Give Yourself Assignments And Get Out There!

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Are you in a photographic rut? Shooting the same subject over and over?  Seeing the same people, the same streets, the same scenery day in and day out?

How about an exotic, inspiring, stimulating vacation to perk up your pixels!  Not an option right now?  Well, you can still change the way you see your familiar surroundings and get excited about your regular photo walks by giving yourself a photo assignment!

A photo assignment is a self-driven project that can require one hour or several months – it’s your assignment, so it’s up to you!  It’s a way to get out with your camera and improve your skills by challenging yourself. Most importantly, it’s a way to keep your passion for the craft fresh and alive!

Several photo assignment ideas come to mind. The first is to simply pick a different theme for each photo walk. This is a great idea if you get bored easily or need help staying focused, even for a short time.  You might shoot only textures or patterns one day, people with their dogs another day or situations that bring a smile to your face! The list is endless! Your photo walks will soon become a treasure hunt, whether you are alone or with a photo friend.

Then there is the 365 day project – a big commitment which can be a lot of pressure.  A good way to ease into that would be a 52-week project.  These always seem like “a good idea at the time,” but both options are a year-long commitment.  Be sure you want to take that on and that you don’t set yourself up for failure.  Remember – these assignments are supposed to be fun!

If you’ve done the themed photo walks and maybe a year-long project, then consider a challenge on a different level – a photo-journalistic assignment.  This can be a one-day event project or a story told over time.  An example subject would be a street musician you’ve seen many times on the same bridge. Start a conversation. Watch folks passing by. Create a photo essay by including environmental portraits as well as detail shots. You can make a simple project more in depth by following an important or touching story for a few days. Again, the options are limitless. Maybe it’s the story of a lost dog you meet at the animal shelter who finally finds a new home.  Or a landmark that is being torn down to make space for new developments and the impact that has on the local community.  Or tell a simple but fun story with a series of images from your local farmer’s market. Arrive early, document the merchants setting up their stalls for the day, their interaction with the customers and closing up. You will catch an interesting variety of lighting throughout the day plus wide shots of the trucks coming and going and activity in the stalls. There will be much to shoot – details of the produce, hands exchanging money, children’s smiles and so on.  You can just picture it in your head already, am I right?

The goal of the photo assignment exercise is to see your familiar environment with new eyes, and to fall in love with being a story teller with your camera all over again. Oh, and to have fun, too!

Pick a color and only shoot things in that color during your photo walk!

Collections of identical items are fun to look for and photograph.

Add a tactile dimension to your photography and try shooting some textures, experiment with depth of field and improve your skills in the process.

Another day, another theme... Why not look for clocks?

Sometimes the theme of your photo walk will just present itself to you! That day I met Curtis, the dog walker, and I looked no further. I had a dozen new canine friends to focus on!

"I'm tired, but I'm going to sit here and look cool!"

Feeling a...

...little...

...sleepy...

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 , Instagram. And listen to my Podcast!

  • I think this will be right up my alley, I just had surgery and am in recovery, some simple assignments will help me get back into the game!

  • My current assignment that I set myself is – the Spanish Costas in winter.
    This one shows empty beach with empty holiday apartments in the background:

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Scenes-of-Spain-The-Costas/G0000Qp9QOeUBwDA/I0000ekCulz.iwz4

  • Assignment: Salton Sea 1920s – Ghost from the Past

    Concept: Salton Sea was Party Central for Hollywood in the 20s, now it is beautiful Grunge. Gather High Fashion Models and do a shoot a a run down location

    Here are some retro looks

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/ariel-mcas-miranar-model-shoot/

  • Clicknlearn

    My only assignment of late has been to photograph my twin girls! Would love to jUmp on other themes when I get some time(which is a luxury)
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/78829732@N00/6969620839

  • Elli

    This is a great reminder. I’m looking forward to starting these photo challenges that will inspire me to look at things differently. They’ll each last 1-3 weeks so not a big commitment. Exciting. http://www.facebook.com/photochallenges

  • I have recently (today) enjoyed a lot with water drops! Thinking of doing some more tomorrow with a different focus.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2012/03/hopefully-some-of-this-is-abstract.html

  • Richard Haas

    My assignment is to post one image per day on blipfoto.com. One only, and it must be taken on the day it is posted. It’s a journal where any statement may accompany the picture and comments may be made.

  • Great tips. Love the dog! 🙂

  • I have a list of assignments but now it’s just putting everything together to make it happen. The list just gets longer everyday!

  • Scottc

    Projects are a great boost, but many overlook the effort needed to be truly successful at them. 365s are especially demanding.

