Improve Your Travel Photography With Self Assignments

I have been travelling a lot this past month and while I tend towards photographing people in the studio I also take my camera with me whenever I travel. I use these trip as a way to expand my photography horizons., whether it is improving my landscape photography skills, practicing street photography or  just documenting my trip by taking my own "postcard" shots. I view every trip as a learning opportunity.

To facilitate this learning I give myself daily photography projects or assignments in any new location. These assignments are cumulative, meaning if I decide on Monday that I am going to shoot photos of doors, and Tuesday that I am going to shoot patterns I will still shoot any interesting door I might come across on Tuesday and through out the rest of the trip.Here are some of my daily self assignments I shot while in Rome and Florence, Italy.

People in  Windows

My original plan was to shoot photos of the windows and shutters because I liked the patterns, but often I would encounter  a person looking out the window.  I thought this made the image even more interesting, so the next day's assignment was people in windows.
 People in Windows People in Windows People in Windows People in Windows

Patterns and Shadows

This isn't a daily assignment, but an ongoing project for the past year. If I am walking down the street and a pattern or shadow catches my eye I will stop and photograph it. This often makes it a pain in the ass to walk with me. It's especially bad if I'm on a tour, I often fall behind and lose the tour guide.
Pattern Pattern Pattern Pattern

People Walking in Front of Interesting an Background

Photographer Jay Maisel as well as many other street photographers talk about this technique. Find an interesting background and wait for people to walk into the scene.  I thought it was interesting that when I got back home and looked at these images on my computer my favorites were the ones with people wearing red shirts. May have to expand on this on my next outing.
Walkers Walkers Walkers Walkers

Close-ups of Statues

While in Florence I went to see Michalegelo's statue of David. They have recently changed the rules and now allow photos to be taken. I took the obligatory wide angle full shots of David, but then I started zooming in and isolating a particular portion of the statue. I found these images interesting so the next assignment was created. I originally started doing close-ups of everything, but really liked the photos of hands, so by the end of the week I was focusing just on the hands of statues. This is a good example of how an assignment can morph into a more interesting concept where you might just find a new path or direction you never would have considered at the beginning.
Statue Statue Statue Statue

Domes and Ceilings

In both Rome and Florence you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a church or some other building with an interesting dome. I like these domes because of the patterns that they have, I find them very interesting and strangely compelling.
Dome Dome Dome Dome


This is another ongoing project. Every city has unique architecture and often very interesting doors. What I found interesting is almost all doorways I saw were based on an arch. That occurs in other cities but with nothing close to the frequency as it did in Rome.
Door Door Door Door


None of these photos by the themselves are a work of art, but occasionally a body of work can come out of these exercises. If nothing else it improves my ability to see and hones my skills for the next time I walk down the street with my camera in my hand. I highly recommend these assignments to improve your photography. Give them a try the next time you travel and tell me how they work for you.
I have compiled many of these images into a slideshow that you can view here