Blog #37 Ready, Set, Goal!
Based on the title of this week’s blog entry, you can probably tell that the topic of the discussion will be goals in photography. We are getting to the end of the calendar and I tend to become reflective around this time of year. In any profession or hobby where improvement is expected, it is appropriate to establish goals. This is usually sufficient but not entirely necessary for improvement to happen. Sure, you can go about making images willy-nilly but then improvement will be strictly accidental. The photographer without a goal-oriented process will make images that are good or even great from time to time, based on chance, or serendipitously. It will be difficult to replicate good work or to have consistency in that work without a work flow that is goal-oriented.
From Black City Series
You can approach this process with three factors that you should consider when setting photography goals for yourself. The three factors are as follows:
Goals should be established based solely on your own expectation and what you want to accomplish. The first factor is number. Most likely, somewhere between around three to five goals but fewer than 10 would be a good place to start. This can be adjusted later once you assess the difficulty level or effort involved in each of the goals that you set. However, since you cannot really predict how long a given goal will take, and what might get in the way of you achieving a given goal, you want to work with a reasonable number. The goal of setting goals is to complete them!
From Distant Figures Series
In terms of the duration for your goals, many people may find it suitable to work on a one year time line. This allows for: unexpected obstacles to sort themselves out, flexibility across the goals that you set for yourself, and also a reasonable amount of time to work on a given goal or project. Many projects can and do span decades or even a across the lifetime of the photographer. However, even those need to start somewhere. You will of course be able to go at your own pace throughout the process. You might start one goal and stop that one to move on to another in the process of one year. This is an appropriate starting point and you can always adjust after the first year of goals. Some may also carry over the following year. That will be up to you and the complexity of the goal that brings us to the last and final factor in setting goals.
From the Urban Angles Series
The third factor of setting photography goals for yourself is the content or difficulty level of the goal itself. Learning how to reliably develop black and white film, for example, will require a learning curve of around a few weeks or even months. Researching gear for travelling might take just a few hours or a few days. A Project 365 will take, you guessed it, 365 Days. It would be a helpful ingredient to your goal setting and planning to vary the size or effort of the goals. The three examples above represent short, medium, and long term goals. Include all of those in your three to five annual goals for optimum success.
From Abstract Nightlife Series
A few years ago I decided to become a professional photographer. Soon after, I set a lofty seven goals for myself. I was able to complete six out of those seven goals and one of them (Project 365) carried over the next year.
I was so motivated by my success in completing this first set of goals that I set eight goals the following year. Although some of the goals were short and relatively easy to accomplish, I think that the key to the success was having a variety of difficulty levels built in from the start.
From the Black City Series
One goal that I would like to share is the creation of series or collections related to a theme. Sometimes, there are projects that photographers work on over months, years, or even decades. The projects can increase, and decrease, and change over time. Establishing a collection of theme related images is one type of basic project. The organisation and editing of these images is a crucial factor in the creative process. For the photographer who works on this process, a collection or series will emerge. One goal or outcome related to this practice is to create a body of work. A body of work can be defined as “the total output of a writer or artist (or a substantial part of it).”
Printing images and putting them into books for viewing, critique, and submission for publication are all worthy, albeit challenging, goals related to this process. What goals will you work on for 2017?
The light is always right.