What does 2016 hold in store for me?
I’ve been thinking about my photography a lot lately. No, really - a LOT. More than normal. I don’t just mean “oh it would be cool to shoot this or that location this year” or “I would like to learn this trick or technique in 2016” or even the more basic “wouldn’t it be awesome to have THAT piece of gear soon?”. No, I mean seriously THINKING. Bigger thinking.
I’m trying to determine what my value is as a photographer and what my “brand identity” in this profession really is - and that’s a lot harder than you might think. There are a LOT of people that take great photos, and I hope that I am one of them. But what value do I bring? How am I different? What can I offer? What is my brand? And the one big question: What do I want this to be for me?
You see, I have always thought of my photography as art - not business. Sure, I sell some prints to people who hang them in their homes, and I license prints to some businesses that use them in their marketing. But I have yet to really devise a business plan and put any serious thought into turning this into my profession. I’ve just been taking photos, sharing photos, and having fun. On purpose, I’ve kept somewhat of a line between the business and the art, as though they are incompatible.
They’re not. They are very compatible in fact, and I am going to work hard to merge those two in 2016.
Historically, I have said that I don’t want photography to be my profession because I fear it would start to feel like work, and thus lose it’s allure to me. Wouldn’t that be terrible? But over the last 6 months I have been thinking about this more and more, and I’m not sure I feel that way anymore. In fact, I don't feel that way.
No, I am not going to start shooting weddings or portraits - that is not at all what I am thinking about. I’ve never done those things, and honestly don’t have much interest. That actually would feel like work. I prefer to stay with my interests and strengths, which are travel-related photography, cityscapes, landscapes, and that sort of thing.
I am talking here about (and have been working on) creating products and services that would provide good value to people and that would help them with something. This could be a whole lot of things and come in a lot of different formats. But the bottom line is that I have been getting more serious about it all, putting a lot of thought into it, and working on creating and getting my head around treating this as a business.
It’s exciting, actually - and I am having a lot of fun already.
So when I asked myself what I planned to do in 2016, it was a much different list than in previous years. My list last year was basically me using the word “more” a lot. More photos, more reviews, more numbers. It was almost exhausting for me just to read it again. It felt like I set quotas for myself in 2015, and that makes this sound like work, not fun (it’s technically both, but more fun than work!). Though I exceeded my numbers goals by a wide margin (not sure that’s a cause worth celebrating), I fell short of some of the other ones, namely investing in myself. I was just too busy trying to process a lot of photos. I didn’t get to much else.
Quality over quantity
So for 2016, I decided that simple is best and quality is job one. That does not mean I am not ambitious in my approach to the New Year - quite the contrary, in fact - it just means that I am not setting quotas for myself like last year. While having numbers-related goals motivates me to “get things done”, I mentioned here before that I became more interested in getting them done than getting them right. That’s not the way to do things and that is certainly not the way to create a brand identity for my photography.
My goals for 2016:
Decide upon my brand identity and begin to build it in earnest
Create valuable products that help people
Write and share personal experiences
Update and expand the site’s content
So let me examine those four things for a moment and provide some detail.
1) Decide upon my brand identity and begin to build it in earnest
This is the big question that I am wrestling with, and it’s a tough one. It sort of gets to the very core of things, and that is hard to think about. I don’t mind sitting with the questions - in fact, it’s fun in some ways and definitely interesting. But I am having challenges coming up with answers. I just don’t know what they are right now, and I’m not sure how to get that clarity.
Am I a travel blogger with a lot of photos? Am I a photo blogger that travels? Am I a writer, or blogger, or some combination of the two? Am I a teacher in some way? Am I an “HDR photographer” or just a “travel photographer that happens to do some HDR”? (and truthfully, I'm not sure I want to be known as an HDR photographer - certainly not exclusively, as my interests are broader than that)
You see? There are a lot of things to think about, and few answers at the moment. I do know what I like to do, and I have realized that I cannot and will not be all things to all people. I’m just going to be me, and see how it all sorts out, I guess.
