A Guide to Setting Nature Photography Goals

photography goals

Becoming a successful photographer can be incredibly rewarding, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges, including knowing how to set photography goals.

Sometimes, the only thing standing in the way between you and capturing the images of your dreams may be a simple lack of direction.

photography goals

Perhaps you’ve been struggling to figure out what to photograph out in nature or maybe you’ve hit a roadblock in terms of taking your wildlife photography career further. This is where setting goals can be incredibly useful.

Having goals can help you stay inspired and motivated, especially when it comes to mastering a new photography technique, completing a personal project, or reaching a certain level of success.

Taking the time to define your objectives can transform the way you approach your photography, giving you something to work towards effectively and efficiently.

If you’re keen to set effective goals for your photography in 2024, here’s a step-by-step guide that will help you get started.

How to set SMART goals in photography

Setting SMART goals is a strategic approach to goal setting that ensures your objectives are clear and focused enough to lead to achievable outcomes. So what exactly is a SMART goal and how can you set these types of goals with your own photography?

The SMART acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound – all of which are important elements of goal setting.

photography goals

This framework is about helping you create actionable tasks that will help turn your visions into reality while keeping you on track and focused, rather than just sitting down and brainstorming or listing everything that you want to photograph.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can break down your own goals using the SMART framework.

1. Specific

The first step in the SMART framework is to make sure that you clearly define your goal. Be precise about what you want to achieve. What exactly do you want to accomplish and why is it important? State your goal in clear and specific terms to avoid ambiguity.

photography goals

Example: Instead of setting a vague goal like, “Improve my photography,” you might set a specific goal such as, “Learn about how shutter speed is affected by aperture when photographing animals moving quickly.”

Read more: How to Improve Your Wildlife Action Shots

2. Measurable

When setting a goal, it is important to make sure that it’s measurable so that you can track progress and determine its achievement.

photography goals

Think about how you will measure your progress and when you will know that you’ve accomplished your goal. Identify specific criteria or metrics to gauge your progress.

Example: Building on the above example, learning about how shutter speed is affected by aperture when photographing fast-moving animals, you can measure progress by monitoring the sharpness of your images over a period of time.

3. Achievable

While it’s great to aim high, your photography goals should be realistic and attainable in relation to your resources, time, and abilities.

As such, consider all of the potential challenges and obstacles that might come up in the process of attaining your goal, as well as your willingness to overcome these things.

photography goals

Are your goals within your reach? Do you have the necessary skills and resources to achieve them?

Example: If your current camera equipment only allows you to shoot on auto rather than manual settings, then setting a goal to learn how shutter speed is affected by aperture may not be achievable.

4. Relevant

It’s hard to prioritize things in your life when they don’t matter to you, so ensure that your goals are relevant and aligned with your values, priorities, and long-term objectives.

Do your goals support your broader objectives in terms of photography? Consider the impact of achieving your goals on your personal or professional life.

Example: If your long-term goal is to enter a bird photography competition, then learning to use your camera in manual mode is relevant because it will help you master a range of skills such as capturing sharp images and panning to give an artistic look to birds in flight.

5. Time-bound

Set a specific timeframe or deadline for achieving your goal. Establishing a realistic deadline creates a sense of urgency and helps you stay focused.

photography goal

Example: Instead of saying, “learn about shutter speed,” it’s better to specify, “In the next two weeks, learn about how shutter speed is affected by aperture when photographing animals moving quickly.”

5. Tracking your goals

Once you’ve clearly defined your goals, it’s essential to track them effectively to stay focused, motivated, and accountable.

To do this, set aside regular intervals to review your goals and track your progress. You might choose to do this on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, depending on the nature of your goals.

Some people find it useful to write down their goals in a journal, planner, or notebook. Writing regularly can help you reflect on your progress and setbacks you’ve encountered, and review any lessons you’ve learned along your journey.

photography goals

For those who are more data-oriented, try creating a spreadsheet using software like Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. A spreadsheet is a great tool to organise your goals and measure your progress.

If you have a smartphone, look into downloading a goal-tracking app, such as Trello or Habitica. Many apps have features like task lists, reminders, and progress tracking.

When tracking your goals, be honest with yourself about your achievements and setbacks. Take the time to assess what’s working well and what needs adjustment. You might find it useful to share your photography goals with friends, family, or a photography mentor.

Above all, remember to celebrate any small accomplishments along the way. Rewarding yourself can help you maintain your motivation!

10 photography goal ideas for wildlife photographers

Setting goals for wildlife photography depends largely on your interests, objectives, and the story you want to convey through your images. For those who need inspiration, here are some common goals for wildlife photographers:

1. Capture behaviour

Aim to capture unique or interesting behaviours of animals in their natural habitats. This might include animals hunting, feeding, mating, nurturing their young, or any other behaviour that offers insight into a particular species.

wildlife photography goals

To do this, you can set a goal to improve your wildlife tracking skills, study animal behaviour, or learn naturalist skills such as spotting signs of wildlife.

Read more: Wildlife Photography – Understanding Animal Behaviour for Better Images

2. Showcase biodiversity

Strive to document the diversity of wildlife in different ecosystems by showcasing the richness of fauna in your part of the world. You might even choose to travel elsewhere if there isn’t much biodiversity in your own neck of the woods!

3. Raise awareness

Use your images to raise awareness about conservation issues and threats facing wildlife. This may lead to action or support for conservation efforts.

