Being a photographer can be a very expensive business, having the latest camera, getting that lens you NEED, completing your lighting kit, paying for studio hire, travel, models, the list goes on. So here are ten simple ideas to challenge and inspire your photography, some are free, some will require a small amount of cash, but most just require your time, effort and desire to make progress.
Photograph Something New
One of the easiest and best ways to develop your photographic skills is to add to that skill set by trying something new. Consider the range of subject matter that you’ve worked with previously and try to think of an area which is completely new and different.
If you usually shoot portraits, then maybe you want to try shooting some still life in a studio. If you’ve only ever shot landscapes, then you could try photographing a sports event or motor racing. Each subject has a different set of photographic requirements and will require new skills in order to achieve professional results, so don’t be afraid to try something new!
Photo by Fields of View
Try a New Lens for a Day
Your ability to undertake this tip will depend on the people and businesses around you, and if there’s a local photography hire shop nearby. If there is why not pop in and pick out a lens to hire for the weekend. The most unattainable lenses for photographers on a budget will be the wide aperture telephoto lenses, so maybe treat yourself and try out one of those!
If that’s not an option, then why not ask a friend to borrow a lens for a shoot, maybe you’ve never tried out a prime lens and they have one they’re willing to lend to you? You’ll be amazed at the creative opportunities a new lens offers and the difference it makes to your images.
Photo by Brew Brooks
Find a Photography Partner
This may sound like quite a basic idea, but having someone alongside you to challenge and encourage you can be of great value to your photographic work. Simply having someone to organise and undertake a shoot with will ensure you’re out taking photographs on a regular basis and you can share ideas, tips and techniques as you go. It’s always interesting to compare the results after a day out together to see how each of you perceived the subject matter available and captured it.
Photo by Paul Schadler
Undertake a Photography Project
There are plenty of ideas for photographic projects out there, some short term, some long term, but either way, they’re a great way to get you taking photographs and will challenge you to think and capture creatively.
imply have a scroll through the pages of Phototuts+ for project ideas, find something that captures your imagination and go with it! You could try a photo a day for a year, self portraits or anything you can think of that will force you to take photos on a regular basis!
Photo by Josh Broma
Book in a Day Trip!
In the same vein of thought as looking to find new and inspiring subject matter, why not book yourself a day trip to somewhere you’ve never been before. This will give you the chance to explore and capture the place with fresh eyes. It could be a town or city, or it could be somewhere in the countryside miles from anywhere, wherever you feel you’ll be inspired to capture and create!
Photo by Simon Bray
Organise a Photographers Meet-Up
This can be a great way to restore your inspiration for photography and to build a community of local photographers, which can be extremely useful for gear sharing, location scouting and also passing on work to one another.
You could get in touch with local photographers via Flickr or simply post in forums online. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, you could go for coffee together or meet in a local photography studio, and you do have the option of going on a shoot together for a day if you wanted!
Photo by Schani
Go to Exhibits and Galleries
I really value being able to engage with the work of other photographers on a large scale, for which gallery exhibitions offer the perfect platform. It’s an extremely cost effective way of viewing the images how they should be viewed. As opposed to flicking through a slideshow online, you can engage with the physical image and take it in.
My photography mentors have always said, if you're not out shooting images, you should be looking at them.
Photo by US Mission Geneva
Buy Second Hand Photography Books
If you’ve got any second hand bookstores in town, go and pay them a visit. Ask the store attendant to point you in the direction of the photography books and browse away! You never know what you’re going to find, but it’s another cheap and easy way to engage with collections of work by professional photographers.
You can study the composition, shapes, form and use of colour within the images. It’s always a pleasant surprise to find a book that you connect with and grabs your attention and inspires you to go out and take your own photographs!
Photo by Brew Books
Subscribe to Photography Blogs and Magazines
It’s not only important to keep up to date with the latest goings on in the world of photography, but it’s essential to keep feeding yourself with writing about photography. Thoughts, views and perspectives can be engaging and challenging and force you to assess your own approach to your work and that of other photographers. Read tips and techniques and engage with the images that the rest of the world is seeing in order to keep you on your toes and moving forward.
Photo by Dave Dugdale
Make a Portfolio
This can come in the form or a PDF, a book, a selection of carefully chosen prints, or online as a website, but whichever format you choose, you’ll be required to carefully assess your work and not only select the best images for the portfolio, but also think about the order, the narrative, image titles and captions.
Going through this process and presenting your work to the public can be an extremely valuable learning process and allows you to understand which elements of your photography work and which don’t work quite so well.
Photo by Jessica Mullen