Not Your Everyday Banana

by Bart Arondson

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I'd like to start improving my photography - and I think that one way to do this would be to introduce some formal structure to the way I practice photography.

One idea I have is to only focus on one specific element of photography each day/week - and use that focus to explore each element in depth.

e.g. I'd either focus on a technical, compositional or content based theme; and would then taking a group of photographs that explore that aspect of photography.

My question is this:

  1. have any of you attempted something similar? If so, did your efforts help your photography.

  2. do you have any examples of themes that would be worth exploring?

I suppose what I'm actually asking for is similar to a syllabus for study - so if anyone has any links to relevant on-line resources I'd be very grateful.

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6 Answers 6

In art school we used to do 'true' exercise photography by doing things like:

  • Take n pictures of a single object, making sure that no two were the same (n was generally some large number like '100' or '250') - The exercise was designed to train yourself to begin to see the many ways it's possible to approach a subject...
  • Find an object and take the exact same picture of it every hour for 24 hours (generally an inanimate object... Humans won't stay still for 24 hours! Lol) - The goal was to see how even something that doesn't move changes quite radically depending on what is going on around it.
  • One of my professors used to hate zoom lenses so much that his requirement for letting us use them was that we had to submit a picture at every whole f-stop for every marked focal length on the lens before we could use it for assignments - His intent was to train us to know the capabilities and differences of each focal length so that the zoom functionality didn't become a crutch when composing shots.
  • Take 100 pictures of objects that have a common characteristic (they're all buildings, they're all less than 1 inch wide, they're all blue, etc.) - The goal was to learn how to find interesting pictures 'hiding inside' everyday objects.
  • Take 100 pictures from a perspective you wouldn't normally think to take pictures from (lying down, under water, upside down, cropped to 1x6, etc.)

As an aside, I went to art school long enough ago that we were doing all of this on film. Even though I bought in bulk, used B&W film, self-rolled my film canisters, self-developed, and most of the time we only had to turn in contact sheets of our work (thank God!), looking back it was still an incredibly expensive thing to be a photography student...

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3  
Awesome, brutal, but awesome exercises! –  Shizam Feb 6 '11 at 0:14
5  
It's like the P90X workout of photography assignments. :-) –  Jay Lance Photography Feb 6 '11 at 0:50
    
This is the kind of thing I'm after - almost like drill practice. Thx. –  codeinthehole Feb 7 '11 at 0:30
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Check out the daily shoot (site down, see NOTE)! Great ideas for each day, just like you want. Take a look at what other people are doing on twitter (after you do your assignment). Be critical of yourself and put time into thinking about your shots before you take them.

You should also try to get feedback from others. Tips on that here. Also, some general tips that may help you be critical of yourself.

Hope this helps... it might not be as formal as you were looking for, but I do think you will get better :-).

NOTE: the daily shoot is now down, but its archive can be found on Twitter

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Thanks - that's a great resource .. will be good to get me started. –  codeinthehole Feb 5 '11 at 19:27
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I've heard one strange but efficient advice for learning composition: read magazines upside down. That way, you are not disturbed by the subject.

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This is basically what Lorem Ipsum is about. –  ysap Feb 5 '11 at 20:58
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Start a project. I started a 50/50 project where I only use a 50mm lens and shoot random things for 50 days.

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Here is a link to a similar question that contains links to many resources.
Digital photography tutorials

I think your idea has a lot of merit even though I can't directly answer it.

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In addition to the answers posted earlier, you can try participate in low-level competitions. I started out with photofriday.com. Additionally, challenge yourself to get your work out there and seen by other eyes. Try running a photoblog and posting on a consistent basis.

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