NEW to dPS: 101 Lightroom Portrait Presets

Buy Now

101 Lightroom Portrait Presets

Do Visual Push-Ups Everyday to Grow as a Photographer


Please note that I do not know who originally coined the phrase “visual push-ups”. I have heard it used many times and find it very suitable to describe what we should all be practicing as often as possible with our camera.

There is no better time to practice your photography than here and now. Don’t wait for the best light, the exotic vacation, or a new lens. Let’s be honest, the only way you’re going to become a better photographer, is by doing visual push-ups every day, and by challenging yourself continuously for as many years as you’ll be able to carry that camera around. Give yourself assignments often and never stop learning!

©Valerie Jardin-4

One of my ongoing projects for several months was photographing beautiful smiles of strangers which resulted in a fun collection of smiles from all over the world. Here a shopkeeper in Melbourne, Australia.

Are you a hobbyist photographer?

You have the luxury of only needing to please yourself with your work. Make sure you do that. Click the shutter to move and inspire, not to impress.

Do you work for clients?

Pursuing personal projects is even more important. Remember the feeling of shooting for yourself only, without having to compromise between your vision and your client’s? However much you love being a pro photographer, you run the risk of losing the passion if you don’t take care of yourself and your creative needs.

You don’t have time to shoot everyday?

Yes you do! How much time do you spend on social media for example? Or sitting in front of the television? If you take only 15 minutes of that time and invest it in your photography daily, you will see the results. The best part is that you can do those visual push-ups at home, during your lunch break, or on the bus ride to work.

Do you think this only applies to beginning photographers?

Think again! I see so many seasoned photographers who are always shooting the same types of subjects, the same way. No matter what your skill level is, it’s always good to challenge yourself by getting out of your comfort zone to try new things.

Do you think that posting different genres will look like you can’t focus on one thing?

Wrong! On the contrary, it will prove that you are a well-rounded photographer. But, if you are trying to sell your services as a wedding shooter, your urbex images will be better posted on a separate page or gallery. Use common sense.

©Valerie Jardin-1

Anything can become a subject and give you a challenge. Try to make art with everyday objects and difficult lighting situations.

 What type of photo projects should you work on?

Anything will do, as long as you enjoy it. Remember, the point of the exercise is not to please others or get likes. It’s to please yourself, and yourself only. By all means, do share with the world and get that extra satisfaction and gratification if others like it too. But that should not be your priority.

©Valerie Jardin-5

Although I am better known for my street photography, I don’t want to limit myself to just one genre of photography, the world is too beautiful to miss other opportunities. I love photographing architectural abstracts for example.

The sky is the limit!

Photograph any ordinary objects around your house and make them look extraordinary. Read the local paper and find a story that you can document with your camera. Start a 52 week, a 365 project, or even a 100 strangers or a self portrait project but be aware of the pressure you are putting on yourself. Make sure it doesn’t become a chore which would be counter-productive to what you are trying to accomplish.

Don’t worry too much about coming home with keepers every time you go out with your camera. There will be some good days, and there will be many not-so-good days. But one thing is certain; you will learn and grown every time you go out with your camera and do those visual push-ups.

©Valerie Jardin-3

During the long winter months I visit a lot of museums and Museum-Goers has become one of my on-going series.

I always have two or three personal projects going at the same time, in different genres if possible. The point of the exercise is to explore new things and grow. Remember, that no matter what the subject or genre you choose to experiment with, you will benefit greatly from expending your creative vision.

Doing those daily visual push-ups will be the best time invested in your photography. One day you will only have five minutes to photograph an ordinary object on the window sill in the early morning light. The next day you may have an hour with your camera during your lunch break. Every minute you spend working on your craft will help you find your photographic voice and expand your creative vision.

©Valerie Jardin-2

Exercising your vision can take as little as a few seconds, and be as simple as photographing an object in your own house. This is part of my weekly self-assigned “Ordinary Objects are Beautiful” challenge.

Do yourself a favor, get off the internet and grab your camera NOW!

Please share with the dPS community which personal projects have made a real difference in your photography by adding a comment below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Valerie Jardin I live and breathe in pixels! Photography is more than a passion, it's an obsession, almost an addiction. When I'm not shooting or writing, I spend my time teaching this beautiful craft during photo workshops all over the world! I am also thrilled to be an official X Photographer for Fujifilm USA. Visit my Website Follow me on Facebook , Twitter , Google+, Instagram. And listen to my new Street Focus Podcast!

