Make 2013 Your Best Year Yet!

rick 2 copy.jpg

This is an updated post that ran on Scott Kelby's Photoshop Insider blog last year at about this time. The idea is to set goals for the new year - and it make it your best year yet.

Good luck and Happy New Year!

1. Set goals
If you don’t set goals, you really don’t know where you are going – and how you are going to get there. Perhaps more important, once you set a goal, fine-tune that goal as you move toward it.

For example, say you want to become a better people photographer. That’s a good goal for sure. But setting the more specific goal of making better portraits or environmental portraits (showing the person in his or her environment) is a more specific goal.

If you want to make better studio portraits, study the work of well-known photo pros – and painters – to see how they create dramatic pictures and paintings. Study light – shadows and highlights. (I cover light in my latest Kelby Training class, Light - the Main Element in Every Photograph.)

To make my “Girl with a Pearl Earring” photograph, I studied the painting, “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” by the Dutch master, Johannes Vermeer.

If you'd like speedlite shooting, here's a post I did on my basic lighting gear.

Put some studio portrait dates on your calendar. Put what you learned to use. You need to take a lot of portraits to get better at it, and to get more comfortable working with your subjects, which is very important, too.

Evaluate your goal. Regularly. Be tough. Ask yourself if you are achieving your goal. Ask your family members and friends if they think you are improving.

2. Socialize
Use Google+, Facebook, Twitter etc. to get your name and your work “out there.” These free marketing tools are essential for the working pro and aspiring pro.

See how other photographers are using these tools to their advantage. Daily.

These marketing tools are also a great way to share a favorite picture and to make new friends.

Look at these tools as ways to build your customer base.

Once you start, you should post new photos on a regular basis.

ipad for blog copy.jpg

My Social Media Marketing for Photographers apps can help you get started promoting you and your work.

3. Network
You should use social media to network, of course. But actual face time (as in showing up in person as opposed to FaceTime on the iPhone/iPad) is also a great way to network.

Photoshop World is a great place for face time and for networking. So is PhotoPlus Expo in New York City and the California Photo Fest in Los Osos, CA.

Joining local Meetup groups is also a great way to network. Meetup photo groups are like camera clubs. They offer great opportunities to go out and shoot with other  photographers. Some Meetup groups host monthly meetings as well. If there is not a Meetup group in your town, start one – and start networking.

4. Plan Ahead
Here is what I tell freelance photographers: Being a freelancer is like being on a roller coaster. The highs are high and the lows are low. However, that’s much more exciting than being on a merry-go-round.

To be a successful freelancer, you need to plan ahead. Way ahead. I started planning my 2013 workshops and seminars in January 2012. One reason: I know many of my friendly competitors are doing the same thing. And, the organizations that sponsor these events need time to promote event to their members.

Make a plan and stick to it. Remember: dates in your “review view mirror” are closer than they appear.

Check your e-calendar daily. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

Here is something else I tell freelancers: Never give up. Believe in yourself. Follow your heart and don’t listen to those, especially on social media, who want to put you down.

5. Think “Free”
Get this book: Free by Chris Anderson. In the book the author talks about the importance of giving away stuff for free… in the hope of making a connection with a potential customer and making money down the road.


It’s a good philosophy. Give a free lecture or photo seminar. After the lecture, promote your workshops, prints, etc. Also, post free videos on YouTube and give free webinars. Again, promote your paid work at the end of the video or webinar.

And while we are on the subject of books, read, The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuck. It’s a great reminder of the value of saying “Thank You.”

6. Embrace Technology
You can make a few bucks by embracing technology. For example, pick your best work and create an iBook. It's fast and easy, and you have total creative control over your project.

Also consider making an a app. As more and more iPads and iPhone are sold, more and more people are getting into app development.

Apps are more affordable than books. They are also available in every home around the world with an Internet connection – which means you have a tremendous customer base.

After writing 36 books, I have now moved mainly to apps. I gotta tell ya, they sell way better than books these days.

7. Be Healthy
If you are not in good health and good shape, you can’t make the best possible pictures and run the best possible business – and have the most fun possible. I know this because last year I hurt my knee, which slowed me down for a bit. A good New Year’s resolution would be to get in good shape and stay healthy throughout the year.


8. Create Your Own Reality
This may sound silly to some, but you can create your own reality, and you are responsible for your own reality to a great degree. If you want to become a better photographer, you have to move toward that goal and invest your time and energy in photography. You might have to start with small jobs or volunteer to help other photographers, but you will be gaining great experience along the way. Remember the old expression, “You have to pay your dues.”


Also, read, Real Magic by Dr. Wayne Dyer and you’ll see what I mean about creating your own reality.

Hey, it worked for me. For 10 years I worked in a NYC advertising agency wearing a suit and tie. I dreamed of becoming a travel photographer. I read Real Magic and put the ideas in the book to work in my life. It could work for you, too.

Here’s another quote that may help you create your own reality: “It’s never too late to be who you could have been.” I know it sounds funny, but in many cases it’s true. Try to create your own reality.

9. Update Your Blog or Site
If you want to keep your customer’s attention, and if you want to attract the attention of new customers, you must keep your site current. Post new pictures as often as humanly possible.

I post new stuff here on my blog almost daily. No matter how tired I am, I post. 

Posting every day has an added benefit: You need to make new pictures to post, and to find interesting stuff to write about. 

Speaking of sites, I recently moved my site to Squarespace, which I think is the coolest place to make and host a site. Use one-click to get started with your own awesome Squarespace site. Take advantage of the free trial.

10. Learn Something New
Learning is health, or at least that’s what the Buddhists say. Learn a new plug-in or software program. 


Learn HDR. Learn about travel or wedding photography. Learn, learn, learn. The photo field is filled with opportunities for learning; there are books, apps, DVDs, online training, workshops and seminars. Choose one - or more - and get started.

11. Practice
Read the book, Outliers by Malcolm Galdwell. In his book, the author talks about the importance of practice. Hey, I know you already know that, but this book really drives home the point. Strongly. Recent research, however, confirms the importance of natural talent and ability in the equation. Seems like combining practice with talent is the best formula for success.

12. Love What You Do
Here’s my final quote for this post: “If you love what you do, you never need to work a day in your life.”

I, like you, love photography! So the question is: “Why am I still working my butt off?”

Seriously, follow your passion. Even if you can’t do it full time, photography is still a creative outlet that simply can’t be beat.

Happy New Year fellow photographers! Hope you have a great year. Let me know how these tips work for you by leaving a comment here.

Explore the light,

Screen Shot 2012-12-11 at 11.56.55 AM.png

This post sponsored by Westcott. Check 'em out for all your lighting needs.