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UfD: Themes and Challenges

It has been a challenge coming up with todays Up for Discussion Post, but then I thought maybe we could talk about whether or not we like themes and challenges.

Some people love them and others hate them.They can be great to get people doing something, or if you have no trouble making work then you might find it too hard to do. Having to stop what you do so you can do a special image for the theme can be a different kind of challenge.

Themes

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You can see where themes can be great for people who are starting out in photography. It helps them to work out what to take. When many people first start photography they know they want to take photos, but have a hard time working out what they are going to shoot. Themes can help solve that problem. If you are told what to take photos of then your problem is solved.

They can also be to broad for some people. If you are working on a particular body of work then a theme can be distracting from what you are trying to do.

I’ve always avoided themes. For the most part it meant making or taking something just for the sake of the theme. If you aren’t invested in it then how can you do your best work?

Starting the themes for Monochrome Madness was a joint decision between all of us. People said they wanted them so we started doing them. They are very popular and it is great to see how people respond to them.

Here are the images I’ve done for the various MM themes.

Challenges

Challenges can be another way to help you produce work. It can be a challenge that Β you do with other people or something you do on your own. Depending on the challenge you can do your own work and still participate.

Monochrome Madness can be like that. The challenge is to produce a monochrome image each week. Your subject matter is completely up to you. As long as the image is monochrome and you send it in then you are doing the challenge.

There are other challenges you can do too. Many people do challenges for blogging. About four years ago I did one to post a photo every day for a month. I found it got me blogging more and it became part of what I did every day. It was a great challenge for me and it helped me get my blog going.

What are your thoughts on themes and challenges? Do you do them? If yes, why and if no, why?

Here are some photos that I have used in Monochrome Madness this year.

68 Comments
  1. Fab photos as usual… I love the one of the sky scraper towering into infinity. All we are missing is King Kong and a few airplanes. In monochrome, of course! πŸ˜€

    August 21, 2015
    • Thank you, I love that about King Kong, that would be interesting, you organize it and I’ll photograph it, lol. πŸ˜€

      August 21, 2015
      • Week, HH is pretty hairy & scary… HahahahaπŸ˜€ However, he is also afraid of heights…

        August 21, 2015
      • That wouldn’t work, wouldn’t look scary if he was up there clinging on because he was terrified, LOL.

        August 21, 2015
  2. Personally, I enjoy both the themes and the challenges. Unfortunately (well fortunately for me in one way) I have contracted several concurrent jobs and it is hard to find the time to participate in challenges as much as I would like. It seems I can do nothing quickly.

    August 21, 2015
    • That’s great to hear Jeff, and unfortunate that work makes it hard for you to do them, but work is always good. Maybe things will ease off and you can get back them. Thanks Jeff.

      August 21, 2015
  3. Leanne, I do the MM largely because I don’t think in b&w as much as I’d like to and it is a way to force myself in doing more. I also occasionally do the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge but less so now than a few months ago. Sometimes I don’t find the Challenge stimulating and/or overly simple. I don’t find shooting a problem, somewhat the opposite – too many images to edit and then do the post production. But, if a challenge furthers shooting with a purpose, I consider doing it. Thanks, Tim

    August 21, 2015
    • That’s exactly why I do it too Tim, I don’t think of it very much, though since doing it I do more. I agree with you, I don’t have any problems with what to shoot that doesn’t happen to me either. I like the way you think about them, thanks for sharing that with us.

      August 21, 2015
  4. Deciding what to photograph, I think it can be difficult for anyone regardless of skill level. Challenges and themes can be helpful in that regard, but finding the “what and where” to photograph is all part of the creative process.

    Hey, I like your new blog theme. Very crisp, very clean.

    August 21, 2015
    • I don’t have a problem with what to photograph, I have a problem with laziness and not wanting to get out. Challenges work better for me, but I really get what you are talking about as well.

      Thank you David, it is mobile friendly, apparently, so that should be good. You are the first to notice or comment.

      August 21, 2015
      • Currently, my problem is having to post-process three months of photos, mostly of the horse kind. I’m not looking forward to sorting through a couple thousand photos.

        August 21, 2015
      • OMG that’s a lot. that will be a challenge of its own. I’m sure you will have fun doing it David, sounds like a fun job.

