2014 Challenge, Week 15: STILL LIFE – CONTAINER

Once again it’s time for another still life. This week the theme is container. No, not a shipping container. A container in this context anything you put something else in. Check around the house for a jar, a vase, a bowl, etc. Part of the challenge this week is to take an ordinary object and turn it into unique photographic subject.

by Juan Fco. Marrerochild

Still life can be used to emphasize photographic techniques, like lighting. It doesn’t have to about the subject, it can be a way for you to explore techniques. It’s also a great opportunity to practice the technical aspects Jeremy has been challenging you with.

“Three Spice Jars” by Alistair Hamilton

As always with still life photography, you are in control of all aspects of the shot. You decide on the arrangement and placement of objects.

“A Bevy of Roses…” by jardinoMe

Depth of field is one of the best tools for still life photography. Experiment with different f-stops that allow you to isolate the subject.

“red hot chili peppers” by riccardo bruni

Still life is often done indoors, but that doesn’t mean you can’t explore. If you have a workshop, barn, garage, or shed you can find something to use as your subject. And don’t be afraid to rearrange things to make a good shot.

“still life in barn” by Michael Miller

We all want to see your best shot! So, share your single submission with us all on at least one of our social media groups at Google+Facebook, or Flickr.

Also, here are the links I shared last week with some tips:

2014 Challenge, Week 11: STILL LIFE – TOY

Continuing with Still Life photography, this week’s theme is Still Life – Toy

One of the key aspects of still life photography is controlling depth of field. Last week you got practice with depth of field, so this week apply what you learned to still life. You can choose to go with short depth of field, but you can also be deliberate and to increase the depth of field.

This example uses a shallow depth of field to focus on the main character, leaving the scene out of focus, but still provides context.


As always, pay attention to framing and composition. The Batman shot sets a scene and conveys a story. In the shot below, the framing and shallow depth of field help also provide context for the shot. 

“Battle of Bladensburg Toy Soldiers” by Mr.TinDC

Or you can choose to take a picture of your favorite toy and use software to convey a mood.

“Toy tank and Snapseed” by Sergey Galyonkin

In this shot of wooden toys, a wide depth of field is used to allow the viewer to see all the toys. Note the lighting comes from the side, and is full to bring out the characteristics in the wood.

“Box of Hand-Made Wooden Toys” by fellowcreative

Toys are a part of every childhood. Whether you have a favorite toy of your own, or can grab a toy from one of your kids, you shouldn’t have a hard time finding a subject. This week is also a good opportunity to incorporate your object, if it happens to be a toy.

Remember, still life photography is as much about the technical aspects of photography as it is about the subject. Be deliberate in your lighting, choice of lens, and how you set the scene. You have complete control, use that control to tell a story and bring your toy to life.

“Toy Cooper” by nthy ramanujam

And remember to have fun.

“Toy Fair 2012 – Portraits” by Farrukh

We all want to see your best shot! So, share your single submission with us all on at least one of our social media groups at Google+Facebook, or Flickr.

2014 Challenge, Week 7: STILL LIFE – CAMERA

Wow, the PhotoChallenge.org community seems to have exploded with new members this year. Awesome! We love seeing all the amazing and creative photos the community comes up with every week. Since there’s been an influx of new people, I thought I’d start of with a quick rundown of the rules.

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one shot each week for theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge.org. or #photochallenge2014.
  • The shot should be a new shot taken for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog.
  • Have fun.

That’s it. If you miss a week, no worries. The challenge isn’t a competition, it’s for you to learn and grow as photographer, and hopefully make some new friends along the way. It’s acceptable to post “make up” shots, but try not to make that a habit. We want the photos posted each week to remain in the theme, but know that people have lives, families, get sick, etc.

Now onto this week’s theme: Still Life – Camera. We love cameras, maybe we’re even obsessed with them. The sound of a shutter opening and closing is majestic, and nothing compares to the feeling of your favorite camera in your hand as you press the shutter button. This week you get to train your camera on a camera.

