Photo By Stuart Miles

Photo By Stuart Miles

Following on from last week, as promised we’re going to break down some of the things you can do to improve your skills and become a more confident and therefore more proficient photographer.

The first is ‘Goal Setting‘. Firstly decide what sort of goals would benefit you most and then secondly, how you will go about setting those goals to achieve the greatest level of success.

Goals generally can be split into two categories; proficiency goals and outcome goals.

Outcome goals are mainly things like… “I will take a picture a day for the next month”, etc. As with everything, the more often you do something, the better you’ll become at it. So there will be some benefit in an exercise like this.

A better outcome goal though, would be… “I will take at least one photograph each week , that is of good enough quality that I would be happy to print it out and hang it on my wall”

The reason this goal works better, is if your intention is to produce a print worthy photograph every week, most likely, especially in the beginning, you will need to take lots of photographs to get to the one good one, but each image you take will have been thought out and properly executed in the hope that it’s ‘the one’

If your goal is simply to take a photograph a day, any image, no matter how bad, fits the criteria.

The second type, proficiency goals, are more about learning something that will improve your photography. For example, taking a photography course, understanding white balance, or studying composition, etc.

Proficiency goals will be different for everyone, depending on your level of skill and the type of subjects you intend to shoot.

A macro shooter for example may choose to study the exposure triangle, whereas a product photographer may feel that a lighting course is more relevant.

I’ve listed below some ideas for goals in both of these categories, but only you will know what suits you.

  1. Shoot and upload a photo a day
    • Start a 365 project, or if time is more constrained, a 52 project.
  2. Read Photography books
    • Spend some time a library, or on Amazon, etc. looking for books that feed your photographic needs, then read a book a week/month/3-months, etc
  3. Join, or start a photography club
    • Photography clubs are great for getting honest feedback and learning new photography tricks, etc. They’re also ideal places to meet other photographers who are more than willing to help you out with any problems, or concerns you may have. It’s also a great place to make new photography friends.
  4. Learn to use Manual Mode
    • Get out of Auto! Images are free, switch the camera’s mode dial to Manual and experiment. Even getting the settings wrong will teach you loads.
  5. Subscribe and read 5 photography blogs each week.
    • Google is your friend. Search for blogs within your area of interest and pick up some tips.
  6. Plan a formal photo shoot each month.
    • By formal I mean ” Next Sunday I’ll go to the Boatyard and spend 4 hours taking abstract images”, etc.
  7. Choose a photo and analyse it
    • Spend some time each week to pick an image at random, then analyse what you like about it, what you don’t like about it and what would improve it. Then maybe try to take that improved image.
  8. Share your photos online
  9. Take monthly photo walks
    • You can go on a photo walk either by yourself or with a friend(s). Either way, take lots of photos!
  10. Experiment with genres
    • Choose a different Genre of photography to try each month. Maybe have one day each month where you try something different. eg Landscapes, Macro, Portraits, Still Life, etc.
  11. Learn the Exposure Triangle
    • Learn about the interaction between Shutter speed, Aperture and ISO. 
  12. Take a photo course
    • There are plenty of courses available either locals or nationwide, or even online.
  13. Use only one lens for one week
    • It’s amazing how much you’ll learn about your camera and your abilities if just pick one lens and ‘make it work’ in whatever scenario you find yourself in.
  14. Start a project
    • Choose a subject and concentrate on it. Your project could be, a colour, or a style, or a genre, for example.
  15. Look at photos
    • Literary authors say the way to become a better writer is to read more books. The same is true for photography, if you want to be a better photographer, look at more photos!

There’s no limit on the number of goals you can have, but just be aware that goals take time to achieve and if you overload yourself, you’ll end up not finishing any of them.

It’s better to pick a few and concentrate on sticking to them, rather than trying to do much and becoming disheartened.

If you have any ideas for goals, why not put them in the comments, share the love 🙂


How to set your goals to ensure success

The strategy we’re going to use to set these goals is called ‘SMARTER’ goal setting.

AAgreed upon
TTime dependent

Specific – The goals you set should be absolutely specific. For example, “By the end of August this year, I will be able to comfortably set all of the controls on my camera and always achieve a correct exposure when in Manual Mode.” A non-specific goal would be “This year I’ll be able to use my camera properly”

Measurable – There must be a way of knowing, without doubt that you have achieved your goal. The first example above is measurable, if you are easily able to produce a correct exposure, you’ve succeeded. In the second example however, it’s very vague…. ‘properly‘ is subjective and can be interpreted several different ways.

Agreed Upon– This one is very simple. The goals you set must be goals you want to achieve. There will be times when tutors, friends and family, etc. will try to tell you what you should be achieving, or doing with your photography. This may not always be what you want and if you try to achieve things you aren’t passionate about, it will fail.

Realistic – Don’t set yourself goals that will be too difficult to achieve within the timescale you’ve set yourself. It’s no good setting a goal that says “I will be a full-time professional photographer, earning twice my current salary by the end of this year”  if you bought your first camera last month. If  being a professional is your goal, make sure it’s realistic for you. Changing the goal to be achieved in say, five years, may be more realistic.

Time Sensitive – You must add a date to your goals. Without a timescale, your goals are just dreams. Although the dates may change as you move through any smaller steps on the road to achieving your goal.

Exciting – As I said a few moments ago, the most successful goals are those that you’re passionate about achieving. Once you’ve decided on your goals, make the steps to achieve them exciting and if possible, fun! The human mind loves to do things that give you pleasure, so make it easy.

Recorded – This final step is one of the most important in the process. Most people give up on their goals simply because they fail to focus on them often enough. How many times have you set a goal at New Years, only to realise three weeks later that you’re still doing the things you were supposed to be giving up? Failure to focus equals failure to achieve, so write it all down and keep copies where you’ll see them every day.

If you’d like more structure to setting your goals, head on over to The Insight Academy and go through the free course.

Good Luck and I’ll speak to you soon 😉