At the start of the year 2019, I told myself to make significant changes for me to achieve more this year and it has resulted to what I can definitely call the best year for my photography. Let me share with you 5 of them that I think can bring you more progress for 2020.
1. In 2020, Invest in Learning More Than Your Gear
The past couple of years have been full of breakthrough updates for photographers. We’ve been seeing bigger sensors on mirrorless cameras, the two major brands finally catching up to the trend, medium format cameras becoming more affordable (for some), and so much more gear related advancements to say the least. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t purchase any new gear this coming year, but instead, maybe if you do, you should also invest in further mastering your craft.
Learning doesn’t just come from books nowadays. Maybe invest some time in watching good (and credible) YouTube tutorials, or purchase some of the amazing Fstoppers tutorials. Or you can sign up for photography workshops for further specializing in your field of expertise. Even going out of your comfort zone to learn some techniques from other genres could really equip you with more skills for future challenges.
A good chunk of learning also comes from experience. Either in traveling or working on a passion project that will really challenge you to step your game up equip you with skills that you can never learn from the books.
2. In 2020, Engage More (Positively) on Social Media
One of the biggest challenges for even the best photographers in the world is growing their social media following. While the number of followers never made anyone a better photographer, it is definitely key for better marketing and visibility as a professional. One of the culprits of that challenge is the fact that social media, especially instagram, now bases the visibility of your posts on how engaging it is, or simply, how many people left comments and shared your post. With the difference of a few comments, and if you respond to them, the chances of it being seen by more people directly increases your visibility as a photographer.
Also engage with other people’s posts because you never really lose anything out of lifting others up. While Facebook and Instagram don’t really care what you say when you leave comments (unless someone reports you for abusive language,) let me just say that if you’re going to follow this tip, then I hope you engage positively. Because by being better people, we become better artists as well.
3. In 2020, Take on a Couple of Passion Projects
Passion projects can be very satisfying if executed as planned but the bigger reward of it is actually the process of being able to take on quite a good number of challenges to make it possible.
One of the big leaps that made me a better photographer in 2019 is that I started teaching. In the beginning of the year, I started offering a mentorship program to landscape photographers in my circle. It was a decision made after so much hesitation obviously because of constant bouts with self-doubt. But after a few sessions of mentoring I found that the bigger gain I get out of them (yes, even bigger than what my students pay me) is the fact that for me to be able to teach efficiently and credibly, I need to be able to explain my artistic vision and creative process in the most technical manner and because of that, I found myself to be more analytical and intuitive with my own shooting workflow.
As a culmination of this productive year, initiated my very first workshop and masterclass. This was the passion project that I never thought would actually materialize but actually became a big success. The workshop focused on visual design for photographers and basically took a technical approach to teaching artistry. One seemingly impossible thing to do at first. The weeks of preparation for the workshop required me to read almost double the amount of resources I read in a year, and more importantly, required me to dig deep into how and why I choose to make my compositions that way. Knowing your process and to be able to teach it in a step-by-step approach really fortifies your mastery of certain skills.
4. In 2020, Share What You Know, but Prudently.
In relation to item number 3, there is obviously a big benefit in teaching other photographers. But on the opposite end of everything, we must accept that when we do share knowledge, we should be sure that we know what we are talking about. The biggest downside of social media and photography forums is that everybody, even unverified accounts, are able to dish out information and worse, misinformation.
For a beginner who had just started learning to shoot, misleading tips or down right wrong information can be very detrimental. It's sad to say that photographers don’t read as much anymore. Even worse, many photographers don’t join workshops anymore. It’s good that many have become self taught but for those who rely on free material on YouTube, but it is also important to know that not all of them actually know what they are talking about. Even more so on social media threads, groups, and forums, there are people who lead blindly. Simply put, in the coming year, keep sharing for as long as you’re certain about what you’re teaching.
5. In 2020, Be Your Most Objective Critic
One of the downsides of social media is that fact that 90% of the people who engage with our posts are those who appreciate our photos. That might be a good thing but in turn, some people may have something to contribute to our improvement through constructive criticism but are hesitant because we might not take it positively. In fact, some people get to a point wherein even the slightest mention of a point-for-improvement offends them, and that’s really where their progress stops.
In 2020, always find ways to improve your craft whether or not people actually point them out. With a good deal of self-awareness comes a positive amount of that drive to improve yourself and your craft. If we are able to enter the year with an open mind on how we can step our game up, then most likely we will end the year with so much gain.