How photographing the same subject daily can make you a better artist

Back in September 2017, in a temporary moment of madness, we adopted a tiny black kitten. Inspired by his undeniable cuteness, I embarked upon a personal project. This project didn’t just document our adorable new family member, but also grew me as an artist.

Related: 20 lovable pet pictures you won’t be able to resist

Have you ever considered shooting the same subject every day for an extended period of time? Do you fear you would get bored or maybe run out of ideas?

That’s a valid concern! But what if the challenges and limitations that come from shooting the same subject actually sharpened your photography skills? Instead of becoming bored, what if your creativity flourished? What if this simple exercise in sameness, caused you to see differently?

That’s exactly what happened to me.

Finding the light

Following my kitten throughout my house, I began to look for light more intentionally than I had before. I didn’t want him to look like a black blob in all of my images! Therefore, I had to find the light, use it well, and nail my exposure.

Like many photographers, I sometimes find myself complaining that my house doesn’t have good enough light. However, photographing my black kitten every day proved me wrong!

I found window light.

I worked with dappled light.

I fell in love with shapes of hard light.

And I explored capturing shadows and silhouettes.

Over time, I began to think about light as part of my composition. One of the biggest benefits of photographing the same subject daily is that it forces you to seek variables to make that singular subject more interesting.

Light is the perfect variable as it can be so easy and interesting to manipulate! Try shooting at various times of day. Set-up shots in rooms where the light enters at different angles. Or simply change your position in relation to the light.

Allow yourself to explore this element of the frame in a way that challenges you creatively and keeps your photography fresh and exciting.

I remember the thrill of the moment I noticed this beautiful rim light that outlined my kitten perfectly. Simply moving so that the light falls behind your subject can create the most beautiful halo of light and can transform even the most mundane subject into something beautiful.

Movement, moments, and telling the story

As I shot photos of my black kitten every day, I became increasingly observant. I began to anticipate exactly when he would arch his back or when he was about to pounce. This didn’t happen overnight; it was the result of daily shooting.

Really take the time to be a quiet observer of your surroundings and your subject. This will allow you to anticipate photographable moments rather than frantically seeking them. Be a student of your subject, your home, and your camera and you are sure to grow as an artist.

I tried new ways of capturing the motion of his play by shooting with new techniques and new tools such as my Lensbaby. This creative tool allows me to shoot differently than I normally would with its manual focus and unique blur.

Try using a lens that you wouldn’t usually reach for to create effects that are new and exciting!

Don’t hesitate to enlist helpers! On this day I had my son stand off-camera and throw my kitten’s favorite toy over and over again into this rectangle of light on the floor. I set my focus and exposure before, making sure my shutter speed was fast enough to freeze the action.

Having someone there to help direct your subject can relieve a lot of the stress of daily shooting and can make others just as invested in your project as you are! They, too, can become active observers and can assist you with individual shots as well as help you with anticipating those moments and activities worth photographing.

For the most part, I shot images of my kitten alone – exploring the world on his terms. Sometimes, I included other family members in the story. I was sure to document the time we took our kitten on a fifteen hour road trip – in a van – to Grandma’s house. He even got to experience snow for the first time!

Just because you have committed to shooting the same subject daily doesn’t mean that you can ONLY shoot that subject daily. Including other people/items in the frame can add to the story of your subject and can help add important details to your narrative.

Break-up the monotony of photographing the same thing every day and keep yourself fresh and motivated by adding extra elements to your shooting project.

Editing and Artistry

Using creative editing techniques is one of my favorite ways to add further interest to my photographs. Just when you think you have run out of ways to depict a single subject, you have overlays and textures in Photoshop to play with! Don’t be afraid to explore techniques outside of your normal style in the name of artistic growth.

In this edit, I imagined that my house cat was really a wild cat at heart. I photographed him under my dining room table and then created some overlays using photos I’d previously shot of bamboo and ferns for a jungle effect.

You can even make your own texture overlays! Here I simply photographed a rainy window and used that as added texture to this simple portrait of our kitten. Who knows? You may even find a new favorite technique to add to your workflow!

Shooting a single subject daily is a personal project that ANYONE can do! All you need to get started is your camera and a (reasonably willing) subject.

Be certain that your chosen subject isreadily available to you every day. If you have pets or young children in your home, they are perfect for a project like this!

If you don’t have kids or pets, there are plenty of other options. You could choose a house plant or a tree in your yard. You could shoot the changing scene out the same window every day. You could even photograph your breakfast each morning!

The possibilities are truly endless and it is up to you to identify the perfect subject for you.

Allow the sameness of your subject to push your creativity. I know you will be thrilled with where your project takes you!

