The 365 Photo Days Project

We’re always telling other people as well as ourselves that the best way to get better at photography is to take pictures all the time. All the photo books and tips on technique and inspiration that you read (like this one) will not mean much if you don’t literally pick up your camera and shoot. Here’s a challenge, a major one, which will push you to the limit at times but will surely hone your technique and creativity by the time it is all over.

tissue365 The 365 Photo Days ProjectThe objective is to take a picture a day for an entire year. That’s 365 days, give or take a leap year. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? After all, it doesn’t take much to point the camera at something, click the shutter, and be done with it. Anyone can do it in the space of one second. However, since we are trying to improve our photography skills, we would want to put a little more effort into it. This is where the challenge comes in.

There are two common ways to go about this endeavor:

Random shots – You can take shots of anything that strikes your fancy. There is no pattern or rules to follow; you will just be going with the flow of your mood. The advantage of this is that you will not feel boxed into doing something specific but the downside is there is no guideline to trigger ideas for what to shoot next. Some people prefer the freedom of randomness but others might want to go by a theme instead.

plastic365 The 365 Photo Days ProjectThemed images- You can divide the days into themes so that you will have more focus as to what to shoot. By following a theme or some themes, you can also improve on a specific area in your skills. For instance, if your theme is to take macro shots only, surely by the end of the year you’ll be an expert at this particular approach. Having only one theme can be very difficult, especially in the latter half of the year. To avoid feeling stifled by your theme, pick one that is specific but not limiting. For example, a theme such as ‘macro’ will leave you more room to play with compared to ‘nature macro’. You may also do several themes in the year for more variety. You can do a different theme every month or every week. It’s really up to you as long as you know you can sustain it for a long period of time. If, in the middle of the year, you change your mind and would rather do random shots, that’s perfectly fine, too.

There will be some days when you will feel like giving up, when you won’t even want to go near the camera anymore. To keep yourself motivated, why not show your photos online for others to comment and appreciate? Reading praises or tips on how you can improve your shots can keep your will strong enough to continue with the challenge. You can create a blog or upload in photo sharing sites. Even better, why not sell your daily photos as stock in PhotoStockPlus. This way, you can shoot pictures and earn at the same time.

Many have succeeded in taking a photo a day for a year without any break or lapse in the days. Others have missed a day or two, or even weeks at a time. If you do miss shooting on some days, don’t get discouraged and stop entirely. The point of the exercise is to practice shooting pictures more often than not, and this project is to help you do just that. 


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Shooting Reflections

 

Reflections are often seen in photographs, whether as the main subject or to support the point of interest.  There is something about reflections that draw the viewer’s eye to look more closely. Objects or scenes that are reflected can be subtly different from the real thing and this slight distortion can make us do a double take. They can also doubly enhance the beauty of a subject, such as with nature where the mountains and trees are reflected in the lakes or seas. You can even use them as a tool to capture creative self-portraits.

There are many kinds of reflective surfaces which you can make full use of to spice up your shot:

calamansi Shooting ReflectionsMirrors – these are fun to play with when you want to do some experimenting with your composition.  Certain angles of the mirror can make the subject appear different as well. Try using more than one mirror in your setup and see where it will take you. They say that mirrors do not lie but I believe they can. Some mirrors are not perfectly flat and the reflections they capture will look stretched out or askew in some portions. These are the kind you see in fun houses, carnivals or horror movies.  Shots showing these reflections can really spark interest since they offer such a distorted view of reality.  Just be aware of the angle of your lens since your camera or you might inadvertently be reflected in the mirror and captured in the shot.

Metal – chrome bumpers, spoons, toasters, Christmas balls, anything shiny and metallic can be very reflective. Those that have imperfections such as tarnish or dirt and grime can add mood and interest to the reflection.

Water – probably the most used reflective surface in photography, water is so versatile that it can come in different forms. Here are just a few:

  •  Droplets – images of water droplets with reflections caught in them seem to be the rage these days. Have you seen those images of dew drops lined in a row on a leaf with the reflection of a tiny flower in each one? The droplets themselves can already appear pretty, and then to add interesting reflections is double the visual pleasure. 
  • puddle Shooting Reflections Puddles – these can show the surroundings in an imaginative and uncommon way. After the rain, puddles usually accumulate on city streets and sidewalks. Buildings, crowds, or light posts can become reflected in these puddles and images of tall structures in a puddle on the ground can provide one a fresh sense of perspective.
  •  Large bodies of water – only nature can provide a reflective surface worthy of the grandeur it can present to us humble humans. Seas, oceans, or lakes can reflect snowcapped mountains, the setting sun, or towering trees.  They can also mirror those that float on them such as ships, ducks or fallen leaves. These bodies of water offer a sense of balance and symmetry to the image since they provide a horizon line which bisects the frame.

Uncommon surfaces – there are quite a lot of other surfaces that are less used in photographs because they are hardly noticed. Reflections caught in someone’s eyes, doorknobs, shiny buttons, bubbles, and the like can present stunning images. You just need to be observant of the ordinary things around you that can show reflections. The less predictable they are, the more creative your shot will be.

Reflections can be fascinating in themselves but you can also mix and match them with other styles you might already be familiar with, such as silhouettes or abstraction. Also, partially reflected subjects can give the impression of mystery while double reflections, such as with two mirrors facing each other, can add a sense of surrealism and quirkiness. The more you practice shooting reflections, the more tricks and effects you will discover.

