This article will provide you with 10 photography self-assignments that you can use to get your own creative juices flowing. They are designed to help you grow in skill as a well-rounded photographer while helping you build your portfolio at the same time. Many of these projects are best executed over a period of time, rather than in a single session.
1. The Park Bench. Take your camera and a tripod to a park, and find a busy park bench. Set yourself up some distance away with a long lens aimed at the bench and pre-focused. Settle in, and for the next few hours, take images at fixed time intervals, say every ten minutes. This is really an exercise in time lapse photography. I think the resulting images would make a fun photo essay. The setting stays the same, but the subjects change at random.
2. Evolution of Construction. Find a nearby construction site, and take a picture every day. If you choose the same vantage point each time, you’ll end up with a series of images that show the building in progressive stages of completion.
3. Through the Seasons. This exercise is similar to number two, but is best done in a less urban environment, and over a longer period of time. Find a landscape that you can shoot in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. The works especially well if you live in a place that receives snow in Winter, and where the leaves on the trees turn colour in the Autumn.
4. Self Portrait. The concept of this is simple: take a picture of yourself every day. It helps to use a tripod and shutter release, rather than limiting yourself by trying to shoot with the camera at arm’s length. You are the most patient subject you could ever work with, so use this to your advantage. Get creative, overact, dress up, and use props. You decide how you want to show yourself to the world! If you do an internet search on this topic, you’ll find related Flickr and Twitter groups, where you can share your images.
5. A Day in the Life of… This is a great project to document a particular occupation. For example, you could take photographs of a nurse at work to show all the various aspects of his or her job. It may take you more than one day of shooting to capture a representative set of images.
6. Get to Know Your Neighborhood. So often, we never really take a good look at our own neighbourhood. Make it a point to walk around, and shoot ten images of the area where you live. Do this once a month, or even once a week, if you really get inspired.
7. Color Challenge. This is a fun challenge for an urban environment. Take you camera downtown, and give yourself a few hours to take pictures. Choose a colour (or for added challenge, have a friend pick the colour for you), and shoot only objects of that colour. By the end of the session, you’ll be surprised how that colour jumps out at you! When you’re finished, it’s great to take your best images and assemble them into a collage or mosaic. This is something that can be done in Adobe Photoshop.
8. A Collection of “Somethings.” Whenever you’re out, carry your camera, and be on the lookout for whatever “something” you choose. It could be feet, garbage cans, vegetables that look like faces, bicycles – you name it! Get creative, and pick a theme that you don’t usually see in pictures.
9. Pet’s Eye View. Pretend that you are your pet. How would you see the world if you were a dog? A hamster? Shoot a series images from the perspective of your pet’s eye level.
10. After Dark. We don’t always think to take our cameras out at night. Try shooting after dark. If you’re in the country, you can shoot moonlight or star trails. In the city, you can shoot vehicles’ tail-light trails or downtown buildings. Wherever you are, you can try light-painting – using a long exposure, and moving a flashlight over parts of the scene.