        August 21, 2015
  5. Wonderful images. Love the fence .. I would love to do a challenge I just have to get myself organised don’t I? πŸ˜„

    August 21, 2015
    • Thank you Julie, nice to look back on them as well. Yes, it would be great if you did MM with us.

      August 21, 2015
  6. Mostly I respond to holiday photography – try to capture the feeling of the place. I have asked my Camera Group to find a topic which they can take at any time and gradually build on this so in a way I have given them a challenge – I am waiting to see whether they respond!!

    August 21, 2015
    • Sounds like an interesting challenge. I think many of us do that now, but don’t realize it. I’m starting to realize that the environment is important to me, so that is what I try to capture all the time. I hope you get a great response, thanks Diana.

      August 21, 2015
  7. I participated in a 365 challenge for a while where you get a list each month with a challenge for each day. First I enjoyed it because it got me to pick up the camera every day, but in the end it made me focus too much on just that one pic per day to the extent that I was fixated on the challenge and neglected all other photo opportunities. Still, thinking back it was fun trying it out.

    August 21, 2015
    • I’ve seen those challenges around, and I think I would do the same, it would also be very hard to do it every day for a year. It is good that it got you back to picking up your camera everyday. Maybe that is the point of those, at some point you realize that you don’t need it anymore. They can be fun, thanks for sharing that with us Kiki.

      August 21, 2015
  8. cwheels62 #

    I love moody and atmospheric black-and-white photography … really nice work here! And thanks for the likes on my blog!

    August 21, 2015
    • You’re welcome and thank you, moody images is what I love doing best, so that’s great to hear.

      August 21, 2015
      • cwheels62 #

        I look forward to seeing more of your work!

        August 21, 2015
      • Thank you, I’m sure there will be lots more too, I can’t help myself, love going out and taking photos.

        August 21, 2015
      • cwheels62 #

        Awesome! That’s a great way to live.

        August 21, 2015
      • Isn’t it, just the best. πŸ˜€

        August 21, 2015
  9. I’ve enjoyed doing my Rainbowfication challenge that I set myself, but in all honesty I’m pleased there are only seven colours in the rainbow as it has been time consuming. Just like Kiki mentioned in the comments, I became fixated on finding the colour and neglecting everything else or even if the object was interesting enough. So I certainly admire anyone who can do a 365/ photo a day challenge. I think it would kill my love of photography, for a while at least!

    August 21, 2015
    • Yes they can be hard to maintain sometimes, but good to have them from time to time. I can see how it would take over everything, I don’t know about doing a 365 challenge, though I did do one a couple of years ago, but it was more about blogging everyday really, and that was good. Thanks for sharing that with us Haylee.

      August 21, 2015
  10. Fantastic photos, Leanne. I’ve never tried a “theme” so I’m not sure if I would like it or not like. I really enjoy Challenges here on WP. They help me focus my mind on one image. I can get distracted really easily, so do a challenge quiets my mind for a bit. However, I can also get distracted by trying to do too many challenges. So, I guess it is back to every thing in moderation πŸ™‚

    August 21, 2015
    • YOu might have to have a go Kirsten, maybe you should try a MM theme, haha. Challenges can be very good for that sort of thing, can really help you if you are stuck and what not. Yes, everything in moderation. Thanks for that Kirsten.

      August 21, 2015
  11. I only take part in three challenges: Monochrome Madness, my own Bird Photography Challenge and the One Four Challenge. Each of these is for a specific reason. MM takes me out of my comfort zone and gets me to look at images differently. Bird Photo is one I have set for myself to further my interest in birds. It gives me the discipline to go out birding regularly and to research them. One Four because it teaches me to process images, experiment and also gives me feedback.
    I haven’t got time for any more and sometimes even that is just too much.

    I find working on themes is hard work and if a ‘theme’ just does not ‘talk’ to me, I won’t take part… I don’t need a theme to take photos… I take too many already! One thing I have noticed is that even with MM and One Four my motivation to keep taking part can ebb and flow. So it is good when something a little different is introduced in the routine.

