It hasn’t been the easiest year for photographers. With Coronavirus limiting our ability to socialise, travel and work, many elements of professional photography shoots have been curtailed. Saying it has been far from ideal is an understatement, but the world goes on, and thinking about how 2021 was going to look for me in terms of photography, I started making a list. It struck me that all the things I was writing down and all the goals I was setting myself for 2021 are relatively universal and apply to most people who enjoy getting behind a camera.
If you’re needing any inspiration or ideas of how to kick-start your 2021 with some photography you’re proud of, perhaps the list below can begin your thinking and give you some food for thought.
Here are 53 ideas to adopt in your photography in 2021.
Take fewer low quality photos
It sounds obvious, but it’s something to commit to, and the obvious insinuation here is that you should work harder to take more decent, quality photos that work together in sets. Be braver with dismissing and casting off duplicates and be decisive with good shots in a set. It’ll help you feel more organised and give you a structure to your work.
Stop thinking about new equipment
There are better things to invest in than your equipment for now. Learn the craft of photography on something you don’t mind using as a tool. Yes, it might get wet, it might get sand in it and it might be dropped, but you need a tool in your arsenal where this isn’t a problem. If you spend your hard-earned thousands on a brand new camera, you might take fewer risks.
Take a photography course
There are hundreds of excellent photo courses out there, run by some fantastic professional. If you’re into travel and outdoor photography, Wildist is a great place to start.
Clean your existing cameras and lenses
Take everything out and give it a good clean. This article by Camera Jabber gives you a good idea of how to do it properly.
Look after your gear!
Assess your equipment storage solutions and make a deal with yourself to look after your kit in 2021. It’s all too easy to ‘make do’ and before you know it lens caps are left off, lenses are strewn about the room and you lose vital bits of equipment. Be tough on yourself when it comes to a decent gear care routine.
Go on a photography road trip
With increasing restrictions across the country it pays to stay local – why not go on a photography road trip to your nearby towns, villages, hills and mountains to document a progressive story of a road trip. It’ll provide a existing framework and template for your photography to sit inside of.
Take more photos closer to home
Don’t forget to look around at what’s near and dear too. Taking more photos closer to home, even in your own house, focusses the mind and gives you a sharper perspective when you do take your camera on the road.
Review your backup strategy
This is something we should all do at least once a year. There are many excellent cloud backup solutions from the likes of Amazon, Dropbox, Flickr and the like, but I’ve also backed up on physical hard drives for many years too. Assess what you need out of a backup and what is going to be the easiest and most cost-effective solution.
Clear your backup
Backup are not infinite and unless you’re using the Amazon Photo service (which boasts unlimited photo uploads currently), it can also get expensive. Keep on top of the amount of storage you’re using in 2021 and don’t be afraid to do a backup flush every so often to clear the decks.
Clear your hard drive of different edits of the same picture, put them on a hard drive, and start afresh
We probably all have too many edits of the same picture, and going through and deleting many of those duplicates will feel like you’ve given your catalogue a fresh start.
Give yourself a goal to make a certain amount of money from your photography (it doesn’t need to be a big goal)
If you want to take your photography career more seriously in 2021, set yourself an achievable target financially. It’ll set you on the right road to having a positive mindset and the ability to scale and grow your burgeoning business.
Redo your website
It’s always a good idea to review the content on your website regularly, and the new year is the perfect time to set some time aside to refresh it in some way. It’ll give you the ability to look more critically at your work and revisit photographs that you haven’t evaluated in that context for some time.
Limit yourself to one camera and one lens for a set period of time
This is a simple strategy that again, enables you to focus on the style and the type of photographs you’re taking, boosting your technical ability.
Find all your lost ones or buy new lens caps
This is something I need to remind myself of in 2021. Keep those lenses covered!
Buy a better camera bag
A good camera bag that’s portable, comfortable and easy to separate into compartments is essential, especially if you are travelling for your photography. Ask whether the bag you’ve currently got is up to scratch.
Commit to finding inspiration outside of social media
This is a big one, and I understand it is easier said than done, but I am now trying to spend less time scrolling social media for photographic reading and instead, watching more films, reading more books and (when we’re allowed) visiting more galleries and real-world exhibitions. It does need decisive action to get away from the endless scroll, so why not make 2021 the year you get inspired away from your mobile screen.
Commit to taking more risks as a photographer and build strategies to increase your confidence behind the camera. It comes across on camera – a happier, more confident photographer makes better decisions and more soulful images.
Ask more people for random photos
Be brave, but also be confident in your ability and share your work and share it with strangers. Like the look of a couple sitting on a bench? Ask for their photo – you can sometimes get surprising results.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your photography
A lot of people don’t want to talk about their photography out of an imposter syndrome that’s too complex to discuss in a mere blog post. But, next year, talk about your photography more and own it. You’ll start to create a language around your work that will help shape and define your style.
Try new editing techniques
There are thousands of tutorials out there for Photoshop, Lightroom, Exposure and many of the other well-known photo editing tools. In 2021, why not delve into a different editing technique that will help you explore your photographic and aesthetic boundaries?
Try filming a short film of your surroundings
If you don’t have a habit of doing so already, experiment with your camera’s HD video recording. Make a short film of your street, your home or your local area. Again, it’s helping shift perspectives and extract stories when at first-glance it may not appear there are any.
Try a different style of photography
If you feel stuck in a rut, commit to trying something totally new in 2021 and learn the craft of a particular style of photography you’ve always been interested in.
