Five New Year’s Resolutions for the Photographer

Five New Year’s Resolutions for the Photographer

1845 1038 James Tocchio

A new year is upon us. Time to reflect on the past twelve months and plan all the ways we’ll fail to change in 2018. Yes, it’s time for New Year’s Resolutions; those foolishly optimistic, self-imposed disciplinary actions that inevitably prove our willpower to have all the resilience of a graham cracker. So this year, skip the usual pledge to exercise more and drink less, and instead focus on your photography.

Here are five suggestions for New Year’s resolutions that could help you become a better photographer, or at least help you wring a little more fun out of the hobby. All without giving up red meat!

Shoot (more) film

If you’re a digital shooter who’s never tried film, this is a no-brainer. Buy an inexpensive film camera, load up some film and get shooting. It’s easy, nowhere near as expensive as people say, and will instantly change the way you experience photography. Film slows down the process, makes us think, and requires basically no editing post-snap. Fuji Superia is a great film to start with (it’s inexpensive and predictable), and if you’re ready to try something with a bit more personality, give Kodak’s Ektar and Portra a shot. They’re amazing. And if you’re feeling ambitious (and why shouldn’t you be, it’s a new year) shoot some black-and-white film and dive into developing at home.

If you’re an experienced film photographer this resolution still offers incentive; resolve to shoot more and different film this year. Buy some film you’ve never used before, something a bit more exotic like Bergger Pancro or JCH400, and see what happens.

Get out of your photographic comfort zone

In photography (as in life) it can be easy to get stuck in a rut. Take a look back at all the photos you’ve taken in 2017. If you’re seeing nothing but photos of your cat, the same old city streets, or your morning coffee, you’re in a rut. Even if you’ve done well to take varied photographs, you may still be resting comfortably in your habits. 2018 is the year to break out.

Engage in photography that makes you uncomfortable or stretches your ability. If your skin crawls at the thought of street photography, of shooting total strangers, get out there and do it. If you hate waking up for golden hour, set your alarm clock and make it happen (at least once). Scared of bugs? Try macro shooting and conquer that fear. If you’ve never taken product photos or used an off-camera flash, read the basics and give it a shot.

Photography is a massive craft with incredible variety. One photographer’s hobby can be totally different from another’s. The only way to grow is to experience new things. So pick a new facet of photography and get going.

Shoot one lens for six months

Many photo geeks are like overstimulated Labradors, chasing lenses and cameras like they’re squirrels in the park. We spend all our energy ricocheting from tree to tree, and at the end of the day we’re left panting and exhausted and hungry. Stop chasing squirrels.

Pick a lens, stick it on your camera, and don’t swap it out for the next six months. If you want more specific advice, pick a prime lens with a focal length that you’re not totally familiar with (we’re trying to spice things up, after all). If you’ve mostly shot a standard 50mm, go with something wider. If you’ve only used a zoom lens, try a prime 45mm. Zoom with your feet, learn about manual aperture control and its effect on depth-of-field, and enjoy the freedom of unencumbered shooting.

Whatever lens you choose, stick with it. You’ll learn valuable lessons about photography and realize that your results aren’t so directly linked to the variety and capability of your gear. You’ll learn your gear’s limitations and how to overcome them through ingenuity and craft. At the end of six months, you’ll be a better photographer with any lens.

Try a different type of camera

The differences between camera types and their shooting methodology are vast. Swapping one type for another (especially if you’ve only ever used one style of camera) can be incredibly stimulating. The impact of this stimulation is often immediately apparent. By changing the tool with which we make images we often have to change the way we make images, which in turn changes the images we make.

If you’ve only ever used an SLR, try a rangefinder. If you’ve only ever used a rangefinder, try a point-and-shoot. Only shot 35mm? Go medium format. Or try a Polaroid, or a TLR, or a box camera; a camera from 1905 made to look like a pocket watch, a toy camera, a sub-miniature machine, a Holga… the options are quite literally limitless. Pick something fresh and interesting and experience a new kind of photography in the new year.

Get off social media

Instagram is neat, but it can be exhausting for amateur photographers. Spend enough time on IG and you’ll be convinced that everyone in the world is shooting half-dressed models with a Phase One on a yacht in the Mediterranean. It’s not true. Instagram is nothing but a marketing tool for “influencers” and brands, and the sooner you realize that as a hobbyist photographer the better off you’ll be.

It’s great to pop in on social media every now and then, get inspired, and move on. But if you find yourself spending more time online than you do shooting, maybe it’s time to disconnect for a bit. Try to spend less time scrolling through photography and gear feeds and more time shooting your own stuff. Ignore what everyone else is doing, embrace what you love about photography, and develop your own style.

So long, 2017, you’ve been pretty okay. And Happy New Year to all of you, from the CP crew.

Have some advice to share with your fellow photo friends? Let us hear your photographic New Year’s resolutions in the comments!

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop

All stories by:James Tocchio
  • Nice post James. I especially agree with the comment about social media. Before reading this I made a decision to back away and spend more time shooting and being creative. Also, I just purchase a Mamiya six V folding camera and am looking forward trying a different camera.

