Getting Ready for 2012 – Or 12 New Year’s Resolutions for Photographers

When my friend Brad Moore at Kelby Training emailed and asked me to do a guest blog post about getting ready for 2012, I said, “Absolutely.” That’s after I said “thank you” to Brad, Scott and RC for thinking about me for this post.

Saying “thank you” is important. More on that topic later in this post.

I said “Absolutely” because that’s exactly what I have been doing for the past few months. As a photographer, professional or enthusiast, you gotta plan ahead.

After carefully considering the many things we, as photographers, need to do in the planning process, I picked my top 12 recommendations for 2012.

Here goes.

1. Set goals
If you don’t set goals, you really don’t know where you are going – and how you are going to get there. Perhaps more important, once you set a goal, fine-tune that goal as you move toward it.

For example, say you want to become a better people photographer. That’s a good goal for sure. But setting the more specific goal of making better portraits or environmental portraits (showing the person in his or her environment) is a more specific goal. In this case, study the work of well-known pros – and painters – to see how they create wonderful pictures and paintings. Study light – shadows and highlights.

To make my “Girl with a Pearl Earring” photograph, I studied the painting, “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” by the Dutch master, Johannes Vermeer.

Put some shooting dates on your calendar. Put what you learned to use. You really have to take a lot of people shots to get better at it, and get more comfortable working with your subjects.

Evaluate your goal. Regularly. Be tough. Ask yourself if you are reaching or achieving your goal. Ask your family members and friends if they think you are improving.

2. Socialize
Use Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to get your name and your work “out there.” These free marketing tools are essential for the working pro and aspiring pro.

See how other photographers are using these tools to their advantage. Daily.

These marketing tools are also a great way to share a favorite picture and to make new friends.

Look at these tools as building your fans and friends customer base.

Once you start, you should post new photos on a regular basis.

3. Network
You can use social media to network, of course. But actual face time (as in showing up in person as opposed to FaceTime on the iPhone/iPad) is also a great way to network.

Photoshop World is a great place to network. So is the PhotoPlus Expo in New York City and the California Photo Fest in Los Osos, CA.

Joining local Meetup groups is also a great way to network. Meetup photo groups are like camera clubs. They offer great opportunities to go out shooting with other photographers. Some host monthly meetings as well. If there is not a Meetup group in your town, start one – and start networking.

4. Plan Ahead
Here is what I tell freelance photographers, like myself: Being a freelancer is like being on a roller coaster. The highs are high and the lows are low. However, that’s much more exciting than being on a merry-go-round.

To be a successful freelancer, you need to plan ahead. Way ahead. I am planning my 2012 and 2013 workshops and seminars right now. One reason: I know many of my friendly competitors are doing the same thing. And, the groups that sponsor these events need time to promote dates to their members.

Make a plan and stick to it. Remember: dates in your “review view mirror” are closer than they appear.

Check your e-calendar daily. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

Here is something else I tell freelancers: Never give up. Believe in yourself. Follow your heart and don’t listen to those, especially on social media, who want to put you down.

5. Think “Free”
Get this book, Free by Chris Anderson. In the book the author talks about the importance of giving away stuff for free… in the hope of making a connection with a potential customer and making money down the road.

It’s a good philosophy. Give a free lecture or photo seminar. After the lecture, promote your workshops, prints, etc. Also, post free videos on YouTube and give free webinars. Again, promote your paid work at the end of the video or webinar.

And while we are on the subject of books, read, The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuck. It’s a great reminder of the value of saying “Thank You.”

6. Embrace Technology
You can make a few bucks by embracing technology. For example, pick your best work and create a PDF e-book. Sell it through E-junkie and promote it on your site and blog.

Also consider apps. As more and more iPads and iPhone are sold, more and more people are getting into app development.

Apps are more affordable than books. They are also available in every home with an Internet connection on the planet – which means you have a tremendous customer base.

After writing 36 books, I have now moved mainly to apps. I gotta tell ya, they sell way better than books these days.

7. Be Healthy
If you are not in good health and good shape, you can’t make the best possible picture and run the best possible business – and have the most fun possible. I know this because I recently hurt my knee, which slowed me down for a bit. A good New Year’s resolution would be to get in good shape and stay healthy throughout the year.

8. Create Your Own Reality
This may sound silly to some, but you can create your own reality, and you are responsible for your own reality to a great degree. If you want to be a photographer … you have to move toward that goal and invest your time and energy in photography. You might have to start with small jobs or volunteer to help other photographers, but you will be gaining great experience along the way. Remember the old expression, “you have to pay your dues.”

Also, read, Real Magic by Dr. Wayne Dyer and you’ll see what I mean.

Hey, it worked for me. For 10 years I worked in a NYC ad agency in a suit and tie. I dreamed of becoming a travel photographer. I read Real Magic and put the ideas in the book to work in my life. It might work for you, too.

Here’s another quote that may help you create your own reality: “It’s never too late to be who you could have been.” I know it sounds funny, but in many cases it’s true. Try to create your own reality.

9. Update Your Blog or Site
If you want to keep your customer’s attention, and if you want to attract the attention of new customers, you must keep your site current. Post new pictures as often as humanly possible.

I post new stuff on my blog almost daily. No matter how tired I am, I post. For example, I was teaching a photography workshop recently in Bosque del Apache, New Mexico, and I posted new work at 2 A.M. – when our wake-up call for the week was 4:30 A.M.

Posting every day has an added benefit: You need to make new pictures to post, and to find interesting stuff to write about. You’ll learn a lot, which brings us to tip #10.

10. Learn Something New
Learning is health, or at least that’s what the Buddhist say. Learn a new plug-in or software program. Learn a new photography Photoshop technique. For example, thanks to Matt Kloskowski, I recently learned how to make a better montage.

Learn HDR. Learn about travel or wedding photography. Learn, learn, learn. The photo field is filled with opportunities for learning; there are books, apps, DVDs, online training, workshops and seminars. Choose one and get started.

11. Practice
Read the book, Outliers by Malcolm Galdwell. In his book, the author talks about the importance of practice. Hey, I know you already know that, but this book really drives home the point. Strongly. Recent research, however, confirms the importance of natural talent and ability in the equation. Seems like combining practice with talent is the best formula for success.

12. Love What You Do
Here’s my final quote for this post: “If you love what you do, you never need to work a day in your life.”

I, like you, love photography! So the question is: “Why am I still working my butt off?”

Seriously, follow your passion. Even if you can’t do it full time, photography is still a creative outlet that simply can’t be beat.

Happy New Year fellow photographers! Hope you have a great year. Let me know how these tips work for you through my blog: RickSammon.info.