Ask for help
Another big one, and one that I don’t think enough people do, including myself. Don’t be afraid of asking real people for real advice (rather than Googling it).
Offer to help
Use 2021 to be more engaged in the community, offering your advice and services to others. There are fantastic communities out there to tap into and be involved in.
Travel to somewhere out of your comfort zone
It doesn’t need to be far or a long way away, but make time to travel to a space or an environment you wouldn’t normally go to take photos – you’ll be surprised by the results and it’ll give you a new-found confidence in your image-making abilities.
Create a productive and enjoyable studio space
Take time to assess and really consider what kind of work environment you feel productive in, and create that in 2021. You’ll find it’s a great way to get motivated to work on your images.
Frame more pictures
This is another one I think everyone should do more regularly. Take the time to frame pictures your proud of and enjoy them printed. Look at them critically away from the screen, and always work to produce images that stand up on their own terms when printed out.
Learn how to build your own frames
A good frame is a great piece of workmanship – learning how to make one will enhance your enjoyment of printing and hanging your work.
Use your local photography shops
Local photography shops need custom now more than ever – don’t be afraid to walk in to use their expertise and advice to frame your thinking on your next gear purchase, for example.
Print your photos and commit to a real-world album system
You can still buy old fashioned albums – in 2021 why not create a physical album system so you can look back in years to come on a range of your printed images.
Try out a different camera system
If you’ve been wedded to one system your whole life, why not try out a different system to understand its pros and cons. You don’t have to commit, but by renting or loaning new systems you’ll get a better understanding of the technical possibilities in new and emerging technologies.
Backup and delete your Lightroom catalogue
Starting from scratch feels good in a new year. Backup your catalogue, save it somewhere and then delete all the images from your Lightroom. It’ll give you fresh impetus to create new work in 2021.
Investigate other editing solutions away from the obvious
I love using the Exposure suite of editing software to hone my photographs after they’ve gone through the Photoshop or Lightroom editing process. Don’t be afraid to try different options.
Try out a darkroom
There are many spaces that allow you to rent out darkroom space. If you’ve haven’t tried it before, or you’d like to get into it, why not use 2021 to develop and print your own film
Pick up some out of date film
On eBay and other sites you can often find some excellent deals on out-of-date film stock. Purchase in larger quantities to get a good deal, and experiment with how old film behaves when developed.
Learn about the history of photography
It’s always good to get some context to your work. Read up on the history of photography and get to learn the work of its most compelling advocates from years gone by.
Speak to more photographers
Again, this goes back to being part of a community. Be brave and share your experiences with other photographers.
Throw away or sell items you no longer use
Doing a clear out is a great way of focussing your mind and creating space for other items further down the line.
Stop being defined by the camera you own
In all honesty, it doesn’t really matter what system you use. There’s little point in buying equipment to make you a better photographer – use 2021 to learn techniques and the craft of the particular image making you’re interested in. The tools come later.
Try photo collage or photo montage
I’ve always been interested in photo montage and it’s a great way of chopping up your images and seeing them in a different light.
Read photography books
Get to learn more about photography through reading photography books. The Photography Storytelling Workshop: A Five-step Guide to Creating Unforgettable Photographs by Finn Beales is a great place to start.
Seek inspiration, but don’t be led
Don’t idolise photographers who look like they’re successful. We’re all in the same boat so treat everyone’s images, however successful, with a critical eye and ask what you’d do differently. Take your photography seriously.
Stop thinking everyone but you knows what they’re doing
In any walk of life, this can be something that prevents you moving forward. It might look like they know what they’re doing, but we’re all learning. It’s a good idea to learn how to talk about your work in its own right and try not to compare.
Write down ideas, thoughts, editing techniques, plans for future shoots etc. You’ll begin a process that will help your work hugely.
Sketch, draw and paint
Experiment with other forms of artwork and be creative with your notebooks. Doodling, sketching or doing small amounts of painting can be a great way of looking at things differently without the constraints of a camera round your neck.
Upgrade your computer
If you’re frustrated by the speed of your editing and exporting, some computer upgrades could change the way you work. I recommend Novatech for this kind of thing.
Give your work a why
Learn to give your photography purpose, whether that’s by taking more images, engaging in a community, talking to more people or learning from your inspirations. It’ll feel good to know why you’re pressing the shutter button and what you want those images to say.
Photograph more of your hobby
Many of us have interests and hobbies outside of photography. Can you photograph more of this and build a portfolio of work around what you love?
Take boring pictures
Don’t think that every image needs to be a stunner. Take more images for yourself in 2021, even if you think it’s a boring subject. Sometimes they’re the photos you’ll look back on with more fondness than anything else in years to come.
Stop trying to impress
Make 2021 the year about taking pictures that you can connect with, rather than what you think people want to see. The world of Instagram and photography on social media is changing, and in many ways it doesn’t form as big a part of forming your style as you may think. Take photos you like looking at more than anything else – again, it’ll give you a new-found confidence.
Soundtrack your editing
This is something I’ve recently done and it helps me concentrate and focus. Have a decent editing playlist you can stick on, ideally with a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones, and get to work.
Be a team player
As a photographer, you are a cog in a bigger machine, and if you want to make money as a photographer you will need to be a team player, no matter what. Do something in 2021 to be part of a team.
Check your work
Double check, proofread, assess your edits and be thorough and rigorous. It will turn you into a more thoughtful photographer and a make you a lot easier to hire if you get it right first time.
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