New Year’s Resolutions: Take Your Photography To The Next Level In 2016

Like many people, I make resolutions every New Year’s Day. Not the kind like “I’m going to lose 50 pounds this year”—although I definitely should make that one of my resolutions. No, my resolutions are almost always about learning some new skill.

One year, for example, I decided to learn more about Macintosh computers. You see, for over 20 years, I had been a PC guy. I was convinced that Macs were toys, not serious business machines. In the early 80’s, and even well into the 90’s, all of the good business software was written for PCs, not for Macs.

Why did I want to learn how to use a Mac? Because I had volunteered an hour every week to be the computer “room dad” in my youngest son’s 3rd grade class. The school’s computer lab used Macs, and I barely knew how to turn one on.

So, I bought a used Mac laptop on eBay for $300, figuring to play with it for a while and resell it on eBay. Dozens of Macs, iPods, iPads, and iPhones later, I’ve definitely gone over to “the Dark Side.”

What does this have to do with photography? A few years ago, at the urging of my friend Jerry Costin, I decided to take my photography to the next level. I made a resolution to start treating my photography like a real business.

The problem was, I didn’t have the skills to match my desires. So my commitment to myself was that I would “go back to school” on photography. At Jerry’s recommendation, I read every book Scott Kelby had written on digital photography and post-processing, as well as a number of books by other great teachers. I joined the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (now known as KelbyOne), and I started attending classes on photography and on post-processing. A few years later, I attended my first Photoshop World in Las Vegas. Since then, I’ve read more books, attended many more classes, watched photo critiques on “The Grid,” spent a lot of time looking at good (and bad) photos taken by other photographers, attended 3 more Photoshop Worlds and various other photo conferences, and gone on some great photo workshops guided by amazing photographers.

If you’re wanting to improve your photo skills, I pass along to you this recommendation: Regardless of your skill level, make New Year’s resolutions to (1) read (or re-read) more books on photography, (2) attend in-person or online classes on post-processing techniques, (3) attend Photoshop World in Las Vegas on July 19-21, 2016, and (4) practice, practice, practice.

Oh, and if you do all of that, and your photos still aren’t doing it for you, follow the advice of Scott Kelby: If you want to take interesting photos, stand in front of something interesting. That may mean attending a photo workshop guided by a great teacher, like Jim Steinberg or Suzanne Mathia.

So what are my resolutions for 2016? I’ll be attending Imaging USA in Atlanta in January, a street photography class in New Orleans in February, Texas School of Professional Photography in Dallas in April, Photoshop World 2016 in Las Vegas in July, and a number of other conferences and classes. I want to learn more about post-processing with Capture One, so I’ll be studying online classes on how to do that at Lynda.com. My wife and I are going with friends to Iceland to take photos this summer, and later in the year we’re going on a Danube River cruise with other friends to take photos.

But what should you do if you make a resolution to improve your photography in 2016 and you don’t accomplish it? Simple—just re-set the resolution next year. This will be the 7th year that I’ve made a resolution to learn to speak French—and this year I’m really going to do it!

Happy New Year! Thanks for reading, and may you have great light in 2016!

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