Please note that I do not know who originally coined the phrase “visual push-ups”. I have heard it used many times and find it very suitable to describe what we should all be practicing as often as possible with our camera.
There is no better time to practice your photography than here and now. Don’t wait for the best light, the exotic vacation, or a new lens. Let’s be honest, the only way you’re going to become a better photographer, is by doing visual push-ups every day, and by challenging yourself continuously for as many years as you’ll be able to carry that camera around. Give yourself assignments often and never stop learning!
One of my ongoing projects for several months was photographing beautiful smiles of strangers which resulted in a fun collection of smiles from all over the world. Here a shopkeeper in Melbourne, Australia.
Are you a hobbyist photographer?
You have the luxury of only needing to please yourself with your work. Make sure you do that. Click the shutter to move and inspire, not to impress.
Do you work for clients?
Pursuing personal projects is even more important. Remember the feeling of shooting for yourself only, without having to compromise between your vision and your client’s? However much you love being a pro photographer, you run the risk of losing the passion if you don’t take care of yourself and your creative needs.
You don’t have time to shoot everyday?
Yes you do! How much time do you spend on social media for example? Or sitting in front of the television? If you take only 15 minutes of that time and invest it in your photography daily, you will see the results. The best part is that you can do those visual push-ups at home, during your lunch break, or on the bus ride to work.
Do you think this only applies to beginning photographers?
Think again! I see so many seasoned photographers who are always shooting the same types of subjects, the same way. No matter what your skill level is, it’s always good to challenge yourself by getting out of your comfort zone to try new things.
Do you think that posting different genres will look like you can’t focus on one thing?
Wrong! On the contrary, it will prove that you are a well-rounded photographer. But, if you are trying to sell your services as a wedding shooter, your urbex images will be better posted on a separate page or gallery. Use common sense.
Anything can become a subject and give you a challenge. Try to make art with everyday objects and difficult lighting situations.
What type of photo projects should you work on?
Anything will do, as long as you enjoy it. Remember, the point of the exercise is not to please others or get likes. It’s to please yourself, and yourself only. By all means, do share with the world and get that extra satisfaction and gratification if others like it too. But that should not be your priority.
Although I am better known for my street photography, I don’t want to limit myself to just one genre of photography, the world is too beautiful to miss other opportunities. I love photographing architectural abstracts for example.
The sky is the limit!
Photograph any ordinary objects around your house and make them look extraordinary. Read the local paper and find a story that you can document with your camera. Start a 52 week, a 365 project, or even a 100 strangers or a self portrait project but be aware of the pressure you are putting on yourself. Make sure it doesn’t become a chore which would be counter-productive to what you are trying to accomplish.
Don’t worry too much about coming home with keepers every time you go out with your camera. There will be some good days, and there will be many not-so-good days. But one thing is certain; you will learn and grown every time you go out with your camera and do those visual push-ups.
During the long winter months I visit a lot of museums and Museum-Goers has become one of my on-going series.
I always have two or three personal projects going at the same time, in different genres if possible. The point of the exercise is to explore new things and grow. Remember, that no matter what the subject or genre you choose to experiment with, you will benefit greatly from expending your creative vision.
Doing those daily visual push-ups will be the best time invested in your photography. One day you will only have five minutes to photograph an ordinary object on the window sill in the early morning light. The next day you may have an hour with your camera during your lunch break. Every minute you spend working on your craft will help you find your photographic voice and expand your creative vision.
Exercising your vision can take as little as a few seconds, and be as simple as photographing an object in your own house. This is part of my weekly self-assigned “Ordinary Objects are Beautiful” challenge.
Do yourself a favor, get off the internet and grab your camera NOW!
Please share with the dPS community which personal projects have made a real difference in your photography by adding a comment below.
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