Conceptual Photo Challenge: Photographing the Commonplace”

I recently watched my Dad toss hundreds of slides he had taken from a trip he took around the world when he was in his 20s that meant nothing to him any more. As I looked through the growing stack feeling a little badly that I didn’t want them either, I realized that any tourist could have taken the exact same image. I couldn’t see my father’s perspective in the images he took, they were all wide angle shots of a tourist attraction.

I started thinking about his childhood as a farm boy in Maine. What if he had used that camera to photograph the ordinary elements of his childhood? The butter churn. The sheets on the clothesline. The hens. My grandfather’s tools in the barn. The cookie tins. The paddle my grandmother hung over the doorway as a threat to encourage good behavior.

Perhaps it all seemed too commonplace to him to bother photographing. And yet, those are images I would have loved. Not just because those items are such relics of a bygone era, but because he had a personal connection to them, and that connection, his unique perspective would have shown through in his photography.

#MindfulPhotoChallenge Day 1: The Commonplace

Let’s begin the challenge by photographing something ordinary and commonplace.

Ground yourself and come into the present moment. Silence your chattering narrator. (Read this if you missed the introduction to the course and don’t know what I mean)

Slowly and mindfully look around you at the abundance of commonplace items in your life. Follow your curiosity. Is there anything in your surroundings that captures your attention? A shape, a form, a color?

Perhaps you see an iPhone.

–A keyring.

–A spoon.

–A stack of books.

–A stapler.

Things that would almost seem silly to take a photo of.

And yet, why not? So many of these things are a marvel in form and in function.

Once you’ve chosen your item, try photographing it in an interesting way.

Be patient, it may take a little time and effort to showcase the item in a way that pleases you.


Try photographing parts of it, or multiples of it, or using a simple background, or moving it around your house to see how the light looks in different locations.

As you photograph the item, try to fill the frame with your subject — or the aspect of your subject that interests you the most. Show the viewer of the photograph what intrigued you about your subject.

Share your images on Instagram with #mindfulphotochallenge or #RefocusPhotoChallenge.

Photo credit: AbsolutVision

If you enjoyed this article, you might like:

  • My full color 30-Day Photography Challenge Workbook here on Amazon.
  • My Photography Articles Listed and Sorted by Type here
  • My Mindful Photography Workshop here