Photography Goals – How To Not Set Any But Achieve What You Wanted Anyway

Yesterday by accident I came across a post I wrote back in early January about not making any photography goals for the new year, instead using an alternative approach called More or Less Lists.

So I thought it would be useful to review what I did and how it’s worked so far.

It turns out it’s been very effective indeed.


First, a quick recap of More or Less Lists and how they work.

Instead of setting goals, which are focused on a specific outcome or destination, over the last few years I’ve found it more helpful to simply write down what I’d like more of in my life, and what I’d like less of.

This works better for me as it’s more journey oriented than destination.

If you have an eight hour car trip ahead of you, and focus purely on the place you’re heading to, with no thought to how to the journey will be filled, it’s not going to be the happiest third of a day of your life. Especially with kids in the car!

But if you consider how you’d like to fill the time as you travel, and what you might like to try along the way, you’ll hopefully end up with a fun and memorable journey. Even if you don’t get where you were heading exactly when you wanted.

Looking back to ten months ago, these are the things I decided I wanted more of in my photography life –

More List – January 2018 

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 on 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.


Here’s a quick review of how each of these has gone so far this year.

More List Review – October 2018

Using and enjoying the minimal arsenal of cameras/lenses I already have – I now only have two films cameras and eight digital, including my phone. The last camera I bought was my Lumix GF1, about three months ago.

Using each camera/lens for more extended periods to get to know them better – In the last three months I’ve only used three different cameras – my two Panasonic Lumix and my Sony Xperia phone. It’s still fairly early days with the Lumix GF1 but I know my Lumix LX3 and phone camera as well as I need to now, to get the results I like.

Digital photography (with digital cameras) – I haven’t shot a single frame of film in 2018.

Shooting JPEGs – I can’t remember when I last shot RAW, I don’t think at all in 2018. I haven’t used LightRoom since January, and my subscription finally ended in May. JPEGs work very well for me, especially with the two Lumix cameras and their fantastic Dynamic Mono modes delivering very pleasing images straight out of camera.


With my phone I use a simple b/w preset I’ve set up in Snapseed, and also use my phone for this processing. I use the same presets with my other digital compacts when I use them.

Experimenting with Hipstamatic in iPad for processing – This worked pretty well initially. But then I bought a new phone, switching to a Sony Xperia Android rather than iPhone. Hipstmatic is iOS only, so for consistency I wanted a similar app that I could use with my Xperia too, and after reading plenty of glowing praise about Snapseed, took the leap. I’ve been delighted with it, and for the pictures not quite how I’d like straight out of camera, I use Snapseed to process b/w photos in about 13 seconds. I do also have Snapseed on my iPad, but to be honest the Xperia phone is more than good enough for this, it’s not worth using another device.

Prints of photographs – Whilst I’ve not printed hundred of photographs, I have made a few dozen, and our downstairs bathroom is a gallery in progress. Seeing images in printed form does feel quite different to them just being in a screen, and I would encourage anyone to try printing more of theirs. I’ve just been using an instant machine in a shop or supermarket with pleasing and affordable results.

Using iPad for online browsing, viewing and writing blog posts – This started strongly, then all but disappeared after I reset my MacBook and resurrected my wife’s old HP laptop as a Chromebook. My poor iPad simply gathered dust for a few months. Then, as I rediscovered cycling and a few cycling blogs and forums, the iPad came back into its own. Whilst usable as a writing device (which I’m doing right now) for me its truer purpose seems much more for reading and browsing. Combined with an auto scroll app like Mantaray, it’s as good as a book, but one that you rarely need to turn the page of. And the screen is big enough for looking at most photos too, for the times I am looking at them online.

Discipline and intelligent choices in where I spend my time online – mostly reading and supporting other blogs (photography, minimalism and beyond) – I wrote more about this very recently, and how my series of my series of unplugged experiments have evolved. In summary, this has gone very well, I’ve abandoned social media aside from a few uploads to Flickr, and rarely feel that I’m involved in mindless online activities.

