Photography Farm Challenge

Our 2019 Photography Farm Challenge has begun. 52 weekly themes for you to build a personal project around. Join in whenever you want to, there are no hard and fast rules. Shoot one image, a series or explore the topic all week. Follow along with the weeks of the year or start in your own time. Join in on Instagram with the hashtag #photographyfarmchallenge or follow Farm on there to see some featured images. New themes will be posted here on Mondays mornings …



Image : Lee Allen


Theme 1: Me

A tiny but complex word and usually the biggest fear for any photographer. But this is a challenge so it’s not meant to be easy. Let’s start our projects with ourselves. I very much look forward to seeing what you all come up with.

Theme 2: Home

You’ve introduced yourself, now show where or what Home means to you. The rules for this challenge are not set in stone. Shoot one image or a series or explore the topic all week. Follow along with the weeks of the year or start in your own time.


So we’ve all introduced ourselves and our environments so let’s dive into a more technical challenge. This week’s theme is the first to do with composition. A symmetrical composition is balanced, and has an overall equality of size, shape, line and colour. You can divide it into equal parts and it uses the elements by repeating them. Another theme that at first looks easy but is actually quite hard to do well. For inspiration look to cinematography…/

Theme 4: BLUR

Anyone else finding these surprisingly hard so far? I don’t want anyone to get disheartened so hopefully this is an easy theme. Have fun with it and keep up the good work.


This is the first theme about a specific light source. You might use window light all the time for portraits but how about using the challenge to think of a way to use it that’s different to what you might have done before?

Theme 6: HANDS

I feel that hands are almost as emotive as faces. That’s the reason why people suddenly don’t know what to do with them when they are being photographed.. they feel awkward and therefore so do their hands. Yet if you are good at directing hands then your portraits will improve massively. For this challenge let’s see you express something with the subject’s hands please.


Consciously take an image that is based on the Rule of Thirds. It’s a simple technique that allows breathing space in a frame and lets the important elements sit where it feels comfortable to the eye. It creates a sense of balance. Try using it portrait as well as landscape and try putting key parts of the image on the intersection of both.

Theme 8: WATER

There is so much that can be done with this one. Shoot someone in water, indoors or out in the elements, experiment with water droplets on the lens, shoot water at low or fast shutter speeds, interpret the theme in a more ethereal way with use of motion, colour or reflections. Have fun with this one.


It’s suddenly sunny and at this time of year, sunset is still nice and early so shooting in Golden Hour is super easy. Explore ways to use the warm light, either direct or as backlight or rim light. Try using it indoors or in ways you might not have thought of before.

Theme 10: A STRANGER

This might push you out of your comfort zone even further than a self portrait but this week, I’d like you to take a portrait of a complete stranger or strangers. Lots of us are using our family and friends as subjects for many of the images so this time, step into the unknown and ask permission to shoot someone that is not already familiar to you. It could be a portrait of an individual, a couple, a group but the thinking is if you can find the bottle to do this, then you can photograph just about anyone.


I love looking for reflections to include in a frame. This can be found in the environment or be a purposeful addition to a composition. Either way, this is a fun theme that can be interpreted in many ways.

Theme 12: EMOTION

I am late posting this week’s challenge as I’ve been at The Photography Show but if you came to my talk, you will have seen that I set this challenge based on my personal project with my daughter. The images that we are creating together are about Naming Emotions, our aim to to express what she is feeling in the images and they are all over on my IG cakefordinnerphotos. So your task this week is to find an emotion in your subject and express it in the image.

Theme 13: STREET

Interpret this one however you like, it could be a photo of the street you live in or one that is significant to you. It could be street photography, or a person you meet in the street. It could be architecture or even a self portrait out in a street. Let’s see what you’ve got.

Theme 14: A FRIEND

Well we had a stranger so this seems natural, Plus if you came to FarmShop over the last few days, then the chances are that you probably made at least one new friend. So this week, let’s see a portrait of a friend, old or new.


Take an image that has three elements in it. This could be two subjects and a background; one subject, foreground and background; subject, prop, background; For inspiration look at the work of Fer Juaristi. Wedding Photographer as he often employs this technique.


For this challenge, photograph a scene paying special attention to the available light and try to use it in a non obvious way. Be conscious of what light is around you and put thought into how you can purposely light a subject with it.


This week we are flipping it from light to dark. Be conscious of the shadows or darkness in a scene. Use it to add drama or to draw attention to your subject or to frame them. Instead of starting by looking for the light, look for the dark.


