This article provides you with 10 photography self-assignments that you can use to get your own creative juices flowing. They’re designed to help you grow in skill as a well-rounded photographer while helping you build your portfolio at the same time. Many of these projects are best executed over a period of time, rather than in a single session.
1. The Park Bench
Take your camera and a tripod to a park, and find a busy park bench. Set yourself up some distance away with a long lens aimed at the bench and pre-focused. Settle in, and for the next few hours take images at fixed time intervals, say every ten minutes. This is really an exercise in timelapse photography. I think the resulting images would make a fun photo essay. The setting stays the same, but the subjects change at random.
2. Evolution of Construction
Find a nearby construction site, and take a picture every day. If you choose the same vantage point each time, you’ll end up with a series of images that show the building in progressive stages of completion.
3. Through the Seasons
This exercise is similar to number two, but it’s best done in a less urban environment and over a longer period of time. Find a landscape that you can shoot in spring, summer, autumn, and winter. This works especially well if you live in a place that receives snow in winter and where the leaves on the trees turn color in the autumn.
4. Self Portrait
The concept of this is simple: take a picture of yourself every day. It helps to use a tripod and shutter release, rather than limiting yourself by trying to shoot with the camera at arm’s length. You are the most patient subject you could ever work with, so use this to your advantage. Get creative, overact, dress up, and use props. You decide how you want to show yourself to the world! If you do an internet search on this topic, you’ll find related Flickr and Twitter groups, where you can share your images.
5. A Day in the Life of…
This is a great project to document a particular occupation. For example, you could take photographs of a nurse at work to show all the various aspects of his or her job. It may take you more than one day of shooting to capture a representative set of images.
6. Get to Know Your Neighborhood
So often, we don’t take a good look at our own neighborhood. Make it a point to walk around, and shoot ten images of the area where you live. Do this once a month, or even once a week if you really get inspired.
7. Color Challenge
This is a fun challenge for an urban environment. Take you camera downtown, and give yourself a few hours to take pictures. Choose a color (or for added challenge, have a friend pick the color for you), and shoot only objects of that color. By the end of the session, you’ll be surprised how that color jumps out at you! When you’re finished, take your best images and assemble them into a collage or mosaic in Photoshop.
8. A Collection of “Somethings”
Whenever you’re out, carry your camera, and be on the lookout for whatever “something” you choose. It could be feet, garbage cans, vegetables that look like faces, bicycles—you name it! Get creative, and pick a theme that you don’t usually see in pictures.
9. Pet’s Eye View
Pretend that you are your pet. How would you see the world if you were a dog? A hamster? Shoot a series of images from the perspective of your pet’s eye level.
10. After Dark
We don’t always think to take our cameras out at night. Try shooting after dark. If you’re in the country, you can shoot moonlight or star trails. In the city, you can shoot vehicles’ tail-light trails or downtown buildings. Wherever you are, you can try light-painting by using a long exposure and moving a flashlight over parts of the scene.
Hope these ideas inspire you to get out there and start shooting!
About the Author
Julie Waterhouse writes for Ultimate Photo Tips, which provides friendly education and encouragement for photo enthusiasts around the world. It’s presented in a way that’s clear, organized, and easy to understand (ultimate-photo-tips.com), whether you’re looking for the answer to a specific question or just want to explore and learn.
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS POWERPOINT AND BUSINESS CARD (worth 3 assignment grades)
You will start a (pretend) photography business either by yourself or in partnership with one of your peer students. Create a Powerpoint Presentation to present to the class and include the items on the list below:
* Business Name
* Your name as sole owner or names of people in the partnership
* The type of photography you specialize in, and the types of jobs you intend to get.
* Samples of work you would like to produce for your clients.
* What type of equipment will you be using and how much will you be spending on equipment? (Go to B&H.com to look for equipment)
* How much will you charge? Will you offer packages?
* Your (pretend) web site address
* Who are your inspirations?
* Where will you conduct your business? (which state will you live, will you work out of your home or rent office space in which location)
* Branding: Your business card (Make your business card a 3.5 x 2.5 document in Photoshop)
* Marketing: Include a slide about how are you going to advertise and get jobs in your field?
* Market Research: How much money you would like to make in your first year of business, and how much you foresee making in 5 years, and also in 10 years.
