Step by Step Guide to Planning Your Photography Goals

One of the things I hear time and time again is that many people feel overwhelmed with everything there is to learn in photography, and that they feel like they are running around in twenty different directions trying to learn it all.  I remember EXACTLY how that felt, and I want to see if I can help you avoid it!

One thing that can REALLY help with overwhelm is creating photography goals.

Photography goals are just as they sound - they are the things you want to be able to do by a certain time point.  You assess where you are right now, and what steps you need to take to reach your goal.  This helps avoid overwhelm and that feeling of trying to learn everything at once, since you are going to following a plan, not randomly checking blog posts and hoping it somehow all comes together :)

You know the saying, a goal without a plan is just a wish, so in this post, we are going to get super focused on planning your photography goals for the next six months - looking at where you are now, where you want to go, and what steps you need to take to get you there.  

My hope is that you follow the steps laid out, and put them into action so you can make next year your best  photography year yet!

Grab your wine, we’re going in...

Photography Goal Setting | Photography Tips | Photography Ideas

Before we start, I strongly suggest that you WRITE DOWN what you are going to do, rather than going through it in your head.  This makes the process much easier, and also, when you write things down, you are about 100% more likely to act on them. I suggest you download the freebie I made for you - a step by step cheat sheet that walks you through this process, with all the questions laid out along with spaces for your answers.  

You can grab your goal setting planner here and see exactly what you need to do right here:

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Once you have that, you are good to go! You can fill it is as you go through the blog post.

Just one more thing before we start, I would suggest that you only really set goals for the first six months of the New Year. That way you can reassess where you are and how far you’ve come, and maybe see things a little bit more clearly about what you want to focus on next.  You can go through the exercise again in six months and plan out the next steps then.

Right, let’s get started!

Step One:  Where are you now?

First things first, let’s take a look at where you are now, so we have a starting point.  You can also reflect back on your time this year and consider what worked, and what didn’t!

Ask yourself the following questions to determine where you are now.

  • What is your current biggest struggle with photography?

  • How you are with controlling the technical aspects of your camera?  

  • What are some of your struggles with regard to post processing your images, and what do you need to improve on?

  • How much did you spend on photography gear? Was it worth it?

  • How much did you spend on learning photography? Was it worth it? How much can you set aside for next year?

  • What did you really enjoy doing?

  • What did you really not enjoy doing?

Let’s give an example of how you might answer these questions. if you were starting out in photography, you might answer something like this:

  • Biggest Struggle: Feeling overwhelmed and not knowing what to focus on next. I also really struggle with colour in my images.

  • I’m still using AV mode, and my images are not always sharp. I do understand some simple rules of composition, and think I have a good eye for photography, but i don’t know what settings I should be using.

  • I’m just running presets on my images at the moment.

  • I spent $500 on a lens.

  • I didn’t spend anything, but I could afford to spend up to $250 on the right course.

  • I really enjoying taking pictures of my family and making my yearly photo books. I loved the mini project I did with Live Snap Love!

  • I did not enjoy sharing my images and receiving harsh criticism. I also didn’t enjoy feeling like I don’t know what settings to use, and fumbling with my camera so that I have missed the moment.

Remember, you can grab a cheat sheet that has all the questions and prompts for filling them out, just by clicking on the image below:

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Step Two:  Where do you want to be?  

Next, we are going to look at where you would LOVE to be. So, imagine I have a special magic wand and with a wave of my hand could make you biggest photography dream come true.  What would that look like for you?

Some things to think about….

  • What is your big overall goal?

  • What technical aspects would you like to understand more?

  • What would you like to know about post processing?

  • What photography projects would you like to have completed?

  • What would you like to be able to do with these skills once you have them?

  • What would you like to do that is outside your comfort zone?

  • Are there any bad habits you would like to stop this year?

Write out as many of these as you need in order to make sure you have your IDEAL scenario mapped out.

Step Three:  Break it down into actionable steps

The next step is to make a plan about how you are going to achieve your goals, and break it down into actionable steps.

How are you going to reach your...

...technical goals?

... Editing goals?

...personal / project goals?

I also think it would be incredibly useful if you added in the date you want the action completed by - the more fleshed out you can make it, the more likely you are to achieve it.  I’m pretty sure everyone has heard of SMART goals, but in case you haven’t, try to make each action item Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound.

If you are struggling to know what to learn first, or what you should concentrate on next, you might find my learning photography blueprint pretty darn handy. Download the blueprint here.

We’ll go back to my example of the person just starting out with photography. Their action plan might look something like this:

Action One: Search for courses that cater to what I want to learn, and is in my price range. Look for one with a private Facebook group so I can share my images in a private, smaller place, and get help from an instructor, not just others on the same journey as me.   Have this completed by end Nov. (Pssst! Want a GREAT course? This is one riiiight here: Auto to Awesome)

Action Two:  Make a shortlist of all courses that meet my criteria, and enroll in my chosen course or find out when it is open for enrollment, by end Jan.

Action Three: Commit to thirty minutes a day, five times a week to go through the course. I will map this out in my calendar, so I can see when I can expect to finish the course at this rate.  I will do this by January 7th.

Action Four: Invest in a grey card so I can learn white balance better by Feb 15th.

Action Five: Look at at images from the pros that I think have good colour in their images by Feb 30th.

Action Six: Complete a Project 365. Find a Project 365 group to join that has daily prompts so that I have something to refer to if I ever feel stuck. Complete this by end Nov.  

Action Seven: Create an Instagram account so I can share my images online by end Dec.

Action Eight: I’ll also create a collection in LIghtroom for holding these so I can quickly create a photo book from it at the end of the year by end Jan 7th.

Jot these action items down into the calendar provided in your goal planning cheat sheet.

As you go through this you might think to yourself that you have overextended yourself - as there is no way you can do everything you thought in your head you could. (In fact you probably will think this!) In which case, decide which ones are LEAST important to you right now, and remove them.

My advice? Focus on ONE thing until you nail it, then move on.  

Step by Step Guide to Planning Your Photography Goals

Step Four: What you WON’T DO:

The final one is what you are NOT going to do going forward. This is your chance to purge any bad habits and make them a no-no in the coming year! Basically, anything that is stopping you from moving forward has to stop.

(We ALL have bad habits, so if this field is blank in your worksheet I won’t believe you)

Want some common ones?

  • I won’t spend any more money on photography gear until I have learnt the technical skills I need.

  • I won’t search for tutorials online until I have finished my course, so that I can focus on what I need to do and not get distracted by FOMO / shiny object syndrome.  

  • I won’t abandon my Project 365 halfway through the year just because I missed a couple of weeks.

  • I won’t be scared of manual mode, and will trust Audrey when she says it is something I just have to learn if I want great images :-)

Sooo, by now you should have a good idea of where you are, a good idea of where you want to get to, what steps you need to take to get there, and the nasty, counter-productive habits you are NOT going to indulge in this year!

If learning photography is one of your goals for next year, then be sure to get your name on the waitlist for my step by step program, Auto to Awesome.

Doors open again in January, and if you are on the VIP list, you’ll also get your hands on some extra bonuses when you enroll! (PLUS you’ll get a roadmap for learning photography to download too!)