Many times we start our photography journey with just noticing things around us. What we should also do is to start learning different ways to communicate through our images. If you didn’t yet hop on the 52 week photography challenge, we have added these 30 engaging photography exercises for you to develop your skills during the next few months.
Why Should You Do These Exercises ?
The question actually is, why shouldn’t you?
Have you been monitoring your journey as a photographer, and what kind of changes have you been seeing?
When you decide to start moving to the direction of intentional practice, the development will follow.
27 Engaging Photography Exercises
Every exercise will force you to inspect your images from a different perspective, so try to focus on only one exercise at a time.
These exercises vary from photographic ones to ones that will have you inspecting your work as an artist. Each of them is essential in learning new ways of creating images.
1. Photograph something you love
This can be anything you decide. It can be an event, a place or an object. You can also choose to photograph people, but since it might require more effort than choosing to photograph other elements, we recommend you get back to it once you’re mastered to be comfortable with your camera.
2. Photograph something round
This is pretty self-explanatory. We have alot of organic and non-organic round shapes around us, so the framing will ultimately determine what round objects you let into the image.
3. Photograph someone close to you
Family members, other relatives or friends. People you already feel comfortable being with. See how directing them and having the access to be close to them might affect your way of photographing.
4. Photograph an object / subject that is moving
Running people, passing by cars or other vehicles. Can you use your cameras setting so that you stop their movement – or on the other hand – set them so that the movement is visible and can be seen in the final image?
5. Learn to use negative space
Negative space is an important element when creating your image; it gives more stillness and room for other elements to pop up in your work. How you decide to compose it, is up to you. In landscape negative space is a natural way of creating imagery, but how can you add it to let say, portraiture?
6. Focus on an object in the frame
Once depth of field is nothing new to you, start implementing the focus point only on the subject you want to emphasize. You will be able to truly bring the focus point to the elements that you want to show. This is a highly effective way of photographing, especially if there is surrounding noice in your frame.
7. Play with shadows
In this one try to focus not on the object itself, but on the shadows that the objects / subjects have. What kind of shapes can you find, and are they even more interesting that the objects itself? Can you frame them in a way that creates an abstract image?
8. Shoot analog
Many photographers say that photographing with a digital camera might feel convenient, but also steals the image of it’s moment. Since there is no rush in taking the image or no surprise whether you’ve had the shot you were looking for, you will approach it differently. At least at some point, try to photograph with an analog camera, and see how your approach changes. The best film cameras to start out as a beginner, are listed here.
9. Create a self-portrait
We are quick to photograph others, but what if you turn the camera to yourself? You can better practice lighting, but self-portraiture is a great way to start accepting ourselves as we are, without judgement. You can also practice as long as you feel like it, since theres not pressure in succeeding.
10. Play with reflections
Take a walk and look around; notice any mirrors, ponds or glass windows? They can be a great tool for seeing the world differently. Using them as self-portrait elements or just reflecting two different surfaces into one image.
11. Analyze your images
If you can, print out your favorite image you’ve made and look at them critically; what are the main themes you like to work with? Do you have a specific way of composing the elements in your images (ie. always horizontal / vertical) ? Are you great at photographing people, or are you more intrigued by moments or small details in your life? Looking deeper into what you’re good at and what you like to focus on, can determine better who you are as a photographer.
12. Use objects to frame your image
It’s called ‘frame-within-a-frame’ – look for elements which you can use as a frame within your image: branches of trees, window panes or doors can all work when framing your main object / subject in the image. But you can get creative and use a cut out fabric or a cardboard to create this frame.
13. Look at things through shapes and lines
Once you manage this one, it will support your photographic journey in every image you’ll ever take. When looking at great photography locations, noticing how the surrounding elements will play out in your images will determine whether they will work or not. Seeing lines immediately or noticing if the place already has an organic shape which you can use in your images, will help you to better build impressive images.
14. Create a photo essay
Creating a photo essay is another great way to find your visual language. How do you form a story through images, what kind of different images are you combining to tell an intriguing story? Try to shoot 5 images alternating between different angle of views and practicing composition.
15. Use less light in your images
When starting out photography, we often think the image is created around the light. Which it essentially is, but tweaking the amount of light you let in, is what can drastically change the mood the image. Shed only a beam of light on your subject or or let the light be reflected from an illuminating surface like screens, will give just enough light to build interest.
16. Learn to read the light in the space
Eventually this will be essential if you don’t want to always guess what settings you’re going to adjust when you’re about to shoot. Being able to look around you to verify; what is the main light source in the room and how or if you’re going to fill it with any additional light. And if not, how are you going to set your camera to support the lighting circumstances that are present.
17. Try to shoot black and white
For the aesthetic purposes and the feel of film, it’s quite nice and is definitely worth a try. Black and white film will also let you understand the importance of color, once it’s absent, you will notice how the viewer focus will move once the colors are not colliding with each other. Will they focus more on the narrative in the image instead of reading the colors ?
18. Create a theme before you start photographing
One way of shooting is this intuitive way of noticing details and thins you want to take a picture of. Another way is to plan ahead; what elements are you looking for to photography, and why? This is also much needed if you’re planning on doing a photoessay, or possibly even small commission job – staying ahead with knowing how you create the storyline.
19. Create a new photo by cropping
Some days you’ll notice later how you could’ve created an amazing image if you you’d go closer to your subject or object you were shooting. Instead of starting to crop the images and not moving an inch closer, try to crop it the way you’d like the image to be. Then next time, use this image as a guideline to go closer and create the actual image.
20. Recreate a photo you like
Maybe don’t choose the most ambitious one as your first picture, but do choose one that for some reason you feel is well created or -lighted or just sparks your interest in some way.
21. Learn to create a moodboard
If you want to plan more on what you photograph, creating a moodboard will bring you more focused view on what it is the photos are going to look as whole. We often just want to photograph without much thought, but it brings another level of reward once you see the end result of multiple ideas come into one.
22. Use a disposable camera in one day
This has a similar effect then photographing with an analog camera, except that you cannot do fancy settings or think much about the images. Disposable cameras will not give you the best quality in images but it will give its own feel to them. Photograph one full roll in your disposable camera and see what comes out. To find the best disposable cameras, I’ve made an extensive list for them here. For additional challenge; create small photo essays of the images you make.
23. Photograph something abstract
We are prone to trying to find meaning in our images, but what if you decide that there isn’t any and just look for things that you find aesthetically pleasing? It can be texture, color collision or just something you turn into nothing specific.
24. Choose a spot to photograph from
Trying to find new ways of looking at the same things; choose one spot you create 3 images for 3 days in a row. You can direct your camera upwards or downwards, or however you see fit. But do not change the spot you’re photographing from. Think about the time you shoot the images at and if they differentiate from each other.
25. Photograph a person without any faces
If you feel you’re not familiar with photographing people just yet, start by photographing them without showing their face. This will let them be at ease but you will also find it easier to access their space when you do not have to think too much about identifying them in a specific way.
26. Create a fictional journalistic image
Having even the slightest interest for journalism and the visual aspect of it, this will work as a stepping stone in understanding how journalistic images are created. Usually, of course these events are actual, but how a photographer decides to portray the event is always a responsibility and it can change the viewpoint of how the viewer will see it. Create a fictional happening and build an image that could easily be published in your local paper.
27. Go closer
This was almost covered in one of the earlier exercises, but is such an important aspect of photography overall that it needs to be underlined. As much as changing your viewpoint changes the content of your images, so does the distance you have between you and your subject. As Robert Capa once said: “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”.
These photography exercises can be found in the free PDF below. Follow your development and how you perform these exercises.
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