How to Set Goals That Will Improve Your Photography in 2020

Setting goals is a great idea with anything you want to improve at. However, setting the wrong sort of goals can impact your chances of attaining them. Here is a guide to setting goals that will definitely improve your work.

As anyone who has read more than a handful of articles by me will know, I'm a big proponent of goal setting. Perhaps it's because I spent the ages of 13 to 21 coasting, or perhaps it's my love of accomplishing something, but either way goals are central to how I work. I even wrote an article last month on how I will check up on commenters and their goals in December 2020

While setting goals is easy on the face of things, it's easier still to get simple things wrong that can have a drastic impact. In my first year of business, I set goals which — looking back at them now — were borderline pointless for various reasons. In this article I will cover the criteria for ensuring your goals are everything they need to be for you to improve and achieve.

Make the Goals Specific

I've put this first because this is the most common mistake I've both seen and made myself. When you are making goals, you have to narrow down exactly what you want to achieve, not a generalized notion of the sort of direction you want to go. For example, setting the goal of "get better at portrait photography" will not be particularly useful. Not only is it too vague, it doesn't call for any sort of specific action. Instead, the goal "take at least 10 portraits every month" and "have my portraits critiqued by a professional portrait photographer" would be infinitely more valuable.

Make the Goals Measurable

The second tip is somewhat baked in with the first; make goals measurable. One of the problems with setting goals is that direction is just not enough. With the aforementioned goal of "get better at portrait photography," there's no clear and obvious way to determine whether you achieved it. You can of course tell if someone has improved, but that's providing it is clean cut enough in the results. With goals like "take at least 10 portraits every month" for instance, there is no room for interpretation; either you took 10 or more portraits, or you didn't. Breaking goals down into parts does mean you require more, but the yield will improve dramatically.

Caroline Royce-Redmond

Make the Goals Challenging

If, like me, you get a buzz from achieving goals and aims, a part of you might want to set goals that deep down you know you can achieve. It's not always easy to tell if you're doing this, but you have to be your own harshest critic. When I set goals, I tend to come up with what I want to achieve, then whatever the goal was I would increase to the point where I'm not entirely sure how I would achieve it. One example of this for me in 2020 is writing my books. I initially set myself the task of writing 1,000 words per week day on any of my writing projects. I then forced myself to change this to "write at least 1,000 words on each book every week day." I'll be honest, it's been tough, but that's also the point.

Make the Goals Achievable

You can of course go too far the other way, however. In my first ever session of setting goals during my first year of business, I set myself the goal of taking a cover image of a major publication. While an admirable aim, it was not realistically achievable for me as I had no contacts, a small body of work, and no idea how to bridge the gap. I still set myself stretch goals every year which I have to try to figure out how to achieve, and I enjoy those, but if you set your goals too high without enough time to achieve them you can become demoralized by failing.

Set a Time Limit

The notion of "time" in goals is an important one. I set a lot of goals with a lot of different timeframes in mind, but whatever you want to do with your own, set a time limit. Open windows for achieving something will not motivate you get to the finish line. I have goals for the week, month, year, decade, and lifetime. You don't need to be quite as anal as that, though! Just ensure there's a deadline on every goal you set.

Commit the Goals to Paper

In my last article's comment section there was a discussion over whether you ought to share your goals or not; there are studies that show you shouldn't and some that say you should. Whatever the truth of that matter is, putting your goals down on paper (or in a spreadsheet or document) means they are somewhat "official." That isn't to say you can't modify them or add more goals, but you have at least committed to your aims for that timeframe.

Look at the Goals Regularly

This is advice I got early last year and I'm doing my best to uphold it. It was suggested that you should read your goals every night before you go to sleep and every morning when you wake up. It seems a bit... loose and fluffy an idea with little scientific backing, but the sentiment behind it can't hurt. If you keep your goals at the forefront of your mind, you're more likely to work on achieving them and they won't fall by the wayside during your busy life.


I would consider goals as a staple for anyone looking to improve at just about anything. If you want to improve your photography or videography this year, take the time to figure out what you want to achieve. A document with well thought out and specific goals can put you on a far more direct route to the sort of success you think about in the shower, and let's face it, we all want to be our shower fantasy selves.

What tips do you have for effective goal setting? Share them in the comment section below.

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Brokenland Photography's picture


Alexander Petrenko's picture

Smact goals?

jim hughes's picture

"Achievable" is definitely the key. I'd say "realistic".
I sell a few prints on FAA; my goal is to find a new, additional outlet for my photo work, because I don't think FAA is going to be around forever in its current form. Just one new way to sell photos will do. And even that is tough.