Lucky 13

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Happy New Year!

You’ve had time by now to put away all the holiday decorations. By now your resolutions are making you wonder what you were thinking on December 31st. Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Let’s make some New Year’s Evolutions!

Since it is 2013 here are 13 evolutions to think about/work on this year:

  1. Forget Past Excuses
  2. Try A Personal Project
  3. Read A Book
  4. Take A Course Or Two
  5. Scout Some New Locations
  6. Join Something
  7. Play With Plugins
  8. Discover New Sites
  9. Embrace Social Media
  10. Go To A Workshop
  11. Teach
  12. Restrict Yourself
  13. Happy New Gear!

OK. Ready to dive in? Let’s go!

Forget Past Excuses

We all have those nagging excuses lingering around and pulling us down. “I just don’t have the time.” “Why fool myself? I’m not very good at this anyway.” “I need better gear before I can take better photos.”

It’s a new year so wipe that slate clean. Forget why you didn’t reach your creative goals before. Start fresh in 2013 and expend your mental energy coming up with reasons why you CAN reach them this year!

Too many otherwise talented people let past failures or excuses pull them down. Don’t be one of them. Break free and forget past excuses. 2013 will be your year to shine!

Try A Personal Project

Sometimes inspiration can bloom from choosing a path to follow. Try embarking on a personal project this year. It could be A Study In Red or The Graveyards of Denton County or whatever comes to mind.

Picking a personal project and working on it throughout the year will give you something to fall back on when you are otherwise at a loss for what to shoot. And, you may have a body of work you can be proud of by the end of the year.

Another skill a personal project helps you with is the art of telling the story. A collection of excellent shots is great but a cohesive group of excellent shots that tell a story is even better. It’s harder than you may think at first. Meet the challenge. Pick a project.

Read A Book

People learn in different ways. If you like to read and discover new ways to do things or how a program’s features work then pick up a book or two this year. There are several good offerings both in paperback and electronic forms. Here are a few suggestions:

These are only a few of the Lightroom specific titles out there. There are also some excellent ebook collections at Craft & Vision and Flatbooks.

Books can be great companions on days when you just can’t get out to shoot. It’s always good to have a few on hand!

Take A Course Or Two

There is always something to learn. For some, books aren’t the way to go. For others, books can be a great supplement. If you are a visual learner try taking some courses. Community colleges, adult learning programs, even local camera stores offer some great learning opportunities.

There are also some excellent online sources of training:

  • lynda.com offers a full menu of online training at affordable prices. You can join month to month or annually. Different levels offer downloadable course assets.
  • Laura Shoe’s Lightroom Workshops are really informative and a great deal. You can download them or get them on DVD. Laura is really responsive and accessible.
  • Photography Concentrate has some interesting courses and ebooks. Lauren and Rob Kim take great pride in helping fellow photographers.
  • For the HDR aficionado, Trey Ratcliff’s Stuck In Customs is the place to go. Trey has a few extensive HDR offerings and his famous free HDR tutorial.
  • George Jardine has some excellent courses. George was intimately involved with Lightroom early in its development and has a unique understanding of what it can do.

These are just a few examples. Look around and find some courses you can take from the comfort of your home. It can be a good motivator.

Scout Some New Locations

Don’t feel like going out and shooting? Perhaps you just don’t know where else to shoot. Why not scout out some new locations?

Here’s a simple way to collect your location discoveries. Take a look at Evernote. You can open a free account and download the app for your phone for free. Create a notebook for locations. Now just wander around and when you spot a location that might interest you snap a photo right from the Evernote app. You can add tags, GPS coordinates, and a description right from the app.

As you collect these you can review them from your phone, your tablet, or your computer. All of the Evernote apps are free to download. When inspiration strikes you have a Catalog of possible locations to use.

Be careful! You may find Evernote so useful you’ll be parading to the premium memberships and your life will start getting more organized.

Join Something

No photographer is an island. There are online communities and local groups everywhere. Make 2013 the year you join one or more groups.

If online is for you check out the National Association of Photoshop Professionals or NAPP. For a mere $99 a year you get access to all of their tutorials (written and video), Photoshop User magazine, and a slew of member discounts. You can recoup the cost of membership easily using some of the discounts. In addition, you get a personal online portfolio space and access to some great forums. It’s a great organization and always available.

You should also get out and meet like-minded folks by joining a local group. The easiest way is to visit Meetup. There you can search for photography and/or software groups in your area. Many groups have shooting expeditions and learning sessions. Plus you get to trade ideas with other photographers.

Play With Plugins

Plugins often get a bad reputation. Some think they are a sign of a lazy photographer. That’s far from the truth. In my opinion they are a sign of a smart and efficient photographer.

One type of plugin adds features that aren’t already in an application. Lightroom has many plugins in this category. Go take a look at:

Other plugins can make multi-step effects a simple matter. Try some of the trials from:

Give plugins another look this year.

Discover New Sites

You obviously know there are good Lightroom related sites out there. Thanks for being a Lightroom Secrets reader!

I’m a big believer in spreading the word on other excellent sites. Take a look in the sidebar to the right and you will see an extensive list of Interesting Sites. Spend some time checking these out. There is some excellent information available and everyone list is very friendly. All of them care about their readers and are always open to questions and comments. I can personally vouch for them (otherwise they wouldn’t have made my list)!

Embrace Social Media

All of those masterpieces on your drive need to see the light of day. Make this year the year you get involved in social media. You can learn from others. You can help others. You can get some feedback and improve your craft. Here are just a few suggestions for you to try out:

Try one or more and get social in 2013!

Go To A Workshop

Workshops can be an immersion experience that is just what you need. It’s a chance to get out of the day to day world, away from those distractions, and concentrate on shooting. They can be as simple as a one day shooting excursion or a week long destination extravaganza.

Before you put down your hard earned cash research the workshop. Look for reviews from former attendees. Check out the reputation of the workshop leaders. Make sure you will get the most out of your experience.

It is also important to make sure you choose a workshop at your level. If you get beyond your capabilities or if the workshop is to elementary you will be disappointed.

To get the most from a workshop may sure you know your equipment. The workshop is not the place to learn how to use your camera. Know before you go!

Teach

Sometimes the best way to learn something is to teach it. You are more capable than you probably acknowledge. There are others out there that can benefit from your experience and knowledge. Try teaching.

Reach out to local photography groups and share something. Perhaps you are an HDR fan. Or maybe you have some real Lightroom Fu. Share it. You’d be surprised at the reaction.

Restrict Yourself

We have too many options. Multiple lenses. Multiple cameras. Multiple applications. The list goes on and on.

Improve your skills by restricting yourself. For example, try shooting at only on focal length. If you have to take some gaffers tape and lock that zoom lens at a set focal length. That will force you to look at shots differently. You’ll have zoom with your feet instead of your lens.

Another example? Try limiting your shots to things that are red (or whatever color you like). You’ll think more about what you see and shoot.

Restrictions can help you become more flexible. More importantly it will show you that you may not need that new lens after all. That’s a great deal; improve your skills and save some cash!

Happy New Gear!

I know what you were thinking in that last section. It’s OK. We all like new gear. Add some new gear to your bag this year. A few new gadgets can often inspire and spark some creativity.

Go ahead and treat yourself. Just remember that you are the essential piece of gear. Great images start and end with you. No amount of gear can substitute for good technique. Remember that and you won’t add too many new items. But add a few. It can be fun!

Well there are my 13 New Year Evolutions to help you in 2013. Add one or all to your to do list and let’s see how you did this time next year. If you have other suggestions please add them to the comment so everyone can benefit. We all learn from each other.