Photo a Day Challenge: 10 Ways to Jump Start Your Creative Edge! - Digital Photography School

Photo a Day Challenge: 10 Ways to Jump Start Your Creative Edge!

In this post Christina N Dickson issues a ‘photo a day’ challenge and gives some suggestions on how to get creative with it.

After I took my first photography course through IPS, I was really motivated to pursue photographic growth. For hours a day I would sit in front of my computer and browse the sites of successful photographers in many different fields. I found this exercise provided inspirational ideas, but it also was discouraging. Would I ever become that creative?

Photo-A-Day-Challenge

Sure, each image represented numerous hours and a great amount of discipline, but I was willing to make those investments too. I just didn’t know how to plot a course of action that would help me grow in photography the way I wanted to.

That’s when I came to a realization; A talented portrait photographer didn’t make a dynamic stock photographer. A landscape photographer could create stunning scenic images, but what about in fashion? A photographer can spend so much time producing in one or a few fields that he or she is unable to see and capture the beautiful every day scenes around them, waiting to be discovered.

So I made a challenge to myself: Everyday, for the next 6 months, I would take a photo a day, outside my normal shoots. I soon reaped many outstanding lessons from this exercise and found my progress to be quite speedy.

Whether you are a novice or a professional, a ‘photo a day’ will keep you sharp for your field and your growth. Here are some guides that will help you out:

  1. Start an online ‘Photo a Day’ club that will provide you and friends or other members with accountability for the challenge (but don’t worry, members will not be ‘fined’ if they don’t post every day!).
  2. Commit to a time frame where you will devotedly take one shot a day outside your field. If you say 3 months, see the challenge through for 3 moths! Unless you commit to a block of time, the challenge will be easily crowded out of your every day life after the first few days (or you are in bed almost asleep and realize you haven’t taken your shot!).
  3. Go outside the box with your images! The idea is to ‘study’ other areas that you don’t normally shoot. If you do portrait photography, don’t make your photo a day a ‘portrait’ unless your subject is one you don’t’ normally shoot. If you take landscape photography, shoot hands. If you are a stock photographer, shoot a landscape. If you are an industrial photographer, take some floral images!
  4. Take your camera with you everywhere. On you’re way to the grocery store? How about rock climbing? Don’t leave your camera at home! What a disaster it would be to not have your camera when you found the perfect shot! And trust me, you’ll soon see pictures everywhere.
  5. When you see a ‘picture’ stop and shoot it. Wherever you are going, whatever you are doing, stop and take the shot. Whenever you go out, plan on leaving 5 minutes early so you can get your shot without being late!
  6. Analyze your shot before you take it. What mood is the light creating? Are you using the rule of thirds? Did you do something creative with your shutter speed? What is the relationship of objects or people in your shot? How will that affect your audience?
  7. Critique your photos when you get home. What did you do well? What could you do better? Were you technically challenged with this shot? Did you capture what you wanted?
  8. Use the challenge as ‘photographic therapy’. How easy it is to let the photo a day become just another item on your to do list. Don’t let it go there! Use this opportunity as a daily ‘de-stress’ exercise. Keep it fun and relaxing, and you will be able to capture better images!
  9. The Photo a Day Challenge is for YOU to shoot for YOU! Keep it this way! Be creative, abstract, and emotionally motivated in your shooting! If the picture doesn’t make sense to anyone else, that’s ok! What matters most is that you are analyzing, learning, and growing!
  10. When your Photo a Day Challenge time commitment has come to an end, pull out all of your photos. Sit down with a cup of coffee or tea, and look at how far you’ve come with your shooting. There is no greater encouragement than to see your progress in areas of photography that are not your native field.

Believe me, there is no better way to grow and fall in love with photography than this challenge! You’ll wonder why you hadn’t started this sooner!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Christina N Dickson is a visionary artist and philanthropist in Portland Oregon. Her work includes wedding photography www.BrideInspired.com and leadership with www.RevMediaBlog.com.

