It’s that time of year for everyone…new year, fresh start. Although I’m not one to do any resolutions for the new year I do have some really easy organizing, cleaning, and mindset tricks to start fresh with your photography, and your business, in the new year. I don’t know about you, but I really appreciate things with a beginning and an end. Being a teacher for almost 2 decades there has always been a beginning and an end to each school year. And as a photographer and business owner there is always the beginning and end of the photographing season. Technically, being in the northeast of the US we have a photographing season that is generally only April-October with a few outliers here and there (I’m talking to you beautiful winter sessions). But in business I have always looked at each calendar year as it’s own season.
So while everyone is still in the excitement of a new year (and after these last few years I’m sure each one of us is more than ready to physically turn the calendar over), I’m going to share some things you might want to be doing with with this amazing career (or hobby) of yours—and some of it has to do with your mindset as we head into another year or another season. Below are a few ways to start fresh with your own creativity, with your equipment, and your organizational skills.
Wipe those memory cards
Okay…should be obvious…but let’s start pretty easy. Wipe those memory cards! You actually should be formatting your memory cards regularly, after every single session I hope, but I also just clear everything at the end of the year to be sure I’m starting completely fresh. I also really check each card and make sure all the parts of the card look clean. If you are regularly using SD cards be very careful as these cards are easy to break or lose a piece of plastic (I’ve seen it!). They are generally secure, but not as secure as an XQD or a Compact Flash card. Hence why professional camera bodies only use those two more robust memory card options (sometimes with an SD card slot backup).
Also, as a small aside, you should eventually throw out your memory cards and start fresh, especially if you have started a more serious photography business. I don’t buy new cards yearly, but if I was photographing 50-100 weddings a year I probably would have more cards and replace them more often. There are lots of differing opinions on how long a memory card will actually last. Some people put it in years, while other talk about the read/write sessions (or program/erase sessions). Program/erase means shoot, download, and format in regular terms. So I personally consider how many read/write sessions I’ve likely had on a card and then make a decision based on that. Or sometimes I just get a new card because I don’t really know (usually after year 2). This is mostly because if you have ever lost any photos from memory card malfunction or computer malfunction you likely have systems in place so it NEVER happens again. Thankfully, mine was personal photos on a laptop and not client imagery…but I’ve never forgotten.
Physically clean your equipment
Have you ever sent your equipment in to be cleaned? No…oh my goodness do this now! Both Nikon and Canon professional have sites where you can send all your equipment to be cleaned and tuned up each year—talk about a true fresh start for your photography business. By the way, those links above include the actual costs associated with a professional maintenance service. Depending on where you live, there may also be local places (mine is down in Rhode Island) where you can bring your equipment. A full cleaning and calibration of ALL my professional gear is usually under $500 (that’s if you have tons of gear) and well worth the price to know you don’t have sand, salt, dirt, water, or anything else in your equipment ready to come to life and make a much larger annoyance. Just a note: to send in all my major equipment to Nikon Professional (2 cameras and 5 professional lenses) it’s under $400!
If you only have a few things you can definitely clean your own equipment (unless you notice something weird with a lens or camera). I regularly clean my contact points on lenses, my sensor on the mirrorless camera (picks up way more dust than a DSLR) and even the body of the camera itself. You can get special cleaning supplies or these amazing alcohol wipes for the outside of the camera and even for the contact points (never use liquids inside your camera). I used these wipes for our school set of cameras during the pandemic—when we were allowed to share equipment again—and they did a great job of keeping the cameras clean and keeping my students healthy.
Organize your photos
If you don’t have an organization system for your photos…today is the day to start! Every photographer needs a system and although I can’t tell you the best way to organize your photos without bias, I can tell you that just having a system (any system) is going to put you miles ahead and save you TONS of time down the line. In my photography business and for my own personal photos, I do a folder for each year, this way each season is a fresh start. In each year’s folder there is a dated portrait and wedding folder. Then I put each session or wedding in a separate folder with the client(s) name(s). Inside each named folder there are 2-3 folders—an “original” folder, a “selects” folder (the ones I’m going to edit), and then an “edits” folder. I separate originals and selects so I always have an untouched original file and then import only the “selects” into my editing program (keeps it from acting too clunky). Once edited they are exported to the “edits” folder, and that is what is uploaded and shared with my client. This system works so well that I just had a client from 2016 contact me and ask for her engagement photos and I could pull them up fast! Like within a few minutes fast. So having a system (whatever yours is) is worth it’s weight in gold. I talk quite a bit more about my go to portrait session workflow in this post.
Start a new Lightroom Catalog
A lot of photographers don’t mention this, but if you use Lightroom for your editing then you should be starting a new catalog in Lightroom each year. Some photographers even do a separate catalog for each session. Using Lightroom Classic is an entire lesson in itself (or several lessons, really) because there are so many varied ways of using the application. But suffice it to say, if you are finding that your Lightroom is running particularly slow, it is likely the amount of images you have living in the catalog. Starting fresh each season is really helpful in cutting down on this process and saving you time in editing, even if that time is simply not waiting while the program lags. If you’ve never started a new catalog simply click here for easy instructions from Adobe.
I know, I know…journaling is maybe not your thing. Every person is different in how they process through ideas and big goals, but hear me out for a moment and I’ll give you a few ways that journaling might just move the marker in your business. And this one is in the mindset part of your fresh start.
With my students, I always give them journaling prompts to get them thinking more creatively. We make inspiration boards (think mood board) for every one of the projects they photograph. This gives them a chance to think about the vibe they are going for, what is actually inspiring them, and a place to start from visually. If we go out to photograph without an idea at all we might find that our creativity feels stifled. Journaling is one way to really explore the feel you might want for your photos, your brand, your next shoot, anything. So although mood boards are not traditional style of journaling, you can think of this as your visual journal of ideas.
But more traditional journaling is also a great way to work though other goals you have—both professionally and personally with your photography. Have you ever heard of BHAG’s? BHAG stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goals, and if you’ve ever had one (maybe even one that you don’t want to speak aloud) I suggest journaling about it. It’s a little like manifesting (I know I just got a little woo woo with you) but gives you something to look back on and see how far you’ve come months or even years down the line. Try it!.
The Quick Guide: Start Fresh With Your Photography Business
TL:DR. It’s okay, jumping to the end of a blog post for the quick recap is one of my favorite things to do! So here are the most important 5 tips to start fresh with your photography business this new year—these tips cover ways to improve your mindset, creativity, goals, and equipment in the new year.
- Wipe Those Memory Cards: Format all of your memory cards and start fresh for the season. Check the cards and throw out anything really old, broken, or if you’re unsure if it works.
- Clean Your Equipment: If you’re a professional, your equipment should be sent in a minimum of once a year. A hobbyist, then every 2-3 years (unless something goes wrong. Check out Nikon Professional and Canon Professional for how to send your equipment in (this costs less than you might think).
- Organize Your Photos: Find a system that works for you. I lightly talk about my system here but I talk in depth about my workflow in this blog post.
- Start A New Lightroom Catalog: If you’ve not paid any attention to your Lightroom catalog (or don’t even know what that is) it’s definitely time to start a new Lr catalog for the 2023 photographing season. You can thank me later.
- Start Journaling for Creativity and Business: Yes this may sound a little woo woo but manifesting your goals both personally and professionally for your photography will really move the marker in your business or art. Try it…it certainly can’t hurt.