“voigtlander vitessa l773-74″ by mondays child

Old cameras make great subjects, but you can use any camera you have available. With a still life the composition, lighting, and background are as important as the subject. The shot above uses a simple gray background with a slight texture that compliments the texture of the camera body.

By contrast, the image below uses other cameras in the background to set the stage. Controlling the depth of field provides separation between the subject and the background. The lighting and surface compliment the color of the camera tying the shot together.

“Olympus PEN-EE S (meio quadro)” by Silvio Tanaka

Reflections and lighting are used in the shot below to accent the main subjects. Using these two cameras together in the shot is a great choice of subjects that adds a compelling story.

“Why Not Both?” by Mosi Lager

Here the texture of the table, grain in the photo, and the use of black and white set the mood of this shot and give it a vintage feel. I also really like the contrast and tones.

“.through her eyeS” by Sippanont Samchai

You don’t have to just use a camera, you can add in other related elements, like the empty film spools in the this shot. I picked this shot because of the background. It looks like a sheet, which is something anyone can get ahold of and use for still life photography.

“Zeiss Ikon Box-Tengor” by Ralf

And finally, just a cool shot of a cool camera. My wife had a K-1000 way back when we were dating. It’s a great 35mm camera.

“Things I Like: Pentax K1000″ by Dave Lawrence

We all want to see your best shot! So, share your single submission with us all on at least one of our social media groups at Google+Facebook, or Flickr.

Also, here are the links I shared last week with some tips:

2014 Challenge, Week 3: STILL LIFE – FRUIT

Photo Challenge 2014 has gotten off to a great start! This year is a little different than last year, and will be more challenging. Trevor will be focusing on landscape photography, Jeremy will be focusing on technical aspects, and I’ll be focusing on Still Life photography.

Still Life is one of the oldest photography genres. In the early days of photography, with long shutter speeds and cumbersome flash techniques, photographers needed subjects to be still for long periods of time, so like painters, photographers turned to inanimate objects. Still life photography focuses on a grouping of objects and gives the photographer complete control of the arrangement of objects, lighting, and composition. Many other genres strive to capture a scene as it is – with still life the photographer creates the scene.

Each of my posts this year will challenge you to create a still life in a specific theme or with a specific object. This week we’ll start with what is probably the most common still life: Fruit.  You can also include your object for the year that Trevor mentioned a few weeks ago, if you have one.

“Still Life” by Judy van der Velden

Many of the still life challenges will incorporate the technical focus from Jeremey’s themes, and lighting is one of the keys to still life photography. For this week’s challenge, take what learned last week and apply it while shooting a still life. If you want to read  more about lighting still lifes, check out these articles:

“Still Life in yellow” by Leonardo D’Amico

One aspect of still life is that the photographer has complete control over the background. As you compose your shot, think about the setting and background. Move your subject around and try different backdrops. The key is to make sure the subject is the focus, and background draws your eye to the main subject.

“Still Life” by Amanda Richards

“Still Life” by Herman Layos

Often, simple is better for still life photography. A single subject, simple lighting, and a simple background make a great shot.

“101:366 Berry” by Meghan Hess

While the subject may not be exciting to everyone, still life photography forces the photographer to pay attention to the essential technical aspects of photography, like composition and lighting. Shooting still lifes will improve all aspects of your photography. We’ll get more into the technical aspects as the year progresses, for this week grab some fruit and make a shot, paying close attention to the lighting.

We all want to see your best shot! So, share your single submission with us all on at least one of our social media groups at Google+Facebook, or Flickr.

2013 Challenge, Week 51: Bokeh

Last week we got to focus on light and try out light painting. This week we’ll feature light and the effects of the aperture, but the emphasis will be on the out-of-focus area of the picture. This week’s theme is Bokeh.

