Let's face it. Even though most of us think of mobile photography as a creative passion that provides brief respites from more mundane pursuits, we're largely creatures of habit. Look through even a few weeks' worth of images in your camera roll and its likely that you'll find a lot of the same themes, subject matter or compositional perspectives repeated. Simply put, there are things each of us are naturally drawn to. And that's OK. But continued growth as a photographer involves working the muscles of creativity, often by getting out of our comfort zone.
So in the spirit of yet-to-be-broken resolutions I'm going to suggest some ways you can expand your photographic horizons in the coming year.
Shoot more portraits
Commit to photographing at least three portraits a week. Having a weekly quota makes sure you A) quickly run out of friends and family as subjects and have to (gasp) approach strangers or B) continuously look for interesting ways of photographing the same collection of people. Both options provide very useful lessons. Making connections with people and putting them at ease in front of a lens is a very large part of being a succesful photographer. And continually looking for new ways to photograph familiar faces can push you in creative directions you might have otherwise left unexplored.
Compose in a square format
Square images are not just for Instagramers. As I wrote in a previous article, shooting in a square format can have great impact on how you see the world around you. Repeating patterns, abstract shapes and blocks of color can come into stark relief in a square composition. Devote one entire day each week to shooting square format images exclusively. You can use retro-cool sharing apps like Hipstamatic and Instagram which only shoot in square format. Fully featured camera apps like KitCam for iOS and ProCapture for Android also provide a 1:1 aspect ratio shooting option.
Dump the filters
OK, I know this is a big part of what makes mobile photography fun (and an attractive business model for filter makers). But let's be honest. When was the last time you took a picture that made you say, "Wow!" and then thought, "Now what this really needs is a pinhole filter"? Your challenge here is to capture images with a combination of pleasing light, thoughtful composition and interesting subject matter that don't need to be made presentable by a dramatic filter effect. I'm not suggesting you go cold turkey, but challenge yourself to capture two images a week that need nothing more than basic brightness or contrast adjustments to look good.
Shoot in black and white
There's no better way to gain an appreciation of light and contrast than to take color out of the equation. And without brightly saturated colors as eye candy, you'll be forced to rely on interesting shapes, patterns and mood to create compelling images. This one is going to be hard if you've only ever shot in color. One trick that might help ease the transition is to first go through your existing library and convert some of those images into black and white. You'll quickly start to get an idea of the types of subject matter and lighting that can actually be more dramatic in black and white than color. And once you're ready to try it out in the field, most third party camera apps will give you a live preview of the monochrome effect right on the screen. Dedicate yourself to capturing one black and white image a week.
Shoot more often
All the photography tips in the world are of little use unless you put them into regular practice. So here's the ultimate New Year's resolution: Post a photo every day on your social media feed. See how long you can give your followers something new to look at every day. This alone is going to be challenging enough, so I'm not asking you to limit yourself to a particular theme or even camera. The act of critically selecting winners from your image gallery every single day will do more to hone your photographic eye than just about anything else you can do. And the pressure to deliver for your followers will likely be all the motivation you need to seek out interesting things to shoot.
And I'm putting my money where my mouth is on this one. I've already started my 2013 resolution and have devoted a Twitter feed to posting one square format photo per day. My goal is to keep it up, uninterrupted, for a full calendar year. I welcome you all to join this quest yourself. Simply tag your own daily photos on Twitter with #1squarepicaday. If you're not on Twitter, you can track the progress on my Facebook pageor follow my Instagram feed.