2) Create valuable products that help people
I already mentioned taking my photography to the next level and treating it like a business, and I intend to do just that. I expect it to go well - I’m an eternal optimist, by the way - and already have plans for several creations in the works. My first foray into this will be with eBooks. I will launch my first one for sale in late January (I believe) and several more are sketched out, too. I’ve been busy! I will be back with more details on that as soon as it is ready, but I am very excited about this first step in that direction. I have several other ideas too, but won’t be sharing those until I am a bit more certain that I am willing to commit to them.
3) Write and share personal experiences
I really love to sit down and write longer posts, but I don’t do it often enough. It’s a combination of it taking me a while to get my thoughts down in a (hopefully) logical way for the reader, and making sure it’s something that anyone may actually want to read - and then editing, editing, editing. I also feel like I sometimes rush things to “get it out there” when in fact I could take a little more time and get it done better the first time.
This also includes product reviews. I have a couple I am planning and I intend to do them a bit less hurriedly than before. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but I have. Lastly, I want to incorporate more of “me” into what I share here. I’m not sure how to put that into words, other than to tell you that sometimes I feel like I am just putting words on the page, so to speak, and not putting me into the words. I am working to change that.
Oh, and one more thing. I intend to share more "behind the scenes" type things, such as my workflow for a particular photograph, or how I handle certain processes in my photography, from capture to online sharing. There's a lot of opportunity here for me to share my insights, which I enjoy doing, and hope they would be helpful to those that are perhaps just getting started in photography.
4) Update and expand the site’s content
I have a ton of pages here on the site - and I’m not talking about individual blog post entries (though I have 5+ years worth of those, too). I am talking about separate pages that I have created to house a particular thing (maybe a photo list for Austin or London or Paris) or a product review (a camera, a lens, or a bit of software), or even a page for great travel quotes. I have been working to organize all of this better and have also added more to these various pages - and will continue to do so. I realized this year that I cannot be all things to all people, so I am going deeper on what I can offer that is valuable, and (hopefully) making it more of a resource for people.
This includes completely redoing some reviews and tutorials here, because they are both out of date and not good enough, in my opinion. I am also re-categorizing some pages and getting things together in a more logical order. Some of these I have already done, having gotten all my iPhone pages together here, and all of my quotes & inspiration stuff onto this page - and I even got all my gear summarized here on this page. I may remove some pages entirely (and have done a bit of that already, too). So this will be a continual work in progress, but I have done some already and honestly, it’s rather fun to go back and rewrite some of these things. Some of these pages are nearly 6 years old! So yeah, there’s a big need for some updating.
I also plan to add more educational content. I get a number of questions about how I did this or that on a particular image. I am comfortable with a number of post-processing software packages, and so I feel like I can add some value in that regard. Plus, I actually just love helping people get better at this stuff. So I will be working to add more of that into the mix as well.
Pretty straightforward goals for the year, right?
So that’s it, although that is a lot of stuff. Sure, it’s just 4 “things” but each of them is deep, complex and involved, so I will be hammering away at them all year I suspect (and perhaps longer), which I am very much looking forward to I might add!
I’m looking forward to launching my first eBook, and will NOT set a quota for myself for how many more I can launch in 2016. I will launch something when it is ready, and not hurry to get it done. Although I have to admit, my head is swimming with ideas and I plan to spend a lot of time on this stuff. It’s very tempting to put a goal out there, but based on how I handled last year, I feel like I will be in a big hurry if I do so, and I don’t want to rush something like that.
Of course, there will be a lot of travel and photography for me in 2016, so although I didn’t technically include “take photos” as a goal for the year, I hope that by now you realize that is a given. I will continue to share my photos and travel stories here each week. Some weeks may have more blog posts than others, but again, I am focusing on quality over quantity. There are already some travel plans in place for 2016 and I am sure that more will come up, so I expect it will be a busy year, a productive year, and a fun year. I'm looking forward to it!