Stretch Your Photography Skills in 2021

In Master Photography Roundtable by Jeff Harmon1 Comment

We are coming to the close of another year.  I highly recommend every photographer go through the photos they created in 2020 and choose the ten best.  I have talked about this many times here on Master Photography and did an episode of why and how to choose your top ten photos over on Photo Taco.  

Doing a top ten is kind of like getting a portfolio review for free.  You are the judge, which normally isn’t something that is likely to help, but when you have to admit to yourself which of your babies is ugly to narrow things down to ten images, you get a lot of insight into your photography.

I don’t want to spend any more time on that here, plenty listeners can go and check out if they want tips on how to use Lightroom Classic to help choose your top ten images from the year, or be better prepared to do that in 2021.  What I want to get into in this episode is inspiring listeners to stretch themselves as photographers in 2021.

Did You Stretch Your Photography Skills In 2020?

We are all about to put 2020 behind us and as the new year comes around we all tend to set goals for ourselves.  I want to encourage photographers to stretch themselves in 2021 and take on some kind of project or type of photography they have never done before. 

I have to admit, I didn’t really stretch myself much in 2020.  The biggest thing that comes to mind wasn’t a new genre of photography for me, but it was a different way of doing it that I was nervous about.  I shot my high school basketball team photos using a green screen this year for the first time.  I have shot team photos for the local high school basketball teams for several years, but I always used a white background because every test I had ever done with green screen had not gone well.

I did an episode a few weeks ago all about how to do volume T&I sports photography using a green screen.  Listeners can check out the episode and detailed show notes if they want to learn more about that, although I do need to do a little bit of errata about that episode.  I talked to Brent about a company called LifeTouch that does a ton of the team sports photography here in the U.S. and recently was educated about how they are not minimally training teenagers to take those photos.  There is pretty extensive training of their photographers to run their process and many are much more experienced than teenagers.  LifeTouch still does not do the same type of work I wanted to do, but as I did say in the episode, they meet a need by providing quality team photos at a very reasonable price.

The point is I took a massive chance on the shoot with a technique I had never had a good experience with.  The shoot was a massive success and I learned a lot.  I think that is one of the things I like so much about photography, so much to learn.

Suggestions For Stretching Your Photography in 2021

Aaron, I can imagine a lot of photographers listening are open to the idea of taking on something in 2021 that stretches them, but they may struggle to come up with an idea of where to go with it.  I wanted to go through a few ideas here to spark thoughts so that by the time January 1st rolls around they can set their photography goal and make it something specific.

We have a good mix of portrait and landscape photographers listening to the show.  I wanted to brainstorm a few ideas of some projects that might stretch them in 2021.

  • Shoot the “other” big genre.  First suggestion is the obvious one, if you mostly shoot portraits, get out there and shoot a landscape and vice-versa.  Not that you are doing this to switch your business from one to the other or even trying to make money shooting the other genre.
  • Macro. If you have never shot it, macro photography is an entire world that I find so interesting and fun to shoot.  To help, I have a Photo Taco episode called Getting Started With Macro Photography I did with my friend and one of the world’s top macro photographers Don Komarechka.  You should also check out How To Do Water Droplet Photography I did with Don.
  • Digitizing prints and negatives.  Here is an interesting one that listeners may not have thought of.  How many of you out there have a shoe box (or 10) filled with photos or negatives that need to be digitized?  Maybe things from your family members.  You can send them off to a company to be digitized, or you can take on the project to do that using your digital camera.  I have help on that too in a Photo Taco episode called Ultimate Guide to Digitizing Prints and Negatives with Chris Marquardt.
  • Flash. If you are shooting portraits in natural light today, or you haven’t really shot portraits at all, I think the biggest jump I made in my own photography was when I went through the challenges of learning how to use flash.  Tips for getting started with flash are in my Inexpensive Flash Photo Taco episode.  You should also check out Flash Shutter Sync with Levi Sim, How To Get Good Exposure Indoors With Flash, and Beginner’s Guide to Flash Master Photography episodes.
  • Night photography. It is hard for me to imagine a type of photography that will put both your equipment and your skills to the test.  A nighttime portrait is very different, maybe one where you do a composite having the model(s) in the dark to capture the environment and then an assistant or light stand holding a light in a second shot where you will erase that assistant.  Or one that includes the stars.  Milky Way photography is so much fun, though it can be tough to plan a shoot that captures the Milky Way core.
    Check out the Milky Way Almanac Aaron has created as an inexpensive resource ($10 if you get it before the end of 2020) that can help you know what nights will be good nights for Milky Way photography in 2021.
  • Shoot fruits and vegetables.  Another one I bet nobody would have come up with on their own.  Brent and I did an episode called Shoot Your Fruits and Vegetables back in May.  Brent talked about a really unique shoot he did with fruits and vegetables that I have yet to try.
  • Creative portrait.  How about just upping your game with a portrait that isn’t paid for by a client. Organize a shoot where you get a model, a costume, a hair and makeup artist, and create images you have never done before.  Check out the Six Creative Portrait Images episode I did with Connor back in March 2020 where we broke down six creative images he created for some inspiration.
  • Family/self portrait. Here is a really good idea.  Like the old fable where the shoemaker’s kids have no shoes, when is the last time you took a really good portrait of yourself and/or your family? Not only taking the portrait and using it digitally, but printing that image.  Print it huge and plan to hang it on your wall.  When was the last time you did that?

Doodads of the Week

Jeff: Reikan FoCal.  Plus is $60, Pro is $100.  I recommend Pro.  The MultiTest functionality in Pro is worth so much.  You can test your lens on your camera to see what the sharpest aperture is.  Rekian also offers a Twin Pack Bundle where you get FoCal Pro and two of their high quality printed targets covered with a low reflectance laminate that is normally $140 but if you use coupon code TACO2021 you can get 20% off.

Aaron: Tiffen Double Fog 3 Filter 82mm thread size ($100), 77mm thread size ($80). With the Milky Way Core down we have an amazing amount of hours of dark skies when the clouds allow it. With constellations like Orion in the night sky, the fog filter makes it really fun to capture the stars and SEE way more than you normally see in your regular captures of the night sky.



Leave a Comment