Tag: learning

Tips for learning photography when you have no free time

I started photography just six years ago. At that time I already had a professional career as a Biologist. I moved from Barcelona to France and then to Israel for work reasons. Now I just moved back to Barcelona because I found a new job in a private laboratory. I work there 40 hours/week. Besides that, I need to take care of some things for my family while still trying to do yoga and sport to keep healthy. I also cook my meals, I need to go to the supermarket…. Well, let’s say that I am quite busy in my daily life, and I guess that if you are reading this article, this sounds familiar to you.

learning photography
I am Biologist and I spend 40 hours each week working in a laboratory analyzing the microbiological quality of water samples.

Photography is one of my passions. For that reason, although I don’t have a lot of free time, I still want to develop myself as a photographer. The biggest challenge is to combine my everyday life with my more artistic side. Along the years I have developed some strategies that help me to organize myself better and keep learning photography even during busy times.

learning photography
Time is gold… Nowadays we have extremely busy life. But if you organize yourself well, you might find some time to invest in your passions!

Take profit of the trips to and back from work

Maybe you are lucky and you live a 5 minutes walking distance from your workplace. But if you need to invest time every day going and coming back from work, I have good news for you: your photography might benefit from these traveling times. Taking photos on your way to work might not be convenient or at all possible, but you can still use this time by learning the theory or feeding your creativity with some resources.

If you are using public transportation, you can invest this time in reading photography or art related books. An electronic format might help you to travel lighter (this is extremely important when you are already carrying your meals and some other things you might need throughout your day). If you don’t want to carry a book with you, using the phone is an excellent alternative. You can use a RSS reader application to make lists of interesting photography articles that you can later read on your way to work.  I am using one now that I like a lot and it is called “Feedly”. Another thing you can do for taking advantage of your trips to work is searching; for new photography resources or courses, doing some networking with other photographers…

learning photography
It takes me 40 min to get to work by subway. I like investing at least one of the two trips I do each day in photography related activities. Doing so, I get at least 200 minutes of catching up on photography each week. At the end of the year, I managed to accumulate a lot of learning time.

If you drive or walk to work, you can listen to photography broadcasts. You might also listen to some TED talks about photography or creativity. You just need to plan ahead which information you would like to listen to. Sometimes you can even download the broadcasts/talks.

Learn in baby steps

I don’t know about you, but when I decide to learn about a new subject, I get excited and I want to learn everything about it right now! But if you are a busy person, this way of thinking can lead you to frustration: since you are busy, you never have what you think is the right amount of free time for learning the subject properly. You wait until you have enough time to learn a particular photography subject. After some time you get mad with yourself because you didn’t manage to learn anything because you just can’t get a whole afternoon off two times a week… If this happens to you, it is time to change your learning strategy! Divide the subject you want to learn into small lessons that will require less time to finish or just decide on an amount of time you can invest each day on the subject.

For example, you might decide to read 3 pages of a book each time you have a chance, or read one photography article each time, or invest 15 minutes after dinner each day in learning something.  It might not seem a lot at first, but if you are consistent, you will notice improvement in your learning curve along time. If you do this, I recommend you take notes or write a summary of what you learned. That way, when you have the time, it will be that much easier to catch up on what you read already but might have forgotten a little.

learning photography
Learning step by step might take you far.

Take photos with what you have at the moment

I wish I could always take photos with my DSLR camera, lenses, and tripod. However, because of my everyday obligations, it is quite difficult for me to carry my gear everywhere I go. I used to think that if I don’t have my DSRL camera, then I can’t practice photography. Nowadays I know this is not true. We don’t leave the house without our phones. And all of them have a camera. Depending on your phone, you might not have the best camera, but it is still a camera!  For example, I have a simple camera on my phone. I can’t set it’s aperture or shutter speed and when there is not a lot of light, the photos can turn out quite noisy. But I can still take photos with it to practice my composition or storytelling skills. I’d rather practice photography with my phone than not at all. When I have the chance to take my DSLR and gear with me, I practice all the other things that my phone doesn’t allow me to do.

learning photography
If you can’t carry your camera, you can always use your phone.

Join a photo challenge

You can decide to take upon yourself a challenge and take one photo every day/week/month. One photo a week might seem  an achievable goal even if you are busy. But to be honest, I find it quite difficult if I am doing it alone. One alternative is to join a photo challenge. It is usually easier to accomplish things every week if others are doing it too, because you feel encouraged.  You can find several online. If you are a busy person, I recommend you to have a look at 52frames.  Each week there is a subject and you need to submit one photo. I recommend this challenge because the community is really welcoming and the policy is about enjoying your photography and improving by being consistent. You don’t need to submit a masterpiece each time, but you need to submit something. And by doing so, you assure a bit of creativity in your life every week!

learning photography
I joined recently 52frames because I think it will keep me motivated even in busy times. This is the photo I submitted in Week 2. The subject was “Rule of thirds”.

Be patient with yourself

There is a tendency in our society to do a lot of things and do them fast and now. This trend is somehow making us less patient with ourselves.  As we love photography, we might have the feeling that we need to take great photos  NOW. However, there is a learning process. And this process takes time. If you are a busy person, you have to understand that you can invest just a bit of time on photography every day/week and in consequence, it will take you longer to improve your craft, but if you are consistent, I assure you that you will improve. Whatever you do, don’t turn photography into something stressful. If you are extremely tired one day, you might consider skipping your practice and rest. The same goes for times when you have an unexpected event that changes your entire schedule and miss your photography plan of the day. These things happen and it is OK to skip your photography practice. Just make sure you come back to your practice routine as soon as you can if you want to develop your photography skills. Patience and persistence will take you far on a long road.

learning photography
Our society is leading us to have a maybe too busy lifestyle.

