30 photo challenges to boost your photography
How are you? Some of our most popular articles are ideas on new photo challenges you can do. Today we wanted to bring you not just one or two new photo challenge ideas, but 30!
Why is doing a challenge good for your photography?
I think it’s because there is a constant tension when you are creating things – between discipline and wild creative energy, between rules and freedom.
There are many traps you can fall into when you are being creative; one is waiting for inspiration to strike, another is to wait for when life presents you with enough time to relax and enjoy and go take photos (Ha! When does that ever happen with us adults?)
When you want to create you can’t wait around for these magical things to be presented to you (time and inspiration); it ain’t going to happen – or not in great quantities.
We have to create the opportunities for our creativity, and the more we do, the greater benefits it will bring to our lives.
Inspiration won’t just drop into your lap, you have to go out and find it. When you do a photo challenge, you’ll set aside time for yourself that maybe you might have wasted mindlessly reading silly internet stories, or on a TV show you don’t really like but are too tired not to watch.
Maybe this will make you change your routine so you walk part of the way home rather than drive.
Your creativity will be focused by time and this discipline – and who knows what you will create? What adventures your photos will take you on.
Pick a challenge that aligns with where you are at right now. And that gives you both a feeling of thrill and excitement and that invokes fear. The things we are afraid to do in our photography are often the things that will lead to our greatest growth.
They teach us way more skills, and build our confidence so much more than doing things within our comfort zone all the time.
I am not a fan though of just doing things because they scare you. There has to be some fun, some excitement there too. You have to want to do it otherwise you’ll never finish the challenge.
Here we go!
Colour is deeply affecting to us as humans. Think of all those colour charts – red signals danger, blue signals cold etc.
For me colour is a way to bring emotion into your photographs in a very simple, powerful way. In this challenge you should aim to capture the feeling of the colour you choose.
You want your photo to reveal the inherent qualities of your colour. Read our ideas and tips on how to capture colour.
Tell a story in three photos
I love this challenge! It’s harder than it sounds. This challenge will get you to think about not just your individual shots, but how they work together to capture a story.
The story can be an event, a person, a situation – anything. But the key is to ensure that each photo works together to reveal more about the story you are trying to tell.
One photo per day
This idea came from a recent interview from our community, with Tanya Murchie and Chuck Rubin who are both based in, and love to shoot, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
They commit to sending each other one photo a day. I love the daily discipline of this. You are also accountable to someone else, which spurs you on and gives you a boost of encouragement as you’ll get feedback from that person too.
This is an intensive challenge for when you are ready to do a deep dive and accelerate your learning and experience of photography.
When you are actively seeking to take fifty good photos every day your attention will be heightened, your ability to see the opportunity for photos around you will develop and your senses will bring new visual information into your awareness. Read more ideas.
Go processing free for one month
If you are relying on processing too much then it will effect your photos and can make you lazy when you’re out shooting! Try to capture everything in camera, see what you can do au natural.
Opposite challenge: will be for those that rush their processing, or don’t do it at all. Stop shooting and start learning, experimenting and playing with processing. Do it for a month.
Shoot Black & White or Monochrome for a month
This is for people like me! I am a total lover of colour, so going in such a dramatic opposite direction is challenging but it will teach you so much. Recently I did some monochrome shots of a little town in Northern Vietnam. I loved them so much, I am going to continue to see what else I can do in a similar vein.
It opens you up to so many more ideas when you go the opposite way in your photography.
Become confident with your camera
Do you have a secret burning desire to finally become confident with your camera and learn how to use it? Commit to a month of shooting on manual. Commit!
- Excellent book Understanding Photography: Master Your Digital Camera and Capture That Perfect Photo
- My Introduction to Photography Workshop
- Article: Why is learning Manual so controversial? + A Simple Introduction on How to Shoot on Manual
- Article: Why I shoot on Manual
This is a great way to learn to see your day to day surroundings with a fresh perspective. Train your eye to find something new in your environment, a vital skill in photography. Read more ideas.
Go shoot street portraits – and aim to get 5 ‘no’s’
Most people find it nerve wracking shooting strangers. It’s a normal fear to have. Sometimes I still suffer from it. But this is a great game to get yourself out there shooting.
