One of the best ways to improve both your photographic and observational skills is to give your photography some purpose and structure. This can come from a detailed project or story you decide to work on or it can be as simple as picking a theme to photograph over the course of an afternoon, a few weeks, months, or even years.
Perhaps the easiest way to accomplish this task is to give yourself an assignment of picking a color and then walking around your neighborhood only photographing objects of your chosen color. You’ll be amazed at how much more you see and notice that you would typically walk right by without a second thought.
Taking this idea one step further would be to pick a theme that you photograph over an extended period of time. A theme that I’ve been photographing for a while now is “windows”. We all walk or drive by windows every day, but it wasn’t until I decided to photograph them that I really started to pay attention to them and realized how many unique and interesting windows are out there.
Photographing windows does not result in thought provoking photographs that elicit an intense emotional response, but it’s a fun little project to work on which has produced an interesting collection of images. More importantly though, it has helped me see my surroundings in different ways and take notice of everyday objects I would normally overlook.