Now is the perfect time to review your collection of photos from last year and ask yourself what you can do to take your photography to the next level. Look at what you did well and what you can improve on, and with that information, make a few goals. It’s easy to say, “I want to take better photos” but that is too broad and general. Instead, look for very specific things you can improve and very specific steps to do that. Break your goals down into small manageable nuggets that you can easily work towards instead of the broad long-term goals that may leave you feeling overwhelmed. A good plan is to; 1. Define the area that you want to improve on and try to be as specific as possible. For example, maybe you want to get more comfortable with your camera so you can react quicker to capture that fleeting shot but get more specific by separating learning the buttons and dials as one part, and learning the menus as another. 2. Once you define what you want to improve on, the next step is to make a specific plan to accomplish that. Again, break it down into small manageable goals that you can work towards to feel a sense of accomplishment as each is completed. Break it down by the month and better yet, by the week. (It’s easier to work within a shorter period of time than a larger one.) For example: By the end of January I will have accomplished X goal. My plan is: Week 1 - I’ll read upon the topic, or review the notes from the class or seminar I took. Week 2 - I’ll practice the technique 3 times during the week, each time for at least an hour. Week 3 - I’ll add a level of difficulty and build on previous weeks practice. Week 4 – I’ll continue practicing, re-review my notes and decide if I need more work in this area. In February, I will … you get the idea. What you’ll be doing is making your own personal photography road map to reach new levels. To help you down the road, here are a few great learning resources: • Manufactures websites not only give you product information but often have tutorials on different subjects from basic to advanced. They also have classes, seminars and workshops that travel around the country. • Your camera manual – not many people like to read these but do look at the Index pages in the very back of the manual to direct you to the section that covers a specific topic. • www.DPReview.com - Offers camera and lens reviews, comparisons, forums and more. • Check out the Capital Photography Center Blog. Over the years we have posted more than 80 photography articles on a wide range of topics from: Backing up Your Photos How to Capture White Snow Working Between Lightroom and Photoshop Macro Photography Tips Shooting Realistic HDR Photography Lighting for Any Venue Clarifying Copyright and When Do You Need A Model Release Lighting with Off Camera Flash And more. • Join a camera club – the support, encouragement and learning opportunities will help you grow your photography. • Take a class – Look for a class on the topic(s) that you want to learn about and make a plan on when you can attend. Set aside time afterwards to practice the material covered to reinforce what you learned. Additionally, practice, practice, practice! The more you practice the skill you’re trying to learn, the better you’ll get and the more second nature the technique will become. When learning new material, it’s good to work with it (or at the very least review it) every day even if it’s only for 10 minutes at a time. Practice around your house if that’s your only option just to get the skill or technique down. Last but not least, as you continue down the path to better photos in 2015, review your progress and make adjustments if needed to keep the plan relevant.