Tag: skills

Activities to improve your photography skills easily

If you are new to photography, you might feel a bit lost. It is easy to get stuck in using auto mode because it is fast, easy, and many times can produce a decent result. However, if you feel like you could improve your photography skills and get more out of the camera it is time to take matters into you own hands.

There are tons of things to learn and it is hard to decide what to do first. You can easily spend days and weeks just reading photography books and articles, watching tutorials or jumping from one website to other and adding more and more into your to-do list. If you want to improve your skills as a photographer at some point you need to put theory aside and start taking photos yourself. However, with our usually busy life, it is easy to let weeks pass without touching your camera and shoot a single image. For that reason I thought it might be useful to make a list of easy photography activities that will help encourage you to grab your camera and start practicing your craft without complicating things so much.

photography skills
If you started photography recently, it is normal that you feel a bit overwhelmed. It feels a little like being lost in a new country.

A theme a day/week

If you don’t know which subject to pick, you can start by choosing one color or a geometric shape. You can even ask somebody to help you decide. They don’t even need to know why you are asking them. It can be something like: Which is your favorite color? Do you prefer squares or circles? Once you know your photography subject, take photos of only this. Focusing on one photography subject might seem restrictive at first, but it will push you to develop your creativity. Extra mile: once you have all your photos, select the best ones and build a composition. Then share it with the person that helped you to pick the subject. He/she will love it!

photography skills
One day I took photos of circles. This forced me to pay attention to objects that I usually don’t even look at! It was a really interesting experience.

Practicing one photography composition element for one day, week or month

Learning composition can be one of the most overwhelming things in photography. Composition is based on the relation that the different elements of your image have between themselves and with the frame. Trying to control all these relations might be overwhelming, even when you have been already taking photos for a while. To make it easy, you can create a list of composition elements (lines, negative space, symmetry, patterns, texture…) and focus on one of them each time. The amount of time you work on each element is up to you. When you finish the list, you will have a nice photo collection which will illustrate how you understand composition. If you repeat this activity over time (every certain months or every year), you will be able to see your how you evolve as a photographer.

photography skills
Man made structures are good for practicing symmetry.

Blurring people

When I started, I was obsessed about sharpness. I wanted everything inside the frame to be clear. No blurriness allowed! However, I changed my mind when I started to see the potential of showing movement in my photos. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not talking about out of focus images. I am talking about movement! A great way to practice is by going somewhere relatively crowded, set your shutter speed on a high value (slow speed, like a quarter of a second) and take photos of the people moving.

photography skills
In this photo I combined the movement of passers by with the stillness of my friend Nita while she is practicing yoga

Try to combine different degrees of blurriness: everybody blurry, just some people blurry and also nobody blurry. For this you need to play with different shutter speeds. You might need a tripod if your shutter speeds are too low. I, for example, need a tripod at any speed slower than 1/60 seconds. Decreasing shutter speed means that light will enter into the sensor for longer. If for that reason you are getting photos with too much light, you can close the aperture and decrease your ISO. If it is still too much light, a Neutral Density filter might help.

Play with the different light angles and look for the shadows

You don’t need any fancy studio light. You can do it with a home lamp or a flashlight. Pick an object you like and shine the light on it. Try different light positions, directions, add light modifiers (color papers, clothes…) and see the affect light has on the shadows of your object. You can also do this exercise outdoors placing your object in different positions regarding to the sun, or taking photos in the same place but at different times of the day.

photography skills
For this activity I took some of my nephew’s toys and a flashlight. I practiced the effect of light on the shadows of these little guys by changing the position of the light and the angle of incidence. In the upper photo I didn’t use the flashlight. The light was really soft, so there are no shadows. In the other two photos I used the flashlight and I changed its position to get 2 different shadow orientation.

Photo sequences

Taking photo sequences is a great way of telling stories with your photos. Photo sequences add a dynamic effect and they are great to give a sense of action and movement. You can do photo sequences of tones of subjects. You can start with friends/family or animals. Take 2 or 3 photos of any activity they are doing: walking, cooking, putting make up, dancing, doing homework… take a lot of photos (shooting in continuous might help) and afterwards choose the 2 or 3 that work better together. You can also do it with objects by placing them in different ways in your frame to build a little story.

“Correfocs”, which means fire-run, are one of the outstanding traditions of Catalan Festivals. People dressed up as demons run through several streets while holding lighten fireworks. This photo sequence was taken in Vilanova i la Geltru, Catalonia.


Dust buster

Take the photography equipment you are using the least (lens, tripod, external flash, filters etc.) and make it your point to use them for the day. You might realize that you should use them more, or you might realize you should give them away. Either way, it will help you to be more efficient.

Close ups- animals

Try to take photos of animals from as close as you can, this will help you to understand how to approach animals, how close should you try to get, from which direction and how fast you should move.

photography skills
Cats are extremely tricky to approach, mostly because they are unpredictable. However, the more experience you have, the less likely it is that they will surprise you

I hope you like these activities and that you find them useful. Do you like any other activity to practice your skills? Now it is your turn: grab your camera and have fun with it!! Happy shooting!!!

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.