There are moments for a photographer, moments of ‘un-inspiration’ where you do want to get out there and shoot an amazing photograph, but there is a kind of ‘resistance’ holding you back. You could read up on the matter of topic, sign up for a few classes, analyze all you want, but that necessarily isn’t what is going to make you a good photographer. The key to all artist’s success, or for that matter any kind if success is practice. Practical experience is the only guaranteed way to understand composition. A great way to get re-inspired and get back on track are photography assignments.
Lucky for you, there are exercises out there that can help you ‘develop your photographic eye’.
- How to Practice Photography
- Photography Assignments For Beginners
- Why are Assignments Important
- Creative Exercises for Photographers
- Weekly Photography Assignments
- Freelance Photography Assignments
- Digital Photography Assignments
- It’s Worth the Shot!
Practicing photography is a great way to build up your confidence as a photographer, work out your eye muscles, learn and advance your skills, and give a direction to your work.
How to Practice Photography
Taking up a photography assignment or an exercise is a good concept to keep the ball rolling, get out of the rut, and bring in some focus to picture-taking. Despite all easy features new-fangled technology has invited into our lives, photography in action is deceptively hard.
In reality, there are all but three separate learning curves to overcome, namely:
- the technical aspects of the camera;
- the theory of light and shadows;
- the actual composition of a photo (often known as the ‘seeing shot’)
The last pointer is often the toughest to grasp for beginners. While the camera just has buttons and settings to learn and light being a bit of a hard science, it’s the composition with its own artsy component that can’t be easily taught or learnt without one’s own experience. It’s a passage of self-discovery by the photographer himself. To review your photography from time to time means to get an idea of the strengths and weakness of your technique and style. As and when you develop new skills, your photography becomes better.
To determine which areas of your photography need touching up, consider the following as a guide map:
- Does your photograph or image have a well-defined centre of interest to it?
- Is the centre of interest positioned such that it draws attention to it?
- Will your composition lead the viewer’s eye through the image?
- Is the image properly exposed?
- Was the image photographed in a good light?
- If you hadn’t photographed the image, would you spend time looking at it?
Armed with this information, you can create an assignment and make time to do it. Photography exercises are a method of self-improvement which brings about a sense of pride and happiness when you see the growth in your efforts and the outcome. Refining your skills requires practice and training. The whole exercise involves placing few constraints like changing the subject of the photographs, or the camera in use, from your otherwise ‘go-to’ technique, which coerces you to become more creative, too.
Photography Assignments For Beginners
If you're a beginner and just getting started in photography, you don't want to overdo it by asking too much of yourself right from the get go, and get disappointed. If you try to rush your education, you are bound to start cutting corners and missing things. At this stage of your game, whats critical is that you take your time and understand the fundamentals to build the foundation.
There are no hard and fast rules for learning and practicing photography. Treat yourself to a project that falls within the domains of your interests such as food, fashion, portraiture, or whatever else it is that you enjoy photographing.
Beginners mostly migrate towards two types of projects, and these do live up to their potential of serving as the initial rungs of increasing skills and developing style and technique, which is of course what a beginner is looking for.
The first type is selecting a specific story for your project. Via this method, you can amalgamate multiple images that collectively tell a whole story. This exercise could be a bit daunting and demanding at the time though.
An alternative to the story telling exercise is selecting a single design or a compositional element for your project. Shooting all your images utilizing the same principle is not only simpler but will encourage you to evolve aesthetically as a photographer.
Don't use over complicated light setups, in fact, go simple is the motto to go after!
Before you begin taking photos, make a quick note of the kind of shots you want to get and precisely how you plan on getting them. It is very much possible for even a beginner to derive wonderful and profound individual images out of these types of assignments.
Try and not deviate too much from the plan, but also don't be scared to experiment if an idea comes to you along the way. Get to know about the 7 tips to capture the right photograph!
Why are Assignments Important
The intention behind the proposition of a photography assignment is that by consciously curbing yourself to using a particular lens, photographic proficiency, colour or other photographic expressions, you propel yourself out of your comfort zone and expand the frontiers of your photographic inventiveness.
