Bless the soul of whomever came up with this viral internet challenge. Although the original rules, which state that old photos can be used, don't seem like much of a challenge at all. In fact, when this BW Challenge came my way, I rewired these rules so that only photos taken on the day of the post can be used. That way we actually get to learn something instead of just digging into our hard disks, yah?
Next, I nominated those who aren't hardcore photographers - people who only take casual pictures, like my own mother, for instance - then I sat back and watched the creativity unfold.
Here's what I learned from the Black and White Photography Challenge:
1) It's Intimidating - but mostly for the hardcore photographers
A few pros and veteran shooters I nominated quietly backed away from the prospect of having to shoot a fresh, new BW photo every day for the next five days. Others complained and stuck to the old rules, which allow the use of old shots. Surprisingly, the ones who relished the rewired challenge were the casual shooters. They took on the challenge and had lots of fun doing it. In my mother's case, she had some reservations at first - but once I told her to "just shoot what you love", she quickly got into the groove.
2) Look out for the newbies, not the veterans
Among the hobbyists', semi-pros' and even seasoned professionals' works, there were very few photos that stood out. The casual shooters, on the other hand, gave plenty of surprises. At first I wondered why this was the case - later I figured that the newbies' heads weren't stuffed inside boxes. Nobody told them what BW photos were supposed to look like, so they had none of the "aesthetic constraints" that were imposed on us by clients, photography schools or camera clubs. This often resulted in quirky original images that didn't quite fit the definition of a "good picture".
But man - the newbies' photos were intriguing and heartfelt!
3. Shooting everyday requires commitment
That is - if you aspire to a consistently high standard of photography, you gotta put in the work. No matter how "good" a photographer you are, the stunning photos simply won't appear while you go about your everyday life. You'll have to go out and find them, or simply create them.
4. What matters is what's IN the picture
A BW photo executed to perfection can stay mediocre if there is no "heart" in the image. A finely-toned sunset, landscape, street, travel or whatever photo means jack shit if it doesn't stir anything inside you. Sheer beauty is nice, but you quickly get used to it. So yeah, that "special sauce" can make or break that photo. Find that "special sauce" and build your image around it.
5) Lastly - nominate those you can learn from
That way you won't be wasting time, effort and pixels :)