Becoming A Better Photographer With Photography Challenges

Monthly beAphotographer challenges are my new favorite thing. I have always loved teaching – but doing workshops has been rather difficult for me. The hardest part is location, I am constantly everywhere and my life is quite unpredictable. But I have found a way to make it all work and I am happy that others are joining in.

Photo challenges played a big role in contributing to my initial interest and learning in photography. I used to submit to the site weekly when I was in high school. They give you a category, you photograph it during a certain week, upload it, and then vote/comment on the other entries. At the end of the week the top voted entries were given awards for fun and you could see how you placed.

I found the challenges valuable for a few reasons. First it was important for me to improve as a photographer – and the only way to do this was to keep shooting. I didn’t have much to shoot and wasn’t good at self assigning goals, so these challenges helped guide my learning. Here are some of my early photography attempts.

Screenshot 2016-06-27 15.30.39 Screenshot 2016-06-27 15.30.48 Screenshot 2016-06-27 15.31.18

Most importantly the main goal was to become a better photographer. I found that with the help and input other amateur and pro photographers I could grow a lot quicker than if I were to just shoot on self-critique. Here are a few of my self-portraits (from 10 years ago, please cut me some slack) and the comments people left on them.

Screenshot 2016-06-27 15.24.46 Screenshot 2016-06-27 15.28.26


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Learning how to take other people’s opinions and not be hurt by them is a very important skill. It goes hand in hand with the idea that you are not your work. When someone says something negative or positive about your work – it does not make you a better or worse person. A compliment does not justify being a know-it-all and criticism should not lead to self-hate. You should read them all the same – as information that will help you to become a better photographer. And that is just what DP Challenge slowly did for me. In some cases I would email or reach out to the commenter in a separate dialogue and ask for some more in-depth help. I still haven’t forgotten the people’s names that gave me 10 minutes of their time 10 years ago, it really does make a difference. Here are some of my later entries after submitting for a few months and learning as much as I could.

Screenshot 2016-06-27 15.34.01 Screenshot 2016-06-27 15.32.39 Screenshot 2016-06-27 15.33.46

Every step of the way is a challenge. At the start it was the technical aspects. Shutter speed, depth of field, aperture. Then it became correcting white balance, straight horizons and framing. Every time you figure out one solution, you become aware of ten more things you have to learn – and it never slows down. So get used to learning, become comfortable with not knowing, and welcome the feeling of not being the best – because it should never fade away. That is what makes photography so fun.

So I decided to do my own version of challenge. I did my first kind of… test challenges a week ago. Basically I came up with ten categories and then every day, for ten days, anyone who wants to takes a photo to match the category uploads it to their Instagram. Then using a hashtag others can search the submitted images and leave feedback. The most important part this first time around was just getting people to upload, but I am hoping in the future we can people leave feedback on other images as well. I am hoping that if any of my photographer friends are reading this you can help out. I know it’s hard to shoot the 10 images, but hopefully you can help me by leaving some feedback.


A photo posted by Photographer (@baphotographer) on

This is what the first 10 days looked like. We had about 1,000 entries a day- so over 10,000 total. beAphotographer challenge beAphotographer challenge   beAphotographer challenge beAphotographer challenge Screenshot 2016-06-21 21.45.13 Screenshot 2016-06-21 21.45.22 Screenshot 2016-06-21 21.45.29 Screenshot 2016-06-21 21.45.38 Screenshot 2016-06-21 21.45.48 I am very happy with how this is going so far. I was expecting a couple hundred entries at most but very overwhelmed with everyones response. So seriously thank you. Photography is my passion and career but I also hold teaching very close to my heart and this has all just been so awesome. If you are interested in viewing the entries, here are the links:

The First 10
challenge 1| submissions
challenge 2| submissions
challenge 3| submissions
challenge 4| submissions
challenge 5| submissions
challenge 6| submissions
challenge 7| submissions
challenge 8| submissions
challenge 9| submissions
challenge 10| submissions  

The next group of challenges start on July 13th. I have new prizes, better challenges, videos with tips, and about 500 people who have committed to helping me with commenting on your submissions!  If you want to participate next time, you can, it’s free and open to everyone. And if you want to participate but don’t feel like taking photos, that is okay – just help by leaving some feedback on other people’s images.    


