5 beginner photography challenges to improve your skills

First published:
April 11, 2022
July 28, 2023

5 beginner photography challenges to improve your skills

First published:
April 11, 2022
July 28, 2023

Cover image by Paul Moody

Push yourself out of your comfort zone with simple-to-follow photography challenges aimed at helping you significantly improve your skills behind the camera

Photo by Peter Brocklehurst

As photographers, it’s very easy for us to get complacent when it comes to our shooting habits, especially when we get to know what it is exactly we like to photograph, and how. That’s absolutely fine - but now and again it can be useful, and even preferential, to mix things up a little bit.

"...now and again it can be useful, and even preferential, to mix things up a little bit."

Doing something called photography challenges is a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and this is where you give yourself a specific photo-related task where you try something different to your normal shooting habits. Doing set challenges like this can really help you get creative again, and you can do them as little, or as often as you like.

A useful way to get started with challenges is by setting aside a day for each challenge. This way too, you’ll be concentrating on one objective for the day, but over a longer period of time, you can try lots of different challenges. Some you may like more than others, and that’s absolutely fine too - it's better to try these things rather than not at all, and in the process you may find a new photography niche that you love.

Here are a few of our recommendations for challenges that you can begin with:

1 Concentrate on just one colour 

A nice one to start with that gives you plenty of opportunity to get creative.

Simply pick a colour, it could be your favourite colour, or even better your least-favourite colour (makes it more of a challenge) and spend the day making that particular colour the main theme or subject of your images.

Here's an example below of what a blue theme could look like:

Photos by Ivana Žitko, Thomas Madhavan, 48, Miguel, and Gareth Gray

2 Use a prime lens with a fixed focal length

Spending the day shooting with a lens that has a fixed focal length (also known as a prime lens) - where you don’t have the ability to zoom in or out - can be a great way to challenge yourself to look at the scene in front with a more subjective eye. You'll need to work harder to get the best positioning for your shot when you can't rely on your zoom lens to do some of that work for you.

It's definitely possible to get some beautiful landscape shots at a longer focal length, or some really interesting portraits at wide angle - you just need to be a bit more creative with how you compose your shots.

"A Sri Lankan schoolboy gets cosy with the camera in wideangle" by Scott Michael Shanley
Further reading:

Learn more about how to get the most out of your camera lenses with our top tips.

3 Photograph silhouettes for the day

Instead of having your back to the sun or any other type of light source you’re working with. Turn around and face it instead, and embrace a day of photographing silhouettes.

It will really help you focus on the formal elements of photography, such as shape, line and colour, and you can get some really striking results - especially when taking photos during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset.

"Lakeside Silhouettes at Sunset" by David Siggers

4 Take 5 completely different shots of the same subject or location

When visiting a location for photography it’s very easy to set up at a specific spot, compose the scene in front of you, get the shot and move on. But if you challenge yourself by attempting to find 5 different shots of the same location, you’ll start seeing things you may have otherwise overlooked.

For example, imagine you’re at a quintessential spot for landscape photography. Instead of setting up your tripod in just the one spot that gets you your hero shot, try lots of different angles; turn around and look at the scene behind you, focus on the details, get low to the ground, and search for reflections. You'll get a huge variety of images, some of which you may prefer more than your original intended shot.

Below is an example of three very different looks for one iconic photographic subject - the Eiffel Tower.

Photos by Kaisa Schreck Danielsson, Santiago Pizarro, and FreeProd
Further reading:

See our in-depth guide on how to work a photography location for more tips and advice.

5 Pick an atypical location and make that your photo subject

Think of the most boring, unassuming, irregular place where you absolutely would not consider taking pictures usually (for example it could be places like a car park, your living room, an office complex, shopping mall) and make that the place for your next shoot.

This is a tough one as spaces that aren’t particularly inspirational can make it incredibly hard to focus or be motivated at all - but that’s exactly the point - and once you slow down and take a closer look at a place or subject, you'll start to see elements such as colours, light, shape and forms that could make an interesting scene.

This image below is an excellent example. Captured at night, this near-empty car park - an otherwise unassuming subject - now has a beautiful and enticing cinematic flair to it.

"Winter Parking Lot" by Paul Moody
Further reading:

Learn more about how to create a cinematic look for your photos with our top tips.
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