    August 21, 2015
    • They sound like good challenges and good number to do. Glad you do mine too. They all sounds like good challenges for you to do as well.
      I’m with you on the themes, I find the same thing with them. Thanks for sharing that Chris.

      August 21, 2015
  12. lensaddiction #

    I find challenges and themes both inspiring and a limitation – if it is something I can do without too much effort its inspiring – if it is something that really requires some travel or some effort to find whatever X is then its a limitation.

    Thats why I enjoy the image editing challenges so much, they challenge me to create but don’t limit HOW I do it if that makes sense.

    August 21, 2015
    • I like the way you look at it Stacey, and I think I would find the same.
      I think challenges can be good, for that reason. Thanks for sharing your experiences Stacey.

      August 21, 2015
  13. Anne Sandler #

    This year, I took up the 365 challenge. It’s a chore and requires you take a picture a day. Some days are forced–like the time I took a shot of the Denny’s sign. Some days I’m able to take my time. I’ve learned how to shoot on manual, use the flash on and off the camera, do HDR and more. There are times I wish I hadn’t started it, but then I realize what I’ve learned. Challenges can be great if you’re dedicated to completing them.

    August 21, 2015
    • That is a massive challenge, not sure I could do it, that is a big commitment, but sounds like it has been great for you Anne and you have learned a lot. Thanks for sharing that Anne and good luck completing it.

      August 21, 2015
  14. I run a monthly photo challenge called “the Changing Seasons” which is all about seeking the same place each month and document how the seasons change.
    The idea is that the participants will learn how to observe their surroundings, see the subtle changes and hopefully also experiment with their cameras (night shots, day shots, rainy days, winter, etc, etc.)
    I enjoy participating in challenges too, like your Monochrome Madness and WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge, but because of my schedule I can’t always participate…

    August 21, 2015
    • I like photographing things through the seasons, it is nice and you get different things when you do it.
      Sounds like a good challenge.
      Thanks Cardinal.

      August 21, 2015
  15. I always do the weekly photo challenge, it’s what really got my blog going πŸ˜€

    August 21, 2015
    • That’s great to hear Gypsy, they can be great for people to do.

      August 21, 2015
  16. Your work is beautiful Leanne. I’m not really an artist but in my view setting up themes and challenges may restrict ones creative abilities. I feel like themes force you into creating something instead of just allowing your creativity to take control. Challenges on the other hand, are a great way for one to push themselves into achieving things that they may not have done before.

    August 21, 2015
    • I think they can, but if you are struggling to find things to do they can be a blessing. Challenges can be great, I have set myself challenges which is fun. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      August 21, 2015
  17. I like them. Even for seasoned photographers they can get you thinking about things in a different way, or challenge you to try something new. And it’s always fun to see what others come up with for the same challenge/theme. Though I don’t know that I’d ever do a 365 thing. I agree that too much and it becomes a chore, but more relaxed (like maybe 1/week or month) and it helps you grow.

    August 21, 2015
    • It is interesting hearing how people find them, I don’t mind challenges as long as I can do my own work, but I’m not sure about themes, I find it makes me do things I might not want to do. I don’t struggle with what to take photos of. I think a 365 day challenge can be a bit daunting. Thank you.

      August 21, 2015
  18. Theme or challenge can be something interesting to Β« force Β» you to take photos but for me personally, I cannot do it for a long period. I try to put as much time to photography as I can but not to the detriment to my other activities. In the past I took challenge or theme and it forced me to reduce the quality of my photos just to get something for the challenge, it’s this is where the fun get lost.

    August 21, 2015
    • I think a lot of people feel the same way Nelson, they can become a burden after a while. I think themes are definitely like that, I think challenges can be better if you are allowed to take the photos you want to take. Thanks for your thoughts Nelson.

      August 22, 2015
  19. I like challenges because they usually get me to try things that I wouldn’t normally do. Or to think about and look at things in a new way.

    August 22, 2015
    • Oh yes, they can be very good for that, I agree Cynthia, my Monochrome Madness challenge came about so I would do more black and white, and it’s bee great for that. Thanks Cynthia.

      August 22, 2015
  20. I understand they work for some people and that’s good…for them. I have my own agenda and personal challenges. I do think that the broader the challenge/theme is (like Monochrome Madness) the better as it keeps the subject open and less forced. Maybe my take on this is that I have been a working pro and do not care to revisit that particular aspect of being “challenged” to come up with something.

