January, I have to admit, is not my favourite month. It’s long, I’m usually skint, I have to do my tax return (which I should have done last May I know!), it’s cold and damp and dark. And yet, it’s supposed to be a time for new beginnings, goal setting, resolving to get fit, budget better. In fact, in my last blog Set Your Photography Goals for 2019, I was very upbeat, offering words of encouragement and advice. However, here we are, just over halfway through the month and it’s National Ditch Your New Year’s Resolutions Day. Because by now, everyone has realised that it’s a long, cold month and we’d rather hibernate than exercise, diet, give up alcohol or wander around taking photographs.
So, here’s some more advice on how to keep photographing, despite any January blues, loss of mojo or general desire to be a hedgehog:
Concentrate on one thing at a time.
Pick an area where you would like to improve and blitz it. Perhaps you want to get sharper images: read up on it, ask fellow photographers for feedback and advice. Go back to the basics of checking your shutter speed and your method of focusing. Or maybe you’d like to work on your composition: take some time out to look at the work of photographers that you admire and ask yourself what is it that makes their images work. Practise one new technique at a time.
Personally I think January is the perfect month to curl up with a coffee and read photography ebooks on my iPad. I highly recommend books by Andrew S Gibson and David DuChemin. There are also lots of free resources such as Digital Photography School, Picture Correct and many others.
Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Remember why you chose photography as a hobby / profession in the first place. It is a magical, creative, rewarding activity that should take you away from the stresses and worries of everyday life. If photography is stressing you and no longer enjoyable, then something is badly out of balance. The place where you will find the solution or answer is within you. You are probably doing too much comparing, doubting yourself and beating yourself up, for making mistakes. You also think you’re the only one struggling, whereas the reality is that every photographer has times of self doubt, feels nervous before a shoot, goes completely blank and makes ‘basic’ errors. We just don’t shout from the rooftops about them, but instead we beat ourselves up and question whether we are good enough!
I’ve said this before but it’s important: don’t compare yourself to other people, only compare yourself to you last year or last month. How far have you come, what new skill have you learnt, how many people have you made happy with your wonderful portraits of them?
Just Do It.
The more you practise the better you’ll get. There’s no escaping from this, you have to be picking your camera up on a regular basis. Tackle a new area of photography or start a project that fits in with your life. You’ll be amazed at how much you will learn and progress. Even better is a project that other people are doing alongside you – join in the monthly challenge with Love Your Lens and be inspired by the images posted on Instagram and Facebook. You can sign up here.
If you do want some extra support there are a number of Love Your Lens workshops that could be just what you need. Students always tell me that as well as learning a lot they really enjoy spending time with like-minded people, swapping stories, sharing tips and re-discovering their love and passion for photography.
If you’d like a more bespoke lesson designed around your camera and your requirements then a one to one lesson is always an option. And I’m always happy to run workshops for small groups. The photograph above was taken on a bespoke lesson for three close friends in Chester.
One thing I LOVE about January is the light. It’s softer and more even, the golden hour is earlier in the afternoon, the sun is low in the sky and the shadows stretch on forever. Add to that the cold blue skies, the low mist, the hard sparkly frost on cobwebs and plants, the dark silhouettes of bare branches and tree trunks and you’ve got some amazing photo opportunities.
Ditch those unreasonable and unattainable New Year’s Resolutions and make some more enjoyable and fun ones!