The best way to learn photography is to practice though sometimes you can get stuck in a rut and not know what to shoot. We’ve compiled some techniques to help spur creativity, solve problems, learn new techniques, and challenge yourself. Just remember to keep the basics like the rule of thirds, shutter speed, aperture, depth of field and exposure in mind along the way.
Get a Little Closer
Get up close and personal with your subject. It is an exercise in viewing a common object in a new way and examining its finer details. Choose an object that you see or interact with every day. Focus on a small part of it, get as close as your camera will allow you to focus and shoot away. Try to capture different angles and unusual lighting to add to the mystery of this tiny world. From the whiskers of your cat to a fragile Christmas ornament, even common soap bubbles, there is an entire world that we often overlook because we don't get close enough.
On the Move
Photography is a static medium which means that it doesn't move. Conveying a sense of motion is often crucial to capturing a scene or emotion and it is an essential skill for photographers to practice. Choose a subject or series of subjects that will allow you to convey motion in your images. It can be slow motions like that of a turtle or fast motion like a speeding train. Blur it, stop it, or simply suggest that there is motion in the photograph. Challenge yourself to capture the same motion in different ways. For instance, you might go to a race track and stop the movement of the cars completely in one image, then leave the shutter open and allow them to blur out of the frame in the next. The goal of this exercise is to understand how shutter speeds can be used to convey motion.
Hiding in the Shadows
Shadows are everywhere and they are vital to photography because this is the art of capturing light. With light comes shadows and when you begin to look at shadows as a photographer, your world will open up. Take a look around for shadows and record them with your camera. You could show the shadow as the total focus of the image. Or perhaps the shadow is incidental to the subject. Is the shadow natural or created by flash? Shadows are integral to creating depth in a two-dimensional medium such as photography. Take some time to seriously explore the "dark side" of the light.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Water
Water is everywhere in photography and it presents many challenges because there are reflections and movements. Find water anywhere it is around you: lakes, streams, puddles, even the glass on your kitchen table. Pay attention to reflections and use them to your advantage in the photographs. Use this opportunity to get familiar with a polarizing filter so you can accentuate or eliminate reflections. Play with the motion of a stream or the crashing waves. Notice the difference between stopping the flow of water and allowing it to blur to create a real sense of movement. Be sure to make water the subject and not an accent to the image. Water alone is beautiful and mysterious and you should explore all of its potential as a subject.
The goal here is to learn how to direct the viewer to your subject using lines. Choose a subject then look around for lines in the scene that you can use to 'lead' the viewer to the subject. Or, find an interesting line then determine what the subject of your photograph is. Remember that lines can be man-made or natural. For instance, the yellow line down the middle of the road or a tree branch. Even a person's arm can be a leading line to their face. Walk downtown or in the woods and look around you for interesting lines that lead the eye to a subject. There is an amazing assortment of lines out there in the world and once you begin to see them, you won't be able to stop.
Try studying textures and forget about the object itself. Instead allow the texture to become the subject. You will begin to realize how light affects the appearance of texture. Find a few objects that have very detailed textures like trees or rocks, even knit sweaters or woven rugs. Photograph them as close as your lens will allow. Use different angles and capture the same texture as the light changes. Notice how the different lighting directions and camera angles can change how much texture appears. Textures are all around us and many of the best photographs in the world play up the textural element. You will learn how to recognize and accentuate those elements in your photos.