Ask a bunch of people on the street to shoot their portraits and aim to get 5 people saying ‘no’. It’s reverse psychology for you – and it really works to help boost your confidence.
Pick one of the rules of composition – and perfect it
The rules of composition – like Leading Lines, Rule of Thirds, Natural Framing, Using Negative Space or Filling the Frame – provided me an amazing set of tools when I was starting out trying to compose interesting images. I have developed my own style now, but their influence is so obvious in my photos.
If you are new to them, just try one and practice shooting until you totally get it, can totally see it all around you. Or try some Advanced composition techniques.
A few winters ago I stayed in a castle in Tuscany for 2 months with Di and the kids. Up until that point in my life I had never really considered landscape or nature photography. It would occasionally appear in my photos, as I would find myself in the countryside with a beautiful vista. But I had never dedicated myself to the genre of landscape photography.
Over these two months, with acres of forests and wintry olive groves around the castle to explore, my desire to capture this beautiful landscape ignited in me the wish to delve into this new genre.
I wasn’t totally happy with my first forays, but as I did more, explored more, I started to get images I was happy with. And now that we live in our little beach village in Spain, and I am exploring nature on an almost daily basis with my camera, it has taken my photography in many new directions.
It’s good to keep yourself humble too, if you are brilliant in one genre, then that’s the perfect time to jump into a new genre. Keep your mind sharp and always learning.
Always be open to new possibilities of inspiration. They can come from anywhere and everywhere.
Shoot every single day for a month
A simple one this challenge! Like exercise or learning a new skill, the more you do it, the better you’ll get …! This is a great challenge when you are getting started or have had a long break from photography. Gets you immersed and gets the wheels oiled quickly.
Simplicity is very interesting to me. It makes me happy to find something clear and clean and strong to photograph. And it’s not easy to create something simple and interesting.
For this challenge aim to create a simple – but interesting – photograph.
Focusing on simplicity is also excellent training for your eye. Learning to extract everything that is unnecessary from your photo is an indelible skill to develop. This challenge will help you with that. Read more ideas.
This was a recent challenge I set, and the photos that were entered in our Light Monkeys group were fantastic. This is a wonderful challenge, as to be successful the subject and composition have to create a clear feeling of a season that is universally recognised. It cannot be ambiguous. Read more ideas.
Start sharing your photos on Social Media
I have a challenging relationship with social media. It sort of goes against the fabric of my photographic approach – which is to be thoughtful, slow and not rush my photography. To work on a project and let it build and grow over time.
So the instant feedback of Facebook slightly repels me. I think it distorts how we shoot if we end up a sucker to likes. But it has in many ways been good for me to put some of my photos out there, to connect with other photographers and people who love to travel. I’ve had great feedback on my work and meet so many other cool photographers through social media.
For me it has been about balance. Therefore if you have my sort of reluctance, but feel that bringing your photos to the world in this way might be interesting – take a few weeks or a month to experiment and post your photos on social media and see what happens… see what kinds of stories you can tell, who you will connect with and what else you can find that you love in this vast world of social media.
Of course if you’re a social media junkie – take a break!
And not just from social media – TV, the news, mindless entertainment. Focus all of your spare time on photography. Create space for yourself to do some deep, thoughtful things with your photography.
Stop distracting yourself with the digital world, and instead, slow down and see what ideas and photos you can create when you aren’t being permanently distracted. Inspired by the book Deep Work (see the short book review.)
Emulate your favourite artist / photographer
See what ideas and experiences you have when you copy someone else’s work. What do you notice, learn and see when you are ‘pretending’ to have a different style. Inspired by the book Steal Like an Artist.
Decide what kind of photographer you are – and what you like to capture.
This isn’t so much a challenge, but an invitation to spend some time reflecting on what you want to do with your photography.
All photographers have different passions and ideas for their photography. I think you can often distill the essence of what photographers are trying to capture – light or the human comedy or history. Think about what you are trying to express with your photography. Read more.