*ASSIGNMENT PRESENTATIONS BEGIN THURSDAY, MARCH 8
Assignments due Friday, March 2
1. PAINTING WITH LIGHT
-Go to a dark place to shoot for this assignment (back studio). Put the camera securely on a tripod and put your shutter speed at 20 to 30 sec (not 20th of a sec…but 20 full seconds). You must put the camera on self timer to avoid camera shake. Shoot on manual and try your fstop at 8 or 11. ISO at 200.
-Pre focus on Manual focus mode, because the camera will not in autofocus!
-Wave finger lights in front of the frame during the exposure and check out the results!
-Post 1 to 3 Painting with Light photos you took and edited on your blog. Critique: Find an amazing painting with light photo on the Internet and write a paragraph about how you think the photographer achieved the result and why you think it is so eye catching.
2. YOUR FAVORITE TEACHER
Use bounced external flashoff camera and sync cord, to take some nice portraits of your favorite teacher. Edit and post your best portrait and write a 3 paragraph reflection in academic language explaining why you like and admire this teacher. Give details, reasons and examples as to why you chose this teacher. Samples below:
3. BODY, SHAPE, FORM
Photograph a part of the body, or something, which shows shape and form. Think about getting great QUALITY OF LIGHT and make your composition a strong one. In the caption section of your image write 10 words to describe your final image.
4. SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY FROM THE OLYMPICS CRITIQUE
Look online for photographs from this years winter Olympics. Find a few photos (3-5), which you think are absolutely amazing. Post them to your blog and explain under each photo how you think the photographer shot the image technically. Also talk about the composition and why the image is so successful.
NEW ASSIGNMENTS DUE TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 20:
1. MAGAZINE COVER
Look at magazine covers online and post 3-5 covers you like and explain why these covers attracted your eye. Then create a magazine cover (9×12 @ 300 res)using your own photographic image. Include the name of the magazine and a list of articles, which would be within the magazine. Make it look as authentic as possible.
2. READ AND WRITE: FLASH BASICS
Read this online article and on your blog write three paragraphs explaining the main points in the article and at least five things you learned from reading it.
3. 3-5 ON LOCATION PORTRAITS WITH BOUNCED FLASH
Use the Canon digital camera and an external bounced flash to photograph portraits on location. Set your camera on Manual, Auto White Balance, ISO 400, F8 @ 60th of a second shutter speed. Photograph at least 10 portraits and post your top 3-5 edited bounced flash portraits to your blog. As a writing critique answer the following questions on your blog in a separate post. Samples below:
-When would you use external flash?
-What does flash synchronization mean?
-What does ETTL mean?
-What will happen when you shoot faster than the camera sync speed?
-Why do photographers bounce the flash and use a diffuser?
– What is a slave?
-What should you do if your image comes out too dark or too light?
4. TAKE A VACATION
In this assignment you are going to go on a virtual vacation. Find a location online where you would like to go and digitally put yourself into that location. Make sure to match lighting and color balance to make it look realistic as possible. You must add 3 props into the scene (sunglasses, shopping bags, friends to go with you, etc…) Make your new document for all the elements in the image a 12×8 150 resolution. include 1-3 sentences under your photo when you post it to explain why you would like to go on this vacation.
NEW ASSIGNMENTS DUE MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5
1. READ AND WRITE: INTRODUCTION TO USING STROBES
Read this entire article on beginning strobe use and then write a three paragraph reflection on your blog detailing what the article is about and the most important things you got out of reading it.
2. STUDIO PORTRAITS WITH STROBES AND GELS
Photograph 25 portraits in the studio using the strobes and colored gels in the background. Edit your portraits in Lightroom and make cosmetic retouches in Photoshop. Post 9-12 final portraits on your blog. Writing critique: Find a portrait online that was shot with studio strobe lighting and write 20 sentences to describe the subject and their personality based on the photographers version of them. Evaluate the lighting used in the photograph and how you think the lights were arranged to get the results. Samples below:
3. HDR PHOTOGRAPHY
-Go online and research the meaning of HDR photography. Create a blogpost explaining what the term HDR in photography means and ways to achieve successful results.
–Look online for an HDR image and then make a blog post about one image that impresses you and why? Include the image in your post.
