Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Boost Your Photography in the New Year

Happy New Year! Are you someone who makes New Years Resolutions? Even if you are not, the start of the New Year is a great time to make a commitment to improving your photography. This post will introduce you to several different photography projects and ideas to consider. You can, of course, start any of these projects at any time … so why not start today?

365 Project

A 365 project is the gold standard of photography project commitments: the decision to take at least one photograph every day for a year. If you are looking for a way to vastly boost your photography and solidify your skills and commitment, then you should consider a 365 project. We all lament how we don't have time for photography or how we wish that we could do more with our camera; tackling a 365 project will rid you of excuses and get you into the routine of daily photography.

Example of a month of 365 shots, here from this past November

I started my 365 project three years ago, on the second of January, 2011. (Even I was a bit behind in getting in on the New Year's resolution-making.) Now, well over 1000 days later, can honestly say that it was the best photography decision I could have made. I have learned immeasurably much about my camera, how to use it, where to find motivation, and what works for me, photographically. I have also found the impact of a supportive photography community and the importance of accountability – even if it is accountability to people you have never met in person.

Interested? Want to find out more? Check out and consider joining for free today. And if you do, you can look me up at Also, look for a full length article about 365 Project coming out next week on Digital Photography School.

52 Weeks Project

Intimidated by the idea of daily photography but still want to accept a challenge for the New Year? Consider instead a 52 weeks project. Just like the name implies, a 52 weeks project is a scaled back version, where the focus is on using your camera and taking pictures at least once a week for a year. This is still a great motivator to keep you using your camera and learning new skills. There are several different web sites and Flickr groups geared toward 52 weeks projects too.

100 Strangers Challenge

A 100 strangers challenge does not have a time frame but instead focuses on a specific type of photography: street portraits of strangers. Many photographers find street photography both intriguing and intimidating, and the 100 strangers challenge was designed to push you out of your comfort zone and into street photography. The premise is simple: find and photograph 100 strangers. Most participants opt for a more involved approach – talking to and interacting with their subjects before asking permission to take the photograph – rather than a more covert 'smash and grab' approach of shooting from farther away with a longer lens. Some photographers even put together small business cards to hand out, to allow their 'strangers' to see and access the final photographs. There are many 100 strangers groups on Flickr and Facebook, with more information and encouragement. Read more about the 100 Strangers Project here.

A seller and his stand at the neighborhood Farmers' Market

Capturing the Seasons

Now is a great time to think about starting a year-long rephotography project. January and February are great months for winter seasonal photographs, so you can start scouting out potential locations. Think about choosing a scene that will show off the dramatic differences in the seasons in your area: trees, flowers, or other natural areas are a great choice. Read more about Capturing the Seasons with Rephotography here.

Tagging and Catching Up on Old Photographs

This is probably the least exciting but most important photography project that you could undertake, particularly if you are a prolific photographer. If you do not have a consistent plan for storing, organizing, and tagging your photographs, you need one. If you can no longer find that one, perfect photograph you took of the waterfall last summer, then what was the point of having taken it?

Sit down and spend a few minutes thinking about how to organize your photographs. Because I shoot every day, I use keep my photographs organized in folders by day and then keep those folders in folders organized by year and then month. I use Google's free image editor and organizer, Picasa, but there are many other programs available for importing and organizing photos.

Screenshot of Picasa

When faced with a mountainous task, like sorting, organizing, and tagging all the photos you have ever taken up to this point, it is easy to get overwhelmed. There are a few easy tricks you can put into action that can help keep things manageable. (Some of these are based on ideas from Gretchen Rubin's books and blog:
  • Start now and work backwards. As you take new pictures, import them into an organized system and develop a way to easily tag, sort, or rank them for future reference. (Read more about what types of tags to use and why here.
  • Devote 15 minutes a day to dealing with older photographs. Set a timer and see what you can get done in only 15 minutes. Maybe for the first while, all you get done is putting pictures in folders or simply finding where they are on your computer. The idea behind the 15 minutes is that it is a small enough that you can commit to it but long enough that you will actually see progress quickly. Give it a try, and see what you think!

Summary: Photography Resolutions

The New Year is always a good opportunity to take some time for reflection and to think about what you want to accomplish in the upcoming year. This post has provided several different projects to boost your photography and get you started on the road toward photography growth and improvement. Think about which might be a good fit for you: a 365 project of daily photography, a 52 weeks project of weekly photography, the 100 strangers challenge of meeting and photographing people on the street, trying to capture all four seasons throughout the course of the year, or sitting down and finally getting those old photographs tagged and organized. What will you choose? Let us know in the comments!

Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is now available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.
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