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17 Creative Photography Exercises to Boost Your Inspiration

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photography learning exercises.
Quick summary

: Photography exercises can be a great way to boost inspiration and overcome creative block. They’re usually fun and creative exercises that can help you leave your comfort zone and try something new. Try our photography exercises today to rediscover your love for photography!

As you practice photography, you might find it useful to try different photography exercises. Similar to fitness, a good photography exercise can strengthen your skills and refresh you.

Whether you’re a budding photographer or a professional, you can benefit from trying out these photography exercises. Our list is full of inspiring ideas for anyone who wants to overcome creative block or discover a new photography technique.

Learning Exercises for Photographers

To spark creativity, take photos of something that you’ve never photographed before. Do the opposite of what you usually do to awaken your creative senses and challenge yourself. These exercises will push you out of your comfort zone, which could help you come up with unique ideas for your photoshoots. Here are 17 creative photography exercises for beginners and professionals alike.

1. Take a Photo Every Week for a Year

If you want to improve your skills in a variety of areas, join a 52 Week Project. For this project, you’ll receive new photography exercises on a weekly basis for a whole year. Some photographers come up with their own themes, while others join communities.

Our 52 Week Project will provide you with fun challenges, tips, and videos every week. You’ll also get access to a supportive community where you can meet new people and share your work.

creative photo of plants outdoors.

Here are a few things you’ll learn if you join this challenge:

  • How to photograph different subjects in a variety of genres
  • How to use your technical skills creatively (e.g., use a slow shutter speed to create abstract photos)
  • The power of using different angles while photographing one subject
  • How to find interesting things to photograph in mundane locations
  • Post processing

These are just a few of the themes we cover in this challenge. Join us to learn something new and boost your photography skills!

2. Limit Your Shoot to 5 Minutes

photographer previewing photos outdoors.

Working in limited conditions is a great way to awaken your creativity. Set a timer for 5 minutes and take as many high-quality photos as you can.

Challenge yourself not to rush. Learn to be mindful of your surroundings, even during a 5-minute photoshoot. This photography exercise is perfect for grounding yourself and learning how to remain calm in fast-paced environments.

3. Take Minimalistic Photos with Negative Space

minimalistic photo for a photography exercise.

When taking indoor or outdoor photos, you have to be mindful of your subject’s surroundings. If you include too many colours, subjects, and shapes in your frame, you might end up with images that look too cluttered.

If you often find yourself struggling with this, you’ll enjoy this photography exercise. Minimalism removes anything unnecessary from a situation. In photography, it can help you focus on what really matters to you in your work.

You can start by taking photos in front of simple backgrounds. If you can’t control your surroundings, make use of creative angles to separate your subject from too many details. This might mean shooting from a very low angle, choosing a different perspective or adding negative space.

4. Use Manual Mode to Take Abstract Photos

abstract photo taken using the ICM technique.

Good photos aren’t always taken using the “perfect” camera settings. There’s a lot we can learn from abstract photographers who actively go against the rules and look at the world through a different lens.

You can train yourself to think like an abstract photographer by experimenting with your camera settings. Use manual mode to have full control over your camera settings and to play around with different techniques.

5. Take a Creative Self-Portrait Indoors

colourful indoor self-portrait.

Creative exercises indoors can help you greatly in your photographic journey. Knowing how to make the most of indoor light can make your outdoor photoshoots easier. It can also be a comfortable place to start, especially if you’re a beginner.

Self-portrait photography might seem intimidating, but it can be a fun and easy genre if you approach it the right way. Instead of aiming for perfection, focus on creativity. You can take great photos of yourself with the help of everyday objects and simple backgrounds.

If you want to elevate your self-portrait skills, make sure to join our Indoor Self-Portrait Photography Course. This course will teach you how to take stunning self-portraits indoors without spending a lot of money on lighting or props.

6. Try Something New in Post-Production

surreal and high-angle view of lamppost and trees.

This exercise is great for anyone who wants to get out of a creative funk. If you enjoy your photoshoots but dread the editing process, you may need to change your workflow.

Today’s editing programs allow photographers to experiment in different ways. Leave your comfort zone and use tools that are new to you. If you usually retouch your photos heavily, try to simplify the process. If you like to use presets, try different ones. Refresh your colour palette by experimenting with cooler or warmer tones.

If you get stuck, you can ask someone to edit a photo for you. Someone else’s style can give you ideas on what to improve. Our community has an Editing Friday forum where you can submit your photographs for editing. Feel free to join us there!

7. Treat Your Digital Camera like a Film Camera

black & white photo of person holding different cameras.

Film cameras come with a plethora of limitations. You’re limited to a specific number of photos and your own knowledge of photography to take great images. There’s a lot we can learn from film photography in this modern and fast-paced photography industry.

For this exercise, take photos without Live Mode. Imagine that you can’t review any of your photographs until you upload them to your computer. Slow down and try to understand how your camera works.

This limitation can help you improve your creative eye and get better at pre-visualisation. Instead of analysing every single photo after it’s taken, you’ll need to rely on your skills to make the most of the scene in front of you.

8. Take Black and White Street Portraits

street photo inspiration for photography exercises.

This street portrait challenge can improve your street photography and help you overcome the fear of being rejected. For this exercise, take street photos in black & white.

You can shoot exclusively in black & white or convert your colour photos to B&W in post. Try to look at the world through a black & white lens. Without the presence of colour, you might see the world from a refreshing point of view.

9. Re-Create 10 Iconic Images

landscape photo inspired by Ansel Adams.

One of the best ways to improve your photography skills is to learn from experienced photographers.

In your photography journey, you’ve probably come across famous photographs that took your breath away. For this exercise, re-create ten iconic images. You may need to do some research in order to understand how those photographs were created.

