Every year, between Christmas and New Year’s, I work up my goals for the next year according to my latest 5-year plan. Those goals are a not only a list of ambitions and dreams, but they are also a working document that helps me focus on where I want to go with my career in the following year. In the big scheme, all of the items on my list of goals are only achieved when I am able to create unique, stunning images that help to propel my career. In this age of Instagram and social media, I am constantly trying to dream up concepts for images that will help my work stand out from the thousands upon thousands of images being created on an hourly basis.

As I work up my new goals for 2016 and beyond, I am aware of the ever-changing challenges we face as professional photographers. The supply and demand curves are not in our favor as pro photographers. Every day it seems there are more photographers trying to make a living with their images. Our ranks are growing exponentially. These days everyone is a photographer and just about anyone with a smartphone can create a fairly competent image. Just producing solid images, being professional and easy to work with isn’t enough to make it these days. The big picture idea that is always on my mind is the question, “How do I make my images stand out from the mass of images already out there?”

For myself, I come up with ideas for images that involve a fair amount of setup and are difficult to pull off. Often, just using artificial lighting in a new and interesting way will help an image rise above the rest. Finding a unique area, or a unique angle also helps. Working with top outdoor athletes in amazing locations also helps to make the images unique. These are the things I think about on every shoot. But even these simple ideas, which are not revolutionary in any way, are not enough to really stand out. Doing something that has never been done before to create a truly unique image is incredibly difficult, but that is the goal.

Using technology to push the envelope is another great way to stand out. This past year, I was lucky enough to work with Elinchrom on their marketing campaigns and I was one of the first people to be able to shoot with their new Hi-Sync technology, which allows photographers working with DSLRs to sync a strobe at shutter speeds up to 1/8,000th second. As working pros, we have to be constantly reinventing ourselves to stay ahead of the curve and to create new and exciting images. The ultimate goal for 2016, as it has been for previous years, is to create unique and inspired images that further help me to stand out from the crowd. How will you stand out in 2016?

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