Every photographer, whether you are a pro or someone who is just starting out, hits the proverbial creative brick wall. It has happened to the best of us, and it could be serious enough to make you put your camera down and stop shooting.

Instead of doing that, rather pick up your camera and force yourself to start looking at the world you photography in a new way, challenge yourself to do something different. While there are many ways to do this, the best way is to set yourself some challenges. This can be done on your own or even with a group of photographer friends.

Here’s four ideas to get you started.

Restrict yourself

Because photography has become so much cheaper over the past few years, most of us have now access to decent cameras, multiple lenses and a host of other toys all on our phones. As anyone who’s remembers the original Star Wars before it became a CGI mess, dealing with limitations unleashes creativity – when there’s no limit there’s no imagination.

So restrict yourself by taking away some of the convenience offered to the modern photographer. You’ll be amazed at the results. Here’s eight ideas to get you thinking.

  • Use only one prime lens, or shoot only at one focal length on a zoom lens.
  • Switch over to Black and White in camera and only shoot that.
  • Shoot only between a certain time of the day, and preferably when the light is not great.
  • Pick a certain aperture and only use, this will really challenge you to try new things.
  • Only use the spot-metering mode on your camera.
  • Frame images so that your subject only takes up a quarter of the image.
  • Use only reflections in your images.
  • Cover your LCD screen with tape or something and don’t look at any of your images until you download them. This will force you to concentrate on what you are shooting, not what you have shot.

mobileTake it with you

This is a fun project and you won’t have to go anywhere specific to do it.

Pick an item and carry it everywhere with you for a whole day. Shoot images wherever you are and make sure you include that item in all of the images. Try to position the item in different parts of your frame every time you take a picture. You will start to notice how it dictates framing and composition. Don’t be scared to get creative with the placement of your item.

Double Dirty Dozen

Go somewhere: the park, a shopping centre or a random street corner. Anywhere will do for this one because it is not about the place, it is about what you are going to force yourself to see while you are there. Pick a spot and plant your feet, you may only stand in one spot. Now, shoot 24 individual images while standing there, you may not move your feet at all.

This is most probably the most difficult of these exercises and it will push your creativity and understanding of your gear to a point where you most probably have never been. It will teach you to truly see what is around you.

Shoot “film”

Pick one of your favourite places; somewhere have enjoyed making images in the past. But this time pretend that you are shooting film in your digital camera. In other words, you are only allowed to take 24 or 36 “exposures” and then you have to stop because you are out of film.

Make sure you look and think before releasing the shutter button, because you only have a certain amount of images before you run out. This should help you to make better decisions about what you shoot; it will encourage you not just to shoot everything you see.

Had a go at any of these exercises? Be sure to let us see the results either by commenting in this post or visiting our forum over here. We’ll have four more challenges to stretch your photo muscles next week.

[Main image – George R Lawrence, Public Domain]