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Set goals for your photography – The first step on becoming a full-time creative

In this weeks tutorial, we are talking about how to set goals for your photography, and what it takes to become full-time creative. As I said earlier in one of my previous tutorials "How to keep yourself motivated and take better photographs" asking questions is crucial if you want to become better! Every six months I find myself asking the same questions about my photography. I do find these questions to be valuable in other areas of my life as well. 

If you are aspiring to become a full-time photographer, I think it’s essential to be intentional about your work and path. If you want to do photography for a living or if you wish to get your photography to the next level these questions will give you the guide to do so.

Take at least two days to focus on your goals. I recommend to switch yourself into offline mode. Yeah, it's difficult but I find it so important! Keep yourself out of the internet and don’t watch the news or anything that might affect your decision making. Do it for just two days, and I promise you that you will be inspired to create your goal list. And the best thing is that you will set goals that motivate you.  

Setting Goals

I set my yearly goals at the end of each year sometimes even earlier. If I skip this step, I don’t have a clear path I want to drive myself, and that is not good. Early on I just focused on creating, and my primary goal was to become a better photographer. As time has gone this goal is not relevant to me, of course, I want to become better all the time, but it doesn’t drive me forward. The key takeaway is that the things you want to achieve each year should excite you not others! Don’t just look at what everyone else is doing, do your thing. 

I use four categories to set my goals each year.

1. The Craft

Even if you are working hard on other parts of photography such as social media and pitching clients, you still need to put in the work to take photographs. It’s a no-brainer, but even I have sometimes been too focused on other parts of my business and in those moments I have lacked motivation to take pictures. And that's when planning comes in handy. When you are setting goals for your photography, try to ask yourself the following questions. 

How many times do I want to photograph weekly?
How much time do I want to spend on post-processing?
hat type of photography excites me at this moment?
Where do I want to take my photographs?
What kind of photography projects do I want to focus on? 

2. Community

Having a community is essential in today's World. It gives you purpose and insight on how you are doing. I usually ask these questions about the community.

How do I want to reach people?
What is my goal for my channels?
Do I want to grow them and why?
Where do I want to focus more and why?
How many photographs do I want to share weekly?
What does it take to do these things?
Who other photographers would I like to spend my time with? 

3. Traveling

Most of the photographers I know have fantastic traveling plans for each year. Sometimes I have those as well, but at times I want to focus on the nearby locations. I set my goals based on the following questions.

What are my traveling goals this year?
Where do I want to visit and why?
What places excite me?

4. Money

I have never been the kind of person who focuses on money goals; however, when you want to become full-time photographer, you need to set goals for your finances as well. Break it down to these questions. 

How much money do I want to make with my photography this year? Why?
Where do I want to spend the money?
How much do I need for living expenses and traveling?
How do I want to make money?
What has worked best in the past year or so?
What type of projects do I feel inspired to do?
What kind of clients do I want to work with?

Take Action

For each of the categories, I try to put down at least three to six action steps I can take each week to move forward. If I skip this step in the planning process, I find myself focusing on things that will never lead me toward my goals. Such as scrolling the internet and social media. Losing track of time and looping in this devious cycle. Make sure to plan your actions, put them on your calendar! 

Keep track of your goals

As you are doing the goal setting, put a reminder on your calendar to go through your goals in one month. Make sure you have selected a date that works best for you to do this type of analyzing. Ask yourself another set of questions to keep yourself on the right path. 

Do I feel that my actions are in line with my goals? 
What bugs me about my photography? Why?
In which areas do I feel stuck or lack motivation?
How do I keep moving towards my goals?
What is the next action step I can take to change the projection towards my goals?


Damn, that’s a lot of questions! But that’s how you keep yourself on the right path. Let me know if you found this article to be helpful in any area of your life.  

Mikko Lagerstedt – Arise – 2018, Finland

Mikko Lagerstedt – Arise – 2018, Finland



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How to add a glow to photographs in Photoshop

In this weeks tutorial, we are adding a glowing effect to photographs in Photoshop. I received a wonderful comment from Melissa, one of my readers regarding that it would be interesting to see a tutorial for Photoshop. So I thought why not share one of my favorite tricks on how to create glow in Photoshop. 

This Photoshop trick works perfectly when you have a bright light source or sources in the photograph. Without further ado let's go ahead and open the image in Photoshop and start the process. 

Duplicate Layer

Use shortcut CTRL/CMD + J to duplicate the background layer. 


Convert to Smart Object

When we are working with this type of effect, it's useful to convert the layer to Smart Objects since we can edit the effects after we have made them.

Convert the duplicated layer into Smart Object by right-clicking on top of the layer and select Convert to Smart Object.



