52 Challenge

52 Challenge

52 weeks.

52 themes.

52 self-portraits.

One ginger-bearded photographer who likes playing with fire.

One overworked, bleary-eyed father. (Read: situation normal.)

And YOU!


VOTogs is proud to host the VOTogs 52 Self-Portrait Challenge 2014!

It’s quite simple.

Each week will have a theme (it may be an idea, a colour, or a technique). Use that theme to take a self-portrait for the week.

Use your dSLR, point-and-shoot, film camera, smart phone or pinhole camera to answer the theme with your self-portrait. It doesn’t matter what you use. Just get creative! Have fun! Upload to our Flickr Group or Facebook group (Note: We no longer use Facebook! Join our Forums!). Prepare for the next week!



There are a few rules, but they’re not that heavy. Read on:

1) Each week ends on Sunday (your local time). New theme starts on the Monday. We’re relying on an honour system here — you’re doing this for you, not us. Don’t cheat yourself ;)

2) You can join in any time. Feel free to catch up on the old briefs if you wish. We aim to have an odd prize from time to time; to be eligible for said prizes there will be some conditions (details to be announced when we do arrange the odd prize), such as having to have entered the previous, for example, 5 weeks.

3) Upload your images to Flickr (add them to our Flickr group, tag them #VOTogs52 and include the week number somewhere (e.g. the title) as well please) or the Facebook Group (Note: We no longer use Facebook! Join our Forums!) (with the week number in the description).

4) We will announce each theme on a Tuesday for the following week (meaning there will be the current theme in play, and the next theme available for you to think about). Create something new and do not dip into the archives.

Each Tuesday, we will announce the next brief and have a brief wrap up of the most recently closed theme with a few editor’s choice photos published on our site (with credit, naturally). If you upload to our Flickr group, you automatically grant us permission to do this. If you upload to the Facebook group (Note: We no longer use Facebook! Join our Forums!), unless you expressly request it not be published at time of upload, you also give us permission to publish your image. Include a link to your website/Facebook page if you want it included if we post your image. No prize for this, other than having your work shared.

5) This is a self-portrait challenge. To qualify as such, it has to be taken by you (yes, you can ask someone to press the trigger after you set up the shot) and feature YOU (yes, it can feature other people, too). Whether it is your face or your big toe, it has to feature part of physical you. No taking photos of your left shoe sitting on the sand… unless it has your foot in it. Keep it tasteful, please.

6) Please try to only upload images for the current or previous weeks, just to keep things more manageable for us. Though we love the enthusiasm, try not to jump ahead in taking and posting your photo when we provide future week’s themes to think about, unless circumstances will dictate you won’t be able to post when it is due (e.g. you’ll be going away). As a general rule, you’re free to post for the week we are up to from Monday local time.

7) Have fun! This is about growth and the challenge. There’ll be photographers of ALL levels entering this. Don’t be intimidated; enter for you, not others. It’s about fun, about learning new things, and about creativity. We look for creative things, rather then technical perfection.



Our close dates (but keep in mind you can join in and catch up, any time!) and themes are as follows:

Week 01: Sunday January 5, 2014 — New Beginnings.
In honour of slamming the door shut on 2013, throwing away the key, and welding it shut, the first theme is “New Beginnings.”

Week 02: Sunday January 12, 2014 — Kin.
The second theme is “Kin.” Sunday the 5th of January would have been Peter’s Dad’s birthday, so we want to do something in his memory for it. So, what’s your connection to your family? How can you share your family and history through your self portrait?

Week 03: Sunday January 19, 2014 — Uncovered.
For Week 3, our theme is “Uncovered.” That’s not an invitation to disrobe and bare all! Far from it! We want you to explore something more metaphorical or environmental. Discover something about yourself or the place you live, reveal the truth and share it with us. What can you come up with? Because, right now, we still have our thinking caps on…

Week 04: Sunday January 26, 2014 — High Contrast Black & White.
For Week 4, we have a nice open brief of high contrast black and white. Create something striking, moody, and experiment with your light. Use off-camera lighting or ghetto lighting, and really see what happens when you move that light here or turn that way.

