Why I’m Not Making Any Photography Goals For The New Year

This time of year typically brings around a million New Year’s resolutions, approximately 999,000 of which will have crashed by the wayside before January’s a fortnight old.

In a former chapter of my life I was very involved in coaching, and setting (and achieving) goals was very central to the training and process.

But whilst goals can be very effective for specific, time based projects, it doesn’t work so well (for me) for more ongoing projects.

Like life. And photography.


So a few years back I developed a very simple strategy for myself that works far better.

I wanted to share how I’m approaching it this year, specifically for photography, and photoblogging.

In essence, it involves writing two lists. One called More, one called Less. 

On the More list, I brainstorm and write down all the things I’d like to be, do or have more of in the coming year.

On the Less list, I write all the things I’d like less of.

Told you it was simple.


Here’s the first draft of my More or Less lists for the coming year –


Using the cameras I already have
Using one camera/lens for more extended periods to get to know them better
Prints of photographs
Experimenting with Hipstamatic in iPad for processing
Using iPad for viewing and writing blog posts
Shooting JPEGs
Digital photography (with digital cameras)
Regular blogging
Writing and lining up blog posts ahead of time
Reading and supporting other blogs (photography, minimalism and beyond)
Walking, with the camera in my head (my eyes!) and physical cameras


LightRoom time
Shooting RAW
MacBook and iPhone for online browsing/work
Physical space taken up with cameras
Buying on eBay
Selling on eBay
Experimenting with different cameras
Binging/purging of cameras and lenses
Options and therefore less decisions on which kit to use
Social media that has little obvious point or enjoyment (Instagram, Google+)


Once you have the two lists, it can be further helpful to reframe the Less list in a positive way. 

There are many quotes (websites, books etc) about us attracting what we focus on. For example Henry Ford’s “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right”.

Put another way, we can’t not think about a negative. Example – try as hard as you can to not think of a purple dinosaur with green spots.

Hard isn’t it!

I usually find that much of my Less list has already been written as the positive opposite in the More list. But let’s rewrite them all anyway –

Less, expressed as More

Less LightRoom time = More time experimenting with Hipstamatic on iPad
Less shooting RAW = More JPEGs
Less film = More digital
Less MacBook and iPhone for online browsing/work = More iPad for the same
Less physical space taken up with cameras = More selective in my collection of cameras
Less buying on eBay = More abstinence from eBay
Less selling on eBay = Er, More abstinence from eBay
Less experimenting with different cameras = More using one camera/lens for extended periods
Less binging/purging of cameras and lenses = More making do with and enjoying what I have
Less options and therefore less decisions on which kit to use = More selective in my choice of cameras
Less social media that has little obvious point or enjoyment (Instagram, Google+) = More focused, beneficial time online on sites I enjoy

Merging this back with the original More list, and tidying up the duplication, gives us one comprehensive plan for the year –

Final More List

Using and enjoying the minimal arsenal of cameras/lenses I already have
Using each camera/lens for more extended periods to get to know them better
Digital photography (with digital cameras)
Shooting JPEGs
Experimenting with Hipstamatic in iPad for processing
Prints of photographs
Using iPad for online browsing, viewing and writing blog posts
Discipline and intelligent choices in where I spend my time online – mostly reading and supporting other blogs (photography, minimalism and beyond)
Regular blogging
Writing and lining up blog posts ahead of time
Walking, with the camera in my head (my eyes!) and physical cameras


The underlying theory is also very simple – by writing down what you are going to do more of, your mind (and any other subconscious forces – internal or external – that you may believe in) will do more to move towards these things. 

It will be interesting to revisit the list at the end of the year. I may even make a monthly revisit, to see how closely the More list has guided me. Also, printing the list out and sticking it somewhere prominent also embeds the aims.

Do you have any resolutions or goals for 2018 for photography and/or photoblogging? Have you ever used something like the More or Less list approach? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.



22 thoughts on “Why I’m Not Making Any Photography Goals For The New Year”

  1. That’s a good approach. You are directly choosing what you will put into your photographic life. That necessarily excludes everything else.

    I’m not a giant fan of goals. I’d rather imagine states or outcomes I wish to see happen in my life and choose themes that, if I make choices guided by that theme, I will move toward those states/outcomes. But I find that when I set actual goals I end up blinded to interesting things that come up in my life that I’d rather do. States/outcomes and themes keeps me open to the interesting things that come. I love an adventure, you see, and never want to be so locked on a goal that I can’t pause for a side adventure or change the main adventure entirely.

    I’m in a year (or maybe two) of transition, thanks to Operation Thin the Herd. I’m five cameras in now and fatigue is already starting to set in. How long is this gonna take? I have projects I’d like to start! Like making a book of my b/w photos from Ireland. And I have an urban landscape project in the back of my mind. As I type this morning my collection of cameras feels like a liability, something that’s holding me back. Don’t get me wrong, when I have one of my old cameras in my hand on this project I do enjoy shooting it. I just wish I could get on with it.

