Compose a self-portrait any way you know how.

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We’re ending this year’s creative challenge with a self-portrait, the same prompt that kicked off the year—it’s a perfect reflection on the growth of my work and efforts to create consistently.


Just Document

Bring your camera with you wherever you go (or as often as you can) and thoughtfully capture part of your day-to-day. You never know when an idea will strike!


When I first started photography, I was in the same boat as a lot of beginners. I picked up a camera so I could capture certain moments in time to document my life. Then I started to get really into it, but I got bogged down by my own thoughts (this never ends, by the way—you just learn to work past it).

“I don’t know what to shoot!” “None of these are even that great!”

With any craft you want to pursue, you’re gonna suck so much at the beginning. That’s just how it goes. That’s how you learn. Nothing will exactly match that vision you had in your head for a shot.

It takes time, but trust me, you’ll get there. Just please, bring your camera, or even your phone, with you wherever you go. The more you shoot, the faster your skills will catch pace with your always evolving taste. You’ll notice your surroundings more and grow a different appreciation for it. What you would previously consider boring, you’ll see creative potential.

It’ll come in due time, but you need to put in the work to get there.


Negative Space

Use negative space to highlight a subject and create a more dynamic composition.


Yes, this is a revisit of one of the foundational prompts of the year’s challenge. My first approach was to create negative space in an environment with a lot of noise to work with. This second approach is more akin to what most folks would consider negative space in a “minimalistic” sense. Either approach is valid, as negative space is about creating contrast between your subject and their surroundings.


Break the Rules

Compose a shot that intentionally strays from conventional photography “guidelines.”


Early on, folks shifting from auto to fully manual settings learn to properly expose their photos. Blowing out the highlights is seen as a huge error, but as you get better and more confident with the guidelines, you can start to break them yourself. Selective overexposure can be used as a creative tool. Here, I’ve overexposed to emphasize the contrast between the cliff & subject against the background at the day’s peak sunlight. I’m doing it with intention, not because I don’t know—not because I’m ignorant about it. Question convention—it’s how you progress your craft.



Decide on what to shoot and explain why you shot it and what you were looking for when you composed the shot.


With this photo, I wanted to try my hand at creating a 3D stereoscopic effect, or put simply, stitching images of the subject at different points to create depth or motion in your final composition. I loved the colors and the patterns of the subject’s outfit and knew the inhaling/exhaling of smoke would create a great effect. The added motion of flicking the cigarette and falling ashes was a plus! Not bad for a first go, but moving forward, I’d work on keeping one axis steady while moving along the other axis, to prevent the sort of “warping” in the background of the image.



Shoot a photo that considers shapes and lines.


I’m always looking for ways harsh sunlight can add to a composition. In this case, the sunlight pouring into the all-glass storefront made for defined lines/shapes of contrast along the walls, which added to the pops of color in the furniture and decor. I used to always opt for golden hour or shaded locations, because they were the “optimal times/areas to shoot.” If I’d kept that up, I would’ve missed opportunities like these. If these two photos were shot on an overcast day, they’d still be ok photos, but would lack that extra punch.


Dollar Store

Shoot a photo or series of photos utilizing props from your local dollar store.

Something as simple as a tablecloth can create new compositions you never thought to try before. Outside of this challenge, utilizing items from your immediate environment, taking note of aspects like colors, patterns, and textures, can achieve just the same.




Shoot a photo that incorporates windows in some form.


I have this strange fascination with windows/mirrors/reflections. It’s almost as though they create this barrier between the subject and the viewer. It’s not an intimate portrait—the subject still feels like a stranger and their perspective is hidden behind this barrier. What is she doing? Why is she there? What’s her story?


Mixed Media

Shoot a photo that utilizes another creative medium (audio, graphics, etc.).

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Constant creative stimulation is important. All forms have interplay and influence your overall process, style, and intention in your work. I myself have a multidisciplinary background and love exploring the intersection of different creative avenues. Directly mixing media in my work is something I want to continue exploring in 2019. This particular piece is inspired by one of my favorite illustrators/designers, Emily Eisenhart. The simplicity yet complexity in the strokes and color of her work evokes such positivity and warmth.



Shoot a photo at an unconventional angle.


The “Plankton Entering the Krusty Krab” Pose

By utilizing an unconventional angle, an image can stand out among the stream of generically posed posts. You can tell a new story with a new angle. When you’re about to take a photo straight-on, opt to consider your surroundings and what your overall composition would look like if it were taken at a lower or higher angle. Try it out! You might surprise yourself! The worst that’ll happen is you’ll delete them later if they don’t work out.



Shoot a photo where the composition displays an alternative perspective.


3 complete strangers, leading different paths in life, connected in this one moment.

Just by simply rotating an image, if done with the right intention, you can change the perspective and elevate the story associated with the image.


Primary Colors

Shoot a photo that includes all of the primary colors.




Shoot a photo with an orange subject or implement orange in some other way into your image.




Shoot a complete stranger close up or at distance.  Challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone this week.


I used to be timid about shooting portraits in general, let alone portraits of strangers! It was awkward and daunting. Now it seems I can’t get enough of capturing portraits!

Some tips with shooting street/strangers:

If you find an interesting location, set-up for the shot and wait a bit for something that’ll complement it to come into the frame.

Move quick, moments are fleeting.

If you’re in a public space, it’s fair game for you to take photos, but it’s always a good rule of thumb to ask folks if you can take their picture (you can offer to send them a copy later). If they’re far enough away or wouldn’t notice, I’ll just go ahead and take the shot.

Use your common sense. If a situation seems suspicious, it’s not worth trying to get the shot.



Decide on what to shoot and explain why you shot it and what you were looking for when you composed the shot.


Eastern Bakery is Chinatown’s oldest bakery, first opened in 1924 and the only shop in the country to make their mooncakes in-house. It’s seen one change in ownership, but the same recipes to comforting pastries remain. A sense of familiarity among the years of change the city has seen.

With this shot, I wanted to get an “outside looking in” perspective that also gave context to the environment, hence shooting through the window yet including the reflection of the streets.