Stop Doubting Yourself
Creatives tend to be hit hard with things like impostor syndrome and often suffer crippling self-doubt. We constantly ask if our work is good enough and worry that our big ideas will turn out to be a joke. Creating something from nothing is hard, and sharing our creations with the world can be incredibly intimidating. Our brains try to save us from the potential emotional trauma of having our work torn apart or our efforts laughed at by making us afraid. It's time to recognize the fear for what it is, a self-protection mechanism, and ignore it. Stop doubting. You got into photography for a reason, and every time you let fear and doubt stop you from moving forward, you become one step further away from realizing your potential. Whether you have to bull your way through it, or talk yourself down, find a way to push past that self-doubt and create the work you want to make this year. Fate put a camera in your hands for a reason; don't let self-doubt stop you.
Stop Using Someone Else's Measure of Success
We aren't all photographers for the same reason: some of us want to photograph celebrities, some of us want to create conceptual works of art, some of us want to record landscapes before they're destroyed, and some of us want to capture memories. Just like our reasons for picking up a camera are different, our measures of success are different. If you started a part-time business to bring in a bit of extra income, your measure for success is different that someone who is aiming for $100,000 a year. The worst thing you can do for your own piece of mind is aim for someone else's goal. Figure out what success means to you, and ignore what other people are doing. You don't need to match their follower count on Instagram to be successful. You don't need to have your own fan group or earn as much as they earn. You are not them, your reasons for being a photographer aren't their reasons, and if you measure your success by whether or not you're living up to their standards, you're going to feel empty and disappointed when you achieve their standard and realize that it was never what you wanted in the first place.
Stop Imitating Other Photographers All the Time
Imitation is a great way to learn: it helps you try out techniques and figure out what you like and what you don't like. Imitating a highly recognizable style can even make you a lot of money. But, if you never grow beyond that, if you never take those techniques and shape them to fit your own vision, then you'll never be anything but a poor imitation of the original. Growing your own style is hard: it requires bravery and vulnerability and lots of failures, but having a style that represents who you are and how you see the world is worth it. If you're a photographer for nothing but the money and you're happy parroting someone else's style for your clients benefits, disregard this piece of advice. But if you became a photographer to make things, to speak through a lens, then stop trying to do it with someone else's voice.
Stop Blaming Your Clients
It's not a bride's responsibility to choose a beautiful venue for your portfolio. It's not a mother's responsibility to understand that five minutes late could mean the difference between magical sunset light for her family portraits and no light at all. Your clients aren't photographers; that's why they hired you. Yes, sometimes, clients can be frustrating and can make our jobs more difficult, but that's what we get paid for, that's why we are the professionals. If you spent 2018 complaining about clients, it's time to tighten your suspenders and take personal responsibility, because that's literally the only way we can ever make change happen. If you shift blame to your client, you' ll never take the time to think about what you could do to ensure you still get the shot, or have the time, or have enough light. You won't think outside the box about what lens to use, what aperture to chose, or what angles you can work to hide or make the most of that awful reception hall. I'm not saying the clients are never in the wrong, I'm saying you can't change them, so it's best to look at every situation as if it was your fault, because that's the only way you can make positive change and still be worthy of a paycheck.
Stop doing the same old thing
A comfort zone is a lovely place, but nothing ever grows there. I'm not saying you need to completely change your style, especially if it's something your clients have come to expect from you, but I am saying that there is value in stepping outside your comfort zone and trying something new. If you're used to shooting models, try giving regular folks a try. If you've never shot boudoir, or played with a scrim, or shot outdoors, give it a try this year! You never know what you might learn, how you might grow, or what you might fall in love with. This life is too short not to try new things, and you've got a whole year to experiment.