    1. I agree with much of what you say Jim. Goals can be too rigid, and like you say, they don’t give enough flexibility for our personal evolution, as inevitably occurs with photography.

      It’s much more about having a clear direction, than a final destination, for me. Even if the direction subtly changes, we can keep on moving, rather than feeling we’ve missed or abandoned the original goal.

      Regarding the frustrations of thinning the herd, I can relate. When I had over 50 cameras (and about 30 if them I’d never even got around to putting a single roll of film in) it was a bit of a crisis point. It was completely unsustainable. But by then I’d lost the energy and enthusiasm to test out the ones I never used, even just to sell them.

      Even if you test a camera, and it works, but you don’t like it much, I always felt it was a bit of a waste of an hour or two of time and £5 or whatever on film and processing when I could have spent that time and film and money on a camera I already knew I loved using.

      Plus the whole thing about turning into a camera tester rather than a more focused photographer. It was a good turning point for me, in retrospect.

      Anyway, it’s interesting seeing how others collect and purge, and picking up tips to help me stay on the wagon as it were!

  2. There seem to be a lot of people saying that social media takes up too much time and I’ve stayed away from it over the holidays and not missed it. I think there could be a small backlash against it.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. Yes I keep coming across articles about the same thing, how addictive social media can be (and how it’s specifically designed to be addictive), and how much of a time suck it is. And more and more people starting to realise this and reject it.

      I think my main issue is how vacuous and surface level it is. With a blog (or even in Flickr comments) you get to have what feels like a decent depth of conversation with people. Social media is full of silly “likes” and emotions and “great work!” that all seems meaningless.

  3. Great stuff Dan – I like that a lot. I am more and more convinced that simplifying life is the way to go. Wanting what we have rather than trying to have what we want. I am a big fan of Jon Gordon (US motivational speaker and coach) and ,following a suggestion he posted online, have forgone all resolutions this year. Instead I have a single word to focus on for the next 12 months. Mine is “Joy”. It sounds so easy until you start! Trying to experience joy in all circumstances is already hard work and has involved some tough decisions! Photography wise, I know the cameras and ways of shooting that bring me joy. I also have a few things (with that equipment) that I want to try. Acquisition of more and more cameras is not on that list. It’s hard to steer clear of eBay window shopping but I’m happier when I do. The joy you’ve expressed by simplifying you’re arsenal and photography habits has been an inspiration so thanks!

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Richard. Have you read Jim Grey’s recent post about his theme for the year? This sounds similar to your single word.

      Joy is a big ask, but I think in all cases where we feel joy, what’s common is how it comes down to a very stripped down and simple experience, doing something we love, with people we love. We don’t need much of any kind of possessions for this. And how many times have you experienced joy via social media? No, me either!

      One of the most amusing/annoying (depending on one’s mood at the time) comments on Flickr goes along the lines of “Your photograph is totally unique, like a shooting star!” And then you see they’ve posted the same comment on a hundred other photos that day… It’s just all noise and junk and attention seeking.

      With the places we’re creating online on this small network of photography blogs, I feel the comments are genuine, thoughtful, supportive, intelligent and interesting. It completely makes sense to pour more time into these places rather than the all surface and no feeling sites like Instagram et al.

      On the general them of simplicity, I’ve been revisiting some of the simplicity and minimalism blogs I first followed maybe 8 years ago. I just need the reassurance and reminders to get back to basics.

      A new one I’ve come across is called Break The Twitch. The author describes the “twitch” as anything we do when we’re low, despondent, bored, lonely and so on. Typical examples are eating, checking our email, social media etc, buying something new (even if it’s second hand) and so on.

      They may provide a very short term hit of happiness and relief and distraction from whatever we were afraid of facing but long term just make things worse. The danger is how habitual they become – we do them without realising. I really like this idea and have started to become far more conscious about some of my “twitches”.

      Just doing simple things like removing eBay, Instagram and Google+ apps from my phone, as well as not buying new cameras and lenses are all helping me to feel I’m moving in a better direction. And of course I have more timed freed up from those things to rechannel into more beneficial and positive areas, like 35hunter.

      Thanks for furthering the conversation, and my thinking.

  4. Also, social media-wise, I am thinning out drastically! I don’t use Facebook at all now – no time in my life for it as it takes so much and adds so little. Instagram is going the same way too. I find posts get a ridiculous number of likes from very random people, obviously just trying to draw attention to their own feed. Vacuous. The only social app I use much at all now really is Twitter. However, that sucks a lot of time that I could be reading, walking or taking pictures, so I’m fasting from it at the moment. I think focused use of Twitter has been productive and fulfilling at times, but when it becomes a (very angry) rabbit hole, I need time away.

