With the type of photography I do, I find that late December and early January have a bit of downtime. Corporate headshots usually don’t happen around the holidays, concerts are few between December 20th and January 15th. Wedding season has been done for a few months, families are on holidays (although some still want holiday photos)…. you get the picture. I have a half a dozen contracts set for the end of this year, but will have a bit of downtime.
Other than the most important recharging your personal batteries, there are things you can do to prepare for the new photography season, and help push your creative self.
There is always room for improvement and adjustments when it comes to the technical part of photography. From the gear, the process, workflows….
Review your backup process.
If you don’t do any regular backing up, well, now is the time to start. I personally experienced a hard drive crash many years ago and lost a good chunk of work. I vowed to never let it happen again. Buy some external hard drives (you might still find post-black Friday day sales), find a cloud solution to save the important stuff online. My website and client delivery is built with Smugmug, but there are other options such as Dropbox and Apple icloud out there. There are more professional solutions out there as well. And you always have the basic Flickr. Basically, anything is better than nothing.
Cleaning your gear.
Sensors get dirty when we change lenses. So do the lens mount contacts. Front of lenses can be smudged. Even your camera’s viewfinder can accumulate some grime. I clean my own sensors (not that difficult) but you can always bring the body into a local store to get them to do it if you are unsure. There are some good how to videos on youtube showing different techniques. I clean similar to what Karl Taylor does in his video
Take a few hours, buy some lens wipes and swabs and clean the gear. Use a Qtip around the buttons. Get that expensive gear shining. Look into micro focus adjustments for your lenses… you don’t always need all the fancy boards and charts they sell.
While I clean my gear before most important contracts and at least twice a year, taking the downtime to give it a thorough go through is a great idea.
Learn a new technique.
Buy a tutorial. Book a masterclass. Spend time with a colleague to get some hands on with something different. Learn something new that you can incorporate into your business or just for fun. There are plenty of editing techniques out there that may inspire you. Book an afternoon with a friend and play with new light setups. Many of us suffer from gear acquisition syndrome where we always want the newest lens… but learning new techniques can be way more rewarding. Gear is gear… it’s material. Nothing is better than knowledge and practice.
Be weary of spending too much money though. There are plenty of wonderful free resources out there on google-land. On the flip side, there are also plenty of things you can pay hard earned money for to simply be told the same thing you already know. Invest wisely 😉
The new year can be a great way to push your limits. As a creative, finding inspiration can be sometimes hard, but is essential in ensuring that we are producing the best work we can. Who wants to be in a photo slump always producing the same thing over and over again? Variety is the spice of life, right?
I’m not thinking about posting on Facebook to get some likes and comments. While those are fun and serve their own purpose, I’m thinking more along the lines of finding fellow photographers and visual artists and ask them for honest feedback on your current work. If your skin isn’t thick enough to handle constructive criticism, you aren’t in the right line of work. The critiques do not need to be hours long, sometimes short and sweet like my From the Hip series can help. Want something a bit more interactive? Organize a photo viewing get together where people share their work. Build a community, save the world.
Find a personal project.
You work hard to establish yourself, your business and your style. It is important to do. Equally as important is finding something for yourself, a project that stimulates you. It could be shooting a style you don’t normally do. Working on some original studio projects. Even thinking of a year long project you could do a bit at a time to keep those creative thoughts going year round. Chose something you will complete.
Look for work that you like and study it. In today’s social media world, images last just a few minutes. We see them scroll by, maybe hit like, maaaaaybe leave a comment, and we move on. Stopping to look at the image and find what inspires you will help you see your own photography differently. Buy a photobook or a book of art…. we have loads to learn about art, not just photography. Put away the gear specific camera magazine and have look at some composition and flow from art masters.
I’m not a fan of resolutions. They are rarely kept. I prefer continuous improvement all year round. But we sometimes need to stop what we are doing and take the time to seek that improvement. And downtime can be the best time to do that.