Hey everyone. Today on our live talk show, The Grid, we’re going to go back to a topic we covered last year – the key steps to becoming a better photographer in 2014. We have a special guest, one of my favorite photographer friends out there, Karen Hutton. I know she’s going to bring a lot to the table because, well, she’s awesome, talented and just so cool to talk to. Anyway, we’re not just going to rehash last year’s show but also put some new stuff in there as well, so I hope you’ll check the show out at 4pm Easter time. In the meantime, I wanted to talk a little about the first step and how it’s impacted me over the last year.

The Most Important Step
For me, one of the most important steps, and one of the most satisfying years in my photography, happened when I decided what kind of photographer I wanted to be (that’s the first step by the way). Personally, it was one of the most impactful moments in my photography career so far, and I think developing a plan can tremendously help your photography going forward.

See, 2012 was a big year for me because I really had some clarity and purpose in my photography. I told the story in last year’s episode but I’ll give you the quick version. Working at Kelby Media Group, I’m surrounded by many inspirational photographers throughout the year. You name it, from portrait, to landscape, macro, lighting, wedding, fashion, food, aviation, or even car photography. Because of my job in being the Director of Education there, I spend time with people that are at the absolute top in their field. In doing so, I think a very natural thing has happened to me over the years – I’ve tried to be everything. I’ve never really defined to myself what I want from photography. I’ve known that I’ve been better at some areas than others, but I’ve always felt that, with time and practice, I could get really good at any one of those areas if I decided to really put my mind to it. But up until 2012, I hadn’t put my mind toward any one thing.

Once I started thinking about it, I realized I love photographing the outdoors. Landscape, travel, and even people that are enjoying the outdoors became the type of photographer that I wanted to be. Once I figured that out in 2012, I noticed a huge improvement not only in my photography, but also my happiness as a photographer.

So What Happened In 2013?
I continued that focus in 2013 and I have to say, it was a HUGE year for me as a photographer. You have to realize that my job is not to travel around and take photos. But I do have the advantage in that I travel about once or twice a month for my Lightroom seminars. Well, during the course of the year I made it my goal to take every side trip I could where I was traveling, to get to some cool places. I dove in to long exposure photography more, and that even opened up some new opportunities here in my hometown of Tampa, because we’re so close to the water. Any body of water (lake, river, pond, ocean) as well as any place with clouds in the sky now becomes fair game for a cool long exposure photo. Not to mention that there may not be a beautiful landscape everywhere I travel, but I could always find a river, lake or something to frame up a nice outdoor photo – even if there was a huge city in front of it. Here’s a great example I took last October when I was in New York.

(click to see the photo larger)
New York

I even learned that I’m the kinda guy that can go back to the same place over and over again because the weather changes every day. I’ve got a favorite beach area in Clearwater, FL that I go to that’s different every time I see it.

(click to see the photo larger)
clearwater

So How’d 2013 End Up?
To me, 2013 ended up even better than 2012. Because I was able to broaden my scope of the type of photographer I am. I found more opportunities that didn’t require a great deal of travel and I had some amazing opportunities that let me get out there and shoot (and teach) a lot. At the end of the year, I looked back and I had replaced nearly 75% of my personal portfolio over on Squarespace with new photos from 2013. That’s a great year in my book, and probably one that won’t happen again any time soon.

I’ll finish up with this. I mentioned it last year and I’ll say it again this year. Please don’t confuse the clarity and purpose with closed-mindedness. It’s okay to have focus. Remember, that focus guides you, but it doesn’t have to control you. You can experiment with other types of photography as much as you want. You’ll either find you like it and add that to your repertoire, or that maybe you’re happy with your current focus. Either way, I think figuring out what kind of photographer you want to be is the key first step to becoming a better photographer in the coming year.

I hope you’ll catch us live on The Grid today as we cover this topic with some new fresh eyes. The show airs live at 4pm Eastern Time. You can watch live to join in and comment/ask questions live on the show, or you can always watch the rebroadcast later.

Have a good one!