A great way to test your photography skills and creativity is to set yourself a month long challenge. This can be any one of a number of things, from actually taking the photo to post processing. Can you stick to the challenge?!
Only take phone photos and use mobile apps to process
Every photo that you take during the 30 day period should be captured using your mobile phone. If this isn’t enough of a challenge then add to this the restriction of only being able to use mobile applications to process the images and share them with the world.
Only use one certain lens
Restrict yourself to a single lens for the month. This can be your favourite lens, or, for more of a challenge, a lens that you don’t use too often. This s a great way to learn a new lens or increase your skills on an existing one. Either way, it’s a great challenge that will improve your photography skills with that lens.
Only take black and white images (including on camera)
By only taking black and white shots, from the actual shot, you are altering your perspective on those scenes that you visit. Existing locations will look different in black and white and you will start to see new opportunities by seeing things in monotone. Post processing using only tones, contrast etc, without the use of colour will also help you to concentrate on this area within your post processing software.
No post processing
By excluding post processing from your photography work flow you may start to appreciate the on camera settings and adjustments that you can make at the point of the shot. Using techniques while taking the shot that you may normally rely on Photoshop to fix will mean that after the challenge, you won’t have to worry about that part of the processing in post or can enhance even further.
All photos have to exceed a certain exposure time
By setting a minimum exposure time for the month you immediately start to rely on lighting a lot more. Low light shots should be OK but daytime shots could start to pose a problem. p plays a huge part in your thought process and the need for ND filters and maybe even a 10 stop filter starts to become apparent.
In post processing noise could become a larger part of your workflow due to the longer exposure times and potential increase in graininess throughout the image.
All photos follow a certain theme
This one’s fairly obvious but setting a theme for your photos, which you then have to stick to for the duration of the challenge, will encourage you to be imaginative and creative. The photos could either be all based on a certain colour, of certain scenes (urban, portrait, interior etc), woodland, wildlife etc etc, the list is endless.
All photos have to be taken in a certain direction
By restricting your photography to a certain direction (up or down) forces you to start to see the world from a different perspective. It also gives you a chance to start to explore new ways to capture images, process them and display them. Urban shots of high rise buildings, shots looking down from a building, forest shots of tall trees and even simple shots of the sky are all scenes that are likely not part of your current portfolio.
All images have to be reprocessed from old photos
As mentioned in the previous post, I’m a big fan of reprocessing old photos. By applying techniques that you may not have known when you first processed the photos you can often produce completely different end results to that which you had originally. You may have new post processing software that you can use to change the whole workflow.
All photos have to be taken between certain times
By restricting the time you take your photos to a couple of hours, or even one hour at a certain point in the day (e.g. 6-8pm) you can start to see how the light changes throughout the time your out on a shoot, and as the year progresses. Taking a photo of the same scene, at the same time, throughout the year could even be processed into a stop motion video to show the changing seasons lighting.
If you have other suggestions for challenges that would inspire creativity then let me know in the comments :)