  5. Ah the new year’s resolutions! The more you take the less you can follow. Always remember that life is what happens while you are making plans.

    Focusing on a word or theme sounds great… ‘joy’ is a worthy goal in life ! Not only for one year.

    Personally I’ll try to focus (pun intended) more on the photos than on gear and above all reduce clutter. Clutter being all the stuff warming up time, space and money such as cameras, lenses, eBay, Facebook and my iPhone in general.

    Going to be tough and I hope life won’t hear of my plan and interfere with it!

    1. Yes Frank I think clutter can mean anything that gets in the way of enjoying our photography as much as possible, so can be physical things as well as things like the time we spend debating over which kit to use because we have five 50mm lenses to choose between, for example. Or time spent playing with a dozen different LightRoom presets with every photo.

      Any thoughts on a particular word or theme for you? Though I guess you said it, focus!

      1. Yep, focus it is. Focus on life, on making prints, on living instead of being lived. Breaking free of the stuff that holds me back. There might be some surprise things ahead next year…

  6. An interesting approach Dan. I am not one for New Years resolutions but I have taken a hard look at what I am doing on my blog and thought about the kinds of things that I want to do. I haven’t set goals as in many ways I think to much thought on the place you are trying to reach affects you focus on getting there and also missing the journey in between. But I think what you have done here is a valid exercise in evaluating what is good and what is not so good and trying to imagine a place that fits your vision of the future.
    For me 2018 is going to be a less is more approach less posts but more me. 🙂
    Hope your year goes well for you

    1. Ah interesting, but do you mean fewer posts but more of you in each post? Or less posts and more of you doing other things aside from blogging? Why fewer posts – or put another way, I’m curious why you think you currently post “too much”.

      You raise another important point I think about goals. They’re good if you want a set, measurable outcome, but again if it’s more about the journey and direction, you can get so focused on the end goal that you forget to enjoy the adventure along the way.

      So if my goal was to have say 500 followers of my blog, I can put steps into place, measure progress and know when I’ve reached the goal. It’s very cut and dried.

      But if my goal was to enjoy blogging (which it is, and I do!), then there’s no numerical measure of that. Plus I probably wouldn’t enjoy blogging as much if I was obsessing over numbers and stats.

      My whole ethos for 35hunter – “hunting for beauty and balance, camera in hand” – is a way of travelling, not a place to get to. I think that’s supported well by the “more or less” approach.

      1. I mean fewer posts with more of me in them and rather than thinking I post too much I think I got into the habit of posting something every (week) day whether it was worth posting or not so trying to fulfill my quota as opposed to posting quality content. I now intend to spend more time on a post and if that means nothing goes out for a few days then so be it. I intend two or three posts a week.
        I think I prefer intentions rather than goals and setting a direction rather than a destination.

      2. Yes I talked about this in my “lessons” post about blogging, how I want to find that balance between posting often enough to keep people interested but not so much that they’re overwhelmed, as well as making sure every post is as good as I can present it, not just posting for the sake of getting something out there.

        I think we need to bear in mind too that new readers might find us via any one of our blog posts, not necessarily the latest one. So my aim has always been that whichever post a (new) reader comes across first, it’s one of my best, and good enough to make them want to read more.

        With the “long tail” effect of the internet, over months and years the quality of posts we wrote months and years ago are as important as the quality of the posts we write today.

        I think the only way to achieve this is to make each post as good as we can. One fantastic post a week in my eyes (as a reader) is much better than three or four average ones.

        There’s a photography blog I follow that used to post maybe once a week, and usually a long rambly post, but one I really enjoyed. The last six months or so they’ve have guest posts for maybe 80% of the blog’s content, and the posts come out every other day, sometimes every day, sometimes more than one a day. In my personal view it’s greatly diluted my overall perception of the quality of the blog, even though the actual blog owner’s own posts are still as good. If that makes sense.

        Same with photography, and the “quality” (in our eyes) of what we share, though I absolutely need to raise the standard of my editing!

        Yes when I was writing this post I had going round in my head “guidelines, not goals, direction, not destination”…

        I’m sure your plans will reaps rewards in the coming months.

