A Guide to Proactive Photo Practice Sessions

In my last featured article, I used theme photography to illustrate how to set up practice sessions that will push your learning curve. This time we are going continue with some additional ideas on how to ramp up your practice sessions even when you don’t have the time and/or energy to go on an excursion.

Photo of Cooper's Hawk in backyard birdbath by Noella Ballenger

We all have things that we should do and need to do, but try not to get into the habit letting those things become a good excuse for not taking a couple of minutes for yourself and your photography. I keep a camera near me in the house. It’s ready to go for the unexpected moments, such as this Cooper’s Hawk image above, or for the ten or twenty minute breaks that I need to refresh myself.

But, just like you, I can tell myself, “There is nothing to photograph here!” When I come up with that excuse in my mind, I then add the following, “Well, find something!” In or around your home there are lots of things to photograph. They don’t have to be Rembrandts, but just need to usher in a mindset that gets you moving and creating images – to practice.

How do we find something to spark our photo imaginations? The idea here is to just start and you’ll be amazed at where it can take your creative mind.

Self-assignments for Practice:

1. Pick up your camera and look around your home – you don’t need to even step out the door. Really look! Is there a color that attracts you, the shape of a shadow, or a bug on the window?

2. Step out your door. Is there a new flower that just bloomed, a spider on its web, or raindrops on a leave after a storm?

Close-up photo of fern leaf shadows by Noella Ballenger

Close-up image of a cat by Noella Ballenger

3. If you have children or pets this is perfect time to practice with your camera set on shutter priority. Take action shots where you try freezing the movement with a fast shutter speed and then some slow shutter speed shots where the action blurs.

4. If you like to do portraits and there aren’t any people or animals around, practice on inanimate objects such as dolls, stuffed animals or toys. You can practice your exposure, depth of field settings and lighting techniques on these before you try them on people or animals.

Photo of high tension electrical wire by Noella Ballenger

5. Take one day and just practice with a specific lens. Since my favorite lens is anything over 200mm, I force myself to practice with the wide angle lens. It gives me a different perspective and actually improves my long lens work. So switch off and practice with each of your lenses (macro, wide angle or long telephoto). It’s a great way to really learn the capabilities of each lens and what results can be produced.

6. Get into the habit of looking at routine objects in different ways. Look closer and find details, angles and shapes. Watch for texture and patterns too. And change your perspective. Stand on a ladder or sit on the ground to take a shot. Walk around and look at the object from all sides, including the top and the bottom.

Black and white close-up photo of car grill and headlight by Noella Ballenger

7. Try this exercise:

One of the main reasons you may not be able to find a subject to photograph is that you have too much from which to choose. Try limiting your space. Choose a single room like the kitchen or the bathroom. If you have a yard, choose just one area of the yard, such as a single planter box. Limit yourself by photographing your subject very realistically one day and then going back another time to take similar shots as abstracts.

Photo of metal container above burning flame of gas stove top by Noella Ballenger

Abstract photo of metal container above burning flame of gas stove top by Noella Ballenger

8. And just in case you are in a location where you don’t have your camera physically with you, you can still make photographs in your mind. For example, waiting in line at the store; think about how you would take this overall scene, or the hands of the cashier, or the lady who is packing your groceries. Thinking about photographs and how to make them will become way of life. It’s a great habit to cultivate.

So get out there and practice with your eye and with your camera. Share the results with your friends. And have a great time doing it.

by Noella Ballenger
All text and photos: © 2012 Noella Ballenger. All Rights Reserved.

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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