Stuck in a rut? Give yourself photography homework
We all hated homework when we were kids, right? Would it be more fun if it were homework you gave yourself? Do that next time you’re in a creative rut.
A photography assignment is different than a photography project. A project is something long-term, based on multiple shoots. An assignment is just getting out for a couple of hours and focusing on one aspect of your photography. A project could be made up of multiple assignments.
Here are some ideas for photography assignments to keep your skills sharp.
Specific photography assignments
Shoot with a fixed lens
There are numerous benefits to this assignment. Use a prime lens, or, if you don’t have a prime lens, set your zoom to one focal length and don’t touch it. This will really force you to move and compose with discrimination.
You won’t be able to just stand in one spot and zoom the lens until you get the composition you want – you’ll be forced to actually move around the scene and anticipate the framing. In doing so you’ll discover new compositions that you never would have seen.
It’s also a great way to become familiar with your focal lengths. It will teach you to “see” in 18mm, 35mm, 50mm, etc. This will ultimately make you more efficient when you have those lenses on your camera, or you’re trying to determine which focal length would be best when approaching a scene.
Limit number of exposures
This is another fun assignment that will force you to be more discriminate and thoughtful with your compositions. I’ve written about this before, on treating your memory cards like film.
Give yourself a “roll of film” containing only 12, 24, or 36 exposures. Keep track of the count with a notepad or a bead counter like this, which you can make.
It’s a great exercise in studying your compositional elements instead of just holding down the shutter and hoping for a winner.
Shoot in JPEG
Speaking of treating digital like film, shooting in JPEG only is another great exercise. Many of us, myself included, nearly always shoot RAW just for the post-processing latitude. Other photographers will go further and tell you that you’re wrong if you shoot in JPEG. There is no wrong here. Oops, I’m getting on a tangent…
One thing about shooting in RAW is that it can make photographers lazy. Why pay perfect attention to the color and exposure when you can just fix it on the computer later?
Shooting in JPEG, just like limiting your number of exposures, really forces you to think about how you’re going to make the photo before pressing the shutter, instead of after.
Most cameras have ways for you to customize the JPEG look so that you can still have some creative input to the processing (Fujifilm does this the best, in my opinion).
You may find that you love all the extra free time not spent processing!
Focus on a specific subject
The possibilities here are endless. It could be objects like car tires. Or leaves arranged in geometric patterns. Or purple things. Or a feeling like happiness.
Just pick something with a common theme and go on your scavenger hunt. This exercise will help you see certain things that you might not otherwise see, and also help you present these things in a creative manner.
Make your own assignments
It’s unreasonable to try to list everything here. But I hope this helps jog your brain to think of more assignments, and how they will help your photography.
It’s easy to come up with your own ideas for photography assignments using “idea mapping” or “clustering”.
The main topics could include something like “camera settings”, while subtopics could be “shallow depth of field”, “long exposure”, “black & white (or color, if you shoot B&W)”, and “underexposed”. Write down some more topics and associated subtopics.
I’ve come up with some really fun photography assignments using this method!
Why are photography assignments so important?
Photography assignments are important for two main reasons:
- They’ll familiarize you with your camera
- You’ll keep your skills sharp, including both your artistic and technical skills
And it always just feels great to be out exploring the world (which could literally be your own backyard) with camera in hand.
Let’s see what you’ve come up with! Feel free to share below.