Week 05: Sunday February 2, 2014 — “Have a tall glass of…” Prop week: glass/mug prop.
That’s right, it’s “Props Week!” Your photo this week is to feature a glass, mug, or drinking implement. Be it a wine glass, shot glass, whisky glass, schooner glass… wait, I’m told there are non-alcoholic types of glasses… umm, coffee mug, tea cup, or a glass of juice, feature one in your self-portrait for Week 5!

Week 06: Sunday February 9, 2014 — Childhood.
Revisit old memories, old places, and your old self. Teddy bears, fairybread at birthday parties, and walking barefoot through the snow to school… What do you remember about your childhood?

Week 07: Sunday February 16, 2014 — Words.
The theme is Words. I love words. First and foremost, I’m a writer, a story-teller, a poet, an essayist. But I’m also a reader, a consumer of all things literary, of books and comics and Twitter… I love how words can transport you to another world, make you feel so many emotions, and just help communicate just what it is on your mind. How will you incorporate words into your self-portrait? Think about the influence that words have had on your world.

Week 08: Sunday February 23, 2014 — Lines.
Start thinking about Lines and your image for Week 8. Now, when we say “Lines”, we don’t want people to simply just throw a stripy shirt on and take a cell-phone snap. Consider this a technique challenge more than anything. We want you to really consider how lines work in your image. How can a line make your image stand-out, unique, and draw us in? How do lines add to or detract from the image? What lines are in your image and where do they lead the eye?

Week 09: Sunday March 2, 2014 — Prop week: Glasses (reading / sunglasses).
Prop week! Think about Glasses. No, not the glasses we used for “A Tall Glass Of…”, but, rather, those you stick on your face. Reading glasses or sunglasses, even those made out of cardboard, consider how you might show a glimpse of your personality in your portrait which features them

Week 10: Sunday March 9, 2014 — Red.
We are concentrating on the colour Red. Red is my favourite colour. It is a colour with so many implications, emotions, meanings and contradictions. How will you use red in your Selfie?

Week 11: Sunday March 16, 2014 — Technology.
Consider Technology. Technology is EVERYWHERE. It is an integral part of our lives. Our cameras, computers, phones, watches, televisions, music, every element of our being boils down to the use of technology. How will you feature technology in your image?

Week 12: Sunday March 23, 2014 — The Great Outdoors.
Explore The Great Outdoors! We don’t want you to just go to your backyard to take your selfie, but actually get out there. The beach, the bush, the rainforest, the desert, or even the streets of your city… Whatever is nearby, outside, and not your house. Enjoy!

Week 13: Sunday March 30, 2014 — The Rule of Thirds.
You will need to consider the “Rule of Thirds” for your image. Have a read of our article on the Rule of Thirds and start concentrating on your composition. How will you create your image to fit into the “Rule of Thirds”?

Week 14: Sunday April 6, 2014 — Prop week: Umbrella.
PROP WEEK! Woo! I do love a prop week. For this challenge, we are asking you to include an Umbrella in your photo. Ah, the simple umbrella. It keeps my head dry when it rains… if I haven’t left it at home, that is! Please note that your umbrella MUST feature within the photo along with yourself, so, to fellow strobists in the group, don’t think you can cheat and just use an umbrella for your lighting ;)

Week 15: Sunday April 13, 2014 — Play The Fool
This theme was (meant to be) released on Tuesday April 1st: April Fool’s Day. Week 15 we want you to Play The Fool. Have some fun this week with your photography. We want your image to be all about fun, something you take enjoyment from, something that makes you laugh.