Thinking about movies and how they tell the story. The Wide Shot is a standard way to set a scene and to establish a character within it. They can give context or begin a narrative. They are often shot on wide angle lenses but don’t have to be.

Theme 19: THE CLOSE UP

Yes, you knew this one was coming next right? Another classic movie tool is the close shot. Eliminating all other clutter from a scene to focus on a particular gesture, emotion or feature. This week get close for us.


Start wide, get close and then get REALLY close. I love an extreme close up. Getting so close to a subject that you will also feel uncomfortable is a great way to feel empathy for their awkwardness in a situation. For the viewer, extreme close ups can really focus on a tiny expression or emotion and magnify it.


I often find myself shooting frames within frames. Might be a natural frame like a hedge that forms an arch, might be a doorway or part of a building. Could be almost anything but there is something just so pleasing about seeing a composition that involves one or more frames within it.


Perhaps one of the easiest visual clues. Leading lines can be found in many forms and are all around us. Use roads, fences, a line of lamp posts, a bridge, trees, floorboards, anything that you can find. Become aware of what can be used within your frame to draw the eye and then place your subject at the end point.

Theme 23: MOVEMENT

You have a few options for expressing movement in a still image. Might be slow shutter speed or maybe you will freeze an action with a fast shutter speed. Maybe you will shoot a series of images or have a still subject and it’s the camera that moves. Let’s see you have some fun.

Theme 24: STILL

You have two ways to interpret this one. Either as the opposite to movement and you are using your frame to express a still moment, solitude or lack of motion. Or you can translate it as a movie still. Make an image that looks as if it is a slice of a longer film.

Theme 25: MOMENT

This week, set out to achieve some shots that represent a Moment. Not something that you have deliberately orchestrated but that you managed to place yourself into the right physical and emotional space to capture.

Theme 26: GROUP

A lot of our themes have been more suitable to single subjects but of course as a wedding photographer, you are going to need to be great at shooting groups of people. Yes there are family lineups but also groups of friends, the bridal party and groups of guests. Weddings are all about relationships and it’s quite a skill to be able to show these dynamics in a group shot. When I’m sometimes feeling a little uninspired for them, I look at music photographers and how they shoot bands.

Theme 27: SOUND

Can you take an image that provokes another sense? Purposefully set out to take a shot that expresses a particular sound. Absorb and assess what sounds are dominant when you are taking an image and try to highlight them.

Theme 28: ANGLE

Do you get stuck in a rut with angles? Always shooting from the same position? Next time you are shooting, notice what your default angle is and go somewhere else. Is it eye level, shoulder level? Go higher or lower.. maybe even as high as you can or as low as you can. Just break out of your comfort zone with where you hold a camera.

Theme 29: EYES

When shooting portraits, the eyes are such an important element. When I’m shooting a magazine cover I always have to nail an eyes-direct-to-camera shot. For this part of the challenge I want you to be intentional when it comes to where you ask your subject to look. What are you trying to convey in the shot?

Theme 30: COVER SHOT

Nailing the cover shot for a magazine is super tricky. It must be in portrait mode, and traditionally the eyes are direct to camera. So this is a good follow up to the last theme. Deliberately shoot a subject as if you know it’s for the cover of a magazine. Could be a bridal magazine, a fashion magazine or a trendy kids magazine. For research pop into your local newsagent or look in the magazine aisle at the supermarket.

Theme 31: WIDE OPEN

Take your favourite lens and open it to its widest aperture for a shot and show us your results. You choose the subject for this one, can be anything you like but be intentional about why wide open is a good choice.


Now take an image at your narrowest aperture. Some of you might never have shot with a lens right to the other extreme. Think what kind of image or subject would benefit, what light is going to work well. Or use this as a chance to get creative. Maybe get your tripod out too.


We’ve played with the aperture so now let’s play with shutter speeds. What creative effects can you get from slowing down the shutter? It might be on the dancefloor, in portraits to imply movement or with the camera on a tripod to let the light into your lens for longer. What happens in different lighting situations when you shoot slow?

Theme 34: BLACK & WHITE

For this week, I want you to figure out how to change your camera’s viewfinder to B&W so you can only see the scene in grayscale. Spend some time on this one, so maybe not while you are on a job. Consider how the tones and contrast make up the frame and shoot without colour playing a part. When you upload your raws, you will have the colour version of what you shot. How do you feel about the frames now? Are they stronger in colour or B&W? Upload them to Instagram showing us both versions please.

