The Only New Year's Resolution a Photographer Needs

The Only New Year's Resolution a Photographer Needs

Let's talk about one resolution you'll be able to stick to.

I’ve made many a New Year’s resolution over the past few years when it comes to photography. There were the basic ones like improving on specific areas of my work or doing X number of personal projects. There were more pointed ones, like reducing the amount of money I spent on new gear. By the way, I hit a twenty-year low in spending on gear last year. That doesn’t really have anything to do with this article. I’m just really proud of myself for that and thought I’d shamelessly solicit a pat on the back. All of our resolutions are highly particular to our circumstances. So, in truth, it’s impossible to live up to the promise of the title of this article and pick just one resolution that fits all. But, I came to a realization the other day that all the possible resolutions that one could choose should really just boil down to one thing.

I came to this realization in the gym, of all places. Well, technically, it was in my home gym (a.k.a. the corner of my garage). I was standing there in front of a set of dumbbells, about to do my gazillion-ith rep of the last year, and an old adage rang in my ears. Progressive overload.  It’s the idea that the body adapts to your workout. So, if you have any hope of continuing to improve your fitness level without hitting a plateau, you need to keep gradually increasing the amount of weight you're lifting (or your number of reps) with each workout. So, if you could bench press 200 pounds today, then you should try 210 pounds tomorrow, for example. I’ve just made up those numbers, by the way. We both know you surpassed a 500-pound bench press long ago. But, basically, the idea is that if you want to continue to improve, you have to keep pushing yourself further. Continuing to lift the same amount of weight you always have and expecting better results is an adventure in futility.

I thought about this workout platitude because I think the same rule applies to other aspects of our lives. We often confuse ourselves into thinking that the goal of hard work is to reach some sort of theoretical end point. We work hard so that we can hit a preordained point, then simply spend the rest of our lives staying put with our success. But, much like a shark in the water, if you aren’t moving forward, you are just slowly dying. Hard work is a reward in itself. And, if we are doing it right, we never have to stop getting better. As human beings or as artists.

When I was doing my annual year-end Instagram post the other week, I went about the usual process of finding the images from the year that I was most proud of. As the years go by, this process gets harder and harder. Not because I don’t like the work, but rather because I’ve expanded into so many different areas that it can be harder to create a streamlined and coherent Instagram story that won’t result in a poor imitation of Forrest Gump.  

I’ll admit that, at first, I was a bit annoyed at the difficulty of this routine task. What should have taken five minutes ended up taking several hours as I kept unearthing different areas of my work that I felt made major improvements in the previous year. In the end, all those accomplishments did end up holding together better than I had thought. But, the interesting thing is that the year in review I expected to see ended up telling a completely different tale than I had expected.

The reason was simple. I had accepted that I needed to lift more weight. I had stopped living in my comfort zone and decided to push myself to get better. So, while the results weren’t exactly what I had anticipated, they were, objectively speaking, better than I could have hoped for.

Will those results lead to that theoretical end of the rainbow? I have no idea. Truth be told, that part is completely outside of my control. But making these small strides, little bit by little bit, are the type of steps required to finish a marathon. So, as we head into yet another year of possibilities, instead of picking out a specific resolution which I’m likely to have forgotten by February, I am instead committing myself to simply continue to pick up more weight.  I will keep increasing the demands on my artistic muscles so they can continue to grow. Who knows where it will all lead? But I will get better. And, after all, isn’t that the only resolution we can all agree on?

Christopher Malcolm's picture

Christopher Malcolm is a Los Angeles-based lifestyle, fitness, and advertising photographer, director, and cinematographer shooting for clients such as Nike, lululemon, ASICS, and Verizon.

Log in or register to post comments