Rules are easy

A photo posted by Photographer (@baphotographer) on

That is all for my update right now. Thanks again to everyone who has taken part. I am looking for input, both from those who have contributed and those who haven’t – so everyone! Please leave a comment below.



POSTED BY Adam Elmakias

Adam Elmakias is a music photographer based out of San Diego, California. He spends most of his time doing stuff with cameras. Adam wrote this himself, not someone else. I am Adam.

  • Daria Alexandra

    Hey Adam! I took part in the first challenge (@stardust.wishes on instagram) and it was so much fun. I never get around taking pictures or I have no ideas what to do, and the topics gave me so much inspiration. On some days it took me nearly half an hour to get the right shot. I will definitely participate again and every time I get the chance to. Thank you so much for this challenge

  • Justine Goddard

    How come the later challenges gradually got less posts? The last few challenges were the best ones!
    Also is that site still going? It looks super handy! U0001f603 There’s a little group on deviantart that essentially do the same thing, I’m yet to get around and do it.

  • matheus giordano

    The great thing about photography challenges for me is that I love to take photos, but I almost never know what to take pictures of, so when I have “assignments” I can focus ( intended) on composition and try to be more creative. Thank you so much for these Adam, can’t wait for the next one!

  • I_AmHangingOn

    Hey! I took part in the first challenge, and it was great! I loved the different challenges you put out there, because they made me want to think of something sort of different than what first comes to mind. It was also wonderful to see the different photos everyone came up with. I was a little upset because all of my photos seemed really amateur… and then I realized that it was only because I only used half of my heart. It made me realize that I began getting comfortable with life, and forgot all about my passion! I can’t thank you enough. Since then, I have continuously been shooting what catches my eye. I hope that this continues to help photographers grow and never settle.

  • Th0masP

    Challenges can be helpful for learning, but I find it can be even better to change mediums. For example; we all shoot digital now for the most part. When I feel like I’m in a rut I’ll go out and shoot a roll of film to try and force myself to slow down and think more about composition and lighting. I think that’s what challenges should be all about, it shouldn’t be a mad dash to make a photo, it should be somethign to make you slow down and think. Take more time to compose, to think about your subject, and then find mastery in it.

  • Zhao Lun Jing

    I would assume since you only have a day to get your best shot of so and so challenge, it’ll certainly be hard. Creation takes time, and longer to execute. That’s why a lot of photographers are patient and can have a sit out for 45+ minutes just for one Long exposure shot 🙂

  • Justine Goddard

    True, I took the candid approach and shot them as I remembered them; the challenge taught me to create with less planning and resources which I think I needed cos my usual style is the opposite, where patience has definitely come in handy U0001f602
    Maybe also people got busy I guess, hopefully more people can stick at it next time! I’m really missing having a theme to shoot every day aha

  • Chiara Daneels

    Yes!! I wanna join again

  • melissamcn

    The different challenges are a great idea to encourage others to get out and take pictures, although with being in school and stuff I found it quite difficult to complete the 10 days with photos I felt were my best. A few of the photos I submitted were last minute half assed attempts as I found I didn’t really have time to go out and spend loads of time experimenting with different aspects (shutter speed, dof ect..) and in different places. However I think that the more of these challenges I do then the better I’ll get at noticing what settings I need on my camera for certain images that I want to capture. Hopefully I’ll be able to look back in 10 years time and realize that I (fingers crossed) became a better photographer because of your challenges.

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  • PatriciaZenteno

    Hi! I just found this right now! Is any new challenge coming soon? Thanks !