We’re going through a bit of a cold snap here in St. Louis. I don’t have any objection to photographing when it’s cold, but it’s a lot of effort to layer-up for a cold weather shoot and there aren’t a lot of people out-and-about. So, I’m not out making a lot of photos.
In this article, I’ll explore some strategies for keeping photographically active during down times. Whether it’s the weather that’s keeping you from making photos or you’re stuck inside for another reason, your photography doesn’t have to grind to a halt.
Catch up on Post-Processing
I’m generally pretty good at keeping up on my post-processing, but I know other photographers who have quite a backlog of photos that need to be processed. It’s in the post-processing that most digital photographs are really MADE, going beyond just TAKING the photograph.
My photos of the shipwreck USS Inaugural took quite a bit of post-processing since they all needed a full sky replacement – did I mention that the weather has been bleak around St. Louis, lately?
File management is the unsexy part of post-processing – everything from backing up to tagging photos. This is where I really can use the time.
Cleaning Up / Backing Up
One thing I do when I have a bit of time is to double check that all of my photos are backed up in at least two places – but three is preferable.
I also take this time to clear out some dead wood. I tend to be generous about the photos I keep – after all, storage is cheap – but at some point, I go back and clear out duplicate photos or photos that just aren’t good enough to publish.
I pick a month – usually at least 6-12 months previously – and I start deleting. I have some distance from the photos so I’m much more ruthless this time around. My collections get much smaller, really fast!
This type of project ongoing and I tend to lose perspective after a while, so I limit my clearing out to one or two months at a time.
Revisit and Revise
While I’m clearing out photos, I’m also on the look out for a good photo that slipped through the cracks. Either there were other photos that I liked better at the time or I’m simply seeing a possibility in the photo that I hadn’t seen before.
There’s no statute of limitation on posting photos – it doesn’t matter if the photo was taken yesterday or last year. If you want to post the photo – do it!
The Nelson Stairs at Somerset House were a challenge to photograph. It took me 6 months to decide which photos to choose and how to post-process them.
This is also the time to look for a photo-within-a-photo where a judicious crop will create a completely different photograph. My initial assessment of the photo may not have caught an alternate possibility.
I’m also looking for already published photos that I can re-edit. I’ve grown as a photographer so I might make different post-processing choices now than when I originally published the photo. I also know few new techniques for getting the most from my photos.
I reprocessed this photo of the St. Louis skyline in black & white and I played with pinching the perspective to emphasize the leading lines into the center from both the Arch reflection and the bridge. I also played with some dodging and burning techniques.
I don’t worry much about re-posting a reprocessed photos – most of my followers won’t notice and I sometimes even call attention to the revision by give a before and after shot.
If I’m feeling particularly adventurous in my post-processing, I try out new presets or filters in Lightroom, Photoshop or the Nik Collection. I can get as crazy as I want with processing!
Regardless of what time of the year it is, I can always take time to edit my “best of…” collections. At New Year’s, I – like many other photographers – post my top photos of the year and in July, I make a new portfolio book of my top photos of my photographic year (my personal photographic year runs from July to July).
I have collections in Lightroom to help me quickly find my top shots. I have collections for overall top shots, but I also have other types of collections including my favorite black and white photos, my top tree photos, etc. Having these collections helps me choose photos quickly (at least more quickly) when submitting to a competition.
I don’t usually put photos into the collections when I’m processing them because I’m always in love with the last photo that I published. I need a bit of time to see if the photo has some staying power.
This cold weather down-time is a good time to assess my collections and replace older shots with new and better photographs.
Tagging and Sharing
I’d like to think that I’m pretty good at tagging my photos, but I know that it really depends on the day. I get busy and sometimes photos get published without appropriate tags. Tagging helps me find a photo later, and also helps others find my photos online, so it’s a good idea — in principle.
I’m particularly bad at adding hashtags on my Instagram photos, but I can always go back and add a comment with appropriate hashtags.
Winter gives me time to do this necessary, but tedious job. Because this job can be so tedious, I chose only a month or two of photos to focus on or I’ll just get overwhelmed!
Social Media Love
Non-photography days are good for updating my social media and generally sharing some love around to the photographers that I follow. I try to keep up, but I often have to choose between editing photos or looking at the photos coming into my various social media accounts.
One of the “tricks” to getting new followers is to be active on social media – especially commenting. This isn’t really a “trick” – it’s human nature – if you show an interest in other photographers, they’ll show an interest in you!
A big Shout Out to some of my favorite photographers on social media!!!
I generally post to Flickr, Facebook and Instagram, but I don’t always take advantage of the groups on Facebook and Flickr to share my photos. If I post to appropriate groups, my photos get more attention from people who are already pre-disposed to like the image.
But I have some self-imposed rules for posting in groups. I’m not a fan of post-and-run.
Before posting my own photo, I generally have to like a certain number of photos already posted in the group and I try to follow at least a couple of photographers whose work I discover while perusing the group.
This takes time, but I often discover some amazing work – and often get a few more followers myself.
This is a perfect time to give my camera a deep clean. I wipe down all the lenses and clean the sensor. If you’ve not done this before, do a bit of research first – tips on cleaning sensors. I remove my L-Bracket – which I frankly forget is removable – and clean underneath.
I also remove everything from my camera bag and assess whether it really needs to go back in or not. A surprising amount of stuff finds its way into my bag when I’m not looking!
My tripod also needs some love, so take that apart and give it a clean – just remember where all the pieces go.
I read my camera’s manual when I got it – well, I read the major parts of the manual – at least I leafed through SOME of the manual – ok, I threw the manual in the box and forgot about it!
Every time I pull out my camera’s manual I learn something: a new way of autofocusing, a new setting that I didn’t know about, a feature that I’d forgotten about. Modern cameras are wonderfully complex – they can do a lot of different things.
If I’m not getting the most from my camera, it’s user-error.
Cold days are perfect for figuring out that mysterious setting I’ve always wanted to know about or searching online for optimal settings for my camera in different situations. Even if I learn one new thing, it will pay off next time I go out to take photos.
I set up my new camera with one of the Program modes set up for wildlife (e.g., fast shutter, quick autofocus). It paid off when I pulled over quickly to capture this owl. One twist and the camera was set up and I was ready to take the shot.
Cold days are perfect for planning my summer travels – ideally to warm and photographically interesting places!
I spend quite a lot of time planning where I want to go and the best places for photography. I make a detailed itinerary, everything from confirmation numbers to how to get around on the ground. When I’m traveling I want to focus on making photos, not searching around for the right bus!
This project will help me get better photographs when the trip rolls around, but it’s every so tedious and time consuming.
Even if you have no immediate plans for a photograph trip, it’s time to make your bucket list of all the places you’d like to go – whether these be close to home or miles away. Making the goal is the first step to making it happen.
Sometimes though I really just want to take some photographs! This is the time to play with interesting lighting techniques or a fun photography trick.
I arrange different lighting setups and grab some interesting things from around the house as subjects (I’d grab my husband, but he’s pathologically camera-shy – maybe your family is more cooperative!) Playing with lighting techniques in a controlled situation will help me see the light better in the field.
I explore new photographic techniques or find an inspiration photo to duplicate with my own twist. These are technique-building exercises so I sometimes can get a bit crazy.
No need for photography to stop just because you’re not out making photographs. I have plenty of cold-weather activities to keep my photography moving forward!