    I made it halfway thru a 52 once, I just don’t have the time.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5349288759/

  • raghavendra
  • Great idea I recently put my images of my morning walk here in #Lisbon’s most famous & my local park Estrela Gardens together to make a little video http://youtu.be/QVWelk8CFYE I think it came out well just for a stroll!

  • I run a photo club and one of the things that we do each month is assign a challenge. Last month, the assignment was “inside out”. The goal was to capture images from an inside view:

    http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com/2012/02/lego_9605.html

    http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com/2012/03/dishwasher.html

  • raghavendra

    made a story through pictures
    that gives you a comic experience 🙂

    http://raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.com/p/cat-story.html

  • This is a great article. I really like the idea of the farmers market. In additon to a lot of activity, there would be a lot of color!

    I assigned myself a 2012 Sunday Sunrise assignment. Like you mentioned, 365 days would be too much for me, so I figured 52 days would be more manageable. With the exception of only yesterday, (Rained out) I have gone out every Sunday even if there has been no sun due to clouds.

    Thank you for this article.

  • Carlisle

    This is a great article and very true indeed. I damaged my camera lense awhile ago, but I just got a new one and i’ve been looking for a assignments, but its tough. When I lived in the Bay Area, it was so easy to take the type of photos that I liked, but now that I live in Colorado Springs I dont see the type of subjects that im used to seeing and that like to photograph. I guess I need to adjust to the envrionment and find something new.

  • I will be using some of these themes with my middle school students in our after school photography class. Thanks for the ideas!

  • About two years ago a social commentary blog the I joined a 365 group which morphed into a street photography blog. Quickly I found myself wanting to find out more about the people I was shooting. This is my last post. http://Www.appleledgephotography.com The stories keep getting longer. Who knows maybe a book will develop.

  • I took an entry level photography class here at college last semester, and while I did not learn anything new my photography got so much better. It was because every week we had to do a new assignment, whether it be abstract, portraits, long vs short exposures, ect. Which got me out of my comfort zone and I became a more well rounded photographer

  • Erik Linhardt

    You are not joking about a 365 project being demanding. It has been a lot of fun and I am excited to see the difference it makes in the all around quality of my images in the end. Please feel free to check my project out.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/expressionsoflifephotography/sets/72157628674224669/

  • Zhi D.

    I’m excited for the plans I made this weekend… will be starting my own photo assignment project! thanks a lot for sharing these wonderful ideas! 🙂

  • Barbara
  • Alain

    Hi
    I like your post! It happens that I was just finishing an iPhone app to help finding ideas to practice and improve our vision.
    It’s here: http://itunes.apple.com/app/my-photo-coach/id505808399?mt=8&ls=1
    enjoy:)

  • Kathleen Mekailek

    I started a 365 project and am on day 29. I missed one day because my father had to have emergency surgery. I have chosen to focus on graffiti, painted buildings and murals and unique yard art. I live in a rural area, so I knew choosing just one would be impossible. It has taken me out of my comfort zone- I’ve stood on sides on highways as cars zoomed by, crawled through barb wire to get to abandoned buildings that were painted, got close to train tracks to capture the cars going by, etc. My family keeps me accountable and my husband asks me everyday if I did my homework! Here is one where I convinced my daughter to model for me.

  • Annemarie de Boer

    A wonderful lady in Australia set op a ‘Photo A Day’ challenge that fits this blogpost: http://fatmumslim.com.au/photo-a-day-challenge-lists-see-them-all-here/ You don’t need to participate every day, but a lot of people all around the world are hooked already 😉

  • Lisa Iorio-Hurylovich

    It’s so bitter cold here in PA where I am. I try to get out to do shoots, but so many places are closed. In a rut myself, but thinking of going into different local towns and just shooting, and hopefully not freeze my butt off. Sooooo looking forward to warmer weather.

  • Lisa Iorio-Hurylovich

    Love your project idea.

Some Older Comments

  • Alain March 21, 2012 08:54 am

    Hi
    I like your post! It happens that I was just finishing an iPhone app to help finding ideas to practice and improve our vision.
    It's here: http://itunes.apple.com/app/my-photo-coach/id505808399?mt=8&ls=1
    enjoy:)

  • Barbara March 19, 2012 09:38 pm

    Inspired by this article:
    http://barbarainamsterdam.blogspot.com/2012/03/barbara-sees-things-differently.html

  • Zhi D. March 16, 2012 06:33 pm

    I'm excited for the plans I made this weekend... will be starting my own photo assignment project! thanks a lot for sharing these wonderful ideas! :)

  • Erik Linhardt March 13, 2012 03:19 pm

    You are not joking about a 365 project being demanding. It has been a lot of fun and I am excited to see the difference it makes in the all around quality of my images in the end. Please feel free to check my project out.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/expressionsoflifephotography/sets/72157628674224669/

  • Andy March 13, 2012 02:40 pm

    I took an entry level photography class here at college last semester, and while I did not learn anything new my photography got so much better. It was because every week we had to do a new assignment, whether it be abstract, portraits, long vs short exposures, ect. Which got me out of my comfort zone and I became a more well rounded photographer

  • Robert Rosen March 13, 2012 01:41 pm

    About two years ago a social commentary blog the I joined a 365 group which morphed into a street photography blog. Quickly I found myself wanting to find out more about the people I was shooting. This is my last post. Www.appleledgephotography.com The stories keep getting longer. Who knows maybe a book will develop.

