All experienced photographers agree on one point: to progress in photo, nothing beats practice, shoot again and again. This is the famous popular maxim: “This is practice makes perfect.”
BTW for the great photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson*, “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” This phrase became famous has yet been pronounced at the time of film photography! I imagine that in the digital era we can easily increase this figure to 100,000. These first 100,000 pictures thus serve as training, learning to work your technique, your compositions, automatism and reflexes.
To my mind I think that we can go a little further. In fact I do not think that taking 10,000 or 100,000 times the same kind of picture will necessarily improve your level. I think that you have to shoot in differents conditions, differents kind of picture, out of your usual comfort zone to be confronted with different situations and learn to adapt accordingly.
And to force yourself to get out of that comfort zone I think nothing better than to participate in a project or picture challenge. Alone or with other photographers, such activities imposes rules, rhythm, conditions that are not usual for you. So not only you take “other” photos, but often you are forced to think about it ahead, plan your pictures, what make you progress even more.
For exemple when I started learning photo I took part in a project 52 (one photo per week for one year, according to a specific theme). This project realized within a group really made me work a lot of new and various photographic style, and better than that, the reviews from the other participants on my shots that made me aware of my strengths and fields I had to work first.
You can easily find this kind of collective project on the Internet (Facebook, Flickr, various websites …). In addition to the 52 projects, there are also projects 12 (one photo per month for a year) and projects 365 (one photo a day for a year.)
Apart from these projects, it may also be possible to participate in more personal projects or pictures challenges. Few of them are popular on Facebook in the past few month, for example, a black and white photo a day for 5 days, a nature photo every day for a week (far way better than to throw a bucket of water on your own head !)…
You can of course also impose this kind of challenge to yourself, to force you to practice some photos, or even just find a motivation that sometimes leaking a little to amateur photographer.
This is how I started and propose to those who follow my facebook page the following challenge: “Sunrise for a week”. The idea is simple : to photograph the sunrise (or a photo at sunrise) every day for a week. I know it will not be easy, especially because of the climate expected next week, but I’ll try anyway. It will force me (and you too if you join to my madnes) to be on the field every day, during the best moment (the famous golden hour) and search for places that can offer me a good composition at sunrise.
So convinced? Who want to join me? It starts tomorrow (The week begins on Sunday in Israel!)
* Want to know more about Henri Cartier-Bresson, you should visit his page on the Artsy WebSite