Make 2023 a year of creative breakthrough. We all know the key to getting better is consistency. Doing something over and over again will eventually make you better at anything. 52Frames is a photography community that encourages you to improve by prioritizing consistency over perfection: a photo every week for a year. Photography, like any other skill, requires practice. It’s like going to the gym: you need a training plan, with clear goals and ways to achieve them.
What Is 52Frames?
52Frames is an online community that helps people to engage in creative play and personal growth through a weekly photo challenge.
Photo Credit - Amanda Powell, Week 20: Abstract (2022)
It is a friendly community of people who want to improve their camera skills in a fun and easy way. There is actually a hidden photography lesson behind each week’s challenge. The challenges encourage the photographers (who call themselves “Framers”) to feel creative freedom and express their own creative take on their submissions. Week 29 of this year, for example, was “Common Object,” which allowed the Framers to take pause during the week and observe the many photographic opportunities around them that they would usually just pass by. Perhaps this is one of the beautiful things about 52Frames: everyone responds to the same brief in a different way. The result is like taking a virtual tour around the world through the album each week.
Photo Credit: Week Michelle Robbins- Daniels, Week 29: Common Object (2022)
Not a Competition, but Rather a Challenge
52Frames is not a competition, but rather a creative exercise. The point of 52Frames is not to take the best photo of your career, but rather to take a photo each and every week. 52Frames inspires you to train your creative muscles, at whatever level you are at.
Although 52Frames is not technically a competition, there are some honors given out each week to highlight some of the standout submissions. These are chosen by committees made up of both amateur and professional photographers, and, of course, each committee member has their own individual taste regarding creative concept, technical execution, and overall story.
There is a very long list of ingredients that make up a good photo, but the more photos you take, the better you will get, and more importantly, the better you will understand which ingredients cook up a strong photograph.
How Does It Work?
Each week, 52Frames issues a challenge, which often is a new opportunity to explore outside your comfort zone and learn something new. The challenges may be centered around a technique, like a principle of composition, or it may be something more creative and story-driven, like “Red.” Levitation Week inspired the members to learn layer masking in Photoshop. Fast Shutter Speed Week was an opportunity to capture fast-moving subjects and learn to work with your shutter controls. One challenge that stood out to me personally was Portrait of a Stranger. Being a studio photographer, I am mostly comfortable with my subjects. In short, they know why they are there, and I simply need to photograph them. Going out on the street and asking a stranger to take their photograph is a whole different ball game.
Photo Credit: Kevin Mathews, Week 37: Portrait of a Stranger (2022)
Photo Credit: Laura Cali, Week 31: Choose a Color (2022)
I tried taking images of strangers a few years back. Being not the most outgoing person, this was more of an exercise to push myself personally than to create great photography. In the process, however, I ended up getting to know a few interesting people, one of them being a fellow photographer. It is fair to say that this encounter would not have happened if I wasn’t pushed beyond my comfort zone. Sure, this sounds a little cliché, but try it for yourselves and watch the magic happen. The point isn’t to make friends or connections; the point is to get out of your comfort zone. And this will extend into things in your life beyond just photography.
Comfort, Stretch, and Discomfort
Getting out of your comfort zone is perhaps one of the best ways to learn. Generally, there are three zones we find ourselves in: comfort, stretch, and discomfort. Being in the comfort zone is our default. It also can get quite boring doing the same task over and over again.
Being in the discomfort zone is not exactly motivating or fun either. For example, if I was hired to shoot a cat for a Whiskas commercial, I would decline, as animal photography would be very uncomfortable for me.
The stretch zone is where 52Frames aims to place you: just on the limit of what you are comfortable with.
I have found the stretch zone to be the best place for learning, as you are able to build on the skills you are comfortable with. Eventually, as your stretch zone becomes your comfort zone, your discomfort zone is now a stretch zone. If that was confusing, read that sentence again.
Going back to my Whiskas commercial example, I am comfortable with photographing a human who might hold the cat food. It would be a stretch to photograph a human holding a cat, and ultimately, it would be uncomfortable to shoot just a cat.
Another example would be with learning how to use flash. Many photographers are comfortable with using one light. It would be a stretch to use two and uncomfortable to use complex lighting with special modifiers.
The point is: our comfort, stretch, and discomfort zones are different. By participating in 52Frames, you can really explore what you can and can’t do, get acquainted with the level you’re working at, and ultimately, break out of your comfort zone and progress.
52Frames users have commented that after a year of weekly challenges, their photography is on a different level than when they started. They have produced more compelling work and, perhaps more importantly, ended up seeing the world in a completely new way.
52Frames is a community of photographers, such as you, who want to get better and help others be better. If you are looking for a supportive and creative community to make your photography better one week at a time, check out 52Frames.