  • http://www.klaidas.lt/ Klaidas

    Alternatively, you could start going something like a threesixtyfive (http://www.flickr.com/groups/threesixtyfive/) too! The ideas of both projects is quite similar.

    –Klaidas
    http://www.klaidas.lt

  • http://xportebois.deviantart.com/gallery/ xportebois

    Excellent idea, you convince me without doubt ! Just hope that this creative fever will persist :)

  • http://chanraymond.net Raymond Chan

    I shall add another one:

    11. Share your photos! Blogs, photo sharing networks (Flickr, Photobucket, ImageShack), social networking sites (Facebook, Myspace)

    Raymond Chan
    http://chanraymond.net

  • http://www.niels-henriksen.blogspot.com/ My Camera World

    These are a very good list of creative ideas. Sometimes we may feel a little hesitant to try one, but you will be surprised at how enjoyable it can be and you never know what new possibilities open up because of the adventure.

    In a previous post I listed 10 methods to also help you try new directions.

    ‘10 best methods to take great photographs’
    http://niels-henriksen.blogspot.com/2008/04/10-best-methods-to-take-great.html

    I also did another article ‘Are you creative enough’
    http://niels-henriksen.blogspot.com/2008/01/are-you-creative-enough.html

    Niels Henriksen

  • http://www.stonecafecreations.com his4ever

    I like that idea. Right now I am shooting a photo “a week”. But they are all portraits. I just bought a little point and shoot digital camera so I have a camera with me where ever I gov when I do not have my 30D with me.

    Thanks for the post!

  • http://natureshows.blogspot.com/ JJ Loch

    I’m happy I found your great, informative blog.

    JJ :D

  • http://rasmusrasmussen.com Rasmus

    Good post. The most important bit, imho, is the last of the points: Reviewing what you done and how far you’ve come. Without that, the challenge loses importance — even if you still grow as a photographer. Knowing how you’ve grown is where the real eye-opener is.

  • http://jurina.wordpress.com Al

    I applaud the idea, but I’ve recently come away from this attempt with less-than-ideal results. I figured that shooting a photo every day would be freeing, but I found it more confining. My work became sloppy, and I focused more on “just getting a decent shot” and less on getting “the shot”. I think that most of what Christina is saying is all good. I think we should certainly be looking for shots and motivating ourselves to definitely shoot outside our comfort zone, but if you get caught up in just taking a picture to get it done, then there might be a danger of turning a passion into a chore.

  • http://picasaweb.google.com/cuegeee/Project365 Tram

    Here is my current attempt at this project. It is indeed difficult to get a great shot everyday but it is good practice to think out outside the box…learn new techniques & test yourself. I enjoy seeing other photographer’s creations & breaking it down & trying to mimic the setup & introduce my own flip on the subject…

    http://picasaweb.google.com/cuegeee/Project365

  • http://blog.kevincrafts.com Kevin

    I agree with what Al said – I’ve seen quite a few daily photoblogs that just try to get any sort of photo, not necessarily the best photo.

    But how do you come across these opportunities to expand your skills? I’d like to learn portrait/journalism photography, but I don’t have any subjects. And since I’m not the most outgoing person, I have a difficult/almost impossible time photographing complete strangers.

    What’s a photographer to do?

  • http://www.roth365.com Andy Roth

    I’m in the midst of a photo-a-day project that I started on Jan 1, and plan to continue for the whole year (today was Day 155).

    It has been very motivating for me, and has helped me overcome all the excuses for not shooting. Some days are better than others, but I’ve gotten quite a few shots that I am personally pleased with that I never would have taken without the project.

    I strongly agree with Raymond’s comment about the importance of sharing your work. Photos are made to be seen.

  • http://lifetimevp.com Bakari

    I like this idea too and have thought doing it before. But I often get challenged by time and not getting out taking shots that I want. I’m going to try this, but I would add that it might be a good idea to make a private journal for your one a day photos so that you’re not held back from taking and posting a photo because it doesn’t meet the criteria of the type of photos you normally post on your Flickr or professional site.

