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The Works

By Britton Perelman

 

Photography Basics: 5 Exercises to Hone Your Skills

Originally published on PassionPassport.com

As with any type of art, it’s easy to grow complacent with your photography. Over time, you get used to taking photos in a certain way, or find yourself drawn to the same types of subject matter over and over again. Next thing you know, you just default to auto-pilot. 

If you identify with this, it’s time to breathe some fresh air into your photography by imposing creative limitations. Here are five exercises to help you do just that. Good luck! 

EXERCISE #1: PHOTOGRAPH AT HOME

The challenge — See a familiar place with new eyes

Home isn’t the first place most think of when they’re trying to get their creative juices flowing. After all, it’s where we go to relax and not work. But, try looking at it a different way. What better place is there to find inspiration than the very location you created to feel most comfortable? For this exercise, be a homebody and stay inside. Examine every inch of your living space and photograph what makes it yours.

EXERCISE #2: USE ONLY A FIXED LENS

The challenge — Limit yourself to photographing close-ups

Sometimes, all you need to reinvigorate your creativity is a good limitation. That’s the exact idea behind this exercise. Most photographers like to jump between wide and close shots, using both their regular and zoom lenses according to what the situation calls for. So, instead, just stick to a fixed lens. You’ll be forced to look for macro shotsof specific subject matter and capture the beauty in the details. Think small! 

EXERCISE #3: EXPLORE A NEW PLACE

The challenge — Discover the essence of a foreign environment

One of the best ways to invigorate your photography is to test your skills in a new environment. This doesn’t mean you have to travel far, though; simply choosing a nearby town or a neighborhood you’ve never visited is sufficient. For the purposes of this exercise, choose a location, and head out without doing any research. Once you get there, use your camera to get to know the environment. Try to answer the following questions through your images: What’s special about this place? What is it like here? What feeling does this atmosphere evoke?

EXERCISE #4: CHOOSE A SPECIFIC SUBJECT MATTER

The challenge — Use your camera to find the details

For another test, put your observational skills to good use. This exercise is similar to the one above, but instead of limiting yourself to a specific lens, you’ll be limiting yourself to a particular piece of subject matter. Pick something specific — a single building, café, shop, or large object — and go to town. Since you’ll only be allowed to photograph that one thing, you’ll have no choice but to get creative.

EXERCISE #5: SHOOT WITHOUT LOOKING

The challenge — Get back to basics

Alright, we don’t actually mean shoot without looking through your viewfinder. But digital cameras provide a convenience that film cameras never did: the ability to instantly check your work. Those who grew up using (or watching their parents use) film cameras know about the mystery associated with film. You found a subject matter, framed your shot, clicked the shutter, and hoped for the best. There was no flash of the captured image afterward, no little triangle button to make the images appear. This exercise is all about rediscovering the mystery and wonder associated with film photography. So, either challenge yourself to not instantly review images on your DSLR, or stop by a CVS or Walgreens and pick up a disposable Kodak for once. Then head out, shoot “without looking,” and see your photos come to life after they’re developed.

Britton Perelman