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Practice Photography with Self-Assignments

Review your photography from time to time to get an idea of your strengths and weaknesses. As you learn new skills, your photography becomes better; when you think you’re perfect, you’ve reached a plateau as a photographer.

Determine which areas of your photography need work. Consider the following as you review each of your images:

  • Does your composition lead the viewer’s eye through the image?

  • Does the image have a well-defined center of interest?

  • Is the center of interest positioned to draw attention to it?

  • Are there “escape routes” — such as bright areas at the edge of the frame — where the viewer can leave the image?

  • Is the horizon line placed to draw attention to the dominating subject of the image? Or is it smack dab in the middle of the photograph?

  • Is the image properly exposed?

  • Was the image photographed in good light?

  • If you didn’t photograph the image, would you spend time looking at it?

Armed with this information, create an assignment and a time to do it. For example, if you like to photograph birds and your photographs of birds in flight need improvement, go to where you’ve sighted birds in flight and photograph them for an hour or two. When you, shoot with the goal of improving your photography and review your work to see how you’re progressing.

You can turn a self-assignment into an ongoing theme. For example, you could photograph the textures of nature: Take photographs of leaves, close-ups of tree bark, ice crystals, and so on. Another example would be to capture autumn's colors. This is another way to increase your comfort zone and think about nature photography in a different way.

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When you schedule time to consciously focus on a specific area of photography, you get better. And like Vince Lombardi used to say, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” When you go on a self-assignment, consciously focus on making the best pictures you can. To that I would add to not stray from the task at hand.

You can also do a self-assignment to enhance your creativity as a photographer. Flip through the dictionary and pick a random word and then attempt to show the word in photographs. I don’t mean to literally take pictures of the word.

For example, you could create an assignment based on “blue” and interpret it in a way that’s meaningful for you. You could take pictures of blue flowers, water, or animals with expressions that look like they have a case of the blues. This exercise stretches the envelope a bit and makes you look for subjects in a different way.

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