Photography has never been as popular as it is today. People of all ages learn photography in various schools and online universities, and lots of talented photographers have a wonderful opportunity to reveal themselves not only as artists, but also as teachers.
Like all creatives, photographers can sometimes experience creative block or a lack of interesting ideas, no matter what side of the school desk they are sitting on. One way for photography mentors and teachers to fight this problem is through the use of creative assignments.
In this article I’ve put together 15 creative project ideas to use in your photography class (if you are a teacher) or for yourself. When completed properly, a student assignment is a great teaching tool. If it’s well-designed and structured, it enables students to develop their technical skills and artistic vision, as well as improve their general thinking abilities and subject knowledge. So whether you’re a photography teacher looking for effective assignment ideas or a self-taught photography student focused on training your eye and critical vision, this roundup will surely come in handy.
1. 365 Project
No matter what you call it, the 365 Project or Photo a Day project, the result is the same – a photo for every day of the year. These kinds of long-term projects give you an opportunity not only to explore and learn photography, but also develop creative seeing and improve your post-production skills. 365 Projects have changed the lives of a lot of photographers, and who knows, maybe you’re next?
Further Reading: 11 Tips for a Successful 365 Project
2. 100 Strangers
The 100 Strangers project enables you to interact with 100 strangers and take a photo of each of them. It can be quite scary to start shooting people in the street, or local cafe, if you’re an introvert. But being a photographer is not as easy as it may seem at first. Photography is all about overcoming your fears. This project will help you do that.
3. 52 Weeks
The 52 Weeks project is similar to 365, but this time you’re supposed to come up with a new photo each week, not each day. The difference between these two projects is that you can choose a theme for every week. For instance, you may shoot particular subjects, places, or even do some photowalks. A photowalk is an awesome way to find inspiration, discover new locations, and come up with really valuable, interesting ideas in the end.
4. Social Awareness Project
Capturing dramatic moments that will influence the minds of their viewers is a mission that many iconic photographers are dedicated to. Spend a weekend shooting the faces on your local streets, or collaborating with a non-profit can help you develop your skills as a documentarist and photojournalist. Such photo projects are definitely not easy to work on, both emotionally and technically, but the reward of being an activist is obvious – every time you click the shutter button you create a photo that could change the world.
Of course, you may have taken a self-portrait many times with your smartphone. Instagram has turned self-portraits into something usual and mundane.
However, self-portraits can be quite helpful in opening up, and exploring parts of photography in which you don’t normally find yourself involved. Mix it up and stay creative with your surroundings and emotions. For example, look at the work of Kyle Thompson, who has really succeeded in self-photography.
Check out these Self Portrait Photography Tips for some hints on where to start.
6. New Lens Type
You may pick one lens and use it exclusively during this project. A 50mm is a good starting point, as it forces you to move around and stay selective. A fisheye lens could also make an interesting theme.
Moreover, you may experiment with freelensing which is an inexpensive way to get a similar photo effect as from an expensive tilt-shift lens. The idea behind a tilt-shift lens is tilting the lens at an angle to the sensor to change the orientation of the plane of focus (PoF). The technique of freelensing, not only gives you the ability to change the PoF, but it also gives you some pretty cool light leaks from not having the lens actually attached to the camera.
Try to shoot all your photos in monochrome, or convert them to black and white in post-processing. The beauty of black and white photography is that it focuses more on visual elements such as tone, texture and shapes. By starting this project for yourself, you’ll see the objects in a different light, and rather than just color, your eyes will be better trained to recognize various forms and shapes.
Panoramas are one more way to develop your creative vision. Panoramas usually give the viewer a much wider viewing angle than normal. You can create some small panoramas by merging three photos in one, or go full 360 and make tiny globes like the ones in the picture below. It’s all up to you!