    August 22, 2015
    • I agree, challenges should allow you to do your own work as well. I find themes hard for that reason, too restrictive often. I like that last part, and find I have enough of my own images I have to do, I usually forget about challenges too, so sort of defeats the purpose. I am trying a new one now to post a photo everyday on Instagram, not sure how long I will last lol. Thanks Robert for sharing your thoughts.

      August 22, 2015
      • I’m doing similar with my Instagram…a vintage camera a day from my collection…

        August 22, 2015
      • I like the sound of that, I must find you on Instagram.

        August 23, 2015
      • infraredrobert (no surprises there πŸ™‚

        August 23, 2015
      • I should’ve guessed. πŸ™‚

        August 23, 2015
  21. I found that doing challenges have helped me develop my photography skills and pushed my blog along. The danger is that it can overtake your blog so that you don’t publish any of your own original work. I now have certain challenges I do each week and then have a couple that I do my self – such as my daily monochrome images.

    August 22, 2015
    • I think they are great for that reason too Raewyn, especially when you are starting out. That’s a great way of handling them, good thinking, thanks for sharing how you do them.

      August 22, 2015
  22. Ed #

    Great shots, besides following your blog for a long time I also host a challenge called Sunday Stills, been doing that for over 4 years now. Its getting harder to come up with interesting challenges but the few folks who do it seem to like it. πŸ™‚

    August 23, 2015
    • I’ve seen that challenge, but had no idea who started it. It can be a great thing to do to start challenges. That’s all that matters, really that people like it. I know what you mean about finding ideas, I have that trouble once a month for monochrome madness, so couldn’t imagine once a week. Thanks Ed.

      August 24, 2015
      • Ed #

        Thank you for having a great and inspirational blog. πŸ™‚

        August 24, 2015
      • What a lovely thing to say, really appreciate it, thank you. πŸ™‚

        August 24, 2015
  23. I’ve never been a big fan of “assignments”, in general, I always thought they were too constraining, as if they were forcing some boundaries on my imagination. But as an amateur photographer, themes and challenges have always been a good thing in order to make some progress. By giving myself some restrictions, it forces to think more about what I want to capture, and how exactly I shall capture it. Sometimes, our wild imaginations need to be constrained by a given set of rules to help us grow more in our art πŸ™‚

    August 28, 2015
    • I often find that too, if I do one I have to be able to do my own thing as well.That’s very true, you’ve come up with some great reasons for doing them. I think the same. Thanks.

      August 29, 2015
  24. I think themes are great because they force you to see your work from another perspective, finding links between photos. Taking some good pics from time to time is easy but working on a theme and getting several pics working together is very interesting. I think it will be my challenge for the coming decade! πŸ˜€
    By the way it’s my first comment here. Great work!

    August 29, 2015
    • That is an interesting way of looking at it.I think others might disagree with you about the idea of taking good photos is easy. I am not good at themes, unless they work with what I already do. but that is me. I think they work great for some and not for others, but some people do just love them.
      Thanks, nice to hear from you. πŸ™‚

      August 29, 2015
  25. Oh I don’t want to be missunderstood. I mean, by example, you take a single photo from Uncommon Places by Stephen Shore. It will be attractive by itself because of its composition, colors and the emotional link each people will get looking at it. Now you take the whole Uncommon Places work; each picture will get to a different level since people can see them related to each other within the same theme.
    (sorry for my bad english. It’s not an excuse but I’m French…)

    August 29, 2015
    • See I look at those differently, doing a theme that someone else has set is very different to doing a body of work, which is what I think you are talking about here. My work has a theme, as well, but if I did a theme, that say you set, then my work would have to change to get something for that theme. I think we all end up with bodies of work and each one has it’s own theme. I’ve been putting my photos on flickr and it is interesting to see how they all work together. Thanks, your English is fine, very good really.

      August 30, 2015
      • I understand your point of view. I’ll visit your Flickr πŸ˜‰

        August 31, 2015
      • I hope you like the Flickr page. πŸ™‚

        August 31, 2015

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