10 Digital Photography Exercises That Will Help You Progress

The exercises basic digital photography are an excellent way to grow a little more like photographers, will help you manage your camera in manual quickly and with closed eyes and understand all the basics photographic like ISO , aperture, depth of field , shutter speed , etc.

Essential photography exercises

I think it is necessary to practice various photographic exercises even if the photography modality that you like is not related to photographing drops of water.

Imagine that you like fashion photography and you want to photograph your model jumping in the air, it is necessary that you control the shutter speed perfectly so that the photo does not come out “shaky”. But if you don’t have the help of a model right now, exercises like photographing falling drops or moving cars where you’ll use fast shutter speeds can be an excellent idea to practice and master the technique before your first sessions.

A high percentage of photography learning as in many other things is based on practice (and reading the manual 🙂 as I recommended in ” photography tips for beginners “). So I have compiled some exercises that helped me to progress as a photographer and that I always recommend to all those who want to get started in digital photography or are stuck.

Start a 365 project

I can’t be happier with the result of the project, it helped me to keep a routine, to make an effort every day to take a different photo, investigate new techniques, try fixed and zoom lenses  and some of the most important things, create a blog , something that completely changed my life and my career path for the next few years.

The end of a 365 project from my point of view is not just to take a daily photo of anything you have within a 10 meter radius and in the first way that comes to mind. You can take excellent and different photos of everyday things for those days when it is impossible to go out with the camera. Have you tried photographing drops of paint dissolved in water? The veins of the leaves of a houseplant or represent a concept?

If a daily photo is too much for your rhythm of life, I advise you to choose 52-week projects in which you will have 7 days a week to get a photo to publish for a year, the end is none other than to force yourself to practice .

Play to find out the EXIF ​​data

The EXIF data is like the ID of the photo, we “tell” all the settings you have used to take the photo, from the shutter speed and camera model, to the date it was taken.

By looking at these data, you will learn to solve different light situations without even removing the camera from your backpack.

Something that I like to do and it helped me loosen up with the camera parameters is to try to figure out what settings have been used in each photo, you can even play with a friend to see who is closest to the real settings.

In Flickr or 500px you can see the EXIF ​​data in the caption of the photo. You can also use a very useful extension for browsers for the images you see online in which this data does not appear: 

Change the measurement mode

Although 97% of the time I use spot metering and the remaining 3% “center-weighted”, I recommend knowing how the type of metering you select affects the image so that you know how to correctly choose which one best suits your needs.

Best Situations to Practice Measurement Modes:

  • Backlights:
  • Landscapes in which there is a great contrast of light between the sky and the earth. You must try that the sky does not leave you overexposed nor the very dark landscape. Use the histogram to find an intermediate point with the correct exposure or that allows you to recover those areas in digital development. I advise you to read the article on how to interpret a histogram .
  • Pictures

The spot metering is the one that requires dedication, since the measuring chamber on the point you choose and you have to pay attention to the tone of the scene to get proper exposure.

It is very useful to activate the AE lock together with the spot metering, since once you have made the metering you can recompose the scene without losing it. On the other hand, if you have the exposure set on the shutter button next to the focus, the metering will change each time you press the button.

Single shot

If you are one of those who shoot everything you see or take 30 photos of the same scene to ensure a good one, this exercise will come in handy.

Thanks to digital photography , today we can take hundreds of photos with a simple SD card . Not having had contact with analog photography and its films, means that the moment of the shot is not valued as it was done in the past when there were only 24 opportunities, for example.

Think before you shoot, leave the camera in your backpack and analyze the scene , the angle, try to find out by eye the correct parameters for the exposure, try looking through the viewfinder without shooting to get an idea of ​​how it will look and when you are decided, shoot.

I don’t want you to lose photos because of me, practice this point in situations where you have enough time, such as a landscape photograph or macro photos of a flower. Don’t go just one shot if you come across a  Pterodactylus  because we’d pull each other together.

Zoom prohibited (Fixed focal length)

Try using the same focal length for a few days or use a fixed lens. For little money you can get the Canon 50mm 1.8 or Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm 1.8 and in addition to practicing with fixed lenses, you will enjoy their 1.8 brightness.

Before buying a fixed lens, I recommend you try a few days to shoot with the equivalent focal length on your zoom lens and see if it really convinces you. Also, you should bear in mind that in APS-C SLR cameras you  have to apply the crop factor , so a 50mm would become approximately 80mm and it may have a lot of range for your taste.

This type of photographic exercise will force you to move, find the perfect frame using your legs as zoom and think more about the scene.

Change the shutter speed for the same scene

The shutter speed is the setting that brings more creativity to the images, the same photograph shot at a different speed can make it look like another place.

Look at these pictures I took of the sea:

  • At first I shot at 1 second with the camera on the tripod .

In the absence of elements to compose and time to find them, I decided to use a slow shutter speed of 1/10 sec accompanied by slight camera shake .

The result is a completely different photograph and surely more interesting than the one you could have taken at 1/1000.

The aim of this exercise is that you don’t get used to getting the photo accepted as “good” because it comes out completely frozen. Play with the shutter speed and forget point 4 for now, take advantage of digital photography and have fun.


Shoot in manual

It’s the best way to gain full control of your camera. Select manual mode and forget about automatic programs.

Shoot in broad daylight at ISO 3200 and lower until you get a good exposure. Now change the shutter speed and shoot at 1/30, then 2 seconds or 1/200. You choose, it is again about getting the correct exposure . The diaphragm, as you know, also affects the luminosity, open as much as your lens allows and close it while you look at how the light changes.

This exercise is the most basic and the most important, I recommend you practice it at different times of the day, at night, a cloudy day, in the middle of summer at 3 in the afternoon, put yourself to the test!

Think of light and shadow

The next time you go out with your camera, pay attention to the highlights and shadows and try to compose with them . It is a good exercise for those moments when you can’t find something interesting to photograph.

Change the way you look , instead of looking at the architecture or the immensity of a landscape, try to capture how the light travels the scene or how the shadows create strong contrasts.

The development here is very important, you can take a look at the article ” Aggressive development in Lightroom ” where I explain some tricks to exaggerate contrasts and give more importance to light, using the local adjustments brush.

Get multiple photos in one place

This is another one of those exercises that helped a lot to grow my photographic library. I had a bad habit of taking  a single photograph in one place and moving on to the next, without thinking about everything around me. Stones, moss, flowers, more interesting angles, trees, insects, maybe a photo of the landscape including me in the frame, elements around me that I could include in the composition, etc.

The possibilities multiplied and many times the most interesting photos were those that were not planned. Like these filaments on an Oleander leaf that I wouldn’t have paid attention to if I hadn’t changed the chip.

I recommend that if you can get a macro lens, I use the Canon 100mm f / 2.8 USM , a beast for the “price” it has. If you use Nikon the Tokina 10mm f / 2.8 is about the same price range.

Learn to make photo montages (Eye purists)

The good thing about using DSLR cameras and high-resolution RAW files is that the photos that don’t convince me or that have gone wrong can be used to make photo montages in Photoshop .

It is not the first time that I talk to you about reusing images developing with Lightroom , but I want to go further. I’m talking about adding elements that were not in the photo or eliminating them.