Further Reading: 8 Guidelines To Taking Panoramic Photos With Any Camera
In today’s world of foodie-Instagram, everyone could be a food photographer. Especially if you’re fond of cooking, then food photography is right for you. It’s a myth that you need a super-wow camera to capture food. Food photography is all about styling and beautiful background. No matter what kind of photographer you call yourself, it’s advantageous to have some food photography skills under your belt.
Further Reading: How to Take Mouth watering photos of food
10. Sunset and Sunrise
As dawn breaks and the sun comes up, you get to see the creeping rays of sunlight bathe everything in their shining glow. Such scenes are the perfect environment for memorable photos that you can’t pass up. Sunrises and sunsets happen every day. It may sound quite obvious and ordinary, but these times of the day are a golden opportunity to capture breathtaking images.
Read more about how to photograph sunsets and sunrises.
11. Single Theme
Pick an object and try to get a collection of snapshots representing it. For example, try to shoot only circular objects everywhere you go. Or pick a color, for instance blue, and try to go all day long photographing only blue things. The aim of this assignment is to learn to see the ordinary object in a different way.
12. Phone Camera
The main advantage of your phone camera is that it’s with you everywhere you go. Moreover, these days smartphones’ camera quality is much better than years ago and you may come up with images that look almost as good as if they were taken with an expensive DSLR. Using your phone allows you to put exposure on the back burner, and lets you focus more on composition instead. You may also use various photo-editing apps to add various photo effects.
13. Urban Exploration
Urban exploration photography is the art of finding abandoned places, houses, locations; explore them and shoot in a unique way. It’s potentially dangerous, exciting, and a lot of fun. In order not to get scared, you should take your friends with you. Even if they’re not interested in photography, exploring abandoned places is really breathtaking.
Editor’s note: always follow the laws when doing urban exploration. Do not enter where prohibited and always stay safe. Abondoned buildings can be dangerous or illegal to enter. Be careful.
Read more about urban exploration photography.
Shoot a whole set of images from one perspective, such as from a child’s the point of view. Or try to capture all photos from up high. We are used to seeing the majority of shots at eye level, why not to try something different? It’s a great way to learn how to deviate from the normal.
15. Film Photography
Film photography is something every photographer should practice for a few reasons.
First of all, unlike digital photography, you don’t get to see the image you took for a while. It may seem annoying, but you’ll get used to it.
Second of all, you will begin to think more carefully before pressing the shutter button. While shooting digital photography, you may take 10 photos of the same thing to choose the best shot in the end. But with film photography you will not have that chance.
Read this helpful post with suggestions on getting started with shooting with film.
Once you accomplish your creative assignment, create a dedicated photography portfolio (Defrozo and Koken provide website building tools for free) or write a guest post for some photography blog to describe your journey and share your experience with fellow enthusiasts. Developing your marketing and blogging skills increases the likelihood of building a prospering and successful photography business.
Resources for Inspiration
The web has so many opportunities to get fresh ideas for your next photography project. I’d like to share some resources you may get inspiration from.
Ted is aimed to amplify the ideas of students and teachers from all over the globe. Their mission is to spread great ideas and inspire students of any specialization. You may browse 1800+ TED talks on photography available on their site to spark your curiosity.
This smartphone app was made by a celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart. OKDOTHIS is a photography community that inspires people to do more. It’s based on DOs which are creative tasks made by other members of the community. You may upload a photo in someone’s DO or create your own one. The app has also a built-in photo editor.
Behance is a leading online platform to showcase and discover creative work. All the creatives starting from web designers to photographers share their best artwork here. You may browse the Behance gallery in Photography to find new projects from other photographers.
Weekly Assignments in the dPS Forum
Check out the weekly assignments in the dPS forum for more inspiration. DPS nominates a topic for each week. It could be a lot of fun and a great way to improve your photography skills in various areas.
Make it Happen
What homework do you prefer to give to your students? What assignments appeal to you most? What project interests you and gets you thinking creatively? Share your experience and suggestions in the comments.