digital photography tips with Digital Photo Mentor Darlene Hildebrandt

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Photography Challenge – Use Your Camera Daily

This new feature of running photography challenges once a month has proven to be extremely popular here on Digital Photo Mentor. So far I've challenged you to the following:

  1. Create a 20 image portfolio online – the randomly selected winner was Christophe Broult who received a year of Premium Membership from Zenfolio (value $140)
  2. Print one of your images at least 16″ or bigger. The winner of that one was Jozef Filo.
  3. Take a portrait of a friend or neighbour and give them a print, won by Lisa Funkhouser who has won a registration to our Portrait Fundamentals course (value $149).

You guys have really knocked it out of the park with full on participation and really put a lot of effort into doing these so far. I'm really impressed! You rock! Next up is one that you might find even harder, even though it is simple.

Use your camera every day for a month

That's it. Sounds simple right? It's not like a 365 project where you have to take a photo and share it every day for year – that's much harder! We might get to that at some point but for now this is what I want to challenge you to do and why.

Why do this challenge?

photodune-1733468-camera-controls-m.jpgI get asked in my classes and tours all the time, “How did you do that so fast?” or “How do you know what setting to use?” Guess what – the only way to know the right setting and get to it in a split second is to do it more often. Practice – practice – practice! You need to be able to make basic adjustments without taking your camera away from your eye, and also be able to do it in the dark as well. The following settings should be second nature and almost instinctive:

  • Changing your ISO
  • Changing the aperture
  • Adjusting the shutter speed
  • Changing the shooting mode
  • How to change from single shot focus to continuous (for moving subjects)
  • How to move from single point focus to multi or zone focus
  • How to move your single point focus dot around
  • Adjusting exposure compensation

The details of the challenge

For at least 10 minutes every day pick up your camera and just mess around with it. Pick one button or setting each time and just play with that. Run the full gamut of that setting, what does it do at each end of the spectrum? Learn how to adjust that setting in the dark or with your eyes closed. What button do you need to push? What dial do you need to turn?

Take some photos if you want – but this is mostly about learning to become one with your camera. You want to get to the point where you don't even think about it any more, you just KNOW what to push and turn to make it do what you want and your hands just do it without even engaging your brain. That's where we want you to get to!

Starting today and ending on February 14th, 2015 (deadline to enter is the 14th at midnight MST) you MUST use your camera every day for 30 days in a row (that's a few extra days so if you miss one start again). If you miss a day – take yourself out of contention for the prize (be honest this is for YOU), but keep going. Just because you missed a day don't give up completely. Pick up again the next day and continue.

Comments will be closed on February 14th and a winner selected randomly from all successful participants.

The prizeOnline Photography Course - 4 Weeks to Better Photography

To enter this challenge and the contest we'll have to go on the honour system. If you have completed 30 days IN A ROW successfully add a comment below to be entered and eligible to win the prize, which is our:

 4 Weeks to Better Photography Online Course

It is aimed more toward beginner photographers but even if you are more advanced you may find some value in doing the exercises and watching the videos, or if you win you can gift it to a friend (just tell us and we'll send it to them from you).


Okay, no time like the present to get started. Step away from the computer or your Smartphone and go get your camera. Start with Day #1 right now!


Update: Winner choosen Feb 15, 2015. Chris from Australia, was randomly selected by our cat Fuzz from the 5 finalists who left a comment after completing the challenge. Chris had this to say:

“Last day of the challenge for me today. I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed the challenge and by how much I learnt in so short a time, although once I picked up the camera I usually spent at least 30 minutes with it. Time just flies once that camera is in my hands. Thank-you so much for the motivation I needed to make time to learn. Now when I got out to shoot I look forward to using my new knowledge to make better images.”

Chris has been contacted by email and has been sent a coupon for access to her 4 weeks to better photography course.


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