Week 16: Sunday April 20, 2014 — Passions
Week 16 we want you to capture your Passions. What are you passionate about? Family? Friends? Sipping fine whisky or curling up with a good book? Charity work or cleaning up the environment? What are your passions? We want to see!

Week 17: Sunday April 27, 2014 — Which Came First? The Chocolate Or The Egg?
Week 17 is Prop Week and starts over the Easter long weekend. Now, we know not everyone celebrates Easter, nor that everyone celebrates Easter the same way, so we are offering something to consider and choose your prop from: “Which Came First? The Chocolate Or The Egg?” That’s right; this week, you can either use chocolate or an egg (chocolate or otherwise) as your prop. Good luck!

Week 18: Sunday May 4, 2014 — Serendipity
Week 18 sees us introduce our “Inspired by Literature” themes. First up, we have Serendipity, inspired by “The View from Serendip” written by Arthur C. Clarke. Basically “serendipity” is all about making desirable discoveries by accident. It all comes down to luck! The collection of short stories stems from Clarke’s series of lucky discoveries that caused him to move to Serendip (an obsolete name for Sri Lanka). We’re not asking you to read the book for your photo, nor travel to Sri Lanka. But think about some lucky discoveries for your photo.

Week 19: Sunday May 11, 2014 — Tools
Week 19 we’re going to hammer you with the theme Tools. At the end of the week, we will go through this weekly drill and file away the images for another week. You saw what I did there?

Week 20: Sunday May 18, 2014 — Shadows
Week 20 we have a nice easy, open theme: Shadows. Play with shadows, be they on your face, across the pavement or up the wall, we want to see you incorporate shadows into your image.

Week 21: Sunday May 25, 2014 — Diptych or Triptych
Week 21 we have a technique challenge for you. We want you to create a diptych or triptych. We want you to tell a story through two or three images spliced together. If you’re not quite sure what we mean, check our our article on Diptychs and Triptychs.

Week 22: Sunday June 1, 2014 — Sleep
Week 22 sees me tired. I’m writing this at 5am. So, you know what I need? Sleep. A nap? A heavy slumber? A lack there of? No more needs to be said.

Week 23: Sunday June 8, 2014 — Prop Week: Ribbon
Week 23 is prop week! We want you to use Ribbon in your image. Raid the sewing cabinet or head to the store to buy some. Let’s see some ribbon in your images!

Week 24: Sunday June 15, 2014 — Ritual
Week 24 we want you to consider Ritual. What will you make of it? Entirely up to you! Enjoy!

Week 25: Sunday June 22, 2014 — Silhouettes
We want you to play with Silhouettes! Silhouettes can be used to startling effect, so how will you make your image come alive with this technique?

Week 26: Sunday June 29, 2014 — The Seven Deadly Sins
Week 26 is the halfway mark! Huzzah! We want to give you some options, some choice, and plenty of interpretations this week. The theme is The Seven Deadly Sins. Yup, we decided to throw a curve ball, ask people to consider a little bit of story telling and fiction (or maybe not?) in their image, and share with us a self-portrait featuring one of the Seven Deadly Sins (wrath, avarice, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony).

Week 27: Sunday July 6, 2014 — Freedom
For Week 27, the theme is Freedom! What will you do? You’re your own boss! (Still not ours, though…)

Week 28: Sunday July 13, 2014 — Pull Up A Seat
Week 28 is prop week! It’s time to put your feet up and have a rest, as we want you to Pull Up A Seat. Whether you use a chair, a couch, a bench or stool, I want you to use something designed for sitting on within your photo. Does that mean you have to be seated? Not at all. But does that mean you can sit in the gutter or the ground or the kitchen table? No. I want an actual seat, something designed for and with the purpose of sitting on, in your image. How will you incorporate it?

