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The following guest post on centering your photography around a theme was submitted by Peter Bryenton.
We most improve our photography by making pictures. The more we make, the better we learn to see the world around us. But sometimes it can be hard to think of what to photograph.
Digital cameras have practically zero running costs. You can take twenty pictures of a subject, exploring different angles, then pick out exactly the one you like best and delete the rest, which costs only your time.
One easy way to motivate myself to make more pictures is to follow an ongoing theme. A theme that’s always there, in the back of my mind, encouraging me to get a camera out, at any time, in any place. It also helps that I’m never without a small point-and-shoot camera. I regard it as a kind of artist’s sketchbook. As for the theme, you can choose anything you like that’s general enough to generate an endless supply of chances to explore it. It could be your favourite colour, or parts of cars, or food, or neon signs. Whatever it is, make sure you really like it.
I started my theme of “Threes” many years ago, and it’s turned into a huge body of work I’d never have amassed otherwise. Just about anywhere in the world, day or night, I’ll see a group of three. Three what? Three of anything at all. It doesn’t really matter, as long as I have a go at making a picture out of what I find.
Well, have you ever changed your car, only to find that suddenly the roads seem to be full of similar models, far more than you ever saw before? Psychologists have a fancy name for the phenomenon, but basically you’ve programmed your mind to be receptive to that new “theme” in your world. So it is with the photographic theme I’m suggesting as a spur: you’ll see pictures where you saw none before. Try it for a while: you’ll be surprised how easily you’ll get into it. Then you can slowly add more themes, one by one, over time, until you have enough distinct strands to keep you going for a lifetime. When you improve, you’ll start weaving some of the strands together, like three red beer signs, for example.
A blog is a great way to build an online portfolio, especially one where you can post to separate categories. The categories are, of course, your themes. And there are now websites that will turn your themed blog into a printed book. Now that’s a project worth working at, isn’t it?