Bokeh is a Japanese word that refers to the blur-quality of a lens or photograph. It’s most noticeable in night shots where lights are out-of-focus, but any shot with a short depth-of-field will have areas where you see the bokeh, especially if light is coming through the background.

“Bokeh Overlord” by Patrik B

Bokeh doesn’t just refer to blur, it’s the quality of the blur, and that quality changes from lens to lens. There are plenty of examples of bokeh around the Internet. If you want to learn a little more about it, Nikon has a good article with nice examples. And there’s always Wikipedia.

“Bokeh Effect” by Andrew Abogado

One of the reasons I choose Bokeh as the theme for this week is because there are plenty of Christmas lights around at night to use as subjects.  You can start indoors…

“Bokeh Ninja” by Nick Harris

Then move outside.

“bokeh” by Janne Hellsten

“Bokeh Season” by Alejandro C

If you do choose to shoot at night, be sure to grab a tripod. During the day you can get great bokeh shots without a tripod, but at night with the slow shutter speeds, a tripod is essential.

You can even get creative and create custom bokehs with stencils. The shape of the aperture is what determines the bokeh shape, so if you put a stencil on your lens, your bokeh with be the same shape. This example uses a heart shaped stencil and results in a heart shaped bokeh.

“Shaped Bokeh Test” by Gianmaria Veronese

As an extra challenge, see if you can come up with a custom bokeh by creating your own stencils. If you’re not the DIY type, Bokeh Masters has few kits available. With Christmas this week, you might not be able to get one shipped in time for this week’s challenge, but it would be a good investment for future use.

As always, post your shots on Facebook, Google+, or Flickr. Happy shooting!

2013 Challenge, Week 47: LOW ANGLE

It’s time we started getting down and looking up. This week’s theme is Low AngleLow angle shots are generally taken from below eye level, looking up. Changing your point of view helps you see scenes from new perspectives, which can lead to more interesting compositions in your shots. 

Getting a low point of view can be a challenge, especially with the weather turn cold and wet.

010/365 - Dusting

Dusting by djwtwo

Getting down on the ground can help you see new subjects, or familiar subjects from an new perspective.

Day 7 - Low Point of View

Low Point of View by AlwaysBreaking

On the deck

On the deck by stephen-cleary

Low angles also let you see the world from the perspective of our four-legged friends. They always look up at us, maybe we should look up at them for a change.


Ruby by Bev Goodwin

As always post your best shot and share with the Photo Challenge Community.  Post and share your images with the Photo Challenge Community on  Google+, Facebook,or Flickr.

2013 Challenge, Week 43: Neon

Looking over the themes for this year, I was surprised to see that Neon has not been a theme yet. Well, let’s remedy that this week. Grab your tripod, and hit the streets after dark to find some neon.

There’s an entire photography subculture around shooting neon. The soft, inviting glow captivates photographers. Just do a quick search on Flickr and you’ll see millions of examples.

Neon America

Neon America by theqspeaks

Many neon signs are works of art, and if you live in Las Vegas, you can visit an entire museum devoted to the art form. Even if you’re not in Vegas, there are probably plenty of neon signs around for you to shoot.

Las Vegas Neon Race Car

Las Vegas Neon Race Car to Me by Nutch Bicer

Neon SLR

Neon SLR by Jeremy Brooks

Neon 100

Neon 100 by jbhthescots


Neon by jayneandd

As always post your best shot and share with the Photo Challenge Community.  Post and share your images with the Photo Challenge Community on  Google+, Facebook,or Flickr.

Also, if you’ve missed a few weeks, feel free to catch up and post shots from past themes. We all have busy lives, and getting out to shoot every week isn’t possible for a lot of us. No worries, look back through the themes and grab some shots when you can.

2013 Challenge, Week 39: Sky

For this week, all you have to do is look up. The theme is SKY. Shoot anything that incorporates the sky as the key element of the shot. Sunsets and sunrises are always good for sky shots, but venture out and get creative.