Read more: Conservation Photography – How to Work With Biologists

4. Educate and inform

Seek to educate people about the natural world by sharing information about different species, their habitats, behaviours, and the importance of conservation.

5. Create art

Perhaps you’d like to approach wildlife photography as a form of art, capturing aesthetically pleasing images that evoke emotions and convey a sense of beauty or wonder.

Express your creativity by making your own fine art decor inspired by wildlife and nature, such as framed prints, calendars, and more.

Read more: How to Take Creative Urban Wildlife Photos

6. Documentary photography

Focus on capturing images that tell a story about a particular species, ecosystem, or conservation project. You can do this by aiming to create a visual narrative that informs and engages viewers.

wildlife photography goals

Read more: How to Photograph a Wildlife Story

7. Contribute to science

You can contribute to scientific research by capturing images of rare or elusive species, documenting their behaviour, or providing visual data for research studies.

8. Personal challenge

For many photographers, wildlife photography is a personal challenge that involves patience, skill, and dedication. You might choose to set goals to improve your technical skills, master new techniques, or capture specific species or behaviours.

Alternatively, you might simply aim to build your portfolio by photographing local wildlife in the parks and reserves near your home. This is also great practice for documenting changes as species come and go.

Read more: 10 Wildlife Photography Tips You Can’t Miss

9. Celebrate wildlife

Celebrate the beauty and majesty of wildlife by sharing stunning images of animals online for the United Nations World Wildlife Day.

Held on March 3rd of every year, it’s a great opportunity for wildlife photographers to engage with people all around the world and to commemorate the 1973 signing of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Read more: How to Use Instagram Stories to Promote Your Photos

10. Inspire conservation action

Use your photographs to inspire viewers to appreciate and protect the natural world, encouraging them to take action to conserve and preserve wildlife and their habitats.

10 photography goal ideas for nature photographers

Nature photography encompasses a wide range of subjects beyond wildlife, including landscapes, plants, and natural phenomena. Here are some common goals in nature photography:

1. Capture the beauty of nature

Challenge yourself by photographing landscapes, seascapes, mountains, forests, and other scenic vistas during a specific time of day, such as the golden hour or during twilight.

photography goals

Read more: How to Find Balance in Photography Compositions

2. Document Natural Phenomena

Photograph fleeting moments and natural phenomena such as sunrises, sunsets, rainbows, auroras, eclipses, and meteor showers.

Read more: Lightning Photography – How to Shoot Electric Storms

3. Explore remote and wild places

Venture into remote and wild places to capture unique or pristine landscapes that are untouched by human development.

photography goals

Read more: Taking Your Camera on Expedition? Here’s Some Crucial Advice

4. Create a macro photography series

Delve into all the small things of the natural world by creating a series of macro photographs. Set a goal to capture close-up images of flowers, insects, plants, and other small subjects, revealing their complexity.

Read more: 7 Top Tips for Editing Macro Photos

5. Tell a story

Aim to tell a story through your images, whether it’s about a particular landscape, ecosystem, or environmental issue.

photography goals

Storytelling with nature photography is a great way to raise awareness about issues that are important to you and to inspire action.

6. Celebrate biodiversity

Celebrate the diversity of life on Earth by capturing images of plants, flowers, insects, birds, mammals, and other organisms in their natural habitats.

7. Capture seasonal changes

Document the changing seasons in a particular location from the same point of view. You can also focus on seasonal migrations or other natural cycles.

Read more: How to Photograph the Seasons

8. Convey mood and atmosphere

Use light, composition, and other elements to convey mood and atmosphere in your images. This might be the tranquillity of a misty morning, the drama of a stormy sky, or the serenity of a starry night.

photography goals

Read more: How to Create Drama and Mood in Landscape Photography

9. Educate and inspire

Nature photographers play a crucial role in educating people about the natural world and inspiring them to appreciate and protect it.

You can use your images to raise awareness about conservation issues, promote environmental stewardship, and foster a deeper connection to nature by conveying its beauty and fragility through your lens.

10. Personal growth and enjoyment

For many photographers, nature photography can be a source of personal growth, creativity, and enjoyment.

Set a goal to find fulfilment in exploring the outdoors, honing your photography skills, and capturing moments of beauty and wonder in the natural world.

You might choose to focus on mastering only a few key skills or creating elegant images to show nature as people have never seen it before.

Read more: 8 Ways to Take Your Nature Photography to the Next Level

In conclusion

Setting goals in nature and wildlife photography is a process that can help keep you on track, focused, and heading in the direction that you want to go when it comes to picking up your camera.

By giving yourself a set of small actionable tasks to complete, you’ll create a roadmap that guides your efforts, increases your motivation, and enhances your chances of success as a photographer.

So the next time you find yourself with a few moments to spare, try writing down some objectives that you might be able to achieve in the next year that will advance your photography.

Both short and long-term photography goals are useful; just make sure that they are measurable so that when the time comes, you’ll know whether you’ve achieved them or if there is something more for you to work towards.

Visit Serena's website

Serena Dzenis is a lens-based artist from Australia who resides in Iceland. She uses her work to tell stories about science, conservation, environmental issues and the future of mankind. Her focus is on connecting with the land and exploring the outcomes of human desires while immersing oneself in the rhythms and dangers associated with the living presence of this world.

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