Regular blogging – I started the year publishing around one post every three days, experimented in May with a higher rate (including a week streak), and have since settled back down a little again. My precise calculation of a post every 2.79 days back in April being the optimum for me, still seems spot on with the other commitments and interests I have in my life right now.

Writing and lining up blog posts ahead of time – Although one of the appeals of blogs is you feel as a reader you are reading the author’s very latest thoughts and ideas, from the other side of the screen as writer, it’s very handy to be able to schedule posts a little ahead of time. Whilst I know some people write weeks in advance, I’ve settled down to having just one or two posts queued up at any one point. Any more than this and I was feeling I wasn’t giving you the reader my most recent thoughts and ideas, it just didn’t feel authentic somehow. I do have a few posts in draft (well, about 70 currently), so plenty to work with for future posts, where I can expand them (most are just a title) to reflect my current thoughts on the topic. And then of course to get yours.

Walking, with the camera in my head (my eyes!) and physical cameras. I bought a Misfit Ray activity tracker in January and aside from a couple of weeks between when it died and when I received a replacement, it’s been great for keeping track of my walking, and encouraging me to do more. I love numbers, and seeing my total steps and/or points each day, week and month motivates me to keep it up. Combined with my return to regular cycling in the last month or so, I recorded more exercise last month (September – just over 380,000 steps) than any since I had the tracker. In truth, combined with my daily yoga/exercise routine, I’m exercising more than any time since I used to dance salsa up to five times a week some seven or eight years ago.


As you can see, the More or Less technique works brilliantly well for me. 

What I love is that even by going through this just exercise once and writing down your final More list, even if you don’t then look at the list for months, it seems to penetrate your subconscious deeply enough to work its magic anyway.

If I hadn’t stumbled across my January list again whilst playing with the random post generator built into WordPress, it might have been months before I did revisit it again.

Yet the things I wrote down as wanting to do more of have naturally manifested anyway.

It’s probably a good time to revise the list, and do the exercise again to include photography plus my rejuvenated cycling interest. Watch out for that post soon.

Have you ever tried using a More or Less list, or something similar? How’s it worked for you? What else has been effective in helping improve and progress your photography, and your life overall?

Please let us know below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what my photography and cycling life looks like right now

24 thoughts on “Photography Goals – How To Not Set Any But Achieve What You Wanted Anyway”

  1. I like this idea a lot. I tend to respond in an overly rigid fashion to strict goal-setting. So I might prefer this, as it seems to be a healthy way to be intentional about the direction one wants to go. With revisions along the way, as you say.

    1. Thanks for your input Jennifer. Yeh I trained as a coach some years back and in my day job too there’s a lot of talk about SMART goals too – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed.

      This can be very effective for certain business type projects, especially with multiple people involved, or with very specific goals like wanting to lose three stone in weight. But arguably even for something like the latter I would rather look at the underlying feelings and motivations, rather than an arbitrary number goal.

      For me in my personal life (in which I’d include photography) this goal setting is generally too strict and prescribed.

      You’re exactly right, the More or Less approach is about setting intentions about the direction you’re heading, not necessarily where you’re going to reach.

  2. Hi Dan, I like the frequency of your posts, I find that it often takes me a few days and more than one pass to take it all in. I learn a lot from your blog. I have never made such a list, but I am going to try it. I am facing some major life changes in the next few years, so this will come in handy. I have been thinking a lot about the tech thing this week, I would really like to minimize the number of gizmos I use. Also, I have to replace my computer (the keyboard is going and repair is too expensive) which has caused a surprising amount of soul-searching. Apple or Chromebook or?. I’m happy with my iPhone, but am uneasy about the whole Apple “trap”,Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful post.

    1. Hi Jon, glad you enjoy the frequency of posts. It works for me too!

      I think the More list is really interesting to try, and pretty easy because most, if not all, of us know what makes us happy and what we’d like more of. By also looking at what we’d like less of, then flipping it around, we can uncover other positive things to focus on too. It feels much more accessible to many people than something like goal setting, which sounds more intimidating and serious!

