1. Start a Photo-Per-Day Project
When many people start brainstorming photography ideas, one of the first things they’ll think of is a weekly or daily photo project. It’s quite common to hear about projects like this online, and for good reason – they keep photography on your mind throughout the year.
Sometimes, photo-per-day (365 Projects) or photo-per-week (52 Projects) have a dedicated theme. The first week might be shadows, the next is red and blue, the third is texture and so on. Other times, it’s more about creating a personal goal – making sure you actually take at least one good photo each day of the year, for example.
Even if you don’t do a strict photography project, it is still a good idea to take photos regularly throughout the year, without major gaps. You don’t want to lose any creativity or muscle memory for your camera.
2. Use a New Post-Processing Style
Experimentation isn’t only part of photography in the field. It applies just as well to post-processing work – even more, perhaps, given the extraordinary number of post-processing tutorials available to try out wildly different types of photography.
Try out double exposure post-processing techniques. Turn your images into more of a conceptual piece, where you are blending multiple photos together into one. Or, add text to an image so it looks like a poster or magazine spread. You don’t need to be a Photoshop master to make something interesting and creative – though you’ll definitely improve your editing skills along the way.
3. Do Some Macro Photography
Macro photography is much more accessible than people tend to think. You don’t need an expensive macro lens – just the equipment you already have, plus an extension tube. Even a 50mm prime lens and a single extension tube is going to get you great close-up images, although it takes some time to learn the right techniques for macro photography.
If you want more capabilities than an extension tube, you can find some inexpensive macro lenses that are older, third-party, or manual focus only. Either way, you won’t regret getting macro capabilities in the end. It is one of the best ways to take amazing photos in almost any location and time of day. Many of my best macro photos are from my backyard on an ordinary day in mid-afternoon.
4. Print a Book of Photos
A lot of photographers have told me that they wish they printed their photos more often. Sometimes, it’s because they don’t have enough time or space to put a printed photo. Other times, it’s just a matter of price; a good print, especially with a frame, can be prohibitively expensive. Several good prints is even worse in that respect.
Often, my recommendation is to try creating a photo book instead of a single larger print. That way, you can see several of your images at once in physical form, good for inspiration and for morale. A high-quality photo book still won’t be cheap, but it beats printing several dozen images individually and finding ways to present them.
5. Experiment with “Wrong” Settings
No one should shoot handheld images with a 5 second shutter speed, or macro photos at f/2.8 with nonexistent depth of field. Except when you should.
In reality, there are a lot of “wrong” camera settings that just don’t work for typical images. That’s fine if your goal is to get a perfectly sharp photo that presents your subject in the standard way. Sometimes, though, experimenting with unusual camera settings will give you a better result than any other method.
So, next time that you’re looking for some new photography ideas, try shooting the same old subjects with very different settings (including different lenses and post-processing styles). Do a whole street photography session with a telephoto lens and long shutter speeds, or a landscape photoshoot with the widest aperture on your lens. Whether or not the photos work out, they certainly won’t be ordinary.
6. Team up with Another Photographer
If you know any other photographers, it can be a great idea to team up with them for a day of shooting. You’ll probably learn some new techniques along the way, or at least be inspired by each other’s processes. At a minimum, you’ll spend some time out shooting and working with someone else who enjoys photography.
You may not know anyone nearby with the same hobby, but you can always join a photography club or photo walk to meet some. The point is simply to spend time with other people who share an appreciation for photography, as well as taking some new photos along the way.
7. Recreate a Photo You Like
Sometimes, you’ll see great images online or elsewhere that make you wonder what techniques the photographer used. The best way to figure out is to try recreating the photo for yourself.
This is similar to how many artists will attempt to recreate famous paintings from scratch, learning new techniques along the way. That’s the goal here, too – adding new techniques to your toolkit for later, not trying to steal someone else’s work. It’s disingenuous, and perhaps copyright infringement, to publish your version of another photographer’s image while passing it off entirely as your own.
Then again, you also don’t need to recreate an image you liked without any modifications. I once saw an interesting macro photo of a water droplet in midair, a map of the world behind it (so a globe shape appeared in the water). Rather than recreate this exact image, I did the same water droplet setup but with a slice of an orange in the background. At the end of the day, I still learned the same skills, but with an image that is more of my own.
I hope that the ideas in the list above will inspire your photography in 2020 and beyond! Whether you’re in a creative rut or you just want to keep exploring new things, it can help to step outside your usual photos for a bit. Branch out to a different genre, wait for seasonal changes, practice recreating a photo you liked, or whatever else helps you enjoy photography even more.
If you have any ideas and recommendations for other photographers, please share in the comments below and help out other readers!
This article concludes our Photography Basics guide. If there are any chapters you missed, use the following menu to go to the page you want to see. Or, return to the introduction to start Photography Basics from the beginning.