Working on a project lets you think more clearly, you are more vigilant while looking for or at certain subjects, and this minor attention to detail is what really makes a difference in your photographs.
Pivoting on a single idea or task will be your main guide, making you more disciplined and get you to think outside the box. When put into practice, it will force you to look at your surroundings in a different way, search for particular elements and train your creative eye to notice something you haven't seen before. And besides all this, you will wind up creating a great series of photos that you could share with the world.
“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” - Dorothea Lange
Creative Exercises for Photographers
Choose a location and whilst planting your feet in a particular spot, shoot 24 unique shots. Remember, you aren’t allowed to move your feet from that spot.
This assignment will teach you patience, and make you realize that rather than chasing down subjects, it’s okay to let them come to you.
A slight twist on the above concept! Choose a location, and take 10 photographs of your surroundings, each different from the other. Now, move 100 paces forward and take another 10 shots. Repeat the process 3-4 times. This exercise will make you notice things you missed before.
One Subject, Ten Photos
Find a subject, any subject, anything from the likes of a stovetop kettle, a pet, a manhole cover, a dumpster, what have you. Infact, the smaller the subject, the more challenging it will be. This exercise will help you train your sense of angles.
You could try looking directly down at it, look at the front of the subject, then at the back, and then move to the sides. The alternatives are innumerable, and even the smallest of modifications to the angle can have a detectable influence on the resulting photo.
Once you’ve done this for multiple subjects, you’re bound to be seeing angles everywhere, without even trying.
Also known as macro photography, a macro photography assignment trains your own eye to pay attention to small details. Especially, in the case of portrait photography, it is these minor details that can really create a difference.
Constraints Breed Creativity
Create for yourself restrictions of different kinds, for each shoot, such as no people in the frame, one location, photograph while sitting, or photograph things above you…etc. This will teach you to be creative in the limitations you have set for yourself and think differently.
One Roll of Film
With the onset of digital photography comes the freedom to take hundreds of shots, and then delete them as you go. Shooting with a finite amount of ‘film’ will keep your wits sharp, observing and making critical decisions about the images you want to shoot.
The Un-Selfie Selfie
A photographer often forgets what it feels like to be on the other side of the lens, especially when taking portraits.
This assignment puts you within the frame so that you don’t forget the elements at play during portrait shots. For this, a remote shutter or a timer will serve the purpose. A Self-portrait is possibly one of the best ways to get into the frame and practice composition, light, and storytelling with a cooperative subject. By playing the shutterbug, will teach you a well-rounded understanding of your craft and a little more empathy for your future subjects.
Taking photographs of moving subjects is extremely tricky for obvious reasons.
There’s no harm in a bit of extra practice to whet those skills. Head out into nature, and try and capture some images of squirrels or birds or any other wildlife creatures you see running around.
Shooting in Monochrome
The beauty of a black and white photograph is that it centers its attention towards the visual elements such as tone, texture, and shapes. By taking images in black and white, you’ll be able to see the objects in a different light. Apart from just noticing forms in just colour, your eyes will be better suited and trained to recognize various other forms and shapes.
Pick a location and when shooting a particular scene of the surroundings, touch about the following elements – light, shadow, line, shape, form, texture, colour, size and depth.
Walk through your surroundings without your camera, and mentally search for images. Next, turn around and head back to your starting point, while performing the same mental exercise. Once you’ve completed your round trip, make headway down the same route, this time, with your camera, and capture those photographs.
You’ll be surprised at your observations being reflected in the shots!
Every photographer has a mentor, whose style they try very hard to emulate. Why not add that to the practice exercises?
Pick a few of your role model’s very best photographs, and try to recreate them. There’s no need to agonize about creating an exact duplicate, since the exercise will teach you instead, to pick up new techniques, which will empower and progress your own style.
