Boost your photography skills with challenges.
Do you feel like you’re not creating the images you hoped for? Or that your images all look the same? Perhaps you want to boost your style, creativity or technique? Taking part in a photo challenge is a fun way to get better results.
[Note: a challenge is supposed to be challenging, to get you out of your comfort zone and into a new experience of learning, developing and finding new solutions. Reaching new goals and getting better at something will occur only at the point where fun and frustration meet. So don’t give up but give it your best shot.]
Two different kinds of challenges:
There are roughly two kinds of challenges. One isn’t better than the others, it’s mostly a different approach and which one you choose depends on your personal goals.
#1 The Marathon
A marathon challenge is often a very personal and individual challenge that focusses on habit and commitment for a long(er) period of time. An example of this kind of challenge is my ongoing series of #TongueOutTuesday for which I’m photographing for about 2 years now. Every week on Tuesday I make/post a new image with this theme.
A marathon challenge is about showing up, doing the work even when it is very little to no time and life is busy. It is about commitment and persistence to create a new image every time with the same ingredients. By doing so you create the habit of creating so every time you will get there a little faster.
A marathon challenge is perfect when you just want to have fun or push yourself working with a theme. Or if you feel that you don’t make enough photographs to improve your work, a weekly planned photo session -even if it’s only 5minutes- will get you into creating.
You can find inspiration for your marathon theme everywhere; in your own photographs (what do you love to capture, what will never be boring?), or on the internet (do you have a favorite hashtag or photo group?), do you have a favorite artist or books that trigger your imagination? Even a color can be a theme.
Another tip for a marathon challenge: don’t make it too difficult. Pick a theme that is doable- with a bit of effort/planning. Shoots that would demand a sunny beach sunset might discourage you in the long run as you can’t predict the weather. Unless you live in sunny California–> go for it! I would love to see your good-weather photographs :-).
Another example is a growing-up series. When Mogwai joined our pack I photographed her every week in the same setting (with a letter M) until 6 months and then every month until she was one year old.
#2 The sprint
Short but intense, that’s a sprint challenge. On the internet (google or Pinterest for example) you can find tons of this kind of challenges. Mostly they run for a week or a month and they will provide you with a different theme for every day of the challenge. A good thing about these challenges is that they will probably give you subjects or theme that you would otherwise never think of and you will have to come up with a solution within a limited time.
A slightly different kind of sprint challenge is a personal project in which you focus on a technical issue (a lens, a photoshop technique,…) for a while.
Photographer Bert Stephani wrote this about his 50/50project:
I did an experiment to shoot for 50 days with just the 50mm lens. It wasn’t easy to keep up but it gave me the confidence that if I have to, I can shoot anything with a 50mm equivalent lens.
Which challenge you choose really doesn’t matter that much. Maybe you can even do both? All challenges are tools to be around photography, to invest your time and effort in order to keep learning and improving. A challenge is mostly something to hold on to so you won’t get lost. There are so many possibilities, so many techniques, so many distractions, a challenge will help you to focus at one thing at a time while you train your creative thinking and technical skills.
Tip: To increase your chances of commitment it will help to publish your images on a blog, a personal website, a map on Facebook or even a secret web page. The reason is this: there will be a moment where all your little steps, all the images together will become a big and beautiful collection where you can see your improvement and the work you’ve put into this.
I’ll go on with my #TongueOutTuesday challenge but once in a while I throw another one into my daily routine. Just to keep it spicy and fresh.
Did you participate in a challenge before? Or did you invent one for yourself?