Here are five different daily exercises you can use to improve your photography. You may choose to do all of them each day or pick and choose as the mood suits. I personally have engaged in all of these exercises and found them beneficial. True confession? I didn't do them every day, but I still learned a ton! Enjoy!
Collect and Study Images
Any time you see an image that causes you to pause, clip it. If it’s a magazine, calendar, or other printed material, clip it out and pop it into a folder or envelope.
Did you see it online? Bookmark it into Pinterest or save the link to a special file.
Now what, you ask? Each day spend some time studying one of the images you clipped. Did you dislike it or like it? Why? Did it spark a certain emotion in you? What caused it? Dig deep, not just “it’s pretty.” Why is it pretty? Look at the composition and the lighting. What’s the focal point? What is good or bad about this image? This should take about 5 minutes for an image.
Here are links to a few images I found intriguing: (I’m providing links so that I do not accidentally violate copyright!)
Carry A Camera
Carry a camera with you everywhere. In these days of cameras built into nearly every cell phone, this is actually pretty easy! Any time you see something interesting, take a shot of it! (Be careful of taking images of people you don’t know without their permission! A lot of people don’t like that!) Try to take at least one picture every day. There’s a reason that 365 projects are so popular. You learn by doing! But don’t stop there. Repeat what you did in the exercise above. Study the image(s) you took. What did you see that you tried to capture with your camera? Did you succeed? What is good or bad about the image? Will you have the opportunity to try the same subject again? Go for it!
All of the images in the collage below were taken with my cell phone. Some were good images on their own, some were simply humorous, some were for practice, and some were for inspiration to work with later.
Pick A Subject
Pick a subject for the day, for example, an apple. Now take 5 (or more!) pictures of the apple, ensuring that none of them are the same. Change the position, the lighting, the composition, the other elements with the apple, etc. You can use the same subject for a week and take 5 or more a day or pick a different subject every day. The point is to learn how to see things differently and to learn how an object changes depending on various factors.
The collage below is of a palm tree down in the Everglades in Florida. I took a detail shot and shots from 3 different perspectives or orientation.
Watch or Read a Tutorial
There are literally millions of tutorials online or in books or magazines designed to help you improve your photography. Pick one and try it out! What are you interested in? Find a tutorial and learn what you can. If you worked with a tutorial every day, but the end of the year you would have learned 365 new techniques!
Here’s a tutorial on creating a collage in Lightroom!
Try A New Feature
Most cameras have various features available to them - including cell phone cameras. Pick one and learn it. This will help you to have a full “toolbox” when you try to capture that amazing photo. You will know what’s available to you and how to use it! Practice with the new feature until you feel pretty comfortable with it, then move on to another one!
A Note about Equipment
You may think that to be serious about learning photography you have to have a fancy camera with interchangeable lenses, an SLR (single lens reflex). While this may be nice, it is certainly not necessary. Don’t put your attention on the type of equipment you have, put your attention on how well you are using what you have available to you.
When my Pentax SLR film camera broke way back when, I couldn’t afford to replace it at the time and was even struggling with the cost of film and prints. So, I decided to go digital with a point and shoot. A DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera was way out of my price range at the time, but I did not let that stop me from pursuing my passion! The delete option added a freedom to my photography that allowed me to experiment a whole lot more. I couldn’t play with different lenses but I learned quite a bit about light, composition, color, and pattern. And I learned every function that was available to me. Some of my all-time favorite images were created with that little point and shoot. The best camera is the one that is in your possession. Don’t let “camera envy” get in your way!
As for photo editing software, most computers come with a built in photo editor. Additionally, Picasa is a free photo editor by Google. I used this to create the collage of cell phone images above. Many others exist. Just type "free photo editor" into your favorite search engine.
Do you have daily photography exercises you try?