Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Setting Your Night Photography Goals

New Year’s is coming up very soon. It’s the time of year when many people set their resolutions for the upcoming year. But resolutions are just a wimpy form of proper personal goals. That’s why most people don’t follow through with them.

These are example of wimpy goals (Actually, they’re not even goals. They’re wishes):

“I’m going to get into shape this year”.

“I’m going to lose weight”.

These are not goals because the outcome is not defined in specifics. They’re also not measurable. They’re also not defined within a specific timeframe (they’re also usually not written down). If they don’t meet these three tests, they’re not good goals. That’s why they usually fail. Sorry for being so blunt.

Here’s another wimpy “goal”:

“I’m going to be a better photographer.”

This is kind of goal that comes from people who spend more time sitting around reading photography magazines than they spend shooting.

Now that I’ve got the Bah-Humbug stuff off my chest, let me come back down to Earth. Goal setting is simply one of the most powerful tools to help you accomplish things in life. Goal setting can make you into a better night photographer.

In Unlimited Power, Anthony Robbins presents some amazing evidence of long-term studies of people who live by goal-setting (you’ve probably seen Anthony Robbins on TV… He’s the giant guy with the huge white teeth who’s on informercials at 3 o’clock in the morning). In On Being A Photographer, David Hurn discusses the importance of designing a clearly-articulated “working plan” for photographers. In Letting Go of the Camera, Brooks Jensen talks about the importance of working towards clearly-defined, completable project goals. Jensen argues that if you don’t complete projects in the form of prints, a portfolio or a show, then you’re really just a a person who takes photographs, not a photographer.

(Anthony Robbins. This guy is *WAY* too wound up to be a
night photographer, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t
listen to what he says)

The gist of all of these books is that well-defined goals keep you focused on how to spend your time and energy, and they keep you moving towards one or more objectives. Well-defined goals must be written in terms of specific objectives (Bad: “I’m going to be a better night photographer”. Good: “I’m going to photograph at night at least once per month for the following year”); they must be constrained by a specific timeframe; and they must be measurable. For example, photographer’s goals might be defined in terms of photographing a specific set of locations, a specific number of times, over a specific period of time. They could be as simple as setting a goal of photographing one specific location that you’ve been putting off for the past five years.

(Goal #4: Spend one night in 2006 shooting Skaggs Island
This one almost got me spending a night in jail)

Uber photographer/blogger Thomas Hawk has a great photography goal. It’s simple, clear, specific and measurable (knowing what I know about Thomas, he probably has even more specific goals, but this is all that he’s sharing with us):

“My statement as an artist is to outdo New York’s Little
Angel Angelo Rizzuto, who between 1952 and 1966 documented
New York City with over 60,000 photos.”

One of my goals for last year was to get my butt down to the abandoned army base Fort Ord (which I had been eyeing for seven years) and photograph it before it got demolished I gave myself until March 31, 2006 to complete this goal. In January, I contacted someone who seemed to be an expert on the area, got my butt down there, and spent a few afternoons shooting everything possible. Only a few months after I started visiting Fort Ord, the demolition seemed to move into high gear. By the end of this year, most of the base is now gone. Thank-you Anthony Robbins!

(Goal #13: Spend one night in 2006 photographingMare Island
Three weeks after I wrote this goal, I got invited to join
The Nocturnes
to swarm all over
Mare Island shooting at night)

Another of my goals for 2006 was to complete a video interview with Steve Harper, and release the revised version of “Night of the Living Photographers”, as well as the entire interview of Steve, by the end of December. With less than two weeks left in December, the revised NOTLP was completed in October, and the entire interview video of Steve just went out to my staff of expert reviewers two days ago.

My point isn’t to drone on about all of the wonderful things I’ve accomplished in the past year. The truth is, most of them are only significant to me, and some of them I failed to accomplish. The point is that for me, working within a framework of year-by-year goals keeps me focused on working towards a few specific photography projects, and it prevents me from wasting my weekends thinking, “Hmm… what should I photograph today? Another cat?”

And if I haven’t put you all to sleep by now, I could share my photography goals for 2007. But then you’d probably never visit this blog again. It’s OK to keep your goals to yourself. The important thing is that you have them, that you use them, and that you stick to them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Andy -

I'm also a big believer in goal setting, and agree that if they're not useful if they're not measurable. Thanks for providing some examples.

Do you ever set goals with a longer time frame than 1 year? I've been thinking a lot about my own 5 year plan lately, and how the 1 year length goals are building blocks.



4:07 PM  
Blogger Billie Mercer said...

I write out the things I want to do in the next year....may be photographic or not. It is always nice at the year end to know that you have checked off most of them. So I agree with the goal setting.

1:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great post. I'm making my list.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Thomas Hawk said...

Andy, great post on goal setting. I read Brian Tracy for years on the stuff (as cheesy as he can be).

Having clear defined measurable goals will ensure that you actually move forward. I like setting goals for 1, 5, 10, 30 and lifetime.

Also writing them down is helpful. This way they become more defined.

Excellent post. And one of my goals for 2006 is to definitely get out with you and a few others to learn more about night shooting.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Ben and Kristi Graves said...

I really liked your post about setting goals for photography. I myself and not as focused on improving my overall photography as I'd like to be and it was encouraging to read your post and remind myself to set goals and work to achieve them! Thanks!

7:51 PM  

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