PHOTOGRAPHY BASICS

Push yourself and see what you can capture with seven continuous days of shooting

You'll be surprised at what you can capture in a week. Shoot something different every day for seven days and push your creative boundaries.
Canon Camera
It can be hard to break routine but if you want to ignite your creative side and try something new, a seven-day challenge is a good place to start. Commit to shooting a new photo of a different subject every day for seven days and you might rediscover all the reasons why you got into photography in the first place.

Driven by his desire to capture beautiful moments, photographer Ellis Reed first picked up his Canon EOS 550D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 850D) eight years ago at the age of 18. Now, with the help of his Canon EOS R, he specialises in travel, lifestyle and landscape photography, constantly challenging his own creativity.

Ellis's passion for his local area and ability to see familiar environments with fresh eyes made him the perfect photographer to take on our seven-day photography challenge. He created seven different images over seven days, choosing a theme of mindfulness to tie each beautiful moment of his journey together – a theme he felt went hand-in-hand with rediscovery.

Here he reveals how he got on and offers advice for how you can go on your own seven-day photography challenge.

Day one: capture the sunrise

The early-morning sun glints off a window of a crescent row of houses.

"Forcing yourself to go out with your camera and do something creative first thing while no one else is around is such a beneficial thing to do," says Ellis, who captured this atmospheric shot of the sun bouncing off a window early in the morning. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 57mm, 1/800 sec, f/2.8 and ISO100. © Ellis Reed

The honey-toned Pulteney Bridge is reflected in the placid river it stretches across.

Ellis took this image of the striking Pulteney Bridge in his home city of Bath at sunrise. What could you shoot close to your home? Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 26mm, 1/400 sec, f/2.8 and ISO160. © Ellis Reed

Shooting at dawn is the perfect way to focus on creativity, says Ellis.

"Walking by yourself before anyone else is awake is a really good way to clear your head and is great for setting yourself up not only for the rest of the day but also the rest of the challenge. That initial start is incredibly beneficial when trying not to let everyday pressures from work or social media affect you stress-wise," he says.

Ellis left his home to shoot the sunrise with just his Canon EOS R and Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens, a pairing he finds to be incredibly versatile. "I would say leave your phone at home, just be there with your camera and enjoy walking around with the sunrise."

"My go-to lens is the RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM, which is my absolute workhorse and what I shoot with 90% of the time, and the size of the EOS R is much more comfortable than a standard DSLR."

Day two: push your kit to the limit

A close-up shot of white blossom growing on a branch.

For this challenge Ellis used his RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens, not typically used for macro shooting, to try and get some close-ups of blossom blooming on local trees. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 70mm, 1/2000 sec, f/2.8 and ISO1000. © Ellis Reed

Pink blossom growing on a tree.

The fast yet compact Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens enables Ellis to capture exceptional details, whether he's shooting sharp portraits or his signature amber-toned landscapes – here he applied his signature style to something different, blossoming flowers, to push his gear.
Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 70mm, 1/2000 sec, f/2.8 and ISO250. © Ellis Reed

Allowing yourself to experience new possibilities with just one lens can be a simple way to see the world around you with a renewed perspective says Ellis, who exclusively used his versatile Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens for each day of the challenge.

"The idea is to force myself to go out and shoot everything on one lens, rather than packing specific lenses for specific subjects," he says. "Whether I'm photographing wide shots of the city or shooting close-ups, it's about trying to figure out how you make that lens work."

Day three: shoot something close to your heart

A Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens, a phone and a Canon Zoemini S sit on top of a marbled table surface.

For Ellis, a Canon lens was his sentimental item for his day three shoot. "My grandfather was also a photographer and a massive Canon fan, so Canon has stayed in my family. I can relate my Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens back to being with my grandfather, so it's almost like a tattoo and something that I carry around with me," says Ellis. © Ellis Reed

"My Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens was my grandfather's, and although it is a little beaten up, it's something he gave to me before he passed away."

Photographing something that means a lot to you can be a great way of preserving the memories further.

"It's an old lens but I love using it," he says. "I'd never part with it because it's something I have such a great passion for. Every time I pick it up it's a reminder of my grandfather and how photography has stayed within the family for ages."

Although he didn't use this lens for his seven-day challenge Ellis often shoots with it on his EOS R, using an EF-EOS R Canon Mount Adapter.

As well as shooting such a treasured lens Ellis used the Canon Zoemini S to create some personal prints to show it off and keep in a scrapbook.

Day four: make someone smile

A man embraces a woman, who holds a printed photograph of herself and the man in her hand.

"I think it's nice to have a few photos where you just stop for a minute and enjoy each other's company," says Ellis in reference to this image he shot of his friends. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 46mm, 1/100 sec, f/2.8 and ISO800. © Ellis Reed

A man stands behind a woman and hugs her in an alleyway lined with historical buildings.

