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How a Photo Challenge Can Help Your Photography

Updated: Oct 3, 2022




I recently took part in a photography challenge posed by photographer Kim Grant on her YouTube channel.


The challenge was the first of four challenges based on each of the four elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water, beginning with Water. The task was to take a photograph that relates to water, with an emphasis on creativity. Those who participated in the challenge were not pitted against each other; images shown on the channel were not necessarily the best but rather were examples of a creative interpretation of the theme.


To support her viewers, Kim Grant published four videos showing how she interpreted the challenge and providing inspirational footage of her thought process as she created some stunning images.


I took part in the challenge and submitted some of the images shown below. I do not consider them to be among my best images, but I do feel that I learned a lot from taking the challenge as it helped me to think differently about my photography.



I realised that to some extent I have become used to shooting in a certain, predictable way and this challenge opened my mind to new ways of interpreting a theme.


I was also very pleased that one of my images was chosen for the slide show of images which Kim felt were examples of a creative response to the challenge.


ICM Water Image


Below are 6 ways I found the photo challenge to be beneficial to my photography. You might think of more.


A photo challenge encourages you to:


Observe


By stepping outside my comfort zone, I was challenged to observe more closely to produce a creative image, as per the brief.


I made observations along a water’s edge, watching the movement of the water in and out from the shore and seeing the foam patterns left by the retreating water.


I observed a riverbed with the aid of a polariser.


I saw reeds that made interesting shapes in the water and created minimalist images.


I saw ‘faces’ by the seashore and observed opportunities for abstract images.



The challenge forced me to go deeper with my photography, to go beyond the obvious and really begin to see different and unique photographic opportunities all around me.





Focus


A photo challenge can provide a short-term focus for your photography.


When I have a specific purpose for my photography I tend to be more focused, planning my outings to places where I think I will get appropriate images to suit the challenge. I am also less likely to get distracted or become frustrated by not knowing what to shoot. The challenge brief is a great guide and helps me to be clear-headed and focused on the task.


During a recent visit to the coast I was focused on looking for images to complete the challenge.


Learn something new


It is easy to find ourselves stuck in a rut with our photography.


Capturing the same type of images or using the same style all the time can lead to lack of motivation. When we take on a photography challenge it can force us to think differently, and to learn and use new techniques and skills. This can only benefit our photography.



Experiment


By its very nature a challenge is something out of the ordinary, a way of working that takes us away from our usual style, even if just briefly. It involves a different way of thinking and provides an opportunity to experiment with composition, focal length, subject and location.


When I look at the images I took as a result of the water challenge I know that many of them are experimental. Many of the experiments didn’t quite work, but that’s ok, they were still valuable learning experiences and gave me useful information for future shots.



Get creative


The most rewarding aspect of doing a challenge is that it encourages our creativity. Being creative with our photography is what separates taking a photograph from simply taking a snapshot. It involves more than just varying our composition, it also involves seeing differently, looking beyond what is immediately obvious to what might be there at a deeper level.



Take a risk


While my first response to a water photography challenge might normally be to photograph a seascape or a river or lake view, I felt that participating in this particular challenge necessitated ‘thinking outside the box’ and becoming more creative with my images.


The next step was to submit my images, which would mean that they would be seen by a professional photographer, and I initially felt anxious about doing this as I felt that others’ images would be much better. But I took the risk and was delighted that I did, and I was rewarded by having one image included in the slideshow.


*****


If all of these benefits of a photography challenge are true, and in my opinion they are, then it is something to be encouraged as a part of our photography journey.


Finding a photography challenge is not difficult. Digital Photography School poses a weekly challenge online, while magazines such as Digital Camera (www.facebook.com/digitalcamera) have a monthly challenge with a small prize for the winner, as well as a section where readers are invited to send in their shots to star in the photo gallery and regular Shootout invitations.


If you would like to take part in one of Kim Grant’s challenges you can subscribe to her channel by following this link.


Kim has now posed her next challenge, which is EARTH. The task is to capture an image that has something to do with earth (interpreted in any way you choose), and images should be as creative as possible.


Have you taken part in a good photography challenge that others might be interested in? If so, why not tell us about it in the comments below.

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