Seven Steps for Improvement in 2013!

I listened to an episode of The Grid this afternoon for some inspiration. It is a weekly show put out by Professional Photographer and Photoshop expert Scott Kelby. In the past year I’ve probably watched/listened to each of these episodes two to three times each in addition to watching a number of training videos offered through his ‘pay’ website Kelby Training. This week’s episode of the show really hit home with me though as I’m trying to continue my improvement in 2013. In this week’s episode, aptly titled Become a Better Photographer in 2013, Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski (another professional photographer and PS expert) list out the seven steps to improving your photography in 2013. However, while the steps are specific to Photography it struck me that they applied to all aspects of life and improvement during the new year. Each and every step involved below relates to any improvement you wish to make in the New Year. If you click the link above (and I suggest you do) you will be able to view the whole show (TED Talks have nothing on these guys! However, they are great too) but if not here are the cliff notes:

1) Figure out your Photographic Style – Landscape, Portrait, Street? I know that I’m not all that comfortable with street photography nor am I proficient enough to catch the action yet so my focus in on landscapes and cityscapes. This ties well with my ‘travel bug’ and I love being able to give a sense of place in the shots that I take

2) Study the Masters – The internet has made this ridiculously easy. When I first started learning I checked out a lot of books from the Chicago Public Library (I think they are still paying people with the fines I racked up) and as a result my improvements tied with how much time I had to sit and read. Now, the information overload effect makes filtering the information even more important – everyone is an expert. Heck if you came upon my blog and read this post you may think I know what I’m talking about (I don’t by the way – but I play a photographer in real life) so the filter becomes all the more important. In addition to Scott Kelby (if you love travel photography this episode on Kelby Training is worth the price of the membership) I go to a number of websites daily like Stuck In Customs, Blame the Monkey and Out of Chicago. In addition the masters of landscapes include Jay Patel, Moose Peterson and obviously Ansel Adams. You can get lost in a rabbit hole of information and come out hours late with so much inspiration and knowledge. As Scott Kelby put it on the show – don’t be afraid of copying either – how does anyone learn to play guitar? They get the notes from the classics and they teach themselves. When they become proficient at copying they develop their own style and become Masters but they all copied before they jammed so don’t have any shame.

3) Seek out Training – Again the Internet is perfect. It takes 10,000 hours to be a master at something….double, maybe triple that for photography because not only do you have to compose in camera you need to post-process (Unless you can hire someone to do that and if you can afford that you wouldn’t be visiting my lowly blog)

4) Do whatever it takes to take the shots you need – I know shooting landscapes I can’t capture mountains without leaving the Midwest. Luckily living in Chicago I have ample opportunity to capture a historic city but mountains, lakes, etc… are not in my backyard. As a result I need to travel. That costs money which I have to spend. No one said photography was a cheap hobby. I leverage business travel whenever I can but ask my wife…the travel budget in the past eighteen months has increased substantially.

5) Create a Public Portfolio – I use smugmug and WordPress. I started on an ambitious and addicting #365Day Project about 9 months ago…its time consuming but it has caused me to work at this everyday in some form whether it is taking pictures, post processing or trying to create a connection with those in social media forums. Its a work in progress and my picture taking and post processing has improved (at least I think it has) but I need to work on being more involved socially on the net…not very easy for someone who wasn’t/isn’t the most outgoing person in ‘real’ life either.

6) Buy the gear you need (or rent it) – Again, referring to point number four there are a lot of cheaper hobbies. Cameras cost money, lenses cost money, tripods cost money, post processing software costs money, printing images cost money…all of it to hopefully improve to the point where you MIGHT sell something, Maybe, just Maybe…. Everyone says invest in glass (lenses) and tripods while leaving the camera body as is. I shoot with a Canon Rebel T1i and am considering going to a T3i. I use Tamron lenses. I like printing large and the extra megapixels will help with that – nicer glass would help too eventually but don’t have the budget now. I’ve been to a lot of websites and looked at a lot of photos from people shooting pro camera bodies and lenses. I’ve been at National Parks shooting side-by-side and exchanged website information with people shooting cameras/lenses five times more expensive than mine and ultimately I like my pictures better than theirs so while I understand this I think the current amateur DSLR cameras/lenses are very good and thus there is a limit to just how far the money aspect will take you. The jump from an iPhone/Point and Shoot to a DSLR/Mirrorless is a huge one though in my humble opinion.

