5 Daily Exercises to Become a Better Photographer

By Kent DuFault / December 8, 2013

Photography is fun because it is all about learning and advancing your skills. Self-improvement brings happiness and a sense of pride as we see our efforts improve. Improving requires practice and training. We've developed a list of 5 daily exercises to become a better photographer. These are quick tips that you could do each day. They don't take a lot of time, energy, or money.

1. Develop a Study List

Create a folder in your web browser titled, “My Photo Analysis”. Whenever you're browsing photography related websites such as Flickr, DeviantArt, or Behance: bookmark images that catch your eye and place them into your folder. These images can be great, good, bad, or terrible.

The key is that the image caused you to pause and reflect on it for a moment. Build up a file of these images.

Now, once a day, open your folder and randomly choose one image. Your goal is to spend a few minutes determining why you felt the way you did about the image. Try to dig deep, past the obvious. Don't just say to yourself- “It's a pretty scene.”

Evaluate the composition, the lighting, the focal point, the positioning of the subject, the location of supporting elements, etc. Determine what is good, and what is bad, about the image. Spend no more than five minutes on this project.

Palace Guard by Kent DuFault, on Flickr

Palace Guard – Analysis by Kent DuFault, on Flickr

2. Carry a Subject in Your Pocket

We've all heard the advice that you should shoot every day. While this is excellent advice, let's face it, our days are busy, and we don't always have time to go looking for pictures.

Here's a great suggestion. Find a small object that you think is interesting. Something that can fit into your pocket or purse. Carry your camera every day, (like you should be doing), and at least once every day pull out your little subject and take a photograph of it. Your ideas don't have to be fancy, but they should be creative. Maybe your traveling subject is a small doll and you photograph her sitting on the counter at your local deli. You can pick anything- just make sure it captures your imagination.

Chinagirl_II_by_clarisaponcedeleon by Kent DuFault, on Flickr

Photographer, Clarisa Ponce de Leon, carried this 3 inch doll in her purse for over a year and photographed it everywhere she went.

Chinagirl_by_clarisaponcedeleon by Kent DuFault, on Flickr

You will be amazed at how people around you will get excited, (and involved), in your project. The next thing you know they'll be asking to be in the photo with your little subject.

3. Watch a Tutorial on YouTube

We don't know how many of you are YouTube users, but if you're not using YouTube on a regular basis, you should be. There is a plethora of photographic instructional videos on YouTube. It's literally a free education. The nice thing about it is that it's quick. Most videos are less than a couple of minutes in length. YouTube is also available on most Smartphones that have a data plan. You can learn photographic techniques while riding the commuter train back and forth from work.

4. Shoot a moving object

A sense of anticipation, and timing, is a critical skill for many types of photography: sports, weddings, portraits, kids, pets, etc. Capturing the decisive moment takes training. Training comes through practice. Each day photograph a moving object. Try to vary what kind of object it is – a person, a vehicle, a machine, a pet, etc. Make it a point to achieve critical focus and advanced composition. Keep track of your images. Put them in a special folder on your computer and track your efforts. Do you see improvement over time?

Emotion motion by Jelly Dude, on Flickr

5. Create a Shooting Calendar

This one is a lot fun. Sit down and create 31 slips of paper. On each one write an object. An example list might be: water, dirt, cup, baby, tree, house, car, boat, sun, street, bread, worker, jogger, bicycle, bed, window, beer, coat, umbrella, park, trash, chair, dog, co-worker, spouse, store, ketchup, book, candle, door, and fork. Throw the slips of paper into a jar and stir them up. Each day withdraw one slip of paper. Your self-assignment is to photograph whatever is on that slip of paper. Do one a day. Don't make it overly complicated, but make it creative. Stretch your imagination. When you've completed the list, throw them back into the jar and start over, or you can create a new list.

We've done this experiment many times over the years. It's fun to re-do the list each month for a full year. It will really provide you with an interesting body of work!

lingering….. by jenny downing, on Flickr

Its forking complicated by wizgd, on Flickr

Fork Mirror Reflection by zeevveez, on Flickr

We wish you well on your photographic journey!


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About the author

    Kent DuFault

    Kent is an occasional writer for Light Stalking, and also handles the weekly “Picture of the Week” contest. He has been involved with photography since 1974, and he has worked in various aspects of professional photography since 1983. Most of those years were spent as a commercial photographer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has always considered his niche to be creative, professional, imaging that communicates a solid visual story. You can view some of his photographic work on Instagram, Flicker, 500px, and GuruShots. He did attend a two-year program where he obtained a certificate in commercial photography. Milestones for Kent’s photographic career include acquiring his first job as a newspaper photographer, and as contract commercial photographer for the Unisys Corporation. He also opened his own commercial photography studio in downtown Minneapolis, and became the District Manager of Photography and Production for Memory Lane Portraits. Last but not least, he is Content Director of Photzy. He is currently based in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

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