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What did you learn about your photography in 2012

Provided we all wake up on December 22, 2012, as the year draws to a close it is a great opportunity as photographers to go through our work this year to see what we learned, what we improved upon, and what we want to do in 2013 to keep growing and improving in our craft.

Sports photography taught me to get it right in the camera
Foto Graphics by Sheryl E Thomas

I usually don’t write these articles in the first person in an effort to be an objective narrator of whatever story I am trying to tell. But today, I want to share with my readers something personal about my photographic journey in 2012. Perhaps you will have experienced the same thing.

This year I learned a lot, grew my business, took on some new challenges, experienced some degree of success. I entered the year trying to figure out what I was going to do and where I was going to go with photography. I kind of let things happen as opposed to making things happen at the beginning of the year, so the first thing I learned and will apply to 2013 is to go into the new year with a business plan. What is my intended outcome for 2013? Generate more revenue, get more work, exhibit in galleries? How will I do that? Do I need more, different, better marketing? Am I reaching the right people? Do I want to do more studio, event, sports, fine art work? Am I priced competitively but still value my work appropriately? Do I need to cut down on expenses or invest more money into the business? These are all questions I need to answer as we enter 2013, and if you are a professional photographer, so do you.

Another thing I learned this year is that there are certain genres of photography that really fit me the best. I love children's portraiture because of the nature of kids. I do not want to do wedding photography. Not because I am not good at it and while it pays the best, it is a long and tiring day with temperaments with which I do not wish to deal. So I crossed weddings off my list. But I do like engagement shoots and want to do more of that. And events. Still love architecture and landscapes and have started to dabble into abstracts. In fact I am now exhibiting some abstracts in Europe, which was never an intent but one of those things that just happened to me this year. So as photographers, when we look back at the past year, are there things you loved to do and others you did not? Why waste time doing something you don’t want to do...get better at doing what you love to do and do it more.

I love location shoots and do not have a studio, but I learned in 2012, that even though I do not have a brick and mortar location in which I shoot, I need to have backdrops and lights that are portable that I can take with me for certain types of assignments if I want to grow the business. Not everyone wants a shoot outdoors at Millennium Park or the zoo. Some people just want plain background head shots. No amount of convincing about how great the bokeh will be if they let me shoot them at night on the BP bridge is going to make them happy. So I learned if I am going to grow my clientele I have to be able to shoot in a number of different environments, which caused me to buy the necessary equipment to make that happen.

And I learned I need to know much more about lighting. I used to be one of those photographers who said they only shot in natural light. Well, we all know why I said that. Because I didn’t know enough about how to use artificial light. Now I am studying all I can, watching videos, buying books and practicing, because yes, while I love natural light, I am not always going to be able to shoot in natural light, and I need to know how to use all types of lighting situations to create memorable photos.

Finally, I learned that I can shoot almost anything, and the more I diversify what I shoot the better I get at photography. I went back through my 2012 photos to see how I grew over the year and I am a much better photographer at the end of 2012 than I was at the beginning. I learned to shoot action photos by working for a sports photography company. And learning how to do that made me better at composition and getting it right in the camera versus trying to fix something in post.

I wanted to get more into portraiture; children, newborns, families. So I volunteered to shoot neighbors and friends for free and it was mutually beneficial- they got free photos and I got experience and photos to add to my portfolio. I learned how to get the most out of my event photography by making sure to capture the mood of the event and getting the photos my clients wants by having conversations with them beforehand and by volunteering to shoot charitable events for free as my way of giving back and getting practice before I started charging for the work. I learned about corporate portrait photography and how to pose my clients to get them the best photo possible. And I learned that I love photography, all aspects of it; the shooting and the editing and I want to keep doing this as long as I can.

We do what we do as photographers not just for the money- let’s face it, there are not a lot of millionaire photographers out there. We do it because we love it and because we think we are pretty good at it. And for the lucky ones, someone else thinks enough of our work to pay us to do it. But to keep learning is the key to success. So I challenge any photographer out there who is reading this to take a moment to think about what you learned in 2012. Are you better now than you were at the beginning of the year, and will you go into 2013 still learning, still growing and still getting better. I know I will.

Happy shooting to all and to all a good night.


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