  7. Totally agree, if I look back at some of my posts and take them as someone’s first impression of my content I could see them being disappointed and not want to look for more so yes making each post count is something I am striving for. I notice too that the posts that get most engagement are the one’s that I have had to wait for some reason before posting and come back to to amend a few times and inevitably put more of my feelings and thoughts into them.
    Let me also explain my direction verses destination thinking and I will relate to the recent UK (and elsewhere) education system as a case in point. In a well intended effort to raise education standards and give people a level playing field of choice in educating their offspring league tables were introduced so that we could see which were the best performing schools etc. The schools of course themselves demanded a level playing field to be in this league and so subjects were streamlined and defined more clearly. What this has resulted in (in my opinion) is a system that trains kids to pass exams. This is good in that the number of children achieving a qualification goes up but at a cost. So by setting a ‘destination’ of a certain number of kids getting a certain pass rate you are focusing on the passing the exam rather than setting a ‘direction’ of kids being more learned knowledgeable and giving them the tools to achieve that; both enable them to answer the exam questions but only one enable them to fully know the subject.
    Sorry that turned into a lengthy rant but hopefully you see what I mean about how focus on the end state can confuse the overall intention 🙂

    1. Oh now you’ve got us started!

      Re the quality of posts, yes I’ve often written a post quite quickly then been keen to publish, but have waited a little bit (even an hour or something) and when I’ve gone back I’ve found a typo or a better way of framing a sentence. Or just cut out a few superfluous words. I think it’s worth having a gap between the time we write, and the time we edit/proofread.

      Re education, I was talking to a work colleague last week, who’s fresh out of university. We were talking about how difficult it is to know what you want to do with your life. In school there’s plenty of opportunity to get a good grounding in English, Maths, Science and IT.

      But when I was at school for example, I never had any opportunity to try photography, or music, or dance, or drama things I’ve done a great deal of since, slightly later in life.

      With our kids we’re trying to give them a broader range of experience, and between two of them they do swimming, ballroom dance, horse riding, gymnastics, piano and a bit of climbing.

      Then there’s the other side of it, the vast choice available. My colleague is into sailing, and maybe 20 years ago there were only a handful of water sports you could do at a local reservoir. These days there are hundreds of variations. How do people ever choose the one they like best? What if you tried sailing and really enjoyed it, but one day tried kayaking instead and loved it at a whole other level, then wished you tried it years ago? How do we know which things we might like, and which to try?

      I guess, like with cameras, we have to try a few things, see which we like best, and focus on that.

      The general overwhelm of choice these days is baffling. I really wasn’t made for these times!

      1. Yes, I have always thought that although learning these core subjects is good and necessary none of them lead directly into a career (or favourite pastime) unless you go into teaching or science and there are billion other jobs out there a huge number of which didn’t even exist when I was at school.
        I always squirm when I hear so and so was a born flute player (or whatever it might be) as that assumes so much about the things people are exposed to. I have never had the opportunity to ride a bobsled but maybe I was a born bobsledder and am the best bob-slay driver the world has ever seen! I just don’t know! 😉
        Exposing kids to as much diverse activities is very important for them to find things that they enjoy doing and also things that they can be paid to do as a living. I sometimes don’t like to see parents pushing kids into these sport teams and what not but realize that they need to try these things and explore opportunities as they may find that thing that makes them happy.
        I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school and to be honest I never really decided.
        I was lucky enough to be able to try a lot of different kinds of activities as I grew up but still there were many things I feel may have passed me by. For instance, I never really conceived of people riding bicycles for a living; had no exposure to professional cycling or cycling as a sport even; if I had, maybe I would have been more active in that area (as even without that, I have used bikes as a form of transport consistently throughout my life). Photography was something I was aware of at school but wasn’t really offered it as a subject and didn’t really do it even remotely seriously until much later. As I remember the kids who were offered it in my school were those in a particular art class (that had the darkroom attached) and who were already good at art – as if you could only take photos if you were good a drawing. I was pretty good at art but was never in that class room for it.
        I think though that these days there is a lot more emphasis on after school activities which didn’t really exist when I was at school. It is probably partly due to working parents and childcare changes but I do think the kids today have more opportunities than we might have; at least in the families with good incomes.
        Choice is an issue after all that though and the pressure these days to make choices can be a lot to bare. In many ways the lack of choice and falling an inevitable career limited career has its appeal 🙂

      2. SilverFox, yes, again we come back to the subject of choice, and finding that balance between having enough choice that we feel autonomous and free, but not so much that we feel overwhelmed, or even paralysed by the options before us.

        I read a very interesting book a few years back called The Paradox Of Choice which amongst other things argued that having too much choice has overall done us (in the privileged west) more harm than good.

        As a parent you want to give you kids a breadth of opportunity, but also note that the majority of Olympic medallists or world class tennis players, say, were active in their discipline from the time they could walk, and poured hours a week into becoming better. Which is “better”, being exceptional at one thing, or very good at half a dozen? And which leads to greater happiness? An obsession with one discipline or a more balanced range of a handful of different ones?

        Fortunately with photography, with the choices we have today, we can sustain a very affordable and enjoyable pastime, whether shooting film or digital, and make it as simple or involved as we choose.

        Inevitably this topic (choice versus simplicity) is one I will return to again and again on 35hunter, as it’s one that fascinates me, and that I have struggled with (and continue to do so).

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