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Creative resolutions for the New Year

14
The High Line, New York City

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

The small sensors in smartphones make it impossible to replicate the shallow depth of field a large sensor camera (like the one used here) is capable of without the help of post-processing blur effects.

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

One trick to creating an interesting square image is to have a round shape inside of it.

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

The combination of good lighting, bold colors and a detailed subject often requires only minor brightness and contrast adjustments for a pleasing image. No filters necessary.

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

The black and white medium lends itself well to both repeating patterns and square format compositions.

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.

Comments

Total comments: 14
ThePartaker

My New Years resolution is 2560 X 1440.

0 upvotes
Ralf B

... and in order to have more time for all of the creative resolutions, here is one non-creative:
Don't feed the forum trolls - go out & take pics instead!
Happy New Year 2013!

3 upvotes
Lee Jay

I promise not to take pictures with my cell phone, and not to share any pictures I do take until at least several hours after I take them, usually several days. Further, I plan not to take disconnected random pictures and instead use my cameras to take many images that, viewed together, tell a story.

2 upvotes
Amadou Diallo

Delving deep into a project where the individual images create a cohesive narrative is one of the best ways to grow as a photographer.

2 upvotes
Air Show

I want to seriously work on my clair obscur photos in 2013.

And get more glass for my V1 :)

0 upvotes
solarsky

My New Year's resolution is 7728 x 5368 on my Nokia 808. It rocks!

2 upvotes
Ubilam

My New Years Resolution: I promise myself to never let a phone cam, tablet or other similar 'mobile' device get in my way of taking photos this year.

3 upvotes
Lan

My New Year's resolution is the same as last year: 1920x1200.

Although if I'm lucky I might hit 2560x1440 in a month or two ;)

4 upvotes
wStudios

I promise to quit buying and returning cameras to Amazon. I bought and returned the D800, the 5D Mark II, the OMD only to end up with the one camera I expected to like the least but love the most (cheapest one ironically too) the Canon 60D.

0 upvotes
tiedyejeremy

wStudios-
I would love to hear your reasoning and decision tree for your preference on the d60.

0 upvotes
rambler35

Quote "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."

Not only will I expand my horizons but I will also keep them LEVEL !

2 upvotes
Silvio Fernandes

Nice tips, Amadou. And cool squares!
Feliz Ano Novo.

0 upvotes
JDThomas

Great advice all-around!

2 upvotes
Amadou Diallo

Thanks JD. Glad you found it helpful.

1 upvote
Total comments: 14
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