12-Day Backyard Photography Challenge

12-Day Backyard Photography Challenge

I’d like to learn more about photography and take better pictures. I found the site Outdoor Photography Guide and signed up for their newsletters. They recently offered a backyard photography challenge, and I thought, why not.

The challenge is divided into prompts for 12 days. Being impatient, I decided to just go out in my front- and backyard on Tuesday afternoon and take a bunch of pictures, and see what I could apply to each prompt.

Day 1—Shoot at midday. You know about the “golden hours,” just after dawn and just before dusk, when the light is miraculous and it’s hard to take a bad picture. Midday is another option, when the light is most direct, and it’s also possible to get great shots. All of the photos I took for this article were taken between 3:00 and 3:30, so none of them really qualify. . .

Day 2—Natural patterns. Look for recurring shapes. 

Our lemon tree is really loaded this year.

Day 3—Subject in foreground. Create a composition that emphasizes the foreground in relation to the background.

Making the leaves the focus, rather than the lemons.
2 flowers

Day 4—Tell a story. Take multiple shots that suggest an adventure. Include story elements. Make the viewers want to go outside so they can experience your story. (I failed to do this.)

Day 5—Backlight effect. When you point your camera directly toward a source of light, causing the subject to be lit from behind.

Seed pods
I like that the backlighting actually makes it possible to see the seeds inside the seed pods.

Day 6—Simple subject. Use a telephoto lens to seclude subjects by placing them against negative spaces or solid colors, or using a wide aperture to make simple subjects in a scene stand out. (I didn’t.)

Day 7—Shoot at night. Use a long exposure and the widest aperture you can. (I didn’t do this either.)

Day 8—Natural designs. I had a hard time differentiating between natural patterns and natural designs. I randomly selected these cactus thorn shots to be examples of a natural design, but I think they could also be a natural pattern. Whatever.

Cactus thorns 1
Cactus thorns 2

Day 9—Shoot through. Try shooting through objects to frame your shot and create a stronger composition. (I didn’t get any good framing shots.)

Day 10—Black and white. Editing to black and white can make your contrast grow sharper and your photo richer looking.

Buds, color
Flower buds on my Mexican bird-of-paradise tree. Meh.
Buds, black/white
The same photo edited to black and white. I think the contrast makes the buds more prominent, resulting in a more interesting picture.

Day 11—Bokeh effect. Sometimes your focus on one part of the photo produces a pleasant “blur” in the other parts of the photo.


Day 12—Close up. In a close up, your camera must align with your subject for maximum sharpness.


This was a fun exercise, and I can see that if I’d had the patience to devote a photography session to each day’s prompt, I’d have learned much more about taking better pictures. (As it was, I only managed to address seven of the twelve prompts.) I invite you to try this yourself. And if you post your photos online, please put a link in the comments below so we all can see.

About Andrea R Huelsenbeck

Andrea R Huelsenbeck is a wife, a mother of five and a former elementary general music teacher. A freelance writer in the 1990s, her nonfiction articles and book reviews appeared in Raising Arizona Kids, Christian Library Journal, and other publications. She is currently working on a young adult mystical fantasy novel and a mystery.

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