Using Constraints to Spark Creativity: A Photo Challenge

The hardest part is setting the camera on the tripod, or making the decision to bring the camera out of the car, or just raising the camera to your face, believing, by those actions, that whatever you find before you, whatever you find there, is going to be good.
— Sally Mann

Ever been in a creative rut? Feel the urge to create but lack direction? I’ve been in that exact same place more often than I’d like to admit. When I feel stuck or just uninspired, something that helps me get to the other side is making a challenge for myself. In fact, back in March I was in such a place creatively, so I decided to challenge myself to take 3 photos a day: one wide shot, one detail/close-up shot, and one selfie.

I would share my challenge on Instagram which gave me accountability as I had followers that would say “hey, where’s the post today?” The most impactful thing I learned from that experience was, because of the tight time constraints (less than 24 hrs), I was forced out of trying to make a “perfect” image.

I had to focus on other things that could be great about a photo. The lighting couldn't be just what I would have wanted to instead look at the subjects face or just notice the texture of the fabric on a chair. Also, adding constraints to the type of photo being made helped to nudge me out of my comfort zone and activate different parts of my brain.

So next week, starting Monday (6/17), we’re gonna do a little photography challenge. Get the juices flowin’ and experiment -- this might even spark some new ideas that you’ll use in future work! This is a fantastic exercise for any creative, not just photographers, and a lot of you are probably reading this on the only tool you need to participate: a smart phone. If you decide to join in, post your photos to Instagram (stories or main feed) with the tag #Buoyphotochallenge so we can all keep each other accountable!

So the challenge is as follows: post one photo each day of the week using the themes below as your guide.

Monday: Macro


Try playing with a macro lens if you have one. If you don’t, don’t fret, most phone cameras like the iPhones will have the ability to let you get close to the subject and still get in it focus. Find a neat flower or a bug to shoot. Even something mundane like the wood grain of a table can be given a new perspective with a macro lens.

Tuesday: Triptych

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A Triptych is a work of art divided into 3 sections. For this challenge, post 3 images of the same subject but each from a different angle or maybe at different times of the day. The idea here is that the 3 photos are closely tied and stronger when shown together. If you’d like to present your work in one frame, try using an app like Unfold or Layout.

Wednesday: Wide


A wide angle lens like the one that’s built into most smartphones these days is perfect for capturing landscapes, architecture, and interiors. They can give the viewer a great sense of space and scale.

Thursday: Texture


A wet leaf, cobblestone streets or maybe a stucco wall. Look for interesting textures that catch your eye and think of an interesting way to highlight them in this shot.

Friday: Frame

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Find a cool door maybe or a car window. Use the object to make a frame within your shot. This is a fun one, because once you start looking for stuff to shoot through it’s hard to stop.

Saturday: Shadows


Earlier or later in the day in ideal for this challenge. If you go out a few hours before the sun sets, you’ll find nice long shadows that fall across buildings and other objects in interesting ways. For a portrait you can backlight your subject putting their face in shadow and create a silhouette.

Sunday: Selfie

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Don’t write this off as an easy one. Challenge yourself to make a self portrait. Capture something about yourself that you like. Use a tripod and timer or find a reflective surface to snap a candid shot of yourself.

So that’s it! We really hope that you choose to participate, and you can check out our feed to see what we create this week right along with you guys!

Happy hunting,