Once you have the basics of photography down, like the exposure triangle and what kind of light is best, it can be easy to fall into a funk where you forget why you wanted to learn about photography in the first place. But, you can knock yourself right out of that funk by grabbing your camera and trying some fun experimenting with photography.
One of the most important (if not THE most important) parts of this whole post will be this reminder:
Remember your WHY and use that to get motivated to pick up your camera.
But even when you know the answer to that defining WHY question, there is a chance you might still get stuck wondering where all the joy and fun and creativity of photography is hanging out. In an effort to inspire you to grab your camera (which is hopefully sitting somewhere close by and easily accessible since just that alone will allow you more opportunities to shoot), I’m going to outline 9 ways to get creative with your photography.
- Shoot through a sandwich bag, copper ring, glass, or prism.
When you add another layer in front of the lens you can create all kinds of amazingly different and fun effects to your photo. These items will all have different impacts on the lighting, the colors, and other parts of the image. You can see in the photo below how the prism created an additional colored light in the corner and it has almost a painted effect. Prisms can also create a look similar to multiple exposure photos which are really fun. You can use these kinds of items to add dimension, texture, and strengthen the composition of your photos.
- Try a slow shutter speed.
If you decide to try a slow shutter speed, you might want to make sure that you have a tripod or some other stable surface for your camera first. If you don’t stabilize your camera first then you will get a blur that is from camera shake not from the slower shutter speed. Slow shutter speeds are great to use for a creative impact on fast moving things (or people). It can be a fun way to capture something you see everyday in a new and inspiring way. Think about the photos you have seen at night where the lights of the car are trailing through the image. Below you can see how I used a slow shutter speed to get creative while shooting a sunset at the beach.
- Pick a color and only shoot for that color all day or week.
This can be a fun, easy, and quick personal project that will help increase your awareness of your surroundings. It can be easy to take the things and places we see daily for granted but when you are on the lookout for a particular thing, like the color blue, it allows you to see your environment in a new and fresh way. Below are some photos that I would not have probably bothered to shoot if I had not been on the lookout for colors. But it is a great way to increase your skills when you have to find a way to make a color the subject of a photo.
- Switch your camera to monochrome mode for a day.
Light and shadows plus the way they intersect in a photo are great determining factors for whether or not an image will make a successful conversion to black & white. One way to help see how the changes in light and shadows impacts whether your photo will look good in black & white is to see it immediately while you are shooting. You can do this by changing the photo mode in your camera’s menu options. Shooting in Monochrome mode will help you adjust composition or exposure right in the moment instead of waiting until you are post processing. When you switch back to portrait mode after this exercise, you will have a stronger ability to tell if an image will convert well to black & white even before you press the shutter.
- Rent a new lens with a totally different focal length than you are used to (or borrow from a photog friend).
When you use the same focal length day after day, you can get used to the way the lens works for you. This is a great thing and will allow you to capture your subject just how you want because you will be so familiar with your gear. But, if you are wanting to push the boundaries of your creativity or push out of a comfort zone, renting or borrowing a lens with a focal length you are unfamiliar with can be so good for your photography. Using a new focal length lets you literally see your world in a new way. After a trip to Sequoia National Forest, I was disappointed that my widest angle lens at the time (Canon 28mm) couldn’t capture the height and majesty of the trees. And I wasn’t about to make the same mistake on our trip to Yosemite so I rented the Canon 17-40mm. And I remember the happiness I felt when I looked straight up at all those tall pine trees with the 17mm focal length and could see every bit of the tops of the trees. A focal length as wide as 17mm can look kind of skewed depending on how you are using it, but isn’t that half the fun? It doesn’t have to be about spending money and renting either. If you have any local photog friends you might have the chance to borrow a new lens even if it is just for a short time. I actually took family photos of a local photog using her Canon 70-200mm lens. It was fun to try a new lens shooting something familiar.
- Shoot at night.
This one may not be for everyone. But, if you have the chance to shoot at night, this could be a wonderful creative experience. Think about the variety of night photography available depending on where you live or where you travel. If you are a camping loving family, then it could be so fun to try shooting star trails or the milky way. If you are a city loving family, then it could be amazing to go out and capture the way a city just lights up after the sun sets. And don’t forget about or dismiss the blue hour right after the sun sets but before it is dark. That is a great time for places like amusement parks or carnivals.
- Get in the frame.
Yes, you. Try shooting a self portrait, especially if it is something you have only done with your iPhone. Use a tripod or a stable surface (like a counter or table) and try getting in front of the camera. As photographers, we are so often the one behind the camera and this can be a creative exercise that also allows you to express yourself. If this sounds too far out of your comfort zone, try just including your hands or feet in the frame like maybe walking the dog or putting snack bowls on the table for the kids. You can also try setting the auto timer on your camera (or using a remote) to go off at even intervals while you are doing a daily activity like unloading the dishwasher or putting a little one down for a nap.
- Try a new genre.
This doesn’t mean you have to continue to shoot a new subject but it can be a great way to improve your camera skills like mastering various lighting situations or the exposure triangle. If you usually photograph your kids then try shooting food. If you usually photograph still life then try landscape. If you usually shoot outside try shooting inside. I am sure you get this one without more examples, but really don’t pass it over just because it sounds simple! I cannot stress how much I have learned over the years from pushing myself to style & photograph food after years of focusing on people.
- Photograph a day in your life.
A day in your life is a wonderful photography project that you can complete just once or something you can commit to doing once a month. No matter how many times you try it, I promise your photography will grow. This creative activity follows along with a few other the others where it will push you to look at your environment a little differently. And you can set up the parameters in any way that works for you. You can take one photo each hour or just commit to photographing all the various activities you do in a day. Even if the activities seem mundane, like maybe doing laundry or cooking dinner, they are important parts of your day right now where you are in your life and that alone makes them worth photographing.
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Hey there! I’m a Southern California girl focused on capturing the places, people, and things I love with my camera. I spend my days as a public school teacher and on the weekends you can find me hanging with my family trying to find adventures in our every day. I believe this life is beautifully imperfect, full of love, and totally worth documenting.
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