 


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Photographing the Beauty in Urban Decay

Man-made structures that are falling apart or have been abandoned a long time ago seem to captivate and enthrall us, whether we are photographers or not. Maybe it is because we are pulled to their beauty even in the face of dilapidation. Or perhaps there is something about the way these crumbling buildings look that resonates within us; that even strong foundations can collapse, that over time people can deface it with graffiti, or that nature will always try to take back her territory.

poolweb Photographing the Beauty in Urban DecayTaking photographs of urban decay can take you on an adventure into places that are little visited or have been forgotten by most people. They may be large in scale such as ruins of buildings, or something up close such broken doorknobs or corroded window frames. The following are some tips that will help you make the most of urban decay photography:

Do a little research – although you might come across a lot of urban decay as you travel your city streets, you might be surprised that after doing some research, there are many more that you didn’t know about. Also, try to know a bit more about the area you will photograph before visiting the place. They often have some interesting history behind them, and how they ended up like that can give you insights on how to approach your composition. For example, if you are going to photograph a broken down house, knowing that it had previously caught fire will give you an idea of the meaning of those blackened patterns on the walls. These places have stories to tell, it’s up to you to listen and make use of them in your photographs.

Bring a flashlight – if you’re planning to shoot indoors, a flashlight would come in handy since most likely the place won’t have any working electricity. Even in the daytime, the space might be dark and gloomy, especially if the windows are all covered in grime. That is, if there are still any windows intact. It will also illuminate possible debris that is strewn around the room. Small rusty nails, splintered wood, and broken glass can be dangerous and wound you if you step on them.

Request permission – although many abandoned locations have long been forgotten, there are those for which you might still need permission to access and take photos of. Just because no one is using the structure anymore doesn’t mean you won’t have to worry about trespassing.

Shoot at different times in the day – the environment where your subject is located can be drastically different at different hours in the day, especially if it is situated in a very public area. If you want little distractions, a short time after dawn is a good hour to shoot. Most of the people are still asleep or in their homes so if you are taking pictures of urban decay in a populated setting, there will be fewer distractions from Lincolnweb Photographing the Beauty in Urban Decaypeople passing by and obstructing your lens. The lighting will be great since the morning sun will still be at the horizon, giving off diffused light. This same location, however, might appear entirely different during rush hour. For example if your structure is a rundown building, crowds of people might be passing it by, oblivious to it being there. Street children might be playing hide and seek in it or someone might be tacking an advertisement on its wall. The impact may come out different from your early morning shoot but may still be just as powerful.

Play with details – there are times when you can capture the essence of a decrepit structure by focusing on only a portion. Instead of trying to include the entire building in your shot, try to concentrate on only the stairs, for example, or the door. This makes the viewer see much more details such as the textures of rusty metal or chipped paint, the faded wallpaper design, or the lush green vines that are wrapped around a banister.

Travel light – don’t take gear that is more than you can comfortably carry. You will be moving around a lot as you look for strategic positions to take your picture and the last thing you would want to feel is weighed down by excess gear. Your camera, a tripod, and if you have a DSLR, an extra lens such as a wide-angle lens should be enough.

Use the surroundings – the area around your subject can place it within context and can provide more drama to your shot. If your decaying structure is smack dab in the middle of a busy commercial area, you can tell a story by including the bright and shiny establishment that stands right beside it. People can also provide context by how they react to or ignore your subject. Observe what is going on in the scene, there are usually a lot of photo opportunities to be had as long as you are prepared.

 

 


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How To Find Inspiration 2: Photo Theme Ideas

Finding focus is a great way to motivate yourself to take pictures. Sometimes we just have no clue what to shoot next and our mind is a complete blank. Times like these, you might want to limit yourself to a particular subject or theme so that there is some sort of guideline you can concentrate on and follow.

There are several photo ideas you can make use of to jumpstart your passion. Here are six photo themes which might inspire you to pick up the camera again:

1.Letters of the Alphabet – Have you ever observed your surroundings and noticed certain objects seem to form a letter of the alphabet? Our mind is constantly trying to form patterns, to find some organization in randomness. Your neighbor's rooftop looks just like an A and that curled up worm you saw while gardening looks just like the letter O. Try going around your house or neighborhood and see if you can take a picture of each letter in the alphabet.

plastic How To Find Inspiration 2: Photo Theme Ideas2.One Object – Choose an object and find different ways to present it in your photographs. For example, think of what you can do with one sheet of white bond paper. Take a photo of it crumpled in a tight ball, or while it is burning, or half submerged in water. You can roll it, crease it, fold it, and so on. The possibilities are staggering. 

3.Kitchen Abstract – The kitchen is usually full of items just waiting to have its picture taken. Add a little extra challenge by making each photo an abstract. The plastic handle of a potato grater can be a great graphic abstract. Composition is vital in this exercise since the idea is to not make your subject instantly recognizable.

4.Black and White in Color – The world around us is full of color but for this theme, the focus is on black and white subjects. Converting to monochrome in post-processing is not allowed so the fun is in the hunting for subjects that are naturally black or white.

gel macro 300x228 How To Find Inspiration 2: Photo Theme Ideas5.Macro – We're so used to being at a distance from what we are looking at that the tiny details are naturally overlooked. Why don't you go up close to your subject, as close as your camera possibly can without the image becoming all blurred. Try to capture the texture, the shapes, and the part of the object that you never noticed before but which now seems so interesting.

There are hundreds of photo themes you can use so next time you do not know what to shoot, follow a theme for a week or two and feel your creative juices flow again.


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How To Find Inspiration I: Seeing Creatively

There are times when we run out of ideas on what to shoot next. It seems we've taken a picture of everything we can think of. The family dog seems to already know its best profile from all the hundreds of pictures you've taken of it. You've taken shots of every vegetable in the fridge, every item on your dresser and every flower in the garden. Inspiration is knocking less often at your door and the camera is slowly gathering dust.

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