      About the gizmos, yes it’s easy to get hooked into any kind of technology, and believe the hype that we need them. I read yesterday to my amazement there are mountain bikes now that have electronic gear shifting! I mean, I know I have an ebike for commuting, but going off road on a “proper” mountain bike, does anyone really need electronic shifters??

      I would say whether you pick Apple or Google, MacBook or Chromebook, it’s be a good choice. I’ve been very impressed with my Sony Android phone and actually a few things on it feel more intuitive than my iPad, which I’d never though I’d say a few years back when it felt to me that Apple were light years ahead of everyone else in user interface. If my MacBook died tomorrow, I’d more likely get a Chromebook than another Apple at this stage, especially as a decent Chromebook is about £250-300 and a MacBook four times that. And these days I use Google more than Apple – Google Photos, Google Play Music, GMail etc, so it’s a more logical route for me.

  3. LOVE this idea, Dan! I’ve always been taught that goals should be measurable and specific, but that approach seems to squelch creativity because it’s so rigid. Your approach seems softer, for lack of a better word — more open to possibility than focused purely on the result. And based on the evidence you provide in this post, it clearly works! Thanks to you I’ve just compiled my first-ever More or Less List. I’ll try it for a month and report back (via a post, if my “more blogging” intention is successful!).

    1. Hi Heide, yes softer is a good word for it, and because if that it kind of just seeps into your subconscious and works its magic, without constant revisiting.

      I really should try it with other areas of my life, like my finances!

      Very interested to hear how you get on.

      1. At the very top of my “less” list was eBay, Dan — so I’ll be very interested to see how I get on, too. 🙂 Good point too about the subconscious aspect of the exercise. It’s a bit like meditating, I suppose, in which you declare your intention. It’s not so much “I must” as it is “I want to” … so the behavioral changes inherently meet with less resistance. Which brings to mind one more “less” for the list: Cheez-Its! Do you have those in the UK? They are my dietary Achilles’ Heel.

      2. Heide, yes eBay is still a bit of a black hole for me too, not so much with cameras now, but more with bikes!

        Not sure we have “Cheez-Its” but we have something similar looking called Ritz Crackers?

        I think I eat pretty well these days (I’ve drastically cut sugar in the last year), but if I have a weakness it’s be dark chocolate (almost exclusively Green and Blacks 85%) and dried apricots, both of which I can fall into eating more of than my digestive system appreciates!

      3. I too have incurred digestive havoc by over-enjoying dried apricots, Dan. LOL! As for Cheez-Its: They have the same crispy-crunch as Ritz Crackers, but with an intense cheddar cheese flavor. I’d better leave the description there, lest I begin to salivate and crave them again. 😉

      4. I usually have the natural coloured apricots but this time got the darker natural ones. Not as juicy but they’re drifting into a stickier almost caramel like texture and taste. Amazing!

        Peanut butter (the natural stuff with nothing else but peanuts in) on oatcakes are another food I have almost daily and can’t get enough of!

      5. I have searches set up that limit the price and the distance, then sort by nearest first. I got one bike recently from a town about 15 mins away, and another from the outskirts of London, about an hour away. I generally stick within 25 miles though so I can drive and pick up.

      6. Yes indeed! The thrill of the hunt PLUS the almost-immediate gratification make for an intoxication combination!

  4. Dan, I have found the kaizen “baby steps” approach the best for me to journey through my life with ideas of what I want to achieve. I have focused on the journey more than destination for a long time now. I use an index card system to help me work out the steps to follow each day xoxo susanJOY

  5. Hi Dan, Thank you for sharing your thoughts on computers, etc. For now I have downloaded a “virtual keyboard” and will keep my old Dell limping along as long as it lasts. (Only the number keys are broken) Also I wanted to tell you that I picked up a Panasonic Lumix GF-1 from a trusted seller here, and I like it a lot. I have been having great fun with the pancake lenses that came with it. What fun.