-Photograph 5 different exposures of a landscape (on Manual) for this assignment. One at the perfect exposure, plus one and two stops underexposed and one and two stops overexposed. USE A TRIPOD for this!
-Save images in a folder and open Photoshop>File>Automate>Merge to HDR Pro
-Select your five landscape images and press ok. Photoshop will compile your images into one HDR image.
-You will probably need to do more adjustments to make it more vibrant and saturated. You should bring in cool clouds from the Internet to blend into your sky. Post to blog with a list of the 5 exposures you used to create the image. (MASIL) Samples below:
NEW ASSIGNMENTS AFTER BREAK: DUE FRIDAY, JAN 20, 2018
1. 50 PHOTOS EDITED IN LIGHTROOM
Take 50 different photos of the same subject. Vary the lighting and composition of your photographs. Edit your photographs in Lightroom and post the BEST 20-30 photos to your blog as a gallery.
2. 5 COMMENTS ON THE BLOG HIGHLIGHTS OF SEMESTER 1 POST>
-3 COMPLETE SENTENCES PER COMMENT
3. TEDTALK: HOW PHOTOGRAPHY CONNECTS US
Watch this Tedtalk on how photography connects us and on your blog make a post summarizing, critiquing, judging and evaluating what you got out of watching the video. Have at least 3 paragraphs
3. AM I TALKING TO MYSELF
Photograph several images of yourself or someone else in the same location, and put them all together in Photoshop to make it look as if you (or they) are relating to themselves in some way. Use one of the photos as the base image, and move the other subjects in the base image to create a unique photo for this Am I Talking To Myself assignment. Writing Critique: Make a blog post called My Inspiration and list 15-20 things, which inspire your creativity. Sample student work below:
ASSIGNMENTS DUE TUESDAY, DECEMBER 5
1. Your Portfolio
Put your best work together in a Portfolio. Use Powerpoint to present your portfolio to the class. Your portfolio should consist of (at least) 12 slides. 1 Intro slide with your name on it and 10 slides of your best work to date (1 image per slide). The last slide should contain a quote that is meaningful to you.Put in my flash drive or email me at email@example.com, by Tuesday December 5. Also put your portfolio images on your blog as a gallery.
2. Self Portrait with Text
Take a tripod and DSLR camera on self-timer mode and photograph a few self portraits (photographs you take of yourself). Edit your favorite photo in Photoshop and include some text within the image to create a mixed media selfie. In the caption section when you post include the MASIL and for a critique make a list of 25 words or phrases to describe yourself. Student samples below:
Photographer Research Project (due Tuesday, November 28)
You will produce and present a PowerPoint Slide Show about a professional and influential photographer of your choice. The project is to have 15-20 slides and include the information below, and at least 10 photographs. You can choose from the enclosed list or pick a significant photographer of your choice. Questions to answer when doing photographer research project are below. Email your presentation to firstname.lastname@example.org or put in my flashdrive by Thursday, November 16.
- What is the photographer’s real name and year he or she was born? Is he/she still alive?
- What is their style of photography (ex: photojournalism, editorial, documentary, advertising, portraits, magazine, sports, war)?
- Are there any special photography techniques this photographer uses in his/her work? (Think about composition, depth of field, history…)
- Who does the photographer work for?
- What type of cameras and lens does this photographer work with, and why?
- What type of lighting does this photographer primarily use and why?
- Who are some of your photographer’s early influences?
- Are there any interesting stories about this photographer or his/her work?
- What do you like (or not like) about their work, and why did you select this photographer?
