I often go out with my camera without a clear idea of what I want to photograph and as a result my outings can be unproductive. To counteract this, I have, at times, tried to put some structure on my outings.
One idea is to have an on-going project, but this is a long-term activity and not one for every outing as it would soon become stale.
Another option is to take on a photography challenge posed by an external source such as an online photography forum or an individual photographer. This will often involve taking some images on a certain subject or topic, choosing one or two of our best images and posting them to the group. This can give us an added incentive when we go out on our photography shoot but it does rely on finding challenges that will interest us and suit our type of photography.
A third way to help us become more productive on our photography shoots is to take part in what is called a photography self-assignment.
WHAT DOES A PHOTOGRAPHY SELF-ASSIGNMENT ENTAIL?
In my view, a self-assignment is where we assign ourselves a task, set a timeframe for the task completion, and present the results in some form. The assignment can be anything we choose but should be something that will hold our interest or that will help us discover a new interest.
There are countless options for photography self-assignments.
You might make a series of close-up photos, you might take photos of birds in different environments, you might make a series of photos that all include water.
A series of photos that include motion is another idea, or you might like to make a series of images that all include a composition technique, for example, sub-framing.
Colour as a theme is commonly used in photography but you can make it more interesting by including your chosen colour in different environments, for example, the colour yellow in towns and cities as well as in the natural landscape. Alternatively, you might look for contrasting colours or complimentary colours.
Get to know your neighbourhood – walk around for a few days looking for images that will tell the story of your neighbourhood.
The list of ideas for self-assignments is endless, and the more you do the more ideas you’ll have.
Presenting your images
When you have completed your first self-assignment task, the next step is to decide how you will present your images. I think this is an important part of the self -assignment as it adds another dimension to the process. It encourages us to think about how best to display our images so that we achieve our final goal and complete the assignment rather than just saving them in a folder, never to be seen again.
There are various options for presenting our finished assignment. Presenting images as an online gallery is a common option but I have also seen images printed and displayed as 9 small photos on one frame, or made into a photo book. Recently I saw a photographer do an assignment where he presented his images as a set of diptychs, that is, images presented in pairs with something connecting them. This last option appeals to me as it encourages me to think about the final presentation while I am shooting and to try to compose accordingly.
WHAT MAKES A PHOTOGRAPHY SELF-ASSIGNMENT WORTH TRYING?
Here are 7 reasons to try a photography self-assignment that I have come up with. You will probably think of more.
1. It will add interest to an otherwise regular photography outing.
2. It will give some structure and focus to your photography shoot.
3. It will encourage you to continually set new goals for your photography.
4. It will sharpen your powers of observation.
5. It will encourage you to challenge yourself creatively.
6. It will help you learn new skills as you experiment with new styles and techniques.
7. It will encourage you to evaluate your photography for presentation.
In this post I have looked at some reasons to try a photography self- assignment. Before I end, I want to give a brief example of a recent assignment I tried and to assess its value. To get started I kept it simple and easy to adapt to any location.
Assignment: Morning in My Local Park.
Presentation: Set of diptychs documenting life on a typical morning in my local city park.
Here are some of the resulting images.
1. The self-assignment gave me something concrete to focus on during my morning shoot.
2. I was conscious that I had decided to present my images as a set of diptychs so I kept this in mind and tried to shoot in pairs with a common connection between the two images.
3. I was interested and engaged during the shoot and decided to try another self-assignment in the near future.
Is a self-assignment something that would interest you?