Reflections are everywhere! And they can bring all kinds of interesting feelings and elements into your images; like abstraction, intrigue, mystery and beautiful patterns. This is a playful challenge, see what you can discover about a world in reflection. Read more ideas.
Start a camera club
One of my greatest pleasures of running photo workshops has been to hang out and work with so many interesting and passionate photographers. Having been a photographer for many, many years – which usually requires me to be alone – this was a revelation.
I love the camaraderie, the spirit and motivation you get when you go out exploring as a group. If you don’t have a local camera club, or one you like, start one up!
Capture the spirit of a person in a portrait
This is a tough challenge. This is for people who are willing to really spend time with their subject – observing them and working out how to bring the spirit and uniqueness of that person onto the page.
If this appeals to you – don’t stop until you achieve it!
Change your camera
Only shoot with your smartphone camera for a month – or if you are leaving your DSLR to gather dust in the closet and are wedded to your camera phone, go the opposite way and only shoot with that.
- My (reluctant) love affair with my smartphone camera
- 19 Photos to show why your camera doesn’t matter
- Why you should shoot on Manual – my most controversial article
Shoot with only one lens for a month
This is for those of you (and you know who you are!) who love to have lots of lenses, and keep moving between them.
The best way to really get to know your kit is to use it continuously. So this challenge is in part about getting to really understand your lens – but it’s also about what I discussed at the beginning, giving yourself a boundary to work within and see where your creativity takes you.
Print your photos
Most people who spend time and money on getting a great camera and capturing beautiful images, maybe even investing time processing to perfect their images, then leave the images sitting there on their SD cards, hard drives, clouds etc. Don’t, I say! Bring them to life.
Top tip – try and relax and enjoy the learning process. Printing may seem intimidating – but the learning curve is worth it, and you’ll get there.
- Why you should print your photos
- My new Printing Workshop in Spain
- Join my free How to Print Facebook Live on Weds 19th Nov. Register by emailing Diana for details firstname.lastname@example.org
Shoot your subject from 5 metres away….or less
When we’re shooting people, especially with street photography, we can be so nervous that we don’t go close enough. But to capture emotion, to get a sense in your photos of a person, their experiences – you need to get close.
Try this experiment of creating a set distance with your subject, so you are always trying to get closer. This will help you connect with your subject more so you can observe and capture a significant moment.
As Robert Capa said – “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” Learn to get intimate with your subjects.
What subject are you most scared to shoot? Shoot that.
Make a list if needed and pick the hardest thing for you. Why? Because fear is what holds us back from being better photographers.
If you want your photos to be meaningful for people then – what becomes such an essential part of photography – is imbuing your photos with feeling.
Even if you have everything else perfect – great composition, beautiful light, perfect exposure, there will be *something missing* if the photo isn’t imbued with feeling. It will be looked at and forgotten.
And this starts with you. As Don McCullin says:
“If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.”
Challenge yourself to find an emotion – and capture it. A more advanced challenge would be – without using the human face! Read more ideas.
Look over your archives and pick out your 5 best photos
Improving your photography is not just about taking more photos – but also being able to reflect back on your photography and see what you have done well, what worked.
I find leaving my photos for 6-12 months a perfect time to allow them to drift out of my consciousness and to lessen the emotional attachment I have. I then have a more objective eye and often find ‘hidden gems’ i passed first time round.
Capture the word – silence
I think you could use many other words for this challenge, but the word silence really appealed to me as I think it’s a pretty good beginner assignment.
Capturing an idea, or an emotion, is all part of bringing imagination into your photography. Practise this ability to translate ideas and feelings into your images with this challenge.
And here are some thoughts on why silence is so good for your creativity.
Because it’s easy to take amazing shots of amazingly beautiful places. But to create something beautiful, or find beauty in the mundane? That’s a skill that is fantastic to have, and worth developing, because it will help your photography as a whole.
Read more ideas for this challenge.
Thanks for reading these ideas. We’d love to know if one of these resonated with you and you’re going to pick it up and run with it. Hit reply and let us know.
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If you’d like to keep posted of new and upcoming photo challenges – join our photo sharing group Light Monkeys.
Have an amazing day and happy photographing!
Anthony and Diana