  • http://lifetimevp.com Bakari

    Tram, just checked out your Picasa album. Yours is a great example for this project. I’m sold. Starting tomorrow and continue for three months or longer.

  • http://potretsenaz.blogspot.com senaz

    nice tip.. I must do it asap..

  • http://sangesh.com.np/photos sazzycrazy

    The tips i find in this website arer really nice, DPCHALLENGE.com is really great site to submit picture and particiapte in competition. You get nice tips there from user to improve your skills
    http://www.sangesh.com.np/photos

  • Lori

    Tram, I really liked your photos too! Pretty cool and imaginative. I think I’ll try it too…not sure when I will start…it’s a pretty big commitment, but I do want to become a better photographer and be proud to share my photos.

  • http://picasaweb.google.com/bchavanu/PhotoDuJour3Months Bakari

    Challenge begun today. Welcome accountability friends. http://picasaweb.google.com/bchavanu/PhotoDuJour3Months

  • Cinnamon

    awesome challenge…going to do it! Yes….I hate it when I leave my camera at home, and I miss a shot!

    and, I love how u recommend thinkin’ outside the box…totally agree

    can’t wait to get started!

  • http://www.flickr.com/people/mark_k_nj/ Mark K_NJ

    This is a great tip. I did a “Photo A Day” for 2007 – yes the whole year – and saw myself get better. Sometimes I cringe looking at those from January, February and March, but can see how I progresses. I started to look at the world differently, seeing shots in my head at every turn. Luckily, my Canon 20D was with me all the time and when my lens broke, my point-and-shoot carried me through. Try the project – you’ll like it!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mark_k_nj/sets/72157594538379604/

  • http://www.thephotographerblog.com Mandy

    I’m in the middle of a project 365, which is a photo a day for a year. And I’m finding that to be really challenging and interesting, I’m learning more about taking shots and creating opportunities from everyday things around me.

    I can’t wait to see what I come up with by the end of the year. It motivates and challenges in so many different ways.

  • http://www.kmddesign.co.uk KMD

    I started to take a walk every day and try and get at least one really nice shot…I now have a collection and a describing my little adventures :) check it out

    http://www.kmdphotography.co.uk/content/blogsection/4/28/

  • http://picasaweb.google.com/bchavanu/PhotoDuJour3Months Bakari

    This might be a dumb question, but how strict should one be about a photo a day? For instance, even though I’m only two days into my project, I finding myself that I’m taking photos of course several of different subjects. Is it not good to use a photo from say a previous day to post on another day, or is it better to be strict about shooting and posting one good photo per day? I’ve already learned that instead of taking a few photos in the morning and posting it, it’s probably better to wait until the late evening to choose from other possible shots that might be taken during the same day.

  • http://www.photography-help.com Peter

    I have tried to do the same thing, take at least 1 photo a day. I also try to vary the images I take. For instance, sometimes I just look for the most interesting visual I come across on that day. Other times, I give myself an “assignment” before I leave the house, such as Something green, or something blue, or action, comedy, kids, city life, or only vertical. I find varying my approach keeps things fresh and challenging.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/padsbrother/sets/72157603602609413/ Jon

    This is a really interesting article! I’m mid-way through my ‘photo per day’ challenge for 2008 and am finding it very interesting! In response to Bakari’s comment – I’ve tried not to take too many pictures of the same thing – at the start of the challenge I found myself spending the whole time doing macro shots so I deliberately tried other things. I use a mixture of cameras (including my phone) and try (hard) to get the pictures posted on the day I take them. Comments would be most welcome ;-)
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/padsbrother/sets/72157603602609413/

  • http://www.hardware-revolution.com Mathieu

    Great idea! I also like the 365 days challenge, for the whole year. My birthday is coming up, I might do that starting on my 21st birthday, until my 22nd!