  • Couple thoughts: (1) I shot nothing but a Nikon F2 in 2014, with a nifty fifty, and it made me twice the photographer I was before I started. So good call to pick a camera and lens and stick with it for a while. (2) Good, incisive analysis of what Instagram is. Hadn’t looked at it that way before but it really resonates. I keep uploading a photo or two there every time I have a new film-photo post up, in hopes of driving a reader or two to my blog. Doesn’t work very well, but the fake Internet points (likes) I get there are enough of a dopamine hit that I keep doing it.

    • Instagram is great, but I know a few photographers personally who are addicted to that dopamine you mention. They chase likes and end up copying the most popular Instagrammers’ styles to get more. As the famous admiral once said, “It’s a trap!”

  • Well, I’m implementing at least one of those changes into my new year – being an SLR and compact hardware lover (I’m married to Olympus OM system), I have acquired Bronica ETR. Fairly small and cheap, but hopefully not the worst medium format camera. It looks like a cuckoo clock and is somewhat clunky, but it’s alright for recreational purposes, after all, I’m just an amateur.

  • Like your new year’s resolution suggestions, especially the one about Instagram.

  • Great New year’s advice! Personally, I avoid new year resolutions – that way I don’t disappoint myself! But what about those of us with GAS? What do we do when we’ve got all those different cameras to chose from? I have 15 operational cameras (all film, of course), both 35mm and MF. I can hear your suggestions – either stick with one camera for the year, or maybe take one out a month. Options, options,options…so much to choose from – it’s a tough life! Cheers for 2018!

  • Nice resolutions. I am amateur and have a collection of cameras and I haven’t tried them all so I keep changing cameras, lenses and formats all the time. It will be very hard for me but I am definetely going to stick to one camera/lens for six months someday. It is a great sugestion.

  • My New Year’s resolution is to shoot nothing but my new Reflex 35mm SLR once it is delivered in August. For at least a week.

  • If I should shoot more & different kinds of film (since when is Pancro 400 exotic? It looks like other B&W film) why should I only stick with one camera and lens? I should probably shoot just one film and master that. Are you an influencer for film sellers?
    I read this site at least once a week and am glad you are here. Happy New Film-New Year!

    • I’m not an influencer, which is a bit sad for my revenue, but I might prefer it that way. I was gearing that resolution more toward digital shooters who might be new to film. Experienced film shooters might be better served to stick to one film for six months and see how that impacts their images. Great point! And thanks for the kind words regarding the site. It’s the entire reasons we’re here.

  • I’m going to do all of this!

  • Marcus didius falco (@falcos2012) December 28, 2017 at 7:06 am

    Great article:)
    My resolutions for 2018 are:
    Shoot Infrared(Rollei Superpan)
    Shoot more macro(Colour Negative/B&W)
    Shoot more Medium Format(Colour Negative/B&W)
    Shoot the 5 different emulsions I was gifted via EMULSIVE’s Secret Santa
    That should keep me busy for 2018!

  • Here’s mine:
    Shoot more people – er…photograph more people.
    Use fewer cameras
    Interact MORE on social media (it’s not about likes or follows. It’s asking questions and recognizing the work I admire)
    Every time I’m tempted to buy a camera I will buy film instead (we’ll see how long this lasts)
    Print photos (they’ll have to be ink jet or sent out, but I want to have something to hold and display)

    • Great resolutions – that last one is super important and I wish I included it in the list. Getting prints of your favorite shots is one of the best parts of shooting film (or digital, really). Excellent advice.

  • Thanks for another great article, James. I look forward to following the CP crew though 2018.

  • Thanks for the wonderful article. I really enjoyed reading it.

    I myself will go with resolution number 3. Why? At the moment i have a mini collection of AI Nikkors – 24mm f2.8, 28mm f2.8, 35mm f2.8 and f2, 50mm f1.8 pancake, f1.4 and f2 russian f-mount, 40mm f2 voigtlander.. I’m going to choose one of the wider lenses and stick with it. This year also, i would love to try and develop my own film. I purchased a tank, changing bag and film clips 2 months back. But have not gotten to buying the rest of the stuff and doing it yet. A good year to start it seems.

    Looking forward to more from CP.

  • My additions to the list: 1. Complete a local darkroom printing course 2. Print more pictures 3. Reduce digital shooting 4. Minimise social media consumption

    Happy new year to you all at Casual Photophile!

  • Some nice food for thought. I was thinking of what mine might be prior to seeing this, and I had 2 in particular.

    1 Far less acquisitions. Picking up a new camera or lens does not equate to more time to shoot. It actually only deepens one’s time deficit. It’s time that I stick with some favorites and revisit others rather than think some panacea exists in some not yet acquired film camera.

    2 Be weird. This is where photography gets fun again for me, in managing to do thIngs like laying a pair of 35mm strips on 616 backing for a new shooting experience, or in getting shockingly good results with just a Brownie and some close up lenses. It’s time to have fun with this hobby again rather than nitpick out of focus rendering between the Pentax 50/2 and 50/1.7.

    Happy New Year James and all!

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop

All stories by:James Tocchio