Now give the layer a blur. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur

Add blur to the image. Around 40–100 pixels seems to work most of the time. Don't worry about the amount at this moment since you can edit it later. 


Highlights and Contrast

Add Curves adjustment layer above the blurred layer. 

Create a Clipping Mask by right clicking on top of the curves layer and select Create Clipping Mask. This will now make sure that the Curves adjustments only affect the layer below. 

Pull up the highlights and pull down the shadows slightly to create S-curve with curves. 


Go back to the blurred layer and pull down the opacity to around 15-30% depending on your image. I recommend to go with a low opacity and don't overdo the effect.

EDIT: If you don't want to affect the shadow and sharpness of the image use blending modes: Soft Light or Hard Light on the blurred layer.
(Thanks for the tip Roland!)


Before and After

And that's it! Just a few steps can add impact to your photos. Thanks to Melissa for suggesting a Photoshop tutorial. I hope you enjoy it!




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First Row

I'm thrilled to show you another photo from the same night as my previous photograph: Divided. I had some fun in Yyteri, Finland walking down the beach alone, just mesmerized by the beauty of life. I tried to capture the beautiful sight I witnessed while sitting on the bench from a spectators perspective. Hope you enjoy it!

Equipment & Exif

Nikon D800, Samyang 14 mm f/2.8, Sirui R-4203L tripod with K-40X ball head
ISO 5000, 14 mm, f/2.8, 30 sec. 


For base edit I used my Fine Art Lightroom Preset: Landscape - Stars II. I also used Photoshop for the Milky Way with my upcoming Photoshop Action: Stars Enhance. Hopefully the Action pack will be ready in the next couple of weeks, still working on it to make it as good as possible.

First Row - Mikko Lagerstedt, 2014

You can subscribe to my newsletter below, if you are interested to receive update as soon as the Fine Art Photoshop Action pack will be available! 

Alone In The Light

While going through some of my photographs from last year, I came across with this one. A shot on a beautiful misty Summer morning, taken about a year ago. As the sun was rising I had my camera on my tripod and used my remote controller to trigger the camera. 


Nikon D800, Nikon 16 - 35 mm f/4.0 VR, Sirui R4203-L tripod & Hähnel Giga T Pro II remote controller.

ISO 100, f/5.6, 35 mm, 1/1600 sec.


Lightroom for color temperature, contrast and saturation. I also used one of my presets to base edit the photo: Morning Blues. 

More info about the tools I use, can be found in the FAQ-page.

Want a print of this photo? You can find it here: Alone in the Light

Alone in the Light - Mikko Lagerstedt - 2014

Essential Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts for Photographers

Here is a essential shortcut set for photographers using Photoshop to make your processing faster.


Work space:

F  Switch Between Screen Mode

CTRL+0  Fit Image In The Screen or Window

CTRL/CMD +  Zoom In

CTRL/CMD -  Zoom Out

CTRL/CMD+TAB Flip through Open Documents

SPACE = Move Through Image with Hand Tool

Toggle between Screen Modes with F key


B  Brush Tool

F5 Open Brush Settings Panel

0 - 9 Set the Opacity of your current tool

SHIFT + 0 - 9 Set the flow of your current tool

X  Switch Between Foreground And Background Color

D  Reset Foreground And Background Colors to Black & White

V  Move Tool

C  Crop Tool

G  Gradient Tool

M  Selection Tool

SHIFT+L  Toggle Lasso Tools

I  Eyedropper Tool

 Pen Tool

 Zoom Tool

S  Clone Stamp Tool

SHIFT+J  Toggle Patch Tool, Spot Healing Brush etc.

SHIFT+O  Toggle Between Dodge & Burne Tools

CTRL/CMD+ALT+ Right Mouse Button  Adjust Brush, Small or Big (Moving mouse to left or right) / Soft or Hard (Moving mouse down or up)

Adjust the Brush Size with CTRL/CMD+ALT and right mouse button moving it up and down and from side to side.

Layers & Saving

CTRL/CMD+I  Invert (Selection and Mask for example)

CTRL/CMD+ALT+I  Image Size Adjustments

CTRL/CMD+ALT+SHIFT+E  Make A Stamp Visible Layer




I have added these to the Shortcut Setup ease my work:

CTRL/CMD+ALT+SHIFT+K  Shortcut Setup

CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+M  Add Mask (Layer - Reveal All)

CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+G  Gaussian Blur ( Filter - Gaussian Blur)

CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+U  Unsharp Mask (Filter - Unsharp Mask)

CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+F  Flatten Image (Layer - Flatten Image)

Add more keyboard shortcuts through CTRL/CMD+ALT+SHIFT+K (Keyboard Shortcuts and Menus)