Do you have any other strategy for learning photography during busy times? I would love to hear about them and include them in my list. Have a happy photography learning!

5 Photography Assignments To Become a Better Photographer

I’ll be the first to admit, I hated school. I hated the structure and the monotony. I would have much rather completed the work on my own time, preferably outside. In any case, I actually do miss school now. I’ve since learned, thanks to Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before, that I respond best to external accountability. I do need a certain structure and accountability partner to keep me on track, otherwise, I will easily fall off and walk away from the challenge. This is why I am constantly taking classes or reading books which layout assignments in photography.


One of the more fun resources I’ve found for this is Aperture Foundation’s The Photographer’s Playbook, which outlines 307 assignments and ideas from photographers around the world. Some are concrete, some are conceptual. But they all will make you think and look at a subject in a different way. I understand it is not new, but I often refer back to this book, either when I feel a lack of motivation, or just as a source of inspiration as I begin a new project. Below, I’ve outlined 5 of my favorite assignments, for those who have not had a chance to read the book or are simply looking for a fun project. I feel my photography has improved, I’d love to hear how the assignments work for you.


Photography Assignment #1: Take 1 Photo/Day for 7 Days

This assignment is based on Michael C. Brown’s assignment in The Photographer’s Playbook. He urges the student to take one photograph per day for 7 days in a row. The exercise will leave the student with not only a better understand of their week, but of themselves. They will learn what is truly important to them, and what they should be focusing on. In photography, we often take assignments that have us telling a story which is not our own. Here, the only story we tell is our own. Our own experiences of the past 7 days, and we can understand what stands out as important to us. Do this assignment, and see if another photographer can join you. After completing, get together and review the images. Offer critiques. You will learn a lot about the other photographer from these images.


Photography Assignment #2: Take A Trip

This assignment is based on Todd Hido’s assignment in The Photographer’s Playbook. He tells students to take a trip, somewhere new, whether close or far and just go. Don’t plan anything out, just buy the flights. See where the character and emotion of the city take you. Start to brainstorm story ideas as you spend time there. Don’t worry, the ideas will come to you. What do you notice? What draws your attention above all else? This is what truly interests you, and this is what you should explore, both on your trip and back home. Turn the photos into a story. Even better, add some writing to it, and you’ve just created your first travel piece. This can be submitted to local publications, and once picked up, you’ll have your first published writing and photography piece!


Photography Assignment #3: Find Your Passion

This assignment is based on Ed Kashi’s assignment in The Photographer’s Playbook. He urges the students to discover and explore subjects which they are passionate about. This means having a general interest and the willingness to spend hours, weeks, years with the subject. He spent eight years photographing aging in America, a subject which he felt passionate about, and which he’s maintained interest in, even after moving on to other projects. Your assignment is to find your passion and explore it deeply. This means to spend hours with the subject, asking questions and having a true interest. This will show through in the photograph, if the passion is not there, this will show as well. Be patient with this, as it will not come quick or easy. Over time, you will be able to find an interesting perspective which is yours alone. This is another element of a strong photographic story.


Photography Assignment #4: Get Close

This assignment is based on Alexis Lambrou’s assignment in The Photographer’s Playbook. She recalls a professor who was inspired by the famous Robert Capa quote “If your picture isn’t good enough, you’re not close enough”. He had them reach out in front of the camera and focus on their hand. Afterward, they had to tape in place the focus and walk around shooting. It would force them to get closer to their subject than they might previously get. This is such a great assignment and it really changes how you approach shooting, soon finding yourself getting more comfortable approaching a subject and getting in close.


Photography Assignment #5: Think Bigger

This assignment is based on Gus Powell’s assignment in The Photographer’s Playbook. He lays out six street photography assignments which will make you think twice next time you are on a photo walk.

  • Wait at a bus stop and photograph the other people waiting. Don’t get on the bus, but stay and continue shooting. Move on to another bus stop if needed.
  • Pick a color and focus all your shots on this color. Start big, like a blue sky, and work down to a very small subject like a piece of trash on the ground.
  • Whenever you find something interesting, shoot the image but then turn completely around and take an image of what is directly behind you.
  • Pick someone out of a crowd and follow them. Don’t shoot any images and don’t be a total creeper. But just see where they go and experience the journey of where they are taking you.
  • Learn to visualize the way people move by trying to shoot two people walking past, right at the moment when they cross planes. Do this multiple times and then move on to shoot three, even four people in this way.
  • Take some images which you think are bad, and print them out pocket-size. Carry them with you and reflect on them as you are out shooting. Notice what you like or don’t like and if that translates in any way to what you are currently shooting.

Gus’s assignments teach us a different way to see the subject, and to look out for things which can be easily overlooked. Pick one of the above, and try it out next time you are out with your camera.


These may not be innovative, life-changing assignments, and they may not even work for you. They were designed to force your perspective to adjust, slightly or drastically, and look at a subject in a different way. Doing this is essential to improving as a photographer, and even to just maintain skill level. You may not think these assignments have helped you in any way, but next time you stop to think about a shot or project idea, it may surprise you how these have altered your way of thinking. I urge you to purchase this book, look up similar assignments online or sign up for a class, online or in person. Continuing to challenge your thinking and skill set will be vital to your development as a photographer. There is always something new to learn.