Keeping yourself constantly inspired as a visual artist is essential to building a portfolio and to creating better, stronger, more interesting work. However, artistic inspiration doesn't always exactly fall from the sky.
Taking on a daily, weekly, or monthly project can really help to enhance creativity and add excitement to your photography.
Try this 30-day photo challenge with yourself or with friends. Maybe you belong to a camera club, an online photographic community, or a friend group with several other photographers. You can use this challenge as a tool to learn from one another by sharing your work for gentle critique and you’ll see how even with the same photographic subject, each person has a unique perspective.
This 30-day photo challenge is a perfect way to expand your photographic style, enhance creativity, and inspire. Play! Experiment! Follow the rules, break the rules, relax, and most importantly have fun!!
Photographers, sculptors, and painters have experimented with the art of the self-portrait for literally hundreds of years. Although it is likely that self-portraiture has been created since the dawn of human existence, art historians document Renaissance painters as the first to consistently depict themselves as the main subject in their art, due to the advent of better and more inexpensive mirrors.
With the invention of the smartphone and the "selfie,” self-portraiture is more common than ever before. Things to consider when taking a self-portrait: mood, emotion, angle, lighting, and location. Interesting self-portraits reveal something about the maker to their audience. Choose a setting that reflects something about who you really are. Is blue your favorite color? Wear a blue top. Are you a sailor? Position yourself on the docks in front of a row of boats. Select a background or an outfit to represent things that speak to you.
Remember that a successful self-portrait not only shows what you look like at a particular time in your life, but it also represents your inner state of being and your feelings. Once you have experimented with your best angle and gotten yourself situated nicely in the frame (remember the rule of thirds), then you can begin to work with your emotions and take a few frames expressing different thoughts in your photograph. Try an image while thinking of something that makes you incredibly joyful. Then try thinking of something sad. A portrait is about expressing what is within and deciding what story you want to share with your audience.
If you are using a full frame camera, an 85mm lens is a very nice portrait lens, but anything longer than 50mm on a full frame or 35mm on a crop sensor will make for a nice portrait lens as it will maintain the dimensions of the face and not elongate or distort larger features like the chin and nose. Self-portraits are best made with the use of a tripod, and a self-timer setting on your camera. Once you have selected your scene, position yourself in good portrait lighting (natural side light can be very nice for a self portrait).
Now with the prevalence of digital photography we live in a more colorful world than ever before. Experiment with black and white imagery by either taking a color image and using post production to desaturate or a filter to turn your image into black and white, or use your Monochrome Picture Style setting on your Canon DSLR or M Series Camera (you will be able to find instructions for this setting in your camera manual). With black and white photography the focus should be on form, details, highlights and shadows. Geometric shapes and sharp angles are a fantastic subject for black and white photography. The more dramatic those are, the more interesting your image will be.
In this challenge water can be photographed in a multitude of ways. Use water as a source of reflection with a wide-angle lens, revealing the subject and the scene below. Then photograph just the reflection and showcase the interesting distortions the ripples of water can produce. Photograph water droplets on a counter, a leaf, or even a shower door with a macro lens. Look at the stunning color and shadows water makes in a swimming pool.
Busy city scenes and bucolic starry night skies make for some of the most dynamic night photography. Use a tripod and a long exposure to capture your surroundings. Shutter priority mode (TV on the mode dial) is best for this photography.
You will find these everywhere, even in nature. Spend some time photographing smaller details of a larger item and find patterns. Expand your view and look at a normal scene from above. Aerial photography (even from a ladder or balcony) can lend itself well to geometric shapes.
Use a macro lens and photograph the detail in the hands of someone very young, and then the hands of someone very old. Skin texture changes with age and of course this makes for interesting imagery. Photograph hands at work, hands resting on a leg, the arm of a chair. Photograph hands holding a bowl of fruit. Photograph hands using scissors.
Red symbolizes a multitude of emotions and feelings. It is one of the most emotive colors, so purposefully using red in your imagery can be very powerful. If you are photographing a landscape you can add a figure in a red jacket to show the scale of the scene.
The viewer's eye will instantly be drawn to the red figure, so place them purposefully. Are they walking into the scene and drawing the viewer in with them? Are they walking out of the image, causing tension for the viewer?
Spend a few hours noticing how often red is in your proximity. Create drama in your image by using red to express lust, violence, or anger. Try using a red light bulb too. Look to flowers, a lipstick, tiles on a building, fire hydrants, street signs. Use the saturation slider in post-production to amplify the color in your image. You can also desaturate other colors in your image a little or quite a lot to emphasize the bold quality of red.
Blue offers a calm, cooling effect. Look to the sky, the ocean, streams, and pools for inspiration.
Circles are found throughout nature, in city architecture and elsewhere. Spend the day looking for circular shapes to see the patterns that you can find within the circles upon circles upon circles. You can begin by dropping a penny into a sink full of water and photographing the natural ripples that occur.
These aren't as easy to find in nature, but you can spot triangular shapes in city architecture again and again. Look for them in body posture and in between people as in the example above!
Spend the day photographing the many different formations of clouds. Go out at sunrise, noon, and then sunset. Use a tripod and a wide-angle lens for best results.
People love photos of pets. Get close, show intimate expression through sharpness in the eyes (set your focus point on the facial area of the animal). Get down on their level.
How can you represent yourself without showing your actual face? Find a scene or items that really speak to who you are and spend some time illustrating yourself without showing your face.
Use a macro lens for this challenge. Find a willing subject and spend some time photographing the eyes, suggesting that your subject contemplates a variety of emotions. Have your subject think of something very joyful. They don't have to share what they are thinking with you. Maybe it’s their favorite food, their best summer vacation, their closest friend. Next have your subject recall a sad memory and see how the appearance of their eyes changes. Often people's eyes will change color slightly depending on mood, and the color they are wearing. Bounce light into your subject's eyes with a reflector or with the use of an off-camera flash.