Robert Mapplethorpe – flowers, portraits, nudes *
Annie Leibovitz – celebrity portraits *
Danny Clinch – musicians *
Edward Weston – black and white nudes,landscapes
Ansel Adams – black and white landscape
Cindy Sherman – self portraits *
Diane Arbus – strange and different portraits *
David Lachappelle – unique portraits *
Imogen Cunningham – black and white
Eliot Porter – color landscape
Alfred Eisenstadt – candid photojournalism
Linda McCartney – musicians in the 60’s
Herb Ritts – celebrity portraits *
Henry Cartier- Bresson -candid street, the decisive moment
Andy Warhol – bizarre
Robert Frank -street
Mary Ellen Mark – portraits *
Eddie Adams – war, photojournalism
Robert Capa – war
Paul Strand – black and white
Lewis Hind – child labor
James Nachtwey – war *
Irving Penn – fashion, still lifes *
Richard Avedon – portraits
Margaret Bourke White – early photojournalism
Lee Friedlander – black and white candid
Harold Edgerton – motion
Sebastiao Salgado – photojournalism
Weegee – street photojournalism
Mark Seliger – celebrity portraits *
Jerry Uelsmann – photo montage *
Dorothea Lange – documentary
Anne Geddes – children
Kim Anderson – children
Nigel Barker- Fashion
William Wegman – dogs
Man Ray – rayograms, fashion, portraits in the 20
Arnold Newman – environmental portraits *
Steve McCurry – National Geographic portraits *
Danny Lyon – street and documentary
Brad Mangin – sports
Neil Leifer – sports
New Assignments due Thursday November 9
1. Candid Moments with Captions (3-5 Photos with captions for each)
Photograph candid moments and edit your images in Photoshop. In the caption section of each photo you post write a caption including who, what , where and why. include your technical info for each photo (MASIL) For a critique look at the work of photographer Henri Cartier Bresson ,who captured the “decisive moment”. On your blog post 2-3 of his photographs and write 10 sentences about his work and your opinion of his timing, composition and ability to capture the perfect moment. Student Samples below:
2. Define these 35 words in a word document and then copy and paste your definitions in a blog post titled Photography Definitions:
pixels, image resolution, megabyte, megapixel, gigabyte, jpeg, raw, tiff, png, white balance, histogram, aperture, shutter speed, depth of field, aperture priority, shutter priority, bitmap, exposure, watermarking, optical zoom, digital zoom, bracketing, light meter, image stabilization, noise, lag time, hot shoe, fisheye, macro, telephoto, wide angle, DSLR, dynamic range, exposure compensation
3. Mirror Imagery
Photograph an interesting photo with lots of lines. Put the edited photo in a new document and make a copy of the image to flip to make mirror imagery. Either 2 or 4 images would work for the mirror image. Post to blog. List 10 words to describe your photograph.
NEW ASSIGNMENTS DUE MONDAY, NOVEMBER 6
1. PORTRAIT LIGHTING READ AND WRITE
Read this link about Portrait Lighting and on your blog write a synopsis of the key facts you learned when you read the article in 2-3 paragraphs.
2. WHITE BALANCE READ AND WRITE
Read this link on white balance and on your blog write a one paragraph synopsis of what you learned from reading the article. Under that list all the white balance settings and at least one sentence about each.
3. STUDIO PORTRAITS
Use the studio backdrop (white or black) to photograph PORTRAITS of classmates.
Use the tungsten “hot lights” to light the portraits
Make sure to put your white balance on TUNGSTEN and shoot at ISO 400 or 800. Go right up to the subject and meter them on MANUAL.
Take at least 12 photographs and edit them in PS. Post anywhere between 6 and 12 portraits as either a gallery or individually.. Include technical info: MASIL
Critique: Find a studio portrait online and write a list of 25 words you would hashtag the photo if you posted it on Instagram. Include the photographers name if possible.
In a separate blog post, answer these questions: 1. What is the purpose of the main light? 2. What is the purpose of the fill light? 3. List the lighting patterns.
4. ALPHABET PHOTOGRAPHY
-Look for images which represent letters and create a word in photographs
-Edit your photos in PS and then make a new document to put the word in.
-Make your document 16×8 2oo resolution and fit your images in to make the word. If you need more space go to Image>Adjust>Canvas Size and resize bigger.
-Save as a jpeg and post to your blog.
-Critique: List 5 valuable things you learned in Photo class so far this year.
ASSIGNMENTS DUE FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20
1. COMMENTS ON THE BLOG
Make 5comments on the homepage of the blog. Be more specific with your comments and tell what it is you like or do not like about the work. Be constructive with your criticism.
2. WARHOL / POP ART
-For your Pop Art assignment you should photograph an object, which is POPULAR IN THE CULTURE TODAY.
