It’s not easy to ignore the pressures at time, but ultimately we have the control to silence the negativity, breath and be grateful for what we have. Wishing you the best this year!

  • Reply
    Gordon
    January 6, 2017 at 3:27 PM

    Thank you Lisa for this insight! My passion has now been reset for 2017!!

  • Reply
    Bill H
    February 2, 2017 at 10:22 AM

    I was really touched by these philosophical points, taken out of the photography context they make a good pointers for my life in general. Many thanks and keep blogging, Bill.

    • Reply
      Mostly Lisa
      February 2, 2017 at 1:38 PM

      Thank you so much. I’m glad that you enjoyed them. I’m still finding them challenging and I definitely cheat every now and again, but it’s all a process. Wishing you a happy 2017.

  • Reply
    Jorge Bayonas
    February 14, 2017 at 7:36 AM

    Thank you very much for this positive feedback with your article! It has helped me to open my eyes and i understand the problems you are describing here very well, especially when it comes to social media. It is sympathetically written and i have enjoyed it reading through to the end. I hope you can use this for yourself, too!

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