Weekly Photography Assignments
Instead of attempting a different experiment every day, come up with something for every week. In this case, you can allot a theme to every week. If you do not want to succumb to the pressure of taking a photo every day, or you simply do not have the time to commit, weekly photograph assignments are a significant way to explore your photography skills and track your progress.
Listed below are few recommendations to try out as weekly projects:
For the week, pick out one aperture and shoot with only that. You could also do another aperture for another week, and so on….you get the gist. The most common practice when people buy a new lens is to shoot every photo wide open. Using a single aperture will teach you when it is best to shoot wide v/s narrow while keeping your exposure by balancing the exposure triangle.
Single Lens/Focal Length
The focal length of a lens commands over more than just the zoom factor of a shot, but it’s important to note that varied focal lengths can evoke varied feelings from an image as well. Different focal lengths require different states of mind when composing the photographs, so it’s recommended mastering one kind of lens at a time.
Single Shutter Speed
The shutter speed setting sets how long the camera opens the shutter during exposure. A faster shutter speed will freeze action and slower shutter speeds can create a blur. Both choices can produce great pictures. We suggest shooting in Shutter Priority Mode. Check all about shutter speed chart and work faster while clicking!
Pick out space and spend time taking note of how the changing light affects the mood and tone of what you are seeing. Discern the way light might cast a shadow, or play with the colours in a scene. Experiment with various light sources in interior spaces, or window shots, classic lighting, silhouettes, or one light portrait setups.
'Without light, both we and our cameras are blind’ – Annie Griffiths
Manual Exposure Mode
While working in manual mode can take some getting used to, it allows you to create a more accurate image. The accuracy here is the key to reducing the amount of post-processing, digital aberrations in exposure adjustments as well as awkward shifts in overall exposure.
Manual focusing to any gradation of uniformity is a prowess like any other: it takes time, and practice and you need to upskill your eye to know what to look for. Don’t be disheartened at the first go, stick with it, it will get easier and your photography will be crisper and sharper.
The Switch Game
While it’s totally possible that you might already be on your fourth or fifth generation of digital camera, you’d be hard pressed for a reason to take out your old fashioned camera out for a roll. Film still holds its place in the world, so, just because you have been shooting digitally for months or years, don't think that your film camera is suddenly a doorstop or a paperweight. Film will encourage you to get the shot right the very first time.
The ‘Rule of Thirds’ is the most basic composition rule in photography. What it essentially means, is that you should imagine lines going through the frame at 1/3 and 2/3 of the way through. This could be horizontally, vertically, or both. Upgrade your knowledge with the Golden Hour Ratio and make your photographs look flawless
Pick up such a rule and stick to it for your assignment of the week. As another option, you could pick a rule to break as much as possible for the week’s project.
Freelance Photography Assignments
The art of photography is much more complex than simply instructing a bunch of people to huddle up closer, pose and smile for the flash.
It is a creative activity that involves capturing images on the camera, for aesthetic, memorial and other purposes. While the advent of the social media has added to the established allure of this craft, many people strive to create a living off of photography.
Whilst freelancing, it’s possible to get tired of being typecast based on the subject you feature most. It's situations like these which cause a creative block and limit your expansion as a photographer. Below we have a few assignments good for a freelancer, to keep the eye sharp and keen and more creativity out of the comfort zone.
From the Pet’s View
Allow yourself to see the world from point of view of your pet. Depending on the animal you choose, dog, hamster, horse, the level of the view and the perspective of the shots will be very different.
A Day in the Life Of
This particular project would be similar to telling a story of a particular occupation. While called a ‘day’ it might take you more than just the hours of a workday to capture the images worth representing the daily aspect of a person’s daily work.
Challenge of Colours
Either you pick a colour or have a friend choose one for you. The challenge is then to capture only the chosen colour as the subject or the colour should be the main focus of the images.
Whats surprising is that when you’re finished, you’ll notice how the chosen colour pretty much seems to jump out at you from the photographs.
Collection of ‘Somethings’
As denoted by the name itself, the project is to collect photographs of random things, mostly subjects which are least likely to be chosen as subjects.