  • http://monthchallenge.weebly.com Anthony

    Love this. Found it late but am doing it for the month of August. Check it out at: http://www.monthchallenge.weebly.com. It has truly made me break out of my shell in public environments

Some older comments

  • Anthony

    August 9, 2011 12:59 pm

    Love this. Found it late but am doing it for the month of August. Check it out at: www.monthchallenge.weebly.com. It has truly made me break out of my shell in public environments

  • Mathieu

    June 7, 2008 08:47 pm

    Great idea! I also like the 365 days challenge, for the whole year. My birthday is coming up, I might do that starting on my 21st birthday, until my 22nd!

  • Jon

    June 7, 2008 07:48 am

    This is a really interesting article! I'm mid-way through my 'photo per day' challenge for 2008 and am finding it very interesting! In response to Bakari's comment - I've tried not to take too many pictures of the same thing - at the start of the challenge I found myself spending the whole time doing macro shots so I deliberately tried other things. I use a mixture of cameras (including my phone) and try (hard) to get the pictures posted on the day I take them. Comments would be most welcome ;-)
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/padsbrother/sets/72157603602609413/

  • Peter

    June 7, 2008 03:24 am

    I have tried to do the same thing, take at least 1 photo a day. I also try to vary the images I take. For instance, sometimes I just look for the most interesting visual I come across on that day. Other times, I give myself an "assignment" before I leave the house, such as Something green, or something blue, or action, comedy, kids, city life, or only vertical. I find varying my approach keeps things fresh and challenging.

  • Bakari

    June 6, 2008 10:04 am

    This might be a dumb question, but how strict should one be about a photo a day? For instance, even though I'm only two days into my project, I finding myself that I'm taking photos of course several of different subjects. Is it not good to use a photo from say a previous day to post on another day, or is it better to be strict about shooting and posting one good photo per day? I've already learned that instead of taking a few photos in the morning and posting it, it's probably better to wait until the late evening to choose from other possible shots that might be taken during the same day.

  • KMD

    June 6, 2008 09:04 am

    I started to take a walk every day and try and get at least one really nice shot...I now have a collection and a describing my little adventures :) check it out

    http://www.kmdphotography.co.uk/content/blogsection/4/28/

  • Mandy

    June 6, 2008 06:40 am

    I'm in the middle of a project 365, which is a photo a day for a year. And I'm finding that to be really challenging and interesting, I'm learning more about taking shots and creating opportunities from everyday things around me.

    I can't wait to see what I come up with by the end of the year. It motivates and challenges in so many different ways.

  • Mark K_NJ

    June 6, 2008 05:48 am

    This is a great tip. I did a "Photo A Day" for 2007 - yes the whole year - and saw myself get better. Sometimes I cringe looking at those from January, February and March, but can see how I progresses. I started to look at the world differently, seeing shots in my head at every turn. Luckily, my Canon 20D was with me all the time and when my lens broke, my point-and-shoot carried me through. Try the project - you'll like it!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mark_k_nj/sets/72157594538379604/

  • Cinnamon

    June 5, 2008 11:11 pm

    awesome challenge...going to do it! Yes....I hate it when I leave my camera at home, and I miss a shot!

    and, I love how u recommend thinkin' outside the box...totally agree

    can't wait to get started!

  • Bakari

    June 5, 2008 01:58 am

    Challenge begun today. Welcome accountability friends. http://picasaweb.google.com/bchavanu/PhotoDuJour3Months

  • Lori

    June 5, 2008 01:25 am

    Tram, I really liked your photos too! Pretty cool and imaginative. I think I'll try it too...not sure when I will start...it's a pretty big commitment, but I do want to become a better photographer and be proud to share my photos.

  • sazzycrazy

    June 4, 2008 09:42 pm

    The tips i find in this website arer really nice, DPCHALLENGE.com is really great site to submit picture and particiapte in competition. You get nice tips there from user to improve your skills
    www.sangesh.com.np/photos

  • senaz

    June 4, 2008 06:23 pm

    nice tip.. I must do it asap..

  • Bakari

    June 4, 2008 03:37 pm

    Tram, just checked out your Picasa album. Yours is a great example for this project. I'm sold. Starting tomorrow and continue for three months or longer.

