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Book Review: 52 Assignments Experimental Photography

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Experimental Photography (52 assignments)

Putting some creativity back into your photography

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One of Keith’s Photography book reviews

When you’ve things to photograph and ideas aplenty, photography seems easy. Sometimes the ideas flow less freely and it’s easy to get that feeling of being stuck.

52 Assignments in experimental photography is written to help you break that block.

Keith has been looking through the collection, seeing what might work for him…

Book details

  • Author: Chris Gatcum
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Ammonite Press
  • ISBN-10: 1781453543
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781453544
  • Dimensions: 14 x 21 cm
  • RRP £12.99

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Experimental photography

Like all photographers I’m sometimes at a loss what to do next, fortunately it’s my job, so regular jolts to this come in in the form of paid work and the associated need to meet a brief or communicate some message for a client.

What if it’s ‘just’ a hobby? No-one is on the phone asking you to photograph something, with a helpful time limit on getting it done.

This book aims to give you some ideas and suggestions that may well take you out of your comfort zones and encourage you to try something a little different.

At this point I have to remind myself that this is not a scheme to produce new sets of images to display and show others, it’s something for you to do, explore and appreciate for your own benefit and enjoyment.

Now, it may be that you find some great new way of expressing yourself, that people admire, and you go on to make a name for yourself as an expert in this style…

However, I’m going to suggest that this is exceedingly unlikely – many of the examples you create may look awful, either at the time, or more likely when you look again at them in a month or so. That really doesn’t matter, it’s the fun of doing it that you’re after.

Seemingly unrelated things can change, influence and benefit all kinds of things in your photography. My own interest in print making has led to subtle changes in my appreciation of lighting, whilst my use of stitched images has led me to visualise composition and framing in a much freer way.

Making your way through the book

The book has a distinct exercise book feel to it, with spaces to write in your thoughts and conclusions. As someone who was brought up to value books, I just can’t do this – all my old text books are completely unmarked. You may feel differently… ;-)

How you approach the collected ideas is very much up to you. Some will like the 52 step, once a week approach, whilst others, like myself, will prefer dipping in and ignoring some.

I’ve no real interest in film photography any more, so those film only ideas were quickly glossed over at the start (such as using 35mm film in a medium format camera [26- Sprocket shots])

The point is that I’d start with something not too far away from what I do now, so assorted cloud photos [27-Cloudscapes] is just a step away from what I’m often doing in my landscape work.

Some I’ve already tried [40-Chip can macro] where I started experimenting with macro, with a ‘home made’ lens [DIY Macro]  or pinhole photography [15-Pinhole lens] where I even tried to photograph the moon [DSLR Pinhole]

There may be many sections where your first instinct is to say the examples shown look truly awful. Step back from that and give it a go if it’s something simple to do, such as longer exposure panning shots [09- Pan-tastic] or cheap home made filters [20- Plastic fantastic!]

Remember that the results don’t need showing to anyone – over the years writing articles for this site I’ve many thousands of ‘bad’ pictures that have all, in varying degrees, contributed to my current level of skill/vision/ability.

It’s not for nothing that I collect old ‘photo junk’ to play with…

photo stuff


Whilst the ’52 subject’ one a week approach may feel a bit contrived, I’ve genuinely found new ideas to think about. One or two have given me ideas for articles exploring things further…

A great book for hobbyist photographers a bit too bound up in the technical side of photography, needing a bit of a creative ‘kick’ .


The list of assignments in the book.

assignments 1-26assignment 27-52

Front Cover

52 photography experiments

Author Info

Chris Gatcum has been involved in photography for over two decades, working as a photographer, journalist, and author. Like many aspiring photographers, his career started at college where a degree course taught him a wide range of skills and technologies, covering both studio and location work, large format photography through to the then-emerging digital technology, and, of course, Photoshop.

Chris’ books include Creative Digital Photography: 52 Weekend Projects (published as Camera Creative in the US), Light & Shoot: 50 Fashion Photos, and Landscape Photography: The Four Seasons. He currently lives in East Sussex, UK.

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