Let your creativity loose, and snap things that catch your fancy!
If you ask any full time professional outdoor photographer, they will tell you that outdoor photography is no easy task. It takes devotion and hard work. What it also takes is projects that help develop the artistry for it:
Know about your neighbourhood: very often, we do not observe the minute elements and aspects of our own surroundings, our own locality. What you can do is, take a walk around the area, and shoot a minimum of ten shots. You could do this as frequently as once a week or even once a month for inspiration.
Along the Seasons
As can be understood by the name, this exercise would take you through the sights of a location, viewing it through the different seasons. Choose a landscape that you can photograph over the seasons of autumn, winter, summer etc., a landscape which would observe snow during winter, new leaves and blooming flowers of spring.
What you are really doing is capturing the changes that occur in the landscape with the onset of each seasonal change.
Photography of water is challenging as you need to also take into account reflections and movements. Whether it’s a bowl of water in your house, tea cup, to puddle on the road or a river or a stream in nature, use this project to explore the polarizing filter to either accentuate or eliminate reflections.
The concept of this assignment is to show a building in a progressive stage. Choose a nearby construction site, and take a shot of the work in progress every day. At the end of the project, you would have a collection of images showing how the building grew to finality.
A Shot in the Dark
In the absence of daylight, inspiration rarely strikes to take out your camera and capture an image. This assignment is here to change that mind-set.
In the countryside, you could make use of the moonlight, star trails, the on-and-off of the fireflies in the underbrush, or the smatterings of lights from a nearby settlement. In the city, shoot the busy skyline, the tail light trails of traffic, or the boxed in windows of lights of the skyscrapers.
No matter where you’re attempting this, you can try light-painting by using a long exposure and moving a flashlight over parts of the scene.
Digital Photography Assignments
Choose a Singular Shape
Select a shape of your liking and represent that shape in an interesting way. Squares are the easiest to start out with and you can then move on to explore triangles, circles or even combinations of various shapes. The shape could be a feature in architecture, a juxtaposition of structures or even artwork. What you’re looking to pick up is the most interesting composition that can highlight that shape in your image.
Deviate from Subject
Mostly, photographers tend to gravitate towards a particular subject more than any other, it’s about knowing and comfort which makes you pick a familiar subject.
Familiarity will breed the lack of imagination. If you are still life photographer, try shooting sports, if you shoot macro, try grasping landscape shooting. Whatever it may be, move out of the ordinary, as this will teach you to see things in a new way.
Playing with Shadows and Reflections
The art of photography is always a play of capturing the elements of light and with light comes reflections and shadows.
Whats important is the ability to SEE them. You could use the reflection or the shadow as the central focus of the image, or as an incidental of the subject or even capture the subtlety of the subject with its reflection or shadow in the same image.
15 Foot Circle
With this assignment, you only take photographs of subjects that happen to be within 15 feet of where you are standing. Set a time limit for yourself!
Take as many images as you can of that area using this principle, before you move on to the next. What this does is, it forces you to look at things, and to work on composing interesting images.
All of the above variations of photographic projects or assignments have varied purposes. Should you be a beginner, they are great at teaching ‘Learning to See’. In case you have been dappling in the arts for a while, they provide ways to stay fresh and jump start the creative eye when you’re feeling blocked. All in all, they are simply different things to try.
It’s Worth the Shot!
We all want to be better photographers, and becoming a better photographer is a never ending process. While familiarizing yourself with the technicalities is important, sometimes all that’s required is to break our normal routines to push you to the next level. A major benefit of these projects is that you get a chance to beef up your portfolio.
Side by side, they are engaging, and in times of especially slow business seasons, they can help keep you passionate about photography in general. Test out the assignments but do not get frustrated if you don’t see immediate results. Your photographer’s eye won’t be unlocked overnight, and the process could take weeks, months or even more before you begin to really ‘see’ photographs before taking them.
Photography assignments are an equal balance of having fun as well as learning. What other self-assignments have you tried to refresh your photographic vision?
“There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.” – Ernst Haas