  • Bakari

    June 4, 2008 02:06 pm

    I like this idea too and have thought doing it before. But I often get challenged by time and not getting out taking shots that I want. I'm going to try this, but I would add that it might be a good idea to make a private journal for your one a day photos so that you're not held back from taking and posting a photo because it doesn't meet the criteria of the type of photos you normally post on your Flickr or professional site.

  • Andy Roth

    June 4, 2008 01:17 pm

    I'm in the midst of a photo-a-day project that I started on Jan 1, and plan to continue for the whole year (today was Day 155).

    It has been very motivating for me, and has helped me overcome all the excuses for not shooting. Some days are better than others, but I've gotten quite a few shots that I am personally pleased with that I never would have taken without the project.

    I strongly agree with Raymond's comment about the importance of sharing your work. Photos are made to be seen.

  • Kevin

    June 4, 2008 10:44 am

    I agree with what Al said - I've seen quite a few daily photoblogs that just try to get any sort of photo, not necessarily the best photo.

    But how do you come across these opportunities to expand your skills? I'd like to learn portrait/journalism photography, but I don't have any subjects. And since I'm not the most outgoing person, I have a difficult/almost impossible time photographing complete strangers.

    What's a photographer to do?

  • Tram

    June 4, 2008 06:23 am

    Here is my current attempt at this project. It is indeed difficult to get a great shot everyday but it is good practice to think out outside the box...learn new techniques & test yourself. I enjoy seeing other photographer's creations & breaking it down & trying to mimic the setup & introduce my own flip on the subject...

    http://picasaweb.google.com/cuegeee/Project365

  • Al

    June 4, 2008 04:58 am

    I applaud the idea, but I've recently come away from this attempt with less-than-ideal results. I figured that shooting a photo every day would be freeing, but I found it more confining. My work became sloppy, and I focused more on "just getting a decent shot" and less on getting "the shot". I think that most of what Christina is saying is all good. I think we should certainly be looking for shots and motivating ourselves to definitely shoot outside our comfort zone, but if you get caught up in just taking a picture to get it done, then there might be a danger of turning a passion into a chore.

  • Rasmus

    June 4, 2008 04:48 am

    Good post. The most important bit, imho, is the last of the points: Reviewing what you done and how far you've come. Without that, the challenge loses importance — even if you still grow as a photographer. Knowing how you've grown is where the real eye-opener is.

  • JJ Loch

    June 4, 2008 04:41 am

    I'm happy I found your great, informative blog.

    JJ :D

  • his4ever

    June 4, 2008 04:08 am

    I like that idea. Right now I am shooting a photo "a week". But they are all portraits. I just bought a little point and shoot digital camera so I have a camera with me where ever I gov when I do not have my 30D with me.

    Thanks for the post!

  • My Camera World

    June 4, 2008 02:54 am

    These are a very good list of creative ideas. Sometimes we may feel a little hesitant to try one, but you will be surprised at how enjoyable it can be and you never know what new possibilities open up because of the adventure.

    In a previous post I listed 10 methods to also help you try new directions.

    ‘10 best methods to take great photographs’
    http://niels-henriksen.blogspot.com/2008/04/10-best-methods-to-take-great.html

    I also did another article ‘Are you creative enough’
    http://niels-henriksen.blogspot.com/2008/01/are-you-creative-enough.html

    Niels Henriksen

  • Raymond Chan

    June 4, 2008 01:29 am

    I shall add another one:

    11. Share your photos! Blogs, photo sharing networks (Flickr, Photobucket, ImageShack), social networking sites (Facebook, Myspace)

    Raymond Chan
    http://chanraymond.net

  • xportebois

    June 4, 2008 01:17 am

    Excellent idea, you convince me without doubt ! Just hope that this creative fever will persist :)

  • Klaidas

    June 4, 2008 12:38 am

    Alternatively, you could start going something like a threesixtyfive (http://www.flickr.com/groups/threesixtyfive/) too! The ideas of both projects is quite similar.

    --Klaidas
    http://www.klaidas.lt

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