Creativity Exercise: 30 Photographs in 30 Minutes

Welcome back for another creative challenge! If you are new to the blog, every month for 2017 I will be posting a creative exercise for you to do.  So if you like the idea of a monthly flex of your photography muscles, come back at the first Tuesday of every month for your assignment.  You can of course do these at ANY time, so at the bottom of this post you will find links to the previous challenges too!

This particular exercise is absolutely wonderful for those times when you are feeling a bit creatively blocked or stuck in a rut - you know those times when you just aren’t feeling motivated to pick up your camera, and when you do you feel like everything you take looks blah and boring. 

The reason we are having this creativity exercise this month is this is because that is EXACTLY how I have been feeling of late! 

Photography has been a major part of my life for a long time now, and between writing blog posts, doing live streams in the Facebook group, answering questions, recording lessons and creating courses on the subject, I feel like the actual part of taking the photos is something that I have fallen out of doing!  I know that this feeling is pretty common with professional photographers, because their creativity in essence becomes their job, which in and itself can get repetitive. However, it can - nay, it WILL - happen to everyone, regardless of whether you are a hobbyist or a seasoned pro. 

So, for this exercise, we are going to be limiting ourselves with how we shoot (because believe or not limitations HELP your creativity!) but only with regard to location and time.

Try out the 30 in 30 photography creativity exercise | photography project ideas

The Challenge

It’s super simple. All I want you do is go to a contained outdoor location of your choice, and take 30 different photographs in 30 minutes. 

Choosing a location

Your outdoor location doesn’t necessarily need to be somewhere incredibly interesting - your back garden will do wonderfully for this! You could also use the park, your driveway, a beach or even a street.  The only “rule” is that you want to stay in that one location (or one small part of that location if it is somewhere big like a long stretch of beach!) for all 30 photos. Remember that the goal is to limit your options of where you can photograph in order to force you to see all the possibilities in one location. 

Likewise, your location also doesn’t necessarily need to be somewhere new, in fact it can be more challenging if you are in a location that you shoot in quite often as you will be forced to look around you more. However, if you feel bored by your usual locations then absolutely head somewhere different.

The Photographs

You are trying to take 30 photographs that are each unique and different.  Now, that is challenging to do at the best of times, never mind in one location and in 30 minutes! 

Bear in mind that although each photograph needs to be different, it does not need to be of a different subject.  So for example if you are looking around your back garden and see a hose, you could take a photograph of it from above, then a close up of the nozzle and so on.

The goal is NOT to get the 30 most amazing images you have ever taken, but rather to get your brain thinking creatively again, and being open to what is around you.  The focus here should be on getting different types of photos from this one small location. 

The Time

Yup, you’ve got 30 minutes, which doesn't sound long but it should be enough time to get 30 different images. Now, nobody is going to care if you decide to take an an extra ten minutes, or even take a full hour to do this exercise in (least of all me) but having a goal of 30 minutes will keep you on your toes and keep you moving around for new possibilities, so stick to it if you can.

Feeling stuck?

If you feel you are standing there with your camera in your hand and nothing comes to mind at first then here are some suggestions! Try taking images….

  • From different angles - get down on your tummy or stand on something and look down

  • Using a different aperture for more or less depth of field - get one image of an object with a really wide depth of field and another with an extremely shallow depth of field 

  • Of moving subjects such as birds, children, cyclists - freeze them or show the motion

  • Of inanimate objects such as a bench or leaf - look for interesting lines or shapes

  • Using different composition tools such as framing, rule of thirds or golden compositions - take a list with you if you like

  • Using the available light differently (lighting from the back, the side, in front etc)

  • Of any interesting textures or colours combinations

  • Of any people in your chosen location - even portraits are allowed! 

  • Get close up to an object and capture just a small detail or element of it, or stand back and capture the whole scene

As you can see, although there are limitations in that you are only going to shoot in one location, and for a set period of time, what you can shoot is definitely not limited!

I’ll show you mine if you show me yours

I actually went ahead and did this exercise a couple of days ago and I have to tell you that I found it SO difficult, for a couple of reasons. 

The first reason is that I really do feel so incredibly uninspired at the moment, and doing this exercise showed just how I bad I am feeling! I went to my location and literally wandered aimlessly around for the first fifteen minutes, not really knowing what to shoot and how to shoot it.  It felt like someone has stolen the spark that usually motivates me to pick up my camera. It is such a horrible feeling to be so unmotivated, so if you feel this way right now, you are not alone with this, and I feel for you! I have felt it before and it does pass - it's just so demoralising when it's happening. 

The second reason was I really, really missed having a PERSON to photograph. For me, as I'm usually photographing a living, breathing subject, I'm always thinking about how everything  in the frame interacts with them and how they interact with everything in it.  To not have that instant point of focus was incredibly difficult for me - probably made worse by my lack of vision. It was interesting to note this though, as perhaps shooting the same thing over and over again has contributed to my lack of creativity. 

Anyway, I did it, and you can see some of them below. (just click on the arrows to scroll through if you want to see them)  Most are pretty terrible, but as I got nearer to the end of my 30 minutes span, I could definitely feel myself getting more inspired and into the groove, so it is something I will repeating again until I feel a bit more like my usual self. 

Now it's your turn! I’d love it if I could see your images on our Facebook Group.  I know 30 images is not exactly the easiest to post (the major downside of these larger monthly creative challenges!) but there are a few ways to share!  You could:

  • Create a collage with all 30 images, or a smaller collage with just a few.
  • Create a SmugMug or Flickr gallery and share the link.  
  • Post just your top three in the Facebook Group
  • Post on Instagram with the hashtag #livesnaplove so we can find one another!

Regardless of whether you share one or 30, what I'd really love to know is how you got on with the challenge in general - did you find it hard or easy? Did you get 30 different pictures? Did you find yourself feeling more creative after the challenge?  How did you feel before it? Remember to leave all your images (or links to them) and any comments under the Facebook group post so we can find one another each month. 

if you fancy doing some more challenges, here's the previous exercises we have done so far in 2017: 

January: Photograph A Day In Your Life

February: Take a Photo Essay

March: In the Kitchen

April: Using Framing As a Composition Tool