7 Photography Resolutions for 2017


How we're going to improve our photography in 2017

As 2016 comes to a close, we decided to partake in a time-honored tradition and make a list of resolutions for next year.  But these aren’t just any resolutions, these are Photography Resolutions! 

In the words of the great Jackie Joyner Kersee, “I maintained my edge by always being a student; you will always have something new to learn.”  In the spirit of always learning, here are 7 things we’ve resolved to do in 2017 to improve our photography...

1) PRIME LENS CHALLENGE

Shoot on a fixed lens for an entire month

There’s nothing that will help you master framing and composition in photography faster than shooting on a fixed focal length lens.  While zoom lenses get all the glory for providing photographers with flexibility and variety, the purest form of photography (and the oldest), is shooting with a prime lens and learning to “zoom with your feet.” 

 

Two popular prime lenses: the Canon 50mm f/1.2L and its big brother, the Canon 85mm f/1.2L

Necessity is the mother of invention, and having a fixed field of view to work with no matter what your shooting situation teaches you how to frame subjects, compose your image, and look for the best angle.  For this reason, we resolve to use a fixed focal length lens exclusively for an entire month.  Try it – you’ll be amazed at what you learn.

 

2) TWO WAYS TO SKIN A CAT

Shoot the same subject with 2 very different cameras or lenses

In conventional photography wisdom, there’s usually a lens that’s considered “the right lens” for each job.  If you’re shooting weddings, a 24-70mm is your go-to lens.  If you’re shooting street photography, a fast 35mm might be your mainstay.

But there’s also something to be said for shooting a typical scenario with an atypical lens.  Somethings, like wildlife, can typically only be captured with a specific lens (a telephoto, in this case).  But most of the time, your photography can benefit from you being forced to get creative with the “wrong” lens. 

A night-time cityscape, captured on a Canon 50mm f/1.2L, typically used for portraits. Image by @doyoushoot.

Have you ever tried portraiture with a long telephoto like the 135mm instead of a typical “portrait lens”?  How about shooting a wedding with just a 35mm f/1.4?  Or shooting a landscape with a portrait lens, like in the image above?

This coming year, we’re going to give these all a shot and see what we get.  It will definitely require creative thinking (and maybe some planning ahead on location, lighting, etc), but the results will definitely be anything but ordinary.

 

3) GET REAL, BE HONEST

Actively ask for truthful feedback from trusted photographer friends

One thing we’re guilty of as much as anyone else is not seeking out enough constructive critique on our work.  It can be tough to reach out to others and ask for honest feedback, especially when it’s critical of our lifelong passion and art.  Heck, it can even be tough to find better photographers to get feedback from.  But it’s important to try, and to get as much feedback as possible.  It’s the only real way to learn. 

A yoga portrait, captured on a Canon 85mm f/1.2L. Image by @doyoushoot.

If you just keep shooting the same things in the same way without hearing someone else tell you what they like or don’t like, you’re never going to get better.  With this in mind, we promise to ask as many people as possible for their honest input on our work.  What they like, what they don’t like, how it makes them feel.  Then we’ll go ahead and honestly evaluate their input to see what we can improve, and what we can ignore.

 

4) TRACK YOUR PROGRESS

Keep a photo journal with goals and accomplishments

One of the most interesting ways to improve your photography (or any pursuit for that matter), is to keep track of your goals and accomplishments. It’s only when you realize that you promised yourself you’d shoot at least 5 weddings this year, back in 2014, that you realize you’re not living up to the very challenges you set yourself. 

Crowds fill Philadelphia for Pope Francis' visit in September 2015.  Shot with a Canon 135mm f/2L. Image by @doyoushoot.

Writing down your photography objectives, both personal and professional, and being able to refer to them and hold yourself accountable is the best way we know to make sure you stick to your lofty goals over time.  As time goes on it’s easy to say, “oh I’ll make sure to do that next month”, but having that goal written down in front of you (with a date next to it telling you how long you’ve been planning this thing) is a great way to make sure you stay on track. 

It also helps you set realistic goals, since you’re going to have to think about what you’re committing yourself to a bit more seriously.

 

5) EXPLORE THE UNEXPLORED

Venture into a completely different type of photography

A lot of photographers (especially us!) are guilty of this one.  Sticking to the same type of photography – whether it be macro, street, portraiture, etc – is a great way to get really good at a particular sub-discipline. It’s also a great way to make sure you get only more and more inflexible and narrow your horizons over time.   As with any discipline, whether an art or science, it’s always best to make sure you try out several different aspects of it, and continue to do so as you specialize over time. 

An abandoned factory, captured on a Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L. Image by @doyoushoot.

What can sports photography teach you about portraiture, you might ask?  Well, to pay attention to the subject’s motion, for one, as well as to learn to read natural lighting properly.  Similarly, shooting night photos for a week when you’ve only shot portraiture will teach you to use a tripod, show you how to set long exposures, and even teach you a bit about how your camera’s sensor handles low light situations and high ISOs. 

Whatever you consider your specialty to be, it’s worth it to give a serious shot at a completely different type of photography.  You never know what you’ll discover and fall in love with!

 

6) GET MOVING

Simply put, don’t be lazy

This one should sound familiar to you, as it’s something most people tend to promise they’ll work on every year.  Not being “lazy” can be tough, especially when it comes to going to the gym or sticking to a healthy diet long-term.  But it can be just as tough to continue to push yourself, week after week, to explore new opportunities with your camera. 

Fall colors, captured on a wide-angle Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L. Image by @doyoushoot.

This year, we’ve resolved to stick to constantly improving our craft, shooting new subjects, exploring new techniques, and generally always pushing forward towards getting better at more specialities.  The goal is at the end of the year to be able to look back and say to yourself, “Wow, I photographed a lot of new things this year, and my photos are much better than they were last year.”

7) SCARE YOURSELF

Do things that are outside your comfort zone. 

If you're always doing things that you know you can do, then you're never going to learn how to do anything new. Compare it to cooking. If you always make an omelette because that's all your know how to do, you'll never learn how to make pasta bolognese or any other dish for that matter. The same goes for photography. If you only take macro photos because that's all you think you can photograph well, then you'll never learn how to take portraits. 

In photography (as in most disciplines), you're only learning when you're doing something you haven't done before. So don't be afraid to push your boundaries and get outside your comfort zone. When that friend asks you to shoot their engagement, say yes, and then spend the next month doing everything you can to make sure you do a great job.  

Have you always wanted to get into portrait photography but been to shy to ask that friend to model for you? Well, this is it. Ask them. The longer you wait, the longer it will be until you're an amazing portrait photographer. 

 

In Conclusion...

This year, we’ve resolved to stick to constantly improving our craft, shooting new subjects, exploring new techniques, and generally always pushing forward towards getting better at more specialities. The goal is at the end of the year to be able to look back and say to yourself, “Wow, I photographed a lot of new things this year, and my photos are much better than they were last year.”

As for us here at TogTees, we plan to do all of these steps to improve our photography. We're also going to apply this process to improving our tee designs, creating brand new products and apparel that we're proud to wear, collaborating with even more new top artists, and of course, coming out with new unique items that help photographers express their passion for the art that unites us all. 

That about wraps it up for our  photography resolutions for 2017. The only way to improve is to keep working at it!  We hope that sharing these is helpful to you in your own personal journey as a photographer, and hopefully they’ve given you some ideas for things to try out.  

Feel free to share your results with us on Instagram using #togteam, and we'll choose the best ones to share with everyone. We want the world to see your progress during 2017!

 

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