Embrace the research process; it may introduce you to new photography techniques and give you an understanding of why certain photographers were so famous.

10. Take 100 Photos Using the Same Lens

close-up of camera lens.

If you have more than one lens, this exercise can be an interesting way to overcome analysis paralysis. Many photographers struggle with picking the “right” tools for different shoots. Making too many decisions can tire you out and compromise the quality of your photographs.

Instead of giving yourself options, pick a random lens and take 100 photos with it. If possible, rent or borrow a lens that you’ve never used.

This will feel uncomfortable at first, but it will help you look at the same subjects from a different perspective. You might also discover a new photography technique or style this way!

11. Break 5 Photography Rules on Purpose

creative high-angle shot of person lying on floor.

Beginner photographers are often encouraged to learn and understand basic rules. You have to be mindful of where your subject is located in composition, what settings you use, how you work in different lighting conditions, etc.

With time, these rules become an intuitive part of a photographer’s shooting process. Breaking these rules can strengthen your creativity, which in turn can help you take unique photographs.

For this exercise, break 5 photography rules. You can focus on breaking one rule at a time. If you’re up for a challenge, try breaking 5 rules in one go!

12. Provide Other Photographers with Constructive Criticism

person typing on computer indoors.

This exercise doesn’t involve shooting, but it can be just as beneficial. Join an online community where you can share your photos and request constructive criticism. It’s very likely that you’ll find a lot of beginners who need objective feedback there.

Even if you’re not a professional photographer, you can help others improve by sharing your honest thoughts about their work. Even if you share your thoughts on a few images, you’re very likely to improve in your own photographic journey.

How does this work? When we look at other photographers’ work, we learn from their strengths and weaknesses. By writing constructive feedback, we give ourselves a chance to analyse photos from a technical and creative point of view. These skills can help us look at our own work objectively.

If you’re looking for a supportive photography community, join us today! In our group, you’ll find all the resources you need to improve your work, learn new techniques, and grow your network. Make new friends from all over the world and transform your photography with us!

13. Photograph the Same Subject for a Month

creative photographer taking pictures in a jungle.

As photographers, we’re always looking for new subjects to get our creative juices flowing. This exercise will teach you how to make the most of the same subject without running out of ideas.

Pick any subject and photograph it every day for a month.

When you start shooting, you’ll find it easy to take creative shots. As time goes by, taking unique photos might become a challenge. Don’t be intimidated by this. Use your imagination to make the most of your images.

To make things easier, here are a few ideas:

  • Use different backgrounds. A minimalistic background can make your subject stand out. A colourful background can add depth to your shot.
  • If practicing composition is one of your goals, be mindful of the rule of thirds and leading lines. Make your subject look technically appealing using these guidelines.
  • Adjust your settings creatively. Use slow and fast shutter speeds, wide and narrow apertures, and different ISOs. Don’t be afraid of breaking the rules.
  • Experiment with lighting styles. Create a high contrast look by using harsh artificial light. (You can use a lamp for this.) Create a soft, muted look with the help of natural light on a cloudy day. (You can use a curtain to soften bright light indoors.)

14. Re-Create an Old Photo From Your Portfolio

flatlay view of cup and film photographs.

The aim of many photography exercises is to help you improve. This photography exercise is all about celebrating your progress.

Go through your portfolio and pick an image that you’d like to photograph again. Your goal is to take the same photo and to compare your images. The older the photo, the better.

The photos don’t need to look identical, but the purpose behind them should be obvious. Use your experience to take a more appealing version of your old work. It’s very likely that the final image will impress you!

15. Tell a Story Through a Photo Essay

photography exercises inspiration featuring Polaroid photo at a wedding.

A photo essay is often used by documentary photographers to tell a story. Photo essays are made up of multiple images that summarise an event or describe a person’s life. You can approach this exercise in many different ways, depending on your interests.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Document how the light changes from the golden hour to the blue hour
  • Capture someone’s birthday or wedding day
  • Photograph particular details that stand out to you during a trip
  • Photograph a sports event from start to finish

16. Use the “Wrong” Equipment and Settings

wide aperture photo of rope.

No matter what you have in your camera bag, you can take beautiful photographs of anything. Some lenses and settings are made for specific subjects or genres, but don’t let that limit your options.

To make the most of the exercise, use the “wrong” equipment and settings on purpose. For example, use a very wide aperture when taking photos of landscapes. If you have a zoom lens that’s typically used for wildlife photography, take still-life photos with it.

If you switch things up, you’ll awaken your creativity, challenge yourself to make the most of what you have, and take unique images.

17. Take 10 Unique Photos From the Same Spot

view of hiking boots and dried leaves in a forest.

In digital photography, taking a single photo doesn’t require much in terms of finances or energy. You’re free to take as many photos as your equipment allows. Even though this is freeing, it can make us take photography for granted.

For this exercise, make every photo count. Find a random spot and take 10 unique photos there. You can crouch and experiment with different angles but don’t move to another location.

This is great practice for anyone who struggles with finding inspiration in simple places. If approached creatively, one spot can provide you with different photo opportunities.

Conclusion

man taking self-portrait in rearview mirror.

Photographic creativity is limitless, but it can seem finite when you’re running out of ideas and motivation. As you work on these photography exercises, you might rediscover your love for photography and, as a bonus, improve your skills.

As you work on these exercises, be open to learning new things and fearlessly push your limits. We’re sure that this will help you create outstanding photographs of anything, anywhere.

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Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.
Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.
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    1. Thank you very much for the kind comment, Sharon! If you work on any of these exercises, please share your results with us in the community! I’d love to see more of your work. 🙂

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