LearnPhoto365 app: Our first take

End that creativity rut and actually finish a photo challenge with the LearnPhoto365 app

learnphoto365 first take app
While the LearnPhoto365 app could use a design and customization upgrade, the random assignment generators are worth the price of the app.

From college classes to online tutorials, there are almost just as many ways to learn photography as there are cameras on Amazon. But there’s one method that every photographer uses to hone their craft: practice. Starting a 365-day photo challenge makes that practice a priority, but comes with the risk of burnout after the ideas simply stop coming. Fortunately, this is 2017, and as with so many other aspects of our lives, there’s an app for that: LearnPhoto365 Photography Assignment Generator.

LearnPhoto365 serves as both a platform for sending daily push notifications to remind you to actually do the challenge and a method for generating new challenge ideas when the lack of inspiration strikes. The app includes both pre-written assignments and programs that randomly generate a much larger variety of potential shoots. Available on both iOS and Android platforms, the app has a free version with a smaller number of assignments and a full $4.99 version. For iOS users, there’s also a $1.99 version that focuses on iPhone photography instead of universal challenges that can be shot with any DSLR or mirrorless camera.

A challenge tailored to your style — even if that’s selfies

The app opens with a menu allowing you to choose from a list of photo challenges, randomly generate an assignment, access favorites, or start a long term challenge. While the name suggests a daily photo challenge, users can also choose less intense 52-week or 30-day challenges.

There’s a good amount of pre-written assignments, but the app’s real gem is the nine random assignment generators.

Along with randomly generated lists of 365, 52, 30, or single challenges, the app also includes a 365-day selfie option, generating a list of new places or things to include in your next shot. A weekly portrait challenge encourages photographers to photograph people from different walks of life with a list of different careers. The 30-day subject challenge picks a subject as random as apple juice and armchairs then suggests 30-plus different ways to shoot it, from lens choice to lighting.

When you select a challenge, you can save that list to the favorites to access again later. But “save” is a sort of misnomer — if you generate a new list within the same challenge category, that favorite list will be replaced with a new one. A pop-up warning reminds you that the new list generation cannot be undone. Along with saving complete lists, you can also save individual challenges.

Each list is randomly generated, which is great for challenging yourself with new subjects and techniques that you haven’t experimented with yet. Clicking on the challenge will bring up a small description which is usually accompanied by a shooting tip — like using a rear or second curtain sync when shooting flash with a slow shutter speed — and a few thumbnail sample photos.

The pre-written assignments also use a list of suggested camera settings, including what mode and exposure settings to use and whether or not a tripod is necessary. The suggested settings aren’t designed to teach a newbie the ropes entirely from scratch, but they serve as a good reminder while out shooting in the field.

While the challenge lists are well-varied, there are few customization options. Inside those lists, you can click the “X” to remove a task, which might be necessary when, say, the portrait challenge asks you to photograph a “milkman,” a profession that is rather scarce in 2017. Somewhat strangely, after removing “milkman” from the list, the app didn’t randomly generate a new challenge to replace it, leaving us with a 51-week challenge.

Put new skills to the test

The app includes a range of challenge options, but the only push notifications are daily, so the reminders cannot be used for weekly or monthly challenges. The notifications also don’t include any advanced features, like choosing what time you want to be reminded of your task. Our notifications came in at 9 a.m. every day — so if you work a 9-5, you’re getting the reminders at the beginning of the work day and may very well forget by the time 5 p.m. rolls around and you can actually go out shooting.

On the home menu and inside the “choose from list” option, users can access all the challenges organized by categories. This option makes it easy to find an assignment not for a daily photo challenge, but to practice specific techniques. If you just learned how to use shutter speed, for example, you can access a list of good subjects to practice using fast shutter speeds with, along with tips, sample shots, and suggested camera settings.

While there’s a good amount of pre-written assignments, the app’s real gem is the nine random assignment generators designed for getting out of a creativity rut. A scavenger hunt option generates a list of items to go out and shoot, while the number of the day assignment asks you to shoot objects found only in groupings of that number. Another sends you out shooting with only a single focal length to use.

The “places” challenge suggests a new shooting location, the “two random objects” challenge generates two unrelated items for you to shoot together, and the “object in environment” challenge pairs an item with an unrelated location. The random assignments do appear to be truly random, picked by software without consideration for practicality. This is can be a good thing, as all of the random generators are excellent tools for getting outside of your comfort zone and shooting something different, or generating unique, often odd assignments when you’re at a loss for what to shoot.

Conclusion

Unlike most apps, LearnPhoto365 isn’t from a big company, but an individual photographer — Noel Chenier. Chenier is a Canadian photojournalist, part-time photography teacher and blogger at a site with the same name, LearnPhoto365.

While the app is overall impressive for coming from a one-person team, there are a few shortfalls. The design and user interface is very basic and rather boring — while I didn’t experience any crashes using version 3.0 on an iPhone 7, the platform could use some graphic design love (especially since photographers, after all, tend to appreciate strong visual aesthetics). The lack of customization options for push notifications and the inability to add new items after deleting them from a challenge list are weaknesses that should be seriously examined for the next update.

LearnPhoto365 is different because it actually suggests ideas and challenges designed for serious photography

While LearnPhoto365 is a tad simplistic and could use some design and customization improvements, it does exactly what it advertises. It offers ideas to get enthusiasts out of a creativity rut, gives newbies different ways to try out their new knowledge, and crafts interesting challenges that will inspire all walks of photographer.

While there are a handful of other 365 photo apps, they simply put your photos on a calendar in a sort of daily journal and are largely designed to be used with the built-in smartphone camera. LearnPhoto365 is different because it actually suggests ideas and challenges designed for serious photography with DSLR and mirrorless cameras.

While less than the cost of lunch, the price may still be a bit high for such a small app that could use a few customization and design tweaks, but there are few options like it available. The free version of the app is worth a download for anyone starting a photo challenge, while the full version is a good option for photographers who need that extra push to get outside their comfort zone with unusual photo assignments. Download LearnPhoto365 if you feel intrigued by the photography challenges or if you want some inspiration — but don’t download it if you’re turned off by outdated designs or need something with full customization. Hopefully, a future update will improve on both of those shortcomings.

Highs

  • Random photography assignment generators
  • In-app shooting tips
  • Wide variety of photo challenges

Lows

  • Push notifications cannot be customized
  • Deleted list items are not regenerated
  • App design is a bit old school
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