  • Nishant Kashyap

    Such a delight to read this one ! Great article and an inspiring one, yes !

  • David Thompson

    I suppose there is nothing sufficiently controversial to generate a host of comments on this wonderful essay. Therefore, suffice it for me to say “thank you” for sharing some excellent advice and the encouragement to get out and shoot every day.

  • ‘ö-Dzin Tridral

    Thank you very much for this article, I think it’s good advice for anyone interested in photography. it’s probably true of any area of life that we might be interested in – practising a little every day is always helpful. I’m an amateur photographer, so I only have to take photographs for myself. I started taking a photograph a day in September 2011 and posting them to Blipfoto. It’s been a wonderful experience, particularly as there is an appreciative community there too.

  • Mahadimenakbar Mohamed Dawood

    My cats are my favourite models when I need something to shoot at…

  • Mahadimenakbar Mohamed Dawood

    My kids are also my favourite subjects….

  • harold


  • Andrew Livelsberger

    I first heard this phrase from jay Maisel.

  • love your “ordinary objects are beautiful” project idea … been meaning to do more of that myself. Tweeted.

  • Elaine Hearne

    I’m so glad I found this article! I decided not to wait till I finished reading to go get some pics. Got off my butt, went outside, found some beautiful flowers in my yard, and got some nice shots. I knew about the iris, but the roses were an unexpected treat, as were the beautiful red leaves surrounding a lovely new green one that was opening up. The fresh green made a lovely contrast to the bright red. So, you see, the article inspired me!

    It’s also nice to see I’m not the only person who takes photos of things like rubber duckies at Walmart, vendors doing a cookie reset (great top-of-the-ladder shot, nice angles, and lots of color. I was one of those vendors, btw), glass bottles at the dump (colors!), and whatever else catches my eye. Oh, and what I call “swirlypics”, which is basically pics of lights (i.e. car headlights, lamps, etc) taken while swirling the camera. The effect is always interesting, though not all pics are keepers.

    I look forward to reading and learning more.

  • J Layman

    Thanks for this article! I love using my camera….when I am inspired…but it sits as often as it works. I cheerfully acknowledge I shall not get good…really good…at it until I PRACTICE…so you have inspired me to do a bit a day, and share at least one picture in some platform. Now to see if I can follow through!

  • Catherine Brody

    The onese that have been major turn arounds for me….Events, like concerts, races, etc.

  • Elle Bruce

    Great article Valerie. Love the term “visual push-ups” 🙂 I am practicing your advice and am finding that a photography self-assignment can yield positive results. I recently started to take my camera with me on my daily walk. I’ve even started to collect the images that come from this at a web page so I can see them all together.

    Cheers to continued growth 🙂

  • Tapas Basu

    I enjoyed reading this article, thanks ‘ Valerie ‘.

  • Karen Commings

    I did a photo-a-day project for a year. During that year i took more than 20,000 photos. What a learning experience! Now when i’m short on projects, i use a book called The Photographer’s Playbook for ideas from other photographers and teachers. Fun when you run out of ideas.

  • Sean Reese

    My backyard! Mountains, birds, flowers, insects, I never run out of things to shoot. I shot this one this morning as the sun was coming up.

  • Dara I liked this article and agree with it very much. I am just a hobbiest that is trying to get back into something I really love. I have struggles with low light situations and fell into an opportunity to work on this problem. My friend has a new band that was looking for a photographer for their media and after going through most all in the book had no one take even one show. So I asked if they would mind if I try a few shots to help me and if I get any usable shots we could share. We both went in with low expectations and hoping for the best. Although I didn’t really think about each show having different lighting issues, this has proved to be a great adventure in learning. But that is the fun, the challenge ending in a few good shots. I don’t get to shoot every day or week but I have other projects to fill those times, I hold not to one subject for the camera to peruse. Again thanks for the fun articles they do inspire new thoughts.

Join Our Email Newsletter

Thanks for subscribing!

DPS offers a free weekly newsletter with: 
1. new photography tutorials and tips
2. latest photography assignments
3. photo competitions and prizes

Enter your email below to subscribe.
Get DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS feed