The Power of Self-Assignments

(c) Matthew Kunce Photography

First let me introduce myself. My name is Matthew Kunce and I am a relatively new photographer. I got my first DSLR mid-year 2010 and discovered a passion for photography. Since that time I have been teaching myself photography in any way that I can: reading books & blogs, watching videos, taking pictures, participating in creativeLIVE events. The method that has helped me grow the most in photography is self-assignments.

While I did spend a good deal of time taking pictures of whatever I could it was not until I started setting goals around certain skills and deliberately practicing those skill that I started to feel more comfortable in my photography skills. It helped me see and understand the concept I was working on with more clarity. Setting self-assignments helps you focus on what you want to learn. And then gives you a basis to review what you did, how you did and what you need to work on next.

There are two types of self-assignments. The first helps you build your skill set (exposure, composition, lighting, etc.) while the second helps you work on projects or ideas (portfolio building) that use the skill set you have just built.

Both types of assignments require you to take a step back and evaluate the process in order to get the most learning from the experience. There are a number of questions I ask myself each time I complete an assignment. “Did I learn what I set out to learn? Why not? What worked this time? What didn’t work this time? What will I do differently next time? And finally am I comfortable with what I just learned or practiced?”

This is what really makes self-assignments powerful. It isn’t just about learning the skill, but about how you learned it and what else you can take away from it. Understanding how you learn is just as important as what you learn. Once you have this knowledge you can focus your efforts on the gaps in your knowledge and work on filling in those gaps.

My self-assignments will continue as I have great deal to learn yet, but I can truly say I can’t see myself every stopping as learning is what makes us grow as photographers, but more importantly as individuals.

Here are some of my current self-assignments:
• Create a set of four pictures with an elemental theme.
• Create a triptych of macro shots.
• Do a HDR landscape picture.
• Do more self-portraits.
• Submit a photograph to a photo contest.
• Submit a photograph to a magazine.

Here are two images from recent self-assignments:

Assignment: Use a speedlight to freeze motion.

(c) Matthew Kunce Photography

Result: Learned to use a second light or reflector for separation and a very small aperture to capture all the detail.

Assignment: Practice using softbox and portrait composition.

(c) Matthew Kunce Photography

Result: Learned again to use a reflector and how to always be ready for a cute picture.

What are some of YOUR recent self-assignments? Tell us about them in the comments below and post a link to an image from your self-assignment!

How did you first hear about creativeLIVE? A tweet by Chase Jarvis stated that Tamara Lackey’s Children Portrait Photography workshop was playing live. I followed the link and have been hooked ever since.

Which workshops have you participated in? I have been lucky enough to participate in the following workshops: Children’s Portrait Photography with Tamara Lackey, Building your Wedding Photography Business with Jasmine Star, Lighten Up and Shoot with Mikey & Andy, Foundations of a Working Photographer with Zack Arias, Taking Care of Business with Tamara Lackey, Anatomy of a Photoshoot with Mark Wallace, Dramatic Post Production with David Nightingale and finally Beauty and Fashion Photography with Matthew Jordan Smith.

Who would YOU love to see as an instructor on creativeLIVE? There are so many wonderful photographers to learn from, but there are two whom I would especially like to see on creativeLIVE. They are Brooke Shaden and Miss Aniela. Both of their fine art work is stunning. I would love to hear how they plan their projects, shoot them, the post processing they do and their business models.


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Matthew Kunce is a freelance writer, photographer and avid learner. He continues to explore the world of photography, post-processing and creativity as he makes his way through the world.