Why It's Important to Challenge Ourselves in Photography

As a landscape photographer, the chase to capture stunning images of breathtaking scenes is a continuous journey. Yet, in the middle of this mission for the perfect shot, lies a crucial aspect often overlooked—the necessity of challenging ourselves and getting out of our comfort zone. In this article, let’s dive into why pushing our boundaries and embracing discomfort is vital in the journey of landscape photography.

The Comfort Trap

Comfort can be a deceptive adversary, luring us into a state of complacency. When we become too accustomed to familiar settings and techniques, our creativity stagnates, and our work may start to lack innovation and depth. Remaining within the confines of our comfort zones blocks growth and restricts our ability to explore new perspectives and styles. If you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

Give Discomfort a Go

Contrary to popular belief, discomfort is not inherently negative. Instead, it can serve as a catalyst for growth and self-improvement. Venturing outside familiar territories forces us to adapt, learn, and innovate. Whether it's experimenting with unconventional compositions, braving adverse weather conditions, or exploring unfamiliar terrain, embracing discomfort opens doors to new possibilities and expands our artistic chances. This could also be shooting when you don’t have the ideal light, to see if you can actually pull an image from the shoot. A tough challenge for sure, but not one that is unsurmountable.

Boosting Creativity

Challenging ourselves in landscape photography boosts creativity by encouraging unconventional thinking and problem-solving. When faced with unfamiliar challenges, we are forced to think outside the box, leading to the development of unique and innovative approaches to our shots. From experimenting with different lighting conditions to incorporating unconventional elements into compositions, pushing boundaries grows a spirit of creativity that can breathe life into our photographs. Granted, not all shots will work, and some will be disastrous; however, it’s about experimenting, making mistakes, and growing, as far as I see it.

Exploring New Perspectives

Stepping out of our comfort zones allows us to explore new perspectives and viewpoints that we may have otherwise overlooked. By venturing into uncharted areas as far as our past experiences are concerned, whether it's a remote wilderness or an urban landscape, we gain fresh insights and discover hidden gems waiting to be captured through our shots. Embracing discomfort encourages us to seek out unique angles, compositions, and narratives, enriching our photographic skills and broadening our vision. I have found that applying my skills from a landscape point of view has helped me understand light, compositions, balance, and ultimately more pleasing shots.

Overcoming Limitations

Challenging ourselves in landscape photography is the key to overcoming self-imposed limitations and pushing past our own perceived barriers. By confronting fears and embracing discomfort, we expand our capabilities and develop resilience in the face of adversity. Whether it's conquering a fear of heights to capture aerial perspectives or enduring long hours in harsh weather conditions, overcoming challenges empowers us to realize our full potential as photographers. What’s the worst that could happen? You spend a few hours in a new location and end up with no shots. Okay, I say, as I was at least out with my camera, using it and gaining experience too.

Continuous Growth

The chase for excellence in landscape photography is a journey of continuous growth and self-discovery. By challenging ourselves to constantly push boundaries and exceed our limits, we embark on a path of learning and evolution. Each new challenge presents an opportunity for growth, and you will find that once you have at least tried, you will be in a better position should similar conditions occur in the future. Nothing ventured, nothing gained comes to mind.


A perfect example of this for me was a recent shoot. I was there at the totally wrong time and, before you ask, I did this on purpose. I wanted to see if I could capture some long exposure seascape shots, with the harshest of light, at 2 PM in the day. Not only did I try it, but I also ended up with some images that I was surprised I was able to shoot. The hard contrast was tough to edit, but I also managed to tame the light through careful exposures and editing. I decided while on location that I was going to have to either deal with the harsh light or exclude it from my shots, and what I did was a combo of both. I had my horizons very tight on purpose when exposing the shots, to limit the amount of direct light that was in my shots. I also then got comfortable with the shoot and started to experiment even more, with different shutter speeds and filters, all the while safe in the knowledge that this was going to be a challenge and also an experiment. And that's my main point in the end, do things that you wouldn't normally do; the only barrier to this approach is yourself, and ultimately it's up to you to decide what to do with the images at the end of the day. For me, I chose to share them and also the video, which you can watch above, which I hope will inspire you also.

In conclusion, the importance of challenging ourselves in landscape photography cannot be overstated. By stepping outside our comfort zones, embracing discomfort, and pushing boundaries, we unlock untapped potential, boost creativity, and embark on a journey of continuous growth and self-discovery. In the pursuit of capturing the beauty of the natural world, let us not shy away from challenges but instead embrace them as opportunities to raise our skills and leave a lasting impact through our photographs, be they good or bad.

Thanks for reading. Have you examples of times when you left your comfort zone and managed to pull it out of the bag, or did it fail miserably? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

Darren Spoonley's picture

Darren J. Spoonley, is an Ireland-based outdoor photographer, Podcaster, Videographer & Educator with a passion for capturing the beauty of our world.

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