Crop Rotation (Sunset & Cows), Dorset

Crop Rotation (Sunset & Cows), Dorset by flatworldsedge

Looking up in the city usually means you’ll be including skyscrapers, which make for great leading lines that seem to stretch into infinity.

All of These Things You Say to Me

All of These Things You Say to Me by Thomas Hawk

Night skies can be dramatic, and challenging. I’ve never taken a long exposure of the sky that I liked. It’s a technique that requires practice, patience, and plenty of spare batteries.

365::225 - The Dark Half

365::225 – The Dark Half by bulliver

You can also incorporate a main subject set against the sky as backdrop.

oooo babe...

oooo babe… by TahoeSunsets

Fly By

Fly By by AlwaysBreaking

This week’s challenge is good opportunity to experiment and try something new. The sky is everywhere, even if it’s cloudy. The sky changes throughout the day, so you can take shots just about anytime you’re in the mood. Look up, and shoot.

As always post your best shot and share with the Photo Challenge Community. Participating in the 2013 Photo Challenge is fun and easy. Post and share your images with the Photo Challenge Community on  Google+, Facebook,or Flickr.

2013 Challenge, Week 35: Work

In honor of the US Labor Day holiday on September 3, this week’s theme is Work. Grab your camera and capture someone working, or your work space.

Work and labor come in all shapes of sizes and cross all cultural, social, and economic boundaries. Wherever you are, someone is working.


“Worker” by Indmus

These days many of us making our livings as “information workers”, sitting in front of an LCD monitor for hours. While not the physical type of labor from generations past, it can still take its toll.

Day 139 - Work!

“Day 139 – Work!” by Phil and Pam

Or maybe you live where manual labor or agriculture are still account for most of the labor.

the work boys

“the work boys” by Amen-Ra

Labor Day has its roots in the labor movement of the 1900′s and celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers. The labor movement is alive and well in the 21st century with fast food workers striking across the country this past week.

Fast Food Strikes, NYC, July 2013

“Fast Food Strikes, NYC, July 2013” by mtume_soul

Or you can have a little fun, and get creative.

Sausage Factory

“Sausage Factory” by Ricecracker

Even though the theme is work, don’t make taking photos work. Have fun, and make it a labor of love.

As always post your best shot and share with the Photo Challenge Community. Participating in the 2013 Photo Challenge is fun and easy. Post and share your images with the Photo Challenge Community on  Google+, Facebook,or Flickr.

2013 Challenge, Week 27: Numbers

Numbers help define our lives: our age, family size, wages, spending, time, and so on. People count and label everything with numbers. As a result, those labels surround us. Even in the most rural areas, you can’t drive down the road with seeing addresses, and maybe even the road itself is numbered.

This week challenge it to shoot numbers. The challenge isn’t finding a number, the challenge is finding a compelling shot. Addresses are easy to find, so try to find a number that isn’t an address.

a number

“a number” by ro_buk [I'm not there]

Numbers are used in many games, for counting and scoring, or for labeling the playing pieces.

number 15

“number 15” by edoardo bartoccetti

Even in seemingly the middle of nowhere, we feel a need to add numbers to provide a sense of order.

Lucky Number 34

“Lucky Number 34” byTheGiantVermin

Got your number.

“Got your number” by tricky (rick harrison)

I’ve been shooting numbers for a couple of years and prefer single numbers as the subject, but groups or series of numbers make great shots as well, like a sequence…


“Numbers ” by random letters

or a stack of random numbers.

Numbered Cups

“Numbered Cups” by srqpix

I started this post Saturday morning, then got some news that felt like a punch in the gut, followed by something gripping my heart and squeezing. It got me thinking about numbers of a different sort: statistics and odds. It’s not to do with me or my family, and I’m not at liberty to share, I just hope that as you take your camera with you this week, you take pleasure in creating your photos and sharing them with the community. Sharing, community, and photography are three things that hold a special place in my heart this week as I  think about a friend.