7) Make a Plan – Plan for 2013…next on my list but a plan will develop. It will include posting here daily, making sure to hit other sites (which I’ve neglected) like 500px, Flickr, Google+ and HDRSpotting at least two to three times per week (if not more)

Photo of the Day – Jefferson Memorial in the Morning


A very peaceful place in the morning before all the ‘hustle’ and ‘bustle’….I later spent a fair deal of time essentially alone (with the exception of a very brave mouse and a security guard – reminded me of the Green Mile) at the base of the Memorial hanging with Thomas Jefferson and reflecting on the state of our nation.

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17 thoughts on “Seven Steps for Improvement in 2013!

  1. Pingback: A Quick Follow Up To Becoming A Better Photographer In 2013 | Matt Kloskowski

  2. Justin, great article! I was going to listen to the podcast again to write down each part. Now I don’t need to. This was a truly inspiring show and you brought out all the best parts. and even though we’re friends, it puts a smile on my face to be mentioned with those other guys.

    I totally agree with you about the library. I think I may have read every photo book available, yet I only own one or two.

    I think an upgrade to a T3i is a good move, but not necessary as you’re putting out great stuff. And i agree that guys like you and me need to get out on those sites as much as possible. I’ve considered giving up sleeping altogether.

    • Thanks Chris. I’ve been amazed with everything you’ve done this year and really appreciate your insights (along with Brian K) on the Chicago photo scene. I haven’t taken as much advantage of it over the past year as I should have but I think I will be spending more time in Chicago in 2013 so hopefully I will be expanding my portfolio. Your tips on shooting locations will serve as my guide and I look forward to continuing to visit your blog daily.

      See you at the next photo walk.

      Justin

  3. Great blog and thanks to Matt for sharing your comments. I too was inspired and have jumped in with both feet not only lining up workshops and classes, but getting my business license to participate in local art fairs. Might as well see if others like my work. As photographers we do put ourselves out there and must learn not to let critiques hurt our feeling, but to help us learn. I’ve added your blog to my favorites and look forward to seeing your work. I’m lucky to live in Jackson Hole but still enjoy traveling to shoot other amazing locations. Best wishes for a great 2013!

    • Thanks alot Barbara and best wishes to you as well. The scenery in Jackson Hole must make for amazing backdrops for your work! I was there once about six or seven years ago and am yearning to go back. I know I’ll make it back there just don’t know when.

      How has it been going at the art fairs? I’ve been thinking of exploring that route as well since I think it is easier to sell photos when the person can see it framed and/or printed then just over the internet. It’s always fearsome to put your work out on the net but I’ve yet to run into the ‘trolls’ that I’ve heard so much about. Before I started the blog that was my biggest fear – that some ‘professional’ would just come out and rip me and in the process destroy my confidence. Fortunately, I’ve found most people on the web have been supportive thus far.

      Thanks again for the nice note – do you have a website? I tried to click your name to view your work but it took me to a Shutterfly page that was not working? I’d love to see some pictures of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

  4. I enjoyed your post (got the link from Matt K’s blog)- and your beautiful photo. I also listened to that episode of the Grid (twice) and have done a lot of soul-searching because of it. It reaffirmed my decision to not do my Project 365 again this year- it was wonderful for teaching me my camera and for becoming part of a great Flickr community- but now I’m concentrating on the first few steps from The Grid. I am going to browse through your photos now!

    • Thanks alot Melinda – the 365 day project has been a challenge but I like that it has caused me to stay dedicated and not get lazy. There have been days where I’ve struggled to find something to post but I think my photography has improved as a result because I’ve had to get out there to take and process photos more frequently. I agree that focusing on the other steps on the list will lead to great improvement as well – in particular I liked the idea of having your top 20 photos in your ‘portfolio’ to improve your eye for your own work.

      Thanks so much for checking out the blog – I definitely had the ‘Matt K’ bump with a large uptick in viewers over the weekend. I hope you’ll come back to check on my development sporadically.

  5. Pingback: More Interesting Photos? More Interesting Places « The (Semi-Regular) Roaming Lama

  6. Pingback: A Dream Come True | The (Semi-Regular) Roaming Lama

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