Week 29: Sunday July 20, 2014 — Elements
Week 29 we want you to consider Elements. Earth. Fire. Wind. Water. (Heart! Goooooo, Planet! … Okay, not Heart.) Consider the very elements that the world is made up of, be they the classical elements of earth, fire, wind and water, or you take the ancient route of 5 elements, or the China and Japan beliefs (also 5), Buddhism (7) or any other views of the classical elements that reflects “the simplest essential parts and principles upon which everything is based,” there’s plenty for you to consider here. What are you made from?

Week 30: Sunday July 27, 2014 — The Bag
Week 30 is another Prop Week! And we’re sure you have this one in The Bag! This week in the group we’ve been quizzed about camera bags. We were contemplating themes, and thought “Why not run with it?” You don’t have to show us what’s in your bag, or even your camera bag, but we want a bag of some sort to feature.

Week 31: Sunday August 3, 2014 — Light
Week 31 sees a very simple theme, one with countless possibilities, one which will have you searching for a unique take on a key part of photography. Light. We want you to search for and use light in a unique way. Sure, every image has light within it — it’s how the image is imprinted on film or the sensor — but we want you to really think about light, how it can work within your image and how it can weave through it.

Week 32: Sunday August 10, 2014 — Food
Week 32 has us hungry for some great images. So, the theme? Food! Take a bite and show us your best.

Week 33: Sunday August 17, 2014 — Double Exposure
Week 33 we are seeing double! Yup, Week 33 is a Technical Challenge and we want to see some Double Exposures. You can check out our helpful guide to Double Exposures here. Whether created in camera or in post-production, we’re looking forward to seeing the ghostly world of Double Exposures.

Week 34: Sunday August 24, 2014 — Seasons #1
Week 34 we are throwing down the theme Seasons #1. I add the #1 there because, as you might guess, this theme will return later in the year. Take your portrait in the fading light of summer or the dying days of winter. (But be prepared to do the reverse come December!) It’s a nice broad theme for you to do as you wish, so how will you portrait your current season?

Week 35: Sunday August 31, 2014 — Music
Week 35 is a nice, broad, open theme. It is Music. Be it with an instrument or an album, at concert or the portrayal of a lyric, we want you to show music. Music is, for me, an all-important part of my life. I’m curious to see how music fits into everyone else’s lives.

Week 36: Sunday September 7, 2014 — Bucket
Week 36 is prop-week! So, as some may know, this week Kevin performed the #ALSIceBucketChallenge. He called out Peter to perform it. Peter swore (another thing for the to-do list!), but put the idea in his head. This week’s theme is asking you to use a Bucket as your prop! Good luck with this one… Peter knows how he is using his!

Week 37: Sunday September 14, 2014 — Down
Week 37 we are using the website as inspiration! The theme is Down. Entirely up to you how you interpret this theme. I am leaving the theme brief at that!

Week 38: Sunday September 21, 2014 — Hatred
Week 38 we want to go to the Dark Side and embrace your Hatred. Photography isn’t always about sunshine and roses and happiness. And while we checked out the Seven Deadly Sins, we want you to go dark this week. Find something you hate and show us. We want to feel some emotion in your work. What causes you to clench your fists at the mere thought?

Week 39: Sunday September 28, 2014 — Dress Up
Week 39 you get to Dress Up! Interpret that as you wish, but dress up and show us what you’ve got!

Week 40: Sunday October 5, 2014 — Where you Live
Week 40 is simply Where You Live. Show us where you live. Show us some detail. Don’t just show us the blank wall inside your bedroom, but the front of your house, or an iconic landmark in your home town, or a sentimental place that is all about where you live. Be it the balcony out the front, the birch tree out in the backyard, or the local beaches, show us what means home to you.

Week 41: Sunday October 12, 2014 — Ghetto Lighting
Week 41 we want you to employ some Ghetto Lighting! For this, we want you to consider your lighting in your shot and add to it. No natural light shots, thanks. We know the sun is a giant light in the sky, but we want you to think ghetto. Car headlights, lamps, torches — anything that emits light that will add to the way your photo looks and feels is what we’re after. Check out our post on Ghetto Lighting here.

