Gear lust has become an increasingly insidious phenomenon within the photography community. It seems that many aspiring photographers are more concerned with drooling over the newest tech than they are interested in actually producing quality images. I’m here to tell you that this is completely backwards.

Having a cutting-edge camera, high quality lenses, etc. can make your shoots easier, and can (sometimes) improve the quality of your photos, but it’s also possible to create successful images with the equipment you already own. The trick is to simply understand and accept the limitations of your gear, and find creative ways to work within those limitations; we’ve all seen the many features online wherein a photographer shoots a magazine-worthy photo with a smartphone.

The point of these articles is not that all of the advanced cameras from established brands are worthless, but that it’s possible to produce quality images with any camera, assuming you know what it is capable of, and how best to use it. If I were to shoot an NFL football game, I would want a Canon 1D-X or Nikon D5, and an obscenely long, heavy, telephoto lens. But, if I’m shooting photos of a park, on a sunny day, with the intention of posting them to Instagram, I’m perfectly happy to shoot with my phone.

Here’s the takeaway from this post: figure out what you are capable of shooting, and go shoot it!

Don’t let a lack of gear be an excuse to not shoot. Don’t let ANYTHING be an excuse not to shoot. You may not have the money to afford the newest camera, lens or lights, but what you do have is time. You have the same number of hours every day as any professional photographer in the world, and it is up to you to use those hours wisely.

Whether you are a beginner, advanced enthusiast, or aspiring professional, the single most valuable way to advance your skill set and career is to actually practice your craft. Education is, of course, also important, but it becomes drastically more beneficial when you go out and put it to use.

Whatever goal you’ve set for yourself for the new year, it can only be accomplished if you dedicate the necessary time to it, and spend that time wisely. Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill or craft, so, if you truly care about improving your photography, it’s time to start putting in the hours.

My #52×17 Project

I’ve seen a fair number of “a photo a day” and “365 photo” projects over the last few years, and I see the value in these as a means of documenting your life, and motivating yourself to go out and do something photo-worthy every day. However, I don’t see them as a way to substantially improve your photography skills. For the type of work that I’m interested in, I need more than a day to properly plan, shoot, and post-process. However, I still want to push myself to produce more work this year, so I’m introducing #52×17, my own photo-a-week project.

As it is, it’s exceedingly rare that I go a full week without shooting anything. I stay reasonably busy with headshots and on-set photos, which pay the bills. However, I’ve realized that these shoots are not always helping me to grow as a photographer. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy my work, I do, but I’m becoming much more interested in producing more creative portraits, with an eye towards editorial and fashion work, so my #52×17 will have the chief goal of producing a portfolio geared towards that type of work.

[REWIND: New Year, New Gear Giveaway Announced!]

I invite you to join me in this weekly photo project. You may not be working to compile a specific portfolio as I am, but there are innumerable motivations to push yourself to produce more work. Perhaps you want to expand or solidify your fundamentals, find and develop a signature style, improve your post-processing skills, etc. Determine a photographic goal for 2017, and join me in #52×17. These are the rules I intend to follow.

  • Produce 52 shoots over the course of 2017. Try to stay on a schedule of 1 per week, but don’t give up if you miss a week or two. We all get overly busy sometimes and need time to relax. Just find an opportunity in the weeks that follow to double up and get back on track.
  • Each shoot should serve YOU somehow, as the photographer. These should be photos that you are proud of, whatever that means to you. If you want to climb a mountain and shoot an epic sunset landscape, that’s awesome- go for it. If you want to shoot a great picture of your cat, that’s cool too. Just go shoot!
  • Whenever possible, post your photos. Whether that be to Instagram, 500px, Facebook, Flickr, or whatever else, share your work and engage with people to connect, learn and grow. Use #52×17
  • Shoots may be paid or unpaid. If you can find a client who will pay you to shoot something that meets the criteria, that’s fantastic! Do it! That counts for the week. If not, go shoot something anyway.
  • Do not let lack of gear stop you. If you come up with an awesome idea for a shoot that absolutely requires a piece of gear that you don’t have, write it down, save it for later in the year, and go shoot something else. This is about being resourceful, and working with the gear you have.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. This is, in part, about pushing yourself. If you have an idea, and you’re not sure if it’ll actually work, plan it out as well as you can and then go for it. If the photos aren’t portfolio-worthy, don’t worry about it. Either way, you’ll learn something.
  • (Not a rule, but a suggestion) If you get near the end of the week and have no idea what to shoot, check out the Instagram blog for their weekend hashtag project. Every Friday they post a hashtag. Shoot it over the weekend, upload it with said hashtag, and on Monday Instagram staff will feature their favorites. It’s a great way to inspire and challenge yourself, and gain likes/followers.

That’s it! You can adjust the rules and goals to suit yourself, the point is to simply push yourself to produce work that you’re proud of, and that helps you grow as a photographer, every week. If you want to participate, leave a comment below with your Instagram handle and your goal for the year, and we can all help to hold each other accountable, provide C&C, and stay on track.

Also, be sure to tag @slrlounge on Instagram for a chance to be featured on our feed.