Using Photo Challenges To Improve Your Photography

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One of the best ways to improve your photography is through practice. But sometimes it can be difficult to motivate yourself without a specific subject to photograph in mind. This is where photography challenges can help.

My Most Treasured Gift
My Most Treasured Gift by -Gep- on flickr (licensed CC-BY-ND)

Photography challenges will provide a theme or idea, and then you must try and take the best photo you can that satisfies that theme. You upload your best photo to the challenge, along with many other photographers. There is nearly always a specified time limit to the challenge that you must take and submit the photo within.

When the challenge is completed, some challenge groups will have a voting process where members can vote for whichever photo they like best.

These photo challenges can be helpful in a number of ways. By having to shoot to a specific theme, it should get you thinking more creatively. Sometimes the subject may be something intangible, (e.g. love), which makes you think how you can best portray the subject in the form of a photo.

Our Daily Challenge - Love
Our Daily Challenge - Love by JaseCurtis on flickr (licensed CC-BY)

Other times the subject maybe something quite common and 'boring', (e.g. doors). This gets you thinking as to how you can create an interesting photo of something so plain and well known. It can also get you looking for suitable subjects that you may otherwise just pass by without noticing.

join my IG challenge ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: i...
join my IG challenge ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: i... by b_lumenkraft on flickr (licensed CC-BY)

The time limit imposed on the challenge should spur you into action and get you photographing, when otherwise you might just put off photography practice for another day.

After the challenge ends, you can view other's takes on the same subject. Seeing how others expressed the subject, how they composed their photo, what lighting they used, etc. can all be very helpful in aiding your understanding of photography, and giving you ideas for your own photography. Often photographers will include information with the image to say where and when they took the photo, what equipment they used, etc.

Many challenges allow commenting on the entered photos, and you may find you get useful feedback on your photo about what you could have done better. You can encourage useful comments by writing comments and critique welcome in your photo's description. Check the challenge rules to see what they say about leaving feedback / comments on other's photos.

he thinks he is a zebra.
he thinks he is a zebra. by a tai. on flickr (licensed CC-BY-ND)

If you leave feedback on someone else's photo, try to be positive in your comment's tone as well as offering honest feedback. E.g. I quite like this photo, but I think it could have been better if you'd asked the subject to move a couple of steps to the right. At the moment it looks a bit to me like they have a lamppost growing out of their head! 🙂 rather than Why did you even enter this? Horrible composition, the subject looks like they have lamppost growing out of their head.

There are a large number of photography challenge groups around (just search the web for "photography challenge"). They can vary quite a bit in how long you get to take the photo and the sorts of subjects covered. Some are restricted only to certain brands or models of cameras.

If you are looking to improve your post-processing and image editing skills, you can also find challenges for this too. Sometimes a specific image will be posted for you to work on, other times it is a case of working on your own image, and then posting before and after images.

Challenge 65 - Textures
Challenge 65 - Textures by Pawns on flickr (licensed CC-BY)

In cases of compositing challenges, you will usually be supplied with a few images that you must work into a single image (sometimes on a theme, sometimes not). These usually allow you to work in extra elements of your own as well.

Photography challenges can be quite specialized. If you are really into macro and close-up photography, you can find specific macro challenges that only offer challenges relating to macro photography.

If you are into abstract photography, then you might enjoy a "Guess the photo" group. Not strictly a challenge group, but it does get you thinking creatively as to how to photograph a subject in such a way that it is hardly recognizable. On a similar vein, there are many "Guess where" groups. These groups feature photos where the intention is to take the photo in such a way as to make it difficult to recognize where the photo was taken.

Norwich Guess 52
Norwich Guess 52 by .Martin. on flickr (licensed CC-BY-ND)

So if you need some motivation for your photography, or you just fancy a good challenge, give photo challenges a go.

Written by Discover Digital Photography

January 22nd, 2013 at 9:33 am

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