Saturday, November 2, 2013

Boost Your Photography: Set a Personal Goal or Challenge

If you want to improve in a sport or learn to play an instrument, you know that setting a goal or a personal challenge is an important strategy to motivate and encourage yourself along the way. A goal helps you to measure your progress and celebrate your accomplishments. A goal can also help you push through when things are difficult or keep you motivated when you are going through a slump.

The same is true in photography.

Ask yourself: What is my goal?

Setting a goal or a personal challenge for your photography is a great way to keep yourself motivated, help you measure your progress, and provide a reason for you to celebrate your accomplishments. Goals and challenges help you grow.

Take some time to think about what would be an appropriate goal for you. Try to keep your goal tangible and within a limited time frame. An abstract goal like "Improve my photography" is much tougher to evaluate than a more concrete goal like "Take portraits of five different people in the next month." A shorter time frame, like a week or a month also helps keep you on track and provides an opportunity for reflection. If you wait six months or a year before you check in on your goal, you are much less likely to have accomplished it.

Ideas for Goals or Challenges

Stick to just one lens or one focal length.
If you want to push yourself creatively and learn more about what your lens is capable of, limit yourself to just one lens for a week or a month. (If you are just starting out and only have one lens, then push yourself to stick to just one focal length - like as wide as your lens can go or as narrow.) Limiting your lens and focal length will force you to be more creative and use your feet and body to change your perspective or point of view. Read more in Zooming vs. Cropping: Perspective in Photography.

Changing aperture can change your image.

Stick to just one aperture. 
You can learn more quickly about what a specific aperture can do for you by setting your camera to aperture priority (Av) mode. Try choosing either your widest aperture (like f/1.8 of f/3.5) or your narrowest aperture (like f/22). Take a range of shots in different light, different situations, and different perspectives (where you are relative to your subject). See how the impact of that aperture changes when you are nearer or farther from your subject. Read more about Aperture and the F/Stop Conundrum, What an Aperture of F/1.8 Can Do for You, What an Aperture of F/22 Can Do for You, and the Middle Range Apertures: F/8-F/11.

From Where I Stand, a collection of feet photographs

Start a Series.
If you want a bit of a longer-term goal, think about starting a photographic series. A collection of images related by a common subject or theme can be powerful. A series can also help keep you focused and keep you thinking about ideas or ways to add to your collection. Maybe you are interested in windows and their views, or you want to look through old photographs and take updated versions. Even images of your own feet can be a great way of demonstrating where you have been. Finally, consider making a collage of your collection to display and share.

Celebrate a home-town tradition like a Local Farmers' Market

Try a New Style or Genre of Photography.
Are you comfortable shooting architecture and landscapes when you travel but leave your camera sitting in its case at home? Get it out and try shooting portraits or close ups or street shots in and around your own home. Do you only shoot portraits of people? Take your camera out to the park and explore landscapes and flowers for an afternoon. Trying to photograph different styles and subjects will take you outside your comfort zone and push you to understand more about photography and the photographic process.

Even gutter puddles can create unique and memorable images.

Try to Capture a Specific Type of Image.
There are so many photographic subjects and techniques out there, but it can be hard to find the time and effort to try one unless you sit down and commit yourself to doing it. Always wanted to try light painting? Grab a flashlight, cell phone, or LED key chain and learn how to do Light Painting and Spin an Orb. Or, make the most of a rainy day by trying Puddle Reflection Photography. Give a new technique, like panning, a try. Want an extra level of challenge? Grab some friends and try Spinning Fire with Steel Wool.

Seek Out Accountability.
Photography is often seen as a sole endeavor, but you can learn so much more in partnership and community with other photographers. Find a local photo buddy, join a local photography group, or join an online photography community and get involved. Share your goal or challenge with someone else and have them check in with you about it. Being accountable to another person can help push you when you are lacking motivation on your own, and it is a great way to seek out and receive feedback and encouragement. Read more about how to Improve your Photography: be accountable. Consider joining the Boost Your Photography 52 Weeks Challenge - take a photograph a week and get feedback and encouragement.


Improvement comes through effort, and creativity requires both inspiration and perspiration. If you are looking to give your photography a boost, then consider setting a goal or challenge for yourself. Pick something that will push you in a new direction or force you to try something you have been putting off. See if it doesn't help you grow, improve, and be more motivated in your photography.

Did you set a goal for yourself? Did you meet it and did it help? Post your thoughts in the comments below.

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