Photographer’s Just Do It List

Earlier this week I had a chance to listen to Jeremy Cowart speak at Escalate Live and to read his guest blog over on Scott Kelby’s blog. One of the things that I heard from him (and other speakers at Escalate) was to get out there and “just do it”. This included practicing our craft as photographers, trying new things and being creative with out experimentation.

Easy enough to say, but for some of us, harder to do since half of the battle is coming up with ideas to get us started. So here’s a few ideas that come from a number of sources: the Art of Photography presentation at Photoshop World, discussions here at out office around the water cooler and things I’ve tried.

1. Self Assignment

Joe Glyda is pretty famous at Photoshop World for his slide shows of his self-assignments. He picks a relatively random idea and gives himself the assignment to go out and shoot that theme or idea. I’ve watched in awe as he has shown slide shows of his past assignments such as “circles”, “shadows” and “leftover food as art”. Pretty cool stuff. And pretty easy to do, except maybe for coming up with the idea…

1a. But what if you’re completely stuck for ideas? Well, I just found out about an iPhone app that a friend of mine has created for PhotoWalks. It’s really an idea generator: you pick a topic such as People, Abstract, Nature or Urban, choose from Easy through Hard and a number of words pop up. For example, I choose Urban and Medium and got these words: confusion, flyover, longingly, simulated, and clandestine. Talk about forcing my creativity to the surface – take a photo that suggests longingly? Hmmmm (more info on the PhotoWalkIdeas iPhone app here)

2. Cover up the LCD

Get yourself a cover for your camera’s LCD, make your own or turn it off in the menu, but try walking around – or in studio – and taking photos without looking at the back of your camera after each shot. Changes the rules a bit, doesn’t it? (As an aside, I tried this recently and still found myself glancing at the LCD after the first few shots because I obviously have a habit of doing that). Shooting “blind” is a really interesting and educational experience.

3. Use one lens

If you’re used to carrying around several lenses, bring only one. Make it a prime lens and see how that changes your approach. If you’re used to carrying a prime lens, then bring (only) a long lens or a wide angle. The idea here (as with everything on the list) is to change things up a bit and to try something new.

4. Use one light or no light

In keeping with the theme of change, if you’re used to working with a multiple light set-up in a studio, try using only one light. Or tripod your camera, turn out all the lights and start painting with a flashlight. If you love (and normally only shoot in) natural light, get some studio time and use some strobes. Change is good – but challenging!

5. Be the subject

When was the last time you had your portrait taken? I mean really sat (or stood) and posed for a series of photos with an accomplished photographer. I had the opportunity to do this last year and it was an eye-opening experience (and fun too!). Being on the other side of the lens, watching and listening to my photographers was both fascinating and educational. Find a photographer (one you know or a “stranger”) and offer to swap portraits. Besides being a great learning opportunity, you’ll also get yourself a new portrait (how many photographers are still using a photo taken several – or many – years ago?)

So there’s my short list of ideas to get you started. I hope these help get your creative juices flowing. What are your ideas to help us all get out there and “just do it”?


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  2. Vern Snow

    May 21, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Thank you for sharing the information

  3. Michael White

    May 21, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Great post, Dave. Another idea is to get a really small capacity memory card, it limits the amount of photos you can take so you become much more selective on the shots you take.

  4. Chris

    May 21, 2010 at 9:10 am

    Nice post, I’ve been trying to think of a photo project or self assignment since I haven’t done anything in a while, and the idea generator is a great help. Thanks.

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  6. Roger Aylstock

    May 24, 2010 at 12:31 am

    Yeah, shooting “blind”…that’s what we used to do in the film days! If you were lucky, you could do a test shot with a Polaroid back on your medium format camera. Otherwise it was wait a week for the prints to come back from the lab! Thanks for the idea tips!

  7. Girish

    May 24, 2010 at 2:13 am

    Thanks for the read. Any clue if that app is available for non-iphone, or for windows. It’s fun to get a random challenge and stand up for it.

  8. Patrick Skotniczny

    May 24, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Great list!

    Im really in the early stages of trying to get myself “out there” and this really helps!

    Thanks Mr. Cross

  9. forex robot

    May 24, 2010 at 9:02 am

    What a great resource!

  10. Curtis Copeland

    May 24, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Thanks for the challenge, Dave. I downloaded the iPhone app. Going on a trip soon and will use it while photographing my journey. Thanks again for the insight!

    – Curtis

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  14. Mike

    May 27, 2010 at 6:08 am

    This is such a great list. When you get those times when you’re just wandering around trying to find something inspiring to shoot, use the lens you normally leave at home.

    It really is an excellent piece of advice to help you get out of your ‘funk’.

    Loving the new site too, Mr. Cross! :o)

  15. Tom Calderwood

    June 15, 2010 at 8:30 am

    Good tips! I *try* to routinely practice those (as learned from the Art of Photography!). I usually “practice” down at Disneyland (a target-rich environment) and routinely take only one lens. Some of my friends give me stink-eye when I do that, but it forces me to look through the eye of whatever lens I’m using – and that can either open the possibilities or constrain me, which really isn’t to bad either.

    Another thing to try is keep your big gun at home. Yup, use that crappy Point and Shoot. Try to get folks to go ga-ga over the picture, not the process. We do this as a contest – 5 of us will head out with $150 cameras to see who can shoot the best picture. It forces your inner-photographer to scream in protest until you see that it’s YOU that takes the pictures after all.

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