-Make 4 copies of the photo you chose, 4×6 or 6×4 (200 res) each, labeling them Warhol 1, Warhol 2 and so on… (you can change the size in PS in IMAGE>IMAGE SIZE (6×4.5 or 4.5×6 is ok too. Just make your big document 12×9 or 9×12 if you do that)
-Work on each picture separately, experimenting with filters, gradient maps, colors, patterns, and more….make sure there is contrast between the subject and the background!
-When you complete the 4 individual photos, merge the layers in each.
-Open a new document in Photoshop, 8×12 or 12×8 (200res)…or 9×12 or 12×9 if your individual shots are 4.5×6 or 6×4.5
-Move the four individual photos into the new document.
-Save as a jpeg and post with critique.
-Critique: Research and answer these questions about an interesting pop artist. Post one of his or her works with your answers to the following questions.
- What is Pop Art?
- Why is this artist’s work considered Pop Art?
- Describe some of this artists work.
- Why did you pick this artist and why do you like his/her work?
3. WHAT IS YOUR COLOR
Create a Photoshop Collage 12×9 or 9×12 300 resolution representing your favorite color. Include a photo of yourself, the color you select and some writing about why this is YOUR color. Perhaps add a tint of your color. Post to blog.
4. JPEG VS. RAW READ AND WRITE
Research what jpeg and raw file formats are, and the differences between them. Write a three paragraph reflection comparing and contrasting them both on your blog.
ASSIGNMENTS DUE TUESDAY OCT 10
1. CAPTURING ACTION AND MOTION IN PHOTOGRAPHY
-Read these online article about capturing action and motion photography and write one or two paragraphs stating what you learned about action and motion photography techniques..
-Take photos outside that capture ACTION SHARP. Try to “capture the moment”. Shoot at the shutter priority mode and auto focus AI SERVO . Make sure your shutter speed is above 125th of a second. ISO 400 Take several photos and post your favorite 2 action shots, edited in Photoshop.
-Take action photos inside trying to capture MOTION BLUR. Try to “capture the moment”. Shoot at the shutter priority mode and auto focus AI SERVO mode. Make sure your shutter speed is 60th or below for more blur. Use a tripod to make sure stationary objects are not blurred. Take several photos and post your favorite 2 shots , edited in Photoshop.
-Include technical info on all photos: MASIL
-Find 2 photos online, one showing action sharp and another showing motion blur. Guess what shutter speeds, f stops, and lens were used. Post as critique.
2. POETRY AND YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY
1.Take a new photo for this assignment or use one of your existing edited photos.
2.Make a new document 11×14 or 14×11 @ 300 res
3.Move your photo into your new document and size to fit.
4.Add a quote, poetry, song lyrics or your own words to your edited image. Make sure to put a layer style with your text.
5.Post to your blog
ASSIGNMENTS DUE MONDAY, OCTOBER 2
1. DEPTH OF FIELD
-Read these two links and write two paragraphs explaining in your own words what depth of field is in photography and the ways to control depth of field when shooting. Call this blogpost: Depth of Field Explained.
– Go outside and take two photographs of the same subject, trying to get two different depth of fields. Remember to first format the memory card, set WB to auto and ISO to 400, and be on Manual focusing. You will set the camera mode to AV (aperture priority). Make sure to focus on the same subject for both shots you take.
-In Photo #1 You will get a shallow depth of field. Zoom out to the longest focal length of the lens which is 55mm. Set the aperture on f5.6 (the widest aperture at 55mm) and take note of what the camera sets the shutter speed at. Make sure it is not below 60th of a second. Get in good and close to your subject
-In Photo #2 You will get a good depth of field. Put your lens at 18mm ( which is the widest lens mm on your lens). Set your aperture at f16, and take note of what the camera sets the shutter speed at. Make sure it is not below 60th of a second, or open up the aperture to f11. Stay a bit further back to get a better depth of field.
-Repeat the depth of field activity 2-3 times to make sure you get it right.
-In the lab, edit your photos for maximum impact and post each one (good and shallow depth of field) to your blog(large photo size). Include the technical info in the caption section of each MASIL (Mode, Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, Lens mm)
– For the critique for this assignment you are to find two photos online- one which shows a good depth of field and one which shows a shallow depth of field. In the caption section when you post them guess at what you think the aperture, shutter speed and lens mm was for each photo.