What single subject do you think you would like to photograph daily? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author:

Dana Ball is an Orlando, Florida photographic artist. She is drawn to bold color, high contrast black and white, uncluttered frames, and beautiful light. She shoots with a Canon 6D and a collection of prime lenses. Mom to a houseful of teens, she loves capturing their transition to adulthood.

24 Comments

  1. Joyce Rivera Aug 23 2018 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Love your article and its relevance; great ideas, thank you. We also adopted a black kitten 6.5 years ago and love him so much; they get a bad rap from a lot of people.

    • Dana Ball Aug 23 2018 at 11:55 am - Reply

      Thank you! I LOVE my black cat, and learning to photograph him was so, so fun!

  2. Heather Aug 23 2018 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    What a great and INSPIRING article! And such wonderful photos-all so different and beautiful! Thanks for sharing! I’m inspired!

    • Dana Ball Aug 23 2018 at 8:59 pm - Reply

      Heather, You are so kind! I’m so glad you are inspired. I don’t know if you are on the CM forums or not, but I’d love to see what you shoot. You can always tag me. My name on the forums is @dballhome.

  3. Christopher Hall Aug 24 2018 at 12:04 am - Reply

    Great article. Not sure if it worked though. All I want now is a black kitten…

    Wonderful photos.

    Thank you

    • Dana Ball Aug 24 2018 at 6:39 am - Reply

      Haha – I guess I was successful after all! I think you’d love a black kitten!

  4. Annick Paradis Aug 24 2018 at 7:12 am - Reply

    great text!! it’s like a 365 with a cat 😉 I love your double exposures !!

    • Dana Ball Aug 24 2018 at 10:37 am - Reply

      Thx Annick! His cuteness made it easy to shoot daily!

  5. Stacey Aug 24 2018 at 7:40 am - Reply

    Great article Dana. I love how you found the light in your home, I’m not sure I could find my windows right now, lol. But seriously I love how you mention that it makes you start noticing more details, that is so true. Great job.

    • Dana Ball Aug 24 2018 at 10:38 am - Reply

      Thanks Stacey! I love how limitations (like not so great indoor light) push me to see things I normally wouldn’t notice.

  6. Melissa Aug 24 2018 at 11:03 am - Reply

    We also have a new kitten and this is a great idea!

    • Dana Ball Aug 24 2018 at 12:06 pm - Reply

      Melissa, I would love to see photos of your new kitten! Enjoy!

  7. Torrie Aug 26 2018 at 11:29 pm - Reply

    I’ve been shooting my children (my oldest is almost 3 and a half) every day since they were born, and it’s my #1 secret to how I’ve improved so much in my photography! Partly it has to do with the challenge of trying to shoot the same subject differently, and partly it’s due to just simply shooting every single day, period.

  8. Robin Holloway Aug 27 2018 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    I enjoyed your article Dana !
    He makes for a really good subject and He plays well in the light.

    • Dana Ball Sep 04 2018 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      Thank you Robin! Too bad we didn’t have time to shoot photos of your sweet kittens!!!!

  9. Elena Aug 31 2018 at 2:30 am - Reply

    Wow, you made so wonderful pictures! I was dying to have a “love” button to click under each one of them! Really great work! Wonderful pictures! I love to watch them again and again.

    • Dana Ball Sep 04 2018 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      OH, that makes my heart happy! I love them too.

  10. Zee Sep 09 2018 at 7:51 am - Reply

    Great article, awesome images and very inspiring. I have a new puppy, which willl be my subject for the next 2 weeks.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and time Dana.

    • Dana Ball Sep 09 2018 at 2:11 pm - Reply

      Zee – Thanks so much. How exciting about your new puppy. I know you’ll get great images. If you are a CM forum member, be sure to share some there and tag me. My user name is @dballhome.

  11. Michelle Sep 10 2018 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    Amazing article! I have a black lab that I keep saying I want to photograph more and never do. The time has passed so much that she’s now 8! This has inspired me to photograph her daily as my new project!

    • Dana Ball Sep 11 2018 at 9:36 am - Reply

      Yes! Go for it, Michelle. And don’t get discouraged. In my opinion, pets are hard to photograph, and black animals are especially challenging. But try to get a shot of her every day, and you will be amazed at how much you learn and grow!

  12. Daniela Swenson Sep 12 2018 at 4:22 am - Reply

    Love this! I have 3 children and a chocolate lab. This gave me so many ideas! Thanks 🙂

    • Dana Ball Sep 12 2018 at 9:50 am - Reply

      3 children and a chocolate lab is a recipe for fun and beautiful images!

Leave A Comment

Follow this blog