    1. I don’t think Dell is ever a great choice, we always have them at my work and they’re never that quick when they’re brand new, let alone once drowning in Windows/Adobe/Network updates… Chromebooks are massively more lean and fast in that aspect.

      Glad you like the GF1, I think they’re very good cameras too.

      I’ve initially been using mine with my M42 lenses and an adapter, but though it’s smaller than a DSLR, I’m thinking when I can get such pleasing results with the LX3, Ricoh GRD III, GX100, and Pentax Q,all significantly smaller, is there any place for the GF1 for me? Maybe I need one of those pancake lenses, though I have a “pancake” zoom, the 12-32mm, which is pretty small and light. But again the LX3 is smaller, and lens probably better.

      Which lenses do you have?

      1. Dan, I quite agree about Dell computers, mine was a cast-off from a large company that traded machines every year. I’m pretty sure it will be a Chromebook for me next. My GF-1 came with three Olympus lenses, the 15mm/f8 “body cap” lens, a 17mm f2.8 and some tele-zoom that is still in the box and sealed in plastic. I really don’t like zoom lenses for some reason. The 17mm is sharp as heck and pretty small. I like the 15mm a lot, it reminds me of the Holga. It is somewhat sharp at certain mid-range distances and has that toy-like rendering. It is hopeless at close range. There is a zone focus lever on the front that I was excited about, but it doesn’t seem to do anything. If you move the lever all the way to the right it functions as a lens cap, and I like that feature a lot. I haven’t used it a lot yet, but I really like these two lenses. I also purchased a few different adapters for old manual lenses like you, but I am having a lot of trouble focusing. (My vision is very poor)
        I used my LX-7 for my friends art show opening on Friday and it was just OK. I had forgotten how ghastly on-camera flash makes people look. I wanted to use a camera for this important event, but to be honest, I think I might have gotten better pictures with my iPhone. I am always aware of the fragile zoom lens sticking out of the front. (did I mention I hate zoom lenses?) Outdoors I have gotten really nice pictures with it, and a snapshot using the “toy” mode was good enough to be used as the printed invitation to the event. I have large hands and I think I like the size of the GF1 better. Also, the screen is even smaller and harder for me to see.
        I have ordered a viewfinder for my 17mm lens and am hoping that that will make it easier to frame shots with the GF1. I am aware that there is a EVF available for the LX-7 but it seems to be ungodly expensive here, and seems like just another bit to be sticking out of the camera and snag on things. I have a day off tomorrow and am looking forward to getting out and taking some pictures!

      2. I’m not familiar with any of the Olympus lenses, I always forget they’ve made a great range for micro four thirds as well as Panasonic.

        The body cap lens sounds very similar to the “Mount Shield” lens I have for my Pentax Q, which makes it unbelievably compact and brilliant fun. And more than a little Holga-esque!

        I think the LX7 is much the same size wise as the LX5 and LX3. As you may have read, I didn’t get on with the handling of the LX3 at all at first, but after a few mods and a bit of layered grip tape it’s now very comfortable to handle and I like it so much more. In the last few months it’s been my main camera.

        The GF1 is certainly bigger, and though it handles better out of the box than the LX3, it’s still a bit slippery, so I’m thinking about some grip tape modes too. I just don’t know why more/all camera makers don’t use rubber for the surface you grip, like the Ricoh GRDs and Pentax Q. It makes a radical difference to handling, ie you forget about it, rather than constantly fear dropping it!

        I know what you mean about parts sticking out of the camera and snagging. That’s what I feel about using M42 lenses on my GF1, it makes it not so much heavy, but unwieldy and an awkward shape.

        Back to the Pentax Q with the Mount Shield lens as an excellent example, it’s just one small block that easily slips into a pocket, and doesn’t need time to extend when you power it up.

        Enough gear talk, enjoy your picture taking!

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