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A 15 Minute Exercise To Help You Improve Your Photography

Here’s a little exercise for you to do today. It will only take 15 minutes. It’s all about slowing down and thinking about the shots that you’re taking.


Grab your camera – what ever one you have handy (I used my iPhone last time I did this) and head out into your backyard (or if you’re in the middle of winter you can choose an indoor location – perhaps your living room – really anywhere will do).

Now find somewhere to sit – somewhere in the middle of whatever place you’ve selected.

Now for the next 10 minutes just sit there. You’re not allowed to take a photo for 10 minutes but rather your sole task for this 10 minutes is to observe what is around you and to plan your shots.


  • Soak in your location.
  • Look at the light and how it hits your surroundings.
  • Pay attention to what your setting makes you feel.
  • Look at the details that perhaps you’d not have noticed if you’d rushed through the setting.

During this ‘observation’ phase you may like to move around your environment to look at it from different angles – but don’t use your camera yet.


As you sit there – begin to think about your setting and the elements in it as a photographic subject and how you’ll photograph it.

  • What will you shoot?
  • What perspective will you shoot from?
  • How will you compose the shot?
  • What settings could you use to get different results?
  • How will you convey the emotion of what you’re feeling?
  • Picture the shots you’ll take in your minds eye.


Now that you’ve spent 10 minutes observing your location and planning your shots you can now spend 5 minutes using your camera to capture the shots you’ve been thinking about.

I find that this kind of ratio of observation, planning and taking of shots brings about a marked improvement in the shots that I take (as opposed to the times I race into a situation to take a quick shot… or worse still a heap of shots without really much thought to what I’m doing in the hope of getting a good one).

I find taking time to observing allows me to notice details that I might otherwise have missed. Taking time to plan often leads me to photograph my subjects in more creative ways than I’d have otherwise done.

For Example

The picture of the snail above was one I took with my iPhone this past week. I’d not normally have taken the time to even notice this little guy but as I sat in my own backyard taking in my surrounds – there he was. As I watched him I began to think about how to take the shot. I moved around him to observe how the light would hit him, to think about the background and to think about where I’d position myself.

While I wish I’d had my macro lens with me to shoot him with a better camera I was still pleased to see how the shot turned out (and the picture went to the popular page on Instagram so it seems others enjoyed it too).

I’d love to see the results of this exercise for you in comments below!

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Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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