Week 42: Sunday October 19, 2014 — On The Road Again!
Week 42 we are taking inspiration from Peter and suggesting the theme On The Road Again! We’re not expecting you to drive two days to a new destination, but incorporate a lane, street, road, tarmac, car, or something to answer the theme in your image.

Week 43: Sunday October 26, 2014 — Firsts
Week 43 the theme is based on Firsts. A nice, broad, open theme. A single word for you to incorporate into your image. Feel free to offer an explanation if it’s obvious. Enjoy!

Week 44: Sunday November 2, 2014 — Timber
Week 44 is prop week! Of sorts… The challenge is to include Timber in your image. Up to how the timber features, how much timber is within the image, the form it is in — you just have to use timber somewhere.

Week 45: Sunday November 9, 2014 — Moustaches!
Week 45 is yet another prop week! Because, well, I want to be cruel! The challenge? Moustache! Yes, in honour of the brilliant Movember and supporting Men’s Health, we are issuing the challenge of slapping on a mo’ in your image! What’s that? You can’t grow one? Well, design/create a prop and go mad! Here’s some suggestions. Plenty more on the internet. Good luck!

Week 46: Sunday November 16, 2014 — Socks / Change of Perspective
Week 46 the theme is two-parted — Socks and Change of Perspective. As in, pull your socks up, folks! We’re approaching the end, we’re tired and struggling for inspiration / motivation to take our images. We understand. (Oh, how Peter understands!) Consider this a gentle nudge to pull ‘em up! Incorporate socks in your image and use a different perspective — shoot high, shoot low, shoot at a weird angle. Have some fun creating something cool!

Week 47: Sunday November 23, 2014 — Where The Wild Things Are!
Week 47 sees our second “Inspired By Literature” theme. This time, rather than an abstract idea, we’re referring to children’s book Where The Wild Things Are. The 1963 picture book by Maurice Sendak features the young wolf-costume-clad Max who, after wreaking havoc in his house, is sent to his room without dinner. His bedroom is transformed into a dark, mysterious jungle environment inhabited by malicious beasts known as the “Wild Things.” How does it end? It’s only 338 words, so find out for yourself ;) How should you interpret this theme? Take a leaf from Max’s book and explore Where The Wild Things Are!

Week 48: Sunday November 30, 2014 — Paper or Plastic?
Week 48 is a theme for you to interpret as you wish. You can use it as a prop or use it as an abstract concept. The theme is Paper or Plastic? We can never seem to get away from either of these things, so let’s see how they influence you in your selfie.

Week 49: Sunday December 7, 2014 — Seasons #2
Week 49 sees the southern hemisphere is warming up, winter is coming for those of you Northerners. We have always intended that we all get a shot at similar seasons. So off you go, show us what you got!

Week 50: Sunday December 14, 2014 — Frame
Week 50 is Framed. We are not looking for a regular frame added in post production. Frame your image with a door frame, natural framing found in your environment, a prop, perhaps a more sinister view? Take it away, go all out, there are not too many themes left.

Week 51: WEDNESDAY December 24, 2014 — Christmas / Holiday Season
Week 51 is falling over Christmas / The Holiday Season. So, how do you celebrate? What do you do over the silly season? Keep in mind this is a slightly LONGER week, with it not ending until December 24. Our gift to you — a slight extension on this brief!

Week 52: WEDNESDAY December 31, 2014 — Celebration
Week 52 will see us all recovering from eating too much food and preparing a Celebration to bring in a New Year! So that is our theme. Celebration! This is due on the 31st (though, if you’re keen to take your photo at midnight on NYE, we will allow it). Be it you celebrating the holidays or the new year or just finishing this project, show us your celebration! And prepare for 2015 ;)

Can’t wait to see your entries!


Now… coffee…

Cawfee... Kevin's most recent selfie.

Cawfee… Kevin’s most recent selfie.

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