How photo challenges have changed me

Self portrait

I suppose you could say photography is in my blood. My paternal grandfather started a photography business many years ago. Most of his children ended up working for the company. I grew up around photos, cameras and photography.

I always enjoyed taking photos but never pursued it as an art form. As a child, I read voraciously and even wrote a short story inspired by Enid Blyton’s Famous Five adventures. I imagined I might be a writer one day. Maybe.

Even during the ensuing years when my sister made her own dark room and experimented in film, I was still not really inspired by the craft. I continued to use my basic point and shoot camera and took the usual quick snaps of special events and nice scenery, a way to capture important memories as future keepsakes.

This approach to my photography continued until May 2011, when I chanced upon my first photo challenge. Those images and associated ramblings became some of my earliest blog posts.

By the end of June 2011, I was hooked and on the lookout for a July challenge. By the end of July 2011, I had to find yet another. Over a year later, I’m now onto my 16th photo challenge. I’ve even done two challenges per month in August 2011 and this past August 2012. Yes, you have my permission to call me “obsessive and crazy”!

So why am I hooked? How have these photo challenges changed me?

1. Given me a creative outlet


For a long time I struggled with the desire to express myself creatively but not knowing how. I’m not an awesome writer. I can’t paint or draw anything impressive. I’m a very basic cook. I can only darn socks or patch holes. I don’t do craft all that well. Ideas and inspiration don’t flow for most of these activities. However, in pondering a daily photo theme, and armed with my iPhone, I realised I had my tools and a structure to start creating. If a theme was “key” then I could take the obvious picture of a key or I could find an interesting way to present that key eg: propped in a lock, in my hand, on a key chain, from a pendant, etc. I could even focus on a single key of piano keyboard. Challenging myself to think outside the box has just made creating images more rewarding.

2. Made me conscious of the moment

Arrow points the way to play

To take a themed photo and create an image I feel proud of, I have to really pay attention. I have to be aware of the moment. I have to make the time to look for the “right” subject. I have to stop, open my eyes, look around and really see my world clearly and purposefully, instead of living in the burry haze of my daily routine. Sometimes I only have a few seconds to catch the image and when they work, these become my “serendipitious” moments.

3. Provided a framework to learn technique


I must say I’ve struggled to pick up a photography book just to learn the theory. Learning “on the job”, where I can work towards an end goal, is so much more rewarding. The photo challenges have given me a specific purpose for learning techniques, such as bokeh, depth of field, the rule-of-thirds, vanishing points, the use of negative space and the awareness of light and shadows. My knowledge and skill-base has been broadened but there’s a lot more depth I hope to add in time, both with a DSLR camera and through iPhoneography.

Light Dark Shadow Reflection

4. Nurtured my soul and fed my inspiration

in the Park #chasinglight @lena_rin

{image credit — @lena_rin}

If it had not been for the photo challenges, I would not have come across Instagram over a year ago. Through Instagram, I became intrigued by the community aspect of image sharing. I was able to enjoy and critique images but also have my images appear on other people’s radars. The encouragement and feedback about my photography, but also the general community interaction, have been very rewarding. In addition, admiring the art of others has been deeply inspiring, spurring me on further into this hobby.

Josh Johnson Forum Challenge

{image credit — @joshjohnson}

5. Stretched me outside my comfort zone

Down low

I used to be a lot more self-conscious. Age has dulled that social fear somewhat but so has pursuing photography. I’m much less self-conscious of what is required to get “the shot”. If that means crouching down on the footpath in the local park, then so be it. Photography and Instagram have also helped to pique my interest in new aspects such as black-and-white, lifestyle and street photography.

Inspirational Instagram

{image credits — @churchill_chris@kristinrogers@fashion}


I feel tangibly changed by all the photo challenges I’ve joined and the community I engage with on Instagram. To me, it’s a little like blogging, only via images. I never expected to find my creative outlet here but it’s now become an important part of my daily routine. I may not continue with every monthly challenge in the future but I hope the lessons I’ve learnt and am learning will help shape what I want out of this hobby in the future. I don’t know where it might lead yet, but I’m open to the possibilities!

Self portrait

Do you have a hobby or craft that’s inspired and invigorated you?

Related Posts

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Linking with With Some Grace for FlogYoBlogFriday (FYBF).


16 thoughts on “How photo challenges have changed me

  1. Veronica, I loved this. Though I’m not part of a photo sharing community, I could relate. And I could imagine how good that must be (maybe I should get myself the equipment – ie Iphone – and just do it!). I understand how it could make you more conscious of the moment. Having a photographer’s eye does that… you tend to look at the world in a different way.. and with detail. And it definitely nurtures your soul. I can see how this has manifested over the months for you. And may I say that you truly do have a natural eye for photography. I love your creative and soulful spirit. x

    • Thank you so much, Deb. I almost find, nowadays, I need to make myself look at things differently just to keep on my toes and aware. The challenges are a great reminder for that. Otherwise, the days past so fast and in a blur at times. I appreciate your feedback on my images. I would like to see if I can take them to another level but not sure how. Hopefully digging deep, I’ll figure that out one day soon. xx

  2. 16th photo challenge??! No wonder you’re so good at this!
    I’ve said it once and I will keep saying it, you truly inspired me to take up photography a little more seriously. While I am still be no means artistic or experienced as some of those out there (including you!), I’m really enjoying the creative outlet that it gives me.
    And yes, the challenges have definitely helped me stretched my comfort zone.
    So for all of these things, I have largely you to thank! xxx

    • Thanks for the sweet and encouraging words. You’ve a great eye there and I’m glad you did take it up more seriously of late. I’ve appreciated your images immensely. You are a very creative person in many areas and I appreciate the inspiration that emanates from you whether through your blogging, photographic, fitness or parenthood journey. And yes, I guess I should be well-practiced after 15 of these! 😛

  3. Yes to all of the above. Your photos are amazing Veronica. I love seeing how you have interpreted the prompt, as well as your day to day shots. I love IG so much. I feel like it connects people in such a different way than facebook. Or maybe it’s just the lovely people who hang out together on IG! x

    • Thanks, Lee. I think IG does connect differently. Sometimes I can’t help but want to rank the social media tools I’ve had by their level of rewarding interaction; after blogging, I’d have to say IG is next for me. Probably FB, then Twitter, then Pinterest. I’m hardly on Pinterest since IG and also deliberately dropped Twitter for the most part. I’d like to get good return on my time investment! 😉

  4. I’ve seen similar changes happen to me, not from photography challenges, but engaging in creative activities in general. it’s amazing how our world changes when we persist. The Down-low and the Arrow photos – such an unusual point of view! Btw, I’m writing a link-up post and I’ll include this one (will be up later today).

    • I’d like to get into the sort of creative activities you have found across the web but don’t have as much time. The photos are quicker and easier right now but by no means insignificant. I totally agree about how we can change ourselves. Even with our tendencies or limitations, we can still break through many areas that are not strengths or innate. I’ll get to the creative stuff eventually so keep sharing! I actually find the “down low” images fascinating too. They give such a different perspective. Appreciate the link up too! xx

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    • Thanks, Julia. IG has so revolutionised my interest in photography too. I need to find out more about proper courses this year. The Nursery sounds intriguing. xo

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