Theme 35: CONTRAST

Look for a scene where you can play with contrast. This might be between shadow and full sun, between indoors and outdoors, using colours or textures. Create an image that has an element which is strikingly different to whatever it is juxtaposed with. This is not about post production, it’s about looking for visually interesting subjects.


Choose a colour and shoot an image where it is dominant or the only colour. I’ve just shot an editorial for Rock n Roll Bride magazine that is all pink and it was super fun to do. It might be a challenge to do your own without a studio and a team of helpers but simplifying things down might help. Look at the colours in your home or the environment around you. It could be all green or if you are shooting a wedding this week, it could be all white. Or this could be your chance to control all the elements in an image.

Theme 37: TOUCH

Let’s see an image from you that expresses the word ‘touch’. This is a topic with plenty of scope and another one that is connecting the visual to another sense.


How many times have you commented on a photo saying “Love that Pocket Of Light”. A pocket can mean a Small Patch Of Something so for this week’s challenge find yourself a small patch of light and play with it.

Theme 39: RAIN

I think we are all guaranteed to have some rain this week. So create an image that features it. Get out in it and get full on drenched, stay indoors and shoot it through a window, play with shutter speeds to see what happens, play with flash, with backlight, with close ups. This is a lovely broad brief for you this week.


I actually love the effect from using direct flash. The hardness can create definition and give your images an edgy feel. For this week try using it at night, in the daytime, zoomed in or close up. Get friendly with your flashgun.


Use flash this time for softness. Try balancing it as much as you can with the available light; Try bouncing on different coloured surfaces, dark and light, matt and shiny. Try bouncing on a wall as well as the ceiling.


As we have just returned from Farmers Market where our very special guest mentor Sam Hurd led two shoot masterclasses, I feel that we should take some inspo from him this week. Sam regularly uses and creates objects to shoot through or incorporate into the frame somehow. From mirrors and prisms to tubes and even wine pourers. For inspiration look to Sam’s Insta (@iamthesam) or sign up to his Patreon where he regularly posts breakdowns of how he achieves shots.

Theme 43: BLUE HOUR

After Golden Hour comes Blue Hour. The sun has fully set but there is still a small amount of daylight. It can be very atmospheric to shoot in and as the sun is now setting nice and early it’s not that difficult for you to put yourself out in it. For inspiration look at #bluehour on Insta.

Theme 44: AFTER DARK

The clocks have changed meaning the darkness comes sooner. Many wedding photographers panic about shooting winter weddings and having to work without daylight. Others simply have fun with it. If you think about it, you actually have more control over lighting if the sun has gone down so instead of panicking, think about how to use it to your advantage.


This is a playful theme that you can interpret any way you like. Put your subject upside down, put your camera upside down, take one element from a scene and invert it or play around in post production. This should be fun and as creative as you like.


This might be one of our more testing challenges. First thing in the morning before you do anything else, grab your camera and take a photo. You might plan it the night before or you might be utterly spontaneous. You might take a photo from your bed or of your bed, a sleepy selfie or find a willing subject within your household.


Ofttt this is a gorgeous theme for you to get stuck into this week. It’s quite possibly my favourite compositional tool. As photographers we choose the elements to frame and being able to spot clear space in any situation can dig you out of many an overly cluttered room. When you are out shooting this week look around for space and use it to isolate the subject.

Throughout this challenge, we’ve explored some of the ‘rules’ of photography. This week, I want you to pick one and break it. It could be a compositional rule, a focus rule, a lighting rule. You choose and have some fun seeing what happens when you mess with the rules. Be a photo rebel this week.


This can be translated in two ways.. either Perspective is to do with how three dimensional objects are represented in the two dimensional or it’s a Point Of View. Have a ponder on which inspires you most and use this theme to alter Perspective in some way using the medium of photography.


As we near the end of this project, this seems to be an appropriate theme for you. Take it however you like, shoot an image that illustrates the concept of celebration or take an image that celebrates you and your progression thanks to taking part in this challenge. It has been designed to help you get to know your camera, get to know the rules of photography and get to know your own personal passions and style. By now your confidence should have grown and you should be better at deciding what to shoot.

Theme 52: YOU CHOOSE

Our final theme in this project! Well done to everyone who made it through all 52 themes. It’s not at all easy to stick with a personal project so you should be hugely proud of yourself. The purpose of this challenge was to grow your confidence as a photographer so for the final image, it’s your turn to set yourself a theme. You can choose something entirely of your own or revisit one of the project’s themes that you either found particularly enjoyable or particularly difficult.