There are undoubtedly those who think that most talented photographers acquired their skills through
years of tutelage under a demanding but conscientious instructor. I’m quite unsure as to the validity of this idea in a historical context, but in modern times it’s unlikely to be the case. Image by Gaetano Cessati The advent of the Information Age brought with it an ease of access to resources and sharing platforms that have paved the way for a generation of self-taught photographers. Not to suggest that formal academic training in photography is entirely unwarranted, but it would appear that self-driven education is the wave of the future. While learning photography on your own may require an additional measure of discipline and dedication, one of the many advantages to this approach is that it’s easier to keep things fun. Understanding f-stops and shutter speed are vital skills, but it’s not enough to simply have a theoretical grasp of the fundamentals — photography happens when you put those skills to practical use. And you’ve got to challenge yourself in order to develop and, eventually, master your skills. Challenging yourself can actually be fun, and it doesn’t require you to run off to the Amazon rainforest to experience real growth. If you’re ready to strengthen and diversify your skill set, keep reading for 10 fun photography challenge ideas that will help you do just that. 1. Minimize Your Gear
Less really can be more. There’s
freedom in minimalism and you can discover this for yourself by shooting with just one camera and one lens. Leave everything else in your bag. Give yourself a predetermined time frame, pick your favorite camera/lens combo and go shoot. If you’ve gotten used to using a zoom lens or frequently changing lenses while out in the field, you’ll be forced to rethink the way you see and compose your photos. It won’t take long before you notice that you are choosing more meaningful subjects and treating those subjects to stronger composition.
2. Turn Ordinary Subjects Extraordinary
Believe it or not, you don’t need to book a trip to another country to find interesting photography subjects; there are plenty of them right under your nose.
You may look at those things as being mundane, but therein lies the challenge: take common objects and find a way to make them beautiful. Whether it’s how you light them, the angle at which you shoot them, the environment in which you place them — make it a point to be attentive to the ordinary objects around you and treat them as if they are special. Ultimately, it’s an exercise in how to connect with your subjects, a skill every photographer needs.
3. Capture the Alphabet
Our third from our list of
fun photography challenge ideas is deciding how you go about choosing what you shoot on any given day? Is it something you decide on ahead of time or just figure it out as you go? Is it a struggle? Here’s an idea: choose a subject that corresponds with each letter of the alphabet. I know it probably sounds easy, but once you dig into it, you will see this is a task that tests your ability to find worthwhile subjects that also fit the criteria of the challenge, and some letters will surely prove to be more difficult to fulfill than others. It’s a fun challenge with almost a month’s worth of variety built into it; the unique experiences you acquire will no doubt serve to expand your vision and sharpen your intuition.
4. Photograph Water
Water may not immediately come to mind when thinking of riveting subject matter, but rest assured it’s something you will want to
spend some time with. Two of the most common water-based projects are water droplet photography and oil-and-water photography. In addition to some basic photography gear (a flash, a tripod), both can be achieved by using items you likely have at home already. Oh, you will also need a heavy dose of patience — rest assured there will be a lot of trial and error when it comes to lighting, camera settings and timing, but the takeaway is you’ll learn to make exposure adjustments quickly and learn some great lighting lessons. Eventually, you'll get some beautiful photos for all your effort. Lightstalking Tutorials
here for an in-depth tutorial of how to set everything up for the water droplet challenge and here for a tutorial on oil and water photography.
5. Shoot in Low Light
really want to dive head first into the process of mastering ISO, shutter speed and aperture, then take on a low light challenge. Whether it’s in a dimly lit theater or nighttime street photography, photo-worthy moments are happening all the time with no regard for lighting conditions. Putting yourself through the paces of shooting in low light will help prepare you for those spur of the moment opportunities whenever and wherever they may occur. You don’t actually have to leave your house for this challenge; using the ambient light filtering in from a window, for example, is an excellent way to practice low light photography. What you learn here can be applied to a pretty wide variety of other situations where light is in short supply.
6. Shoot in Black and White
This is about
more than converting your images to black and white in post processing. It’s about learning to “see” in black and white. You will need to look for textures, patterns, shapes; light and shadows. Each of these is important in color photos, but absolutely vital to good black and white photographs. You might go so far as setting your camera to produce exclusively a black and white jpeg; if you’re using a mirrorless camera you can even set the LCD/EVF to display in black and white. Spend a week or two seeing the world in black and white and you will begin to acquire an eye for detail that will carry over into all of your photographic efforts.
Photography challenges come in many different flavors, but the best ones exist to make you a better photographer by
strengthening the skills you already possess and paving the way for you to develop new skills. It’s serious business as far as the craft of photography is concerned, but there’s no reason why all of this shouldn’t be fun. So, challenge yourself and enjoy! Further Resources Further Learning
We mentioned creating an assignment for yourself which focuses on
creating Black and White photographs through “seeing in black and white” and this is where you can truly master the art that is “Black and White Photography.”