5 Ideas for Photographic Self Assignments
How do you spice up your travel photography, stimulate your creativity and practice various photo techniques at the same time? Start your day with a photographic self assignment! Focusing on one single idea or task at a time will be your guide, will make you more disciplined and will get you to think outside the box. And beside this, you will end up with a great series of photos that you can share with your friends and family, or maybe even enter a photo contest! Here are 5 ideas of self assignments for better travel photos.
The idea behind self assignments is the following: by consciously limiting yourself to a particular lens, photographic technique, colour or other photographic expressions, you push yourself out of your comfort zone and expand the boundaries of your photographic creativity. 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. If you are an advanced photographer, giving yourself various self assignments is a great way to refresh your photographic vision, get away from your usual techniques and see the world in a new light. So let's have a look at a few ideas to start with.
1. Colour of the day
One of the most common self assignment is to choose a colour and photograph anything of that hue during the day. Sounds easy, huh? In practice, in the beginning it seems like the chosen colour is the rarest thing in the world! But trust me: the more you look for it, the more you find it! This self assignment works particularly well in familiar surroundings, as it forces you to look at mundane things from a different angle. It teaches you to think in colour, to see and match various colours and to make it the main subject of your photos. You may choose to go with a typical colour of the place (such as the omnipresent pink in the streets of Marrakech), or challenge yourself and find something rare or unexpected. Another version of the same self assignment is switching your camera to black-and-white only.
I decided to dedicate one early morning in La Défense, the business district of Paris, to the colour red. As I started, all I could see around was steel and glass surfaces of modern skyscrapers, and every single person seemed to be wearing grey and black. Little by little, my eye started to discern the red colour in my surroundings and I could mix it into various combinations. At the end of my photographic journey I was rewarded with a huge red artwork that made the Colour of the Day really pop!
2. One special element about a place
When you get to a new place, there are usually a few surprises that strike you, something that is typical or out of the ordinary about that place. How about making a series of photos about it? A few examples to start with: the ever-present bicycles in Amsterdam, old and new street signs in Paris, cats of all shapes and sizes in the streets of Marrakech, the variety of azulejo tiles in Porto, the laundry lines in Burano... You name it! Start "collecting" those elements with your camera and you will end up with a neat series of photos that reflect the spirit of the place!
3. Use one prime lens only
While using a zoom lens with a good range may be comfortable, especially when traveling, leaving all your lenses behind and hitting the road with only one prime lens can be a good challenge for your creativity! Need to zoom? Zoom in with your feet, look for new angles and new ideas. Try to make the most out of a fixed focal length lens and get your creative juices flowing!
4. Stick to one technique
Choosing one photography technique for a day will not only make you practice it until you get it nailed down, but will also produce a nice and coherent series about the place you are visiting. Some examples of such techniques can be: panning (show a busy city through movement), "ghost effect" (blurring passers-by against famous landmarks), photographing reflections, zooming in/out with a slow shutter speed, or any other of your choice. Try to get as many different photos as you can using the same technique and you will be surprised by how inventive you can get with your camera!
5. Choose one camera setting
If Aperture priority mode is your favourite one, switch to Shutter speed priority or Manual mode for a day. If you prefer low depth of field, shoot on a high aperture number only and get everything in focus. Try manual focus. Shoot black-and-white only. In other words, explore your camera and get yourself out of your comfort zone. You may eventually come back to your favourite way of using the camera, but you will definitely expand your photographic tools and techniques and maybe some unexpected discoveries will come along the way!
So next time you're on the go, try any of these self assignments or come up with your own and share your results with us!
And if you need more ideas about photography self assignments, have a look at our Pinterest board. We have selected some themes, and even monthly photography challenges.
About the Author
Nadia is passionate about the visual aspect of life and the personalities she meets along the way. Living in the heart of Paris, Nadia never stops exploring the City of Light through her camera and readily shares her knowledge and love for photography.