Why You Should Take a 52 Week Challenge

52challengeOut of sheer boredom or a need for a reason to empty the random ideas orbiting within my noggin (the actual reason is probably a combination of the two) I’ve decided to take on a 52 Week Challenge. And if you’re reading this then I’m challenging you, yes you reader, to attempt one as well. The rules are simple: take one self-portrait of yourself every week for 52 weeks and share it online. I’m about a month into this challenge and have been posting weekly self-portraits on Mondays to my Instagram account (@mellylee_ / #52weeksproject.) There is no doubt in my mind that I’ll make it to the end of the 52 weeks. Primarily because there are many benefits to creating a photo each week aside for building narcissism.

1. Consistent Practice

This is the #1 reason to take on this feat of a challenge. By creating a photograph each week you’ll be forcing yourself to think about creating an image as well as practicing the technical side of photography. If you’re a beginner this is will be the fastest and shortest (though really a year isn’t that short) to master the foundations of your camera, lighting, composition, and lighting.

For me I’m using this challenge to exercise conceptual thinking and to force myself to be in front of the camera. Throughout the year I’ve been privileged to meet with different agents and art directors whose eyes were drawn to my quirky conceptual style images over the other images in my portfolio. After hearing their feedback that planted the idea of creating more conceptual works. Thus I took on this challenge for myself [Make Personal Work.] These small weekly assignments force me to execute a conceptual idea within the limitation of my nearby resources (which is a lot like figuring out how to produce a shoot within a client’s budget.) Also being my own model helps me rethink the way I direct on set and provide me with perspective from the other side of the lens.

2. Technical Approach

For the majority of these images you’ll be photographing yourself, by yourself, and with help from just yourself. Ergo the way you approach making each image will change significantly. You can’t just point and shoot. Initially your camera is going to be locked on a tripod with its timer tripping the shutter. Most cameras have a 10-second timer, so what kind of images can you take within the 10 seconds you have to push the button, run into frame, pray you’re in focus, and then compose yourself for the image? Can you problem solve around technical limitations? If not this challenge will force you to. 😛

Favorite tools for self portraits:


a. Induro Alloy 8M AT214 Tripod – This is the trusty tripod I’ve been using for years now. You don’t need this one necessarily, but you will need something to lock your camera to when you’re taking photos of yourself. Things to take into consideration when you’re getting a tripod is its weight and how much it can hold.

b. Pocketwizard N10-ACC-1 Remote Camera Cable (1′) – This is the magically little cable that connects my Pocketwizards to the motor drive of my camera. After getting tired of using the camera’s timer I now remotely trigger my camera. (Canon version of the same cable: CM-N3-ACC-1 Pre-Trigger Remote Cable (1′))

c. Gorillapod SLR-Zoom Flexible Mini Tripod w/ BH1-01EN Ball Head – There are situations when a normal tripod doesn’t fit the job. I use Joby’s Gorrillapod whenever I’m sticking my camera in an awkward situation like on a rail or sitting on the ground.

d. Matthews BH-30 Ball Head – A tripod locks the camera’s location in place, but you need a ball head (or whatever head you’d prefer) to physically mount the camera and adjust its position.

e. Pocketwizard Plus III Transceiver – I usually use these guys to trigger off camera flashes, but did you know that in combination with motor cable it now can trigger the camera?

3. Deadlines and Accountability

Like the real world we strive to live and operate in as outstanding citizens deadlines exist and are important! With most 365 or 52 projects the challenger will post the completed image onto a social media platform. This is a very important part of the challenge because it creates and deadline and the world holds you accountable for delivering an image each week. Without accountability to meet something on time, what’s the point challenging yourself anyway?

In additional to sharing my weekly images on my personal social media channels I’ll also be writing future blog posts on the process I took to conceptualize and execute each self-portrait. Not only do I hope that writings will encourage a creative lifestyle for you, but also this will be a great way for me to practice writing (ugh grammar) and explaining an idea (which you have to do a lot when you write pitches and treatments for potential work.)

I’ll leave you now with the first few weeks of my 52 challenge.


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