"I utilised the incredibly quick, reliable and accurate Eye Autofocus setting of the Canon EOS R to make sure that the portraits were as crisp as possible and an f/2.8 for my aperture to isolate the couple for that nice depth of field," says Ellis. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 70mm, 1/100 sec, f/2.8 and ISO800. © Ellis Reed

Using this concept as a focus for day four, Ellis photographed two of his best friends during a couples shoot and created mini prints for them using the Canon Zoemini S. As professional photographers, they rarely get the chance to have their picture taken together, giving this shoot special significance.

"It works both ways: when you make someone else smile, you make yourself happier," says Ellis. "I think giving back to your community, someone you care about or even someone you don't even know helps lead to a more positive mindset."

"Being able to offer the couple instant print outs from the shoot that they can either frame or stick in a book was a lovely way to end the shoot."

Day five: get outside

A wild pony on a road in the Brecon Beacons.

Whether you go somewhere new or to your favourite walking spot, getting outside with your camera allows you to capture everything from local flora and fauna to cloud patterns and the night sky. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 70mm, 1/6400 sec, f/2.8 and ISO320. © Ellis Reed

Two wild ponies standing with their heads close together in the Brecon Beacons.

Ellis travelled to Wales for his outdoor shots, but capturing a shot of a robin in your garden could be just as striking with the right composition. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 70mm, 1/6400 sec, f/2.8 and ISO320. © Ellis Reed

Nature offers us the opportunity to connect with our surroundings away from a screen, something that aids positive mental health. Ellis travelled to the Brecon Beacons to photograph wild ponies, a challenge that brought him a rewarding sense of achievement.

"This relates back to the positive mindset theme because nature is a teacher of patience. Once you finally get the shot, you feel so much better that you've waited," he adds. "There's a real sense of accomplishment and reward."

Day six: leave your comfort zone

A landscape shot of white cliffs on the coast with stars shining in the sky above.

"The challenge of leaving your comfort zone is to learn from it and enjoy that process along the way," says Ellis. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 24mm, 20 secs, f/4 and ISO400. © Ellis Reed

Stars shining in the night sky above cliffs and a beach.

"I was typically using around ISO400, a shutter speed of 15 sec and an aperture of around f/5 to make sure I was getting enough detail and light into the shots without having too many stars trail," says Ellis. "The viewfinder and rotating back screen is really great for previewing your shots and making sure everything is lined up." Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 70mm, 15 secs, f/5 and ISO400. © Ellis Reed

"Doing something that scares you or you're not confident in gets you out of your comfort zone. I think lockdown restrictions accentuated people's reliance on their comfort zone, and I'm guilty of this. Doing something different keeps things fresh and allows you to learn."

"Nighttime and astrophotography are genres I'm not used to but have wanted to do for ages," Ellis says. He visited Durdle Door in Dorset to breathe new life into his imagery.

The Canon EOS R handled the low light of this part of Ellis's night shoot perfectly thanks to its large, 30.3MP full-frame sensor, enabling him to create stunning long exposures. The bright LCD screen, meanwhile, made composing his shots in the darkness simple.

Day seven: shoot with a friend

Two men standing on a rock in front of a valley with a river running through it.

Getting a friend involved in your seven-day challenge can be a fun way of socialising and doing something different. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 24mm, 1/1600 secs, f/2.8 and ISO250. © Ellis Reed

A hand holding a Canon Zoemini S with two prints on top in front of rolling hills.

"If you've got a way in which you typically compose an image before you even lift the camera up to your eye, I think that helps to link the images together," Ellis says. "One way in which I personally like to try and tie all of my images together is how I edit them, as I typically have quite a set style in my edit. I pull out those more peaceful, warming tones." Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens 24mm, 1/1600 secs, f/2.8 and ISO160. © Ellis Reed

Photography doesn't have to be all about solo adventures, though. According to Ellis, exploring with a friend can be great for boosting positivity and your social life.

"What has driven me so much is community; being able to meet with like-minded friends and building friendships through Instagram and photography communities. After months of not being able to meet up, being able to message another photographer and say, 'hey, do you want to meet up and get some shots?' and enjoying creating those stories and memories is a really great thing."
A man taking a selfie with a Canon Zoemini S.

Ellis used the Canon Zoemini S instant camera and portable printer to shoot some of his portraits and to print his favourite shots from the week, transferred across from his EOS R.

Ellis is proof that taking on a seven-day photography challenge can help a photographer grow into an even more effective storyteller. And while his theme of mindfulness is tied in with his aim to change his photographic mindset, your theme can be anything you want it to be.

"A challenge like this gets you thinking differently," he says, "because typically many get into a set style and repeat the same process. Challenging yourself really helps you examine how you approach locations and tell stories."



Written by Lorna Dockerill

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