Photography is more than art, it’s a skill. Often people get into photography because they have taken a few good photos without knowing how they achieved the final image, technically. Photography feels easy so they go all in on becoming a photographer. Maybe this is you? But now you have realized that there is more that goes into a beautiful and compelling photo than just luck. But you have been bitten by the photography bug so you’re here looking to grow your skills. Setting goals for your photography growth is one of the most powerful tools you can implement. But how do you know what goals to set? Or HOW to set and track your goals? Today I’m going to help you figure that out so the coming year can be full of excitement and growth!
Why is Setting Goals so Helpful?
When you first get your camera, you want to know everything about it, you want to know everything about photography. Well good news, the internet is FULL of info on just about any topic or photography niche. The world is your oyster. You don’t know where to start, so you just read or watch any tutorial you can find. Even anything remotely related to photography. I’m sure you have bookmarked somewhere an article on High Fashion Macro Newborn Photography. All of the info and tutorials being thrown at you can get overwhelming quick.That’s why having goals is so important! It lets you focus in on one subject and block out the noise that can distract you from progressing.
The first step is to know where you WANT to be 3 or 4 years from now. Don’t worry about picking the right answer. When I first started I wanted to photograph kids. I now know I can’t stand it and love shooting weddings. So just know now that you won’t be locked into a decision. But ask yourself, what do you think you want to be photographing in 4 years. Having a basic idea will be your compass to learning. For this article, we will assume you want to focus on photographing children's portraits.
Know What Goals to Set
Assuming you want to photograph children, let's take an inventory of what you know that will help you to achieve better portraits of children.
What do you know?
What aperture does and how it can make your photo more compelling
Where to place subjects according to the available light
What needs improvement?
Your ability to get the children to relax and connect with you quickly
Auto Focus, you often get the perfect expression or moment but the shot is out of focus.
How to get better?
How to get kids to connect with you and your camera better
Find 2 blogs and 2 youtube videos on tips professional photographers have learned while working with children.
Write down what you learn, then simplify it.
Apply what you have learned to your next subject
Learn what worked and what didn’t, then refine.
That’s one entire month's goal!
Focus on that completely. Having kids who connect with your camera can be so important to the quality of your photos you really want to hammer it in and make sure you get it. Get to a point where you are so comfortable with it before moving on to the next goal.
Learn what autofocus mode to use in each situation.
Find 2 blogs and 2 youtube videos on tips professional photographers share on what Autofocus modes they use when working with kids
Learn what those autofocus modes do
Read my camera’s manual to see what the manufacturer suggests I use those autofocus modes for
Spend an hour just photographing kids running towards the camera using X Autofocus mode
Spend an hour just photographing kids close up portraits using the camera's Y Autofocus system
Spend an hour just photographing kids being kids using the camera’s Z Autofocus system.
Write down when I would use each autofocus system, put it on a note card and take it with me to my next shoot.
Learn what worked and what didn’t work, then refine.
That's your second monthly goal!
HOW to track your goals
Coming up with goals is fine and dandy but accomplishing your goals is something different altogether. Having a way to track your progress will help you stay on track and keep you motivated to get to your next goal sooner! Unfortunately, photography is a bit subjective. One of my favorite photos is a shot that I completely missed focus on. It’s not like the whole photo is blurry, but it’s blurry enough that you can tell I missed the focus. So why is it one of my favorites? Because the emotion is there. It’s a powerful photo of a bride hugging her grandmother who she hasn’t seen for far too long and didn’t think would be able to make it to her wedding because she's getting older. So technically the photo was a failure but to me, it’s a rockstar
Part of tracking goals like this is how you feel about how they are coming together. But keeping a simple list of keepers vs rejects could work for tracking how you are getting better at focusing. With working with kids you will be able to see your progress in the photos. So for both, I would suggest sharing your photos. Either on facebook or instagram with a unique hashtag so you can easily look at all the photos you have taken over time since you’ve been working on nailing focus or getting better reactions out of children.
Know What you DON’T Want to Do!
Knowing what you don’t want to do is as easy as knowing what you want to do. Maybe you have focused too much energy photographing that you have stopped promoting and now people have stopped contacting you? Maybe you spend $10,000 on new gear in the last 12 months and you can’t afford to do that again. Maybe you signed up for 15 online courses but only completed 1 of them?
Knowing that you want to just sign up for one course at a time and complete it before moving onto the next one will be a huge help on letting you focus your attention in a positive way to what you need to be working on now. That can be a larger overall goal for the year as you don’t need to practice something like that but still a goal to write down and remind yourself.
Some ideas you might want to make goals for
Complete photo manipulation
Learn how to shoot manual
Working with off camera flash
Shooting with larger apertures
How to take long exposure star photos
Learn how to attract more clients
How to raise my prices
How to brand myself
Building a website
As you can see there are a lot of goals you might want to accomplish this year. So go ahead and come up with 6 goals you want to work towards that will help you grow your skills as a photographer and forget the rest for now!