Dogma photography


As a kinda-sorta follow-up from my most recent critique, where several of the commenters mentioned that they felt that their photography got better when they imposed rules on themselves, I started thinking: Which other constraints can you put on photography?

First of all — why? Well, in a machoistic kind of way, making rules about the way you take photos is a creative way to think about photography. Take this restraint, for example: For a day, only take photos that have a strong diagonal. It means you start thinking about framing your photographs in a completely different way than you would otherwise. Perhaps you don’t get home with a single photo that is actually worth using, but the lessons you learn from the experiment will come in very handy for later photography assignments. 


So, what sort of constraints should you be considering? Well, if you are hardcore enough, why not try and work through this list, from start to finish? If you do decide to try — as always — post a comment to the thread, because I’d absolutely love to see the results of this.

Give it a shot. At worst, you lose a bit of time, and at the very least, you’ll become a more experienced and varied photographer out of it. Perhaps you are even helped towards developing your own photographic style?

Try these rules…

Squaring circles is a long-standing Flickr meme: Taka a photo of something round, and crop it so it becomes a square photo. There are nearly 50,000 photos to use as inspiration, so it’s a good one to get started on!

The Don’t-look-now challenge: Take a series of photos without looking through the viewfinder. Learn to estimate the field of view of your lenses, and try to frame the photos according to the ‘feel’

The 5 shot challenge discussed towards the end of the ‘thinking of photos as paintings’ thread: Take a maximum of 5 photos in a day.

The car challenge: Include a toy car in your photograph.

The ‘my lightmeter broke‘ challenge: You can look through the viewfinder to focus and frame, but you can’t look at what the light meter tells you. Set your camera to fully manual and an appropriate ISO value, and see how well you can estimate shutter times and apertures.

The 20-step challenge: Take 20 steps, then find something to photograph from where you are standing, and click the shutter. It’s an observation game more than anything, but it’s a lot of fun, especially if you compare your results with friends walking the same route or similar.

The interloper challenge: Subtly work a person doing something silly into otherwise good photos. Get them to do Phoons, for example.

Interpret this: Take a line or a verse from a piece of music, and try to illustrate it through photography. If nobody can guess what song it is, try again.

The shoot-from-the-hip challenge: Walk through town, and see how many people you can photograph without being noticed.

Create a longer-term project. Have you seen Smoke, where the main character has to take a photo of the same street at the same time every morning? That sort of thing. Or perhaps you can convince your family to document the tides of time?

Find patterns, whether there are any or not, and start a project bigger than yourself. Like the exactitutes project, which is studying stereotypes and how people let themselves conform to them

Try taking square portraits in black and white, like in our Newyear’s challenge.

The focus challenge — set your lens to a focus somewhere in between infinity and the closest focal range, and don’t change it. All your photos have to be taken at this focus.

The goofy challenge: Collect photos with a common theme. Need some to get you started? Try this PhotoJoJo thread, or have a look at my own project: Locks on toilets.

Frame Storming is like brain storming: Keep taking photos for a whole day, regardless if you have any inspiration or not.

Take a photo a day for a week, but you can only take them on a low-quality camera: A web-cam, a mobile phone camera, or similar. It’s a good way of doing abstact stuff because you can’t get everything you want to into the frame most of the time, and makes you focus on composition and lighting — you have no other parameters to play with!

Face-off challenge: Take a series of portraits, but you’re not allowed to show any part of their face.

Finally, if you are getting the feel for this whole ‘photography with constraints’ thing, try Digital Photo Challenge. They’ve got weekly challenges (along with 24 hour challenges etc). I once tried to submit a photo to every challenge for 6 months. It’s a nightmare, but the commenting and the feedback you get is a great development tool. Just don’t be disheartened: The photos that win aren’t always the best photos: DPChallenge is a bit of an elitist society. Still, worth trying it for a laugh!

Can you think of any other challenges? Post them in the comments!

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