  • dprowse March 13, 2012 03:09 am

    I will be using some of these themes with my middle school students in our after school photography class. Thanks for the ideas!

  • Carlisle March 13, 2012 02:16 am

    This is a great article and very true indeed. I damaged my camera lense awhile ago, but I just got a new one and i've been looking for a assignments, but its tough. When I lived in the Bay Area, it was so easy to take the type of photos that I liked, but now that I live in Colorado Springs I dont see the type of subjects that im used to seeing and that like to photograph. I guess I need to adjust to the envrionment and find something new.

  • Marcus Davis March 13, 2012 01:26 am

    This is a great article. I really like the idea of the farmers market. In additon to a lot of activity, there would be a lot of color!

    I assigned myself a 2012 Sunday Sunrise assignment. Like you mentioned, 365 days would be too much for me, so I figured 52 days would be more manageable. With the exception of only yesterday, (Rained out) I have gone out every Sunday even if there has been no sun due to clouds.

    Thank you for this article.

  • raghavendra March 12, 2012 07:30 pm

    made a story through pictures
    that gives you a comic experience :)

    http://raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.com/p/cat-story.html

  • Jeff E Jensen March 12, 2012 12:44 pm

    I run a photo club and one of the things that we do each month is assign a challenge. Last month, the assignment was "inside out". The goal was to capture images from an inside view:

    http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com/2012/02/lego_9605.html

    http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com/2012/03/dishwasher.html

  • Mary Goudie March 11, 2012 11:24 pm

    Great idea I recently put my images of my morning walk here in #Lisbon's most famous & my local park Estrela Gardens together to make a little video http://youtu.be/QVWelk8CFYE I think it came out well just for a stroll!

  • raghavendra March 11, 2012 02:40 pm

    for a change,
    i have taken a picture of lizard

    http://raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.com/2010/06/lizard-in-my-garden.html

  • Scottc March 11, 2012 11:03 am

    Projects are a great boost, but many overlook the effort needed to be truly successful at them. 365s are especially demanding.

    I made it halfway thru a 52 once, I just don't have the time.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5349288759/

  • hubblefromthesun March 11, 2012 11:00 am

    I have a list of assignments but now it's just putting everything together to make it happen. The list just gets longer everyday!

  • Scott Frederick March 11, 2012 09:56 am

    Great tips. Love the dog! :)

  • Richard Haas March 11, 2012 04:29 am

    My assignment is to post one image per day on blipfoto.com. One only, and it must be taken on the day it is posted. It's a journal where any statement may accompany the picture and comments may be made.

  • Mridula March 11, 2012 04:21 am

    I have recently (today) enjoyed a lot with water drops! Thinking of doing some more tomorrow with a different focus.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2012/03/hopefully-some-of-this-is-abstract.html

  • Elli March 11, 2012 03:07 am

    This is a great reminder. I'm looking forward to starting these photo challenges that will inspire me to look at things differently. They'll each last 1-3 weeks so not a big commitment. Exciting. www.facebook.com/photochallenges

  • Clicknlearn March 11, 2012 02:51 am

    My only assignment of late has been to photograph my twin girls! Would love to jUmp on other themes when I get some time(which is a luxury)
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/78829732@N00/6969620839

  • Erik Kerstenbeck March 11, 2012 02:39 am

    Assignment: Salton Sea 1920s - Ghost from the Past

    Concept: Salton Sea was Party Central for Hollywood in the 20s, now it is beautiful Grunge. Gather High Fashion Models and do a shoot a a run down location

    Here are some retro looks

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/ariel-mcas-miranar-model-shoot/

  • steve slater March 11, 2012 02:09 am

    My current assignment that I set myself is - the Spanish Costas in winter.
    This one shows empty beach with empty holiday apartments in the background:

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Scenes-of-Spain-The-Costas/G0000Qp9QOeUBwDA/I0000ekCulz.iwz4

  • Victoria - Washington Boudoir Photographer March 11, 2012 01:33 am

    I think this will be right up my alley, I just had surgery and am in recovery, some simple assignments will help me get back into the game!

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