One of the best ways to improve any skill or craft is by consistent, regular practice. We could all think ourselves the best painter in the world if all we ever did was read about how to do it – but putting the brush to canvas is another matter entirely. So it is with photography. It’s quite possible to think that you’ve got this photography thing down,only to realize when you are inspired to shoot, your Apertures and your ISOs are all in a heap! The secret to getting better at photography is consistent, deliberate, regular practice.
This can sometimes be easier said than done. As cute as your kitty cat is, it’s tiresome taking his portrait all day long and what else is there to shoot? Well listen – I’ve got the answer…
The Take 52 Challenge
A great way to hone your skills is to do a weekly assignment in the form of a Weekly Photography Challenge. This is similar to Project 365 that you might have already heard of but a little less intense. The idea is that there is one theme per week which you use as your inspiration to go out and shoot. Depending on the challenge, the theme may be quite vague and open to creative interpretation or quite specific – perhaps a particular subject or technical skill. Being to told what to do takes away some of the issues you might have surrounding what to shoot and give you purpose to your practice.
But the other really nice part of participating in a weekly photo challenge is that you are not doing it alone. The camaraderie and friendships that develop in these groups is phenomenal and they provide a wonderful learning ground for people new to photography. If you think this might be something that you would be interested in, I’ve put together some of my top tips below, to help you succeed with a weekly photo challenge like the CameraShy Take 52 Challenge.
Find the right group
There are many places where you can follow along with a photography challenge – some with private Facebook groups or forums and others where bloggers just provide a link up section in the comments of their posts. Take your time to do a little research to find the right group for you. Photography is infamous for having a lot of very passionate and sometimes opinionated people and it can be super intimating for a newbie to join an established group. If you a beginner/intermediate search for groups specifically in this area, like my CameraShy Take 52 Group. (I boot out any meanies that surface tout suite!)
If your love is food, perhaps you’d love a food specific group. If you goal is to become more professional, you might consider a group with a stricter critique protocol. Facebook is a great place to begin your search, as of course is Google and Flickr is still holding its own.
If you like my style of teaching, Join The Camerashy Take 52 Challenge.
Sign up to the Take 52 Challenge!
Receive access to the private Facebook Group and get the prompts delivered to your inbox each Monday!
Read the rules
When you first join a group take 5 minutes to read the admin’s rules about how and when to post. There is nothing more frustrating than a new participant ‘spamming’ the group with tons of photos of their aforementioned cat which have nothing to do with the theme.
Read the rules, ask questions if something isn’t clear and introduce yourself to your new group of friends.
Take your time
When the theme is released each week, remember that it is not a competition to be the first to submit. The idea of being a participant is to improve your work – adding that amazing shot you took of the Tetons 3 years ago will do nothing to improve your skills only perhaps boost your ego for 5 minutes.
Take a minute to let the theme sink in with you and think about it before you shoot. Initially you may draw a complete blank but you’ll be amazed how your brain works and when you least expect it, an idea will present itself to you.
When you decide to shoot your subject give a little thought to how you are going to compose your shot. Try several different ways to approach the same subject – change your aspect, the time of day, lens and of course your camera settings.
Edit and refine your image.
This is sometimes one of the hardest parts of an assignment i.e. deciding which image you are going to present. It’s tough trying to figure out what your best work is and quite often you’ll feel like you could have done so much better and quite often you are right, but just go on and submit.
Waiting on perfection can be the devastation of many artists.
Share your best efforts and keep looking forward – there’s always next week!
Share your camera settings which can be found in the exif data of your image and more importantly, share your thought process too. This will help other people learn from your work and help you to clarify what your intentions were with the image.
Be an active contributor to the group both in terms of what you submit and by helping others, answering questions and giving feedback on others work. It’s usually not a requirement to submit EVERY single week – at least I do not keep track of these things in Take 52 – so don’t be put off if your snowed in one week or you have a sick kid and cannot get out to shoot. It’s usually ok to play catch up or just to jump in again when you are ready.
If critiquing each other’s work is part of the challenge, remember to do it kindly and constructively. First read the rules which deal with critique and comments. Some people may not be open to critique at all but it’s a very necessary part of the process both for the “critiquer” and critiqued.
In my group we follow this protocol: Say something you like about the image, say something you’d change about the image and end with something positive.
It is as beneficial for the commenter as much as the critiqued party when constructive feedback is given. Receive the critique openly and in the spirit which it was given. There is always room for improvement and its good to hear how others would approach the same shot.
Taking part in a weekly challenge really is a terrific way to improve your photography skills, get inspired by other people’s work and meet some awesome people. When you actively shoot every week you will be amazed at the portfolio of work you can begin to build and you will see the improvement on your work in leaps and bounds!
It’s not too late to join the CameraShy Take 52 Challenge! Just click here to sign up and jump in where you are or play catch up if you like.