The 30-day photography challenge that changed my life

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The 30-day photography challenge that changed my life

The 30-day photography challenge that changed my life

If you’ve put on a wee bit of weight recently then you’re not alone. But what if I told you that you could lose some weight without even noticing? And what if you could grow your social media engagement at the same time? Sound too good to be true? In this post I’ll detail the secrets of how I shed weight whilst doing something I love – Photography!  Read on to discover the benefits of photography as a weight loss tool.

“Don’t count the days, make the days count.” ― Muhammad Ali

One day I went for a walk. Nothing special. It was a nice day and so I decided to walk a little further than usual. I took a couple of pictures and the step tracker on my phone got to 10k steps. So I turned around to head back home. But as I walked back I noticed that my steps were climbing up to 12k, and then 13k. So I decided, why not do an even 15k? And that’s exactly what I did! I got back a little later than I would have but otherwise felt quite accomplished. I went to bed and had a great night’s sleep to boot! The next day turned out to be equally nice weather so I decided to go out for another walk.

A wee idea

It was during this walk that my mind wandered and I had an epiphany. I looked at the pictures on my phone and decided to begin a challenge! To walk 15k steps every day for 30 days. Why 30 days you ask? Well why not! Various sources suggest that a 30-day challenge is effective for new habit building. And it actually provides an initial boost for sticking to it at the beginning. Walking is proven to be a great calorie burner and has some incredible health benefits.

If you’re like me and didn’t see walking as a valuable weight loss method then hopefully this inspires you! You can always walk further than you can run and it requires no specialist equipment. I know what you’re thinking. It’s still just exercise, right? It’s still something that’s going to need daily motivation and take up valuable time. Well true. So instead of focusing on the exercise, why not commit to a 30-day photography challenge at the same time.

If you make your focus about capturing unique images, you won’t have to rely on motivation every single day. The thrill of capturing unique moments will distract you from all those steps. I made it my challenge to capture 10 images a day and post them to Facebook and Instagram. But, I wasn’t going to use my phone for this challenge. I wanted to make my photography more intentional. I dusted off an old compact camera and took to the streets of Glasgow for my 30-day challenge of walking and photography. The results surprised me immediately!

“Limitations foster creativity“ – Wildbow

If this sounds a bit wishy-washy then I get it. It’s easy to take pictures right? Well I decided to adopt some limitations with my photography. I forced myself to shoot primarily on fixed focal length lenses. So no zooming! I picked between a 25mm and an 42mm focal length, commiting 100% to that particular focal length. This translates to a 50mm and a 85mm in full frame terms. With no zoom and no wide angle lens, it’s much harder to fit everything in the frame. Sometimes the ‘easy shot’ was not
possible. I found myself picking out forms and shapes within the shot instead. This made my compositions a lot more deliberate and unique.



But did I get tired?

I’m not going to lie to you, it was a bit of a shock to say the least. I started to feel the effects of drastically increasing my daily steps. I was increasing from 2k to 15k steps a day. It was tiring. There were days where it felt like I could have fallen asleep whilst walking. I wish I could say that was hyperbole! It also took much more time – around 2.5 hours each day. But, I had a superpower. You guessed it, I had photography!

I was kept motivated each day to get better shots than the previous day. When I got tired, I stopped to take a picture (and to secretly recover). When the light was particularly pleasing, I chased it and the steps seemed to happen on their own. I varied my subject matter and planned routes to places further away that I’d ever been to on foot. Walking and photography became intrinsically linked – one complimenting the other.

“Don’t make it your Goal to be fit. Make it your goal to be Disciplined and being Fit will follow” – Paige Hathaway

My social media became a lot more active and people were noticing. My profiles became beautiful and posting regularly became natural. I began getting more comments, likes and followers across Instagram and Facebook. I began unlocking ‘top fans’ on my page and ‘top contributor’ badges on photography groups. The reach of each post increased as did the engagement.  People sent me words of encouragement which kept me motivated in my daily challenge!

I began to notice some incredible health benefits

By the end of week 2 I was no longer out of breath after climbing steep hills and I felt more energised. My body seemed to want to move, and every day I gained more power with each step. I was completing my daily steps in less time than before and with more energy. Overall my head felt clearer and I was more focused on tasks. My skin appeared healthier and the quality of sleep I was getting was unbelievable – I felt like a new person! All these benefits without thinking about the exercise. Instead, simply trying to get the best 10 images possible each day.

So how much weight did I actually lose?

Well here’s the information you might have been waiting for! I lost 1.5 stone (12.7kg) in 30 days entirely with walking. I didn’t go on any special diets. I reached a deficit of 600-700 calories that I was burning every day with my 15k steps. Walking for hours each day meant I didn’t have time to snack at home when I otherwise would have. It replaced evenings spent on the couch indulging on crisps and chocolate.

Walking doesn’t cause a hunger spike in the same way that running or other exercise does. Drinking a lot more water could explain why I was less hungry also. I was clearer mentally and felt I was able to concentrate more on tasks. I was shocked at how much weight I lost just with daily walking.

When it came to the photography though, I have to confess that I did cheat a little bit…

I didn’t post my street photography images every single day. I’m sorry if this makes me sound like a bit of a fraud, but it wasn’t through lack of trying. There were days that were challenging due to the infamous Scottish weather. Those were the days that my photography suffered the most. I used those days instead to scout out new locations and treated them like a reconnaissance mission. I revisted those locations on days with much better weather and got the shot then. 

It was also around this time that I began to group images into themes. Instead of the daily 10 images, I categorised similar subject matters together. I created each post to inspire people and provide some context. Bicycles, flowers and couples holding hands proved to be the most popular themes. This is where I started telling a story with my photography. I took people on a journey through a deliberate sequence of images to inspire them in different ways.



So what did I learn?

I found that walking is the most enjoyable exercise I’ve ever done. It’s as easy or as difficult as you want it to be. I learned how committing to a daily challenge can reap tangible results. Amassing a huge library of content that I’m proud of is amazing. I couldn’t have walked every day if it wasn’t about taking pictures. And I wouldn’t have got as many interesting pictures if I didn’t walk! Walking and photography complemented each other perfectly.

I also feel a lot more connected to my social audiences. Loyal supporters of my work still champion my projects to this day. This is because people connect to daily challenges. It humanises the creative choices you make and people empathise. And with such a low barrier of entry, walking is something that many people can connect to.

What’s next?

As much as I love photography, I have decided to make things a little more interesting. As a Content Producer I’ve started producing short form vertical video content. I have created a shorts channel on YouTube to keep separate from my longer videos on my main channel. I’ve also been posting these to Instagram and Facebook which are already proving popular. Vertical video is interesting in the same way that vertical photography is. The rules of composition are unique! I know that I could have a similar impact to the world through this exciting medium.

Although I won’t post every day, I aim to follow a similar philosophy to my 30-day photography challenge. To me, photography and video share a lot of the same disciplines. With video, the sequence of shots is far more pivotal in order to tell a story. I want to tell interesting stories about Scotland and video is the perfect tool.


I’ve also been creating original background music for my videos. Creating short videos will give me the opportunity to improve and hone this new skill with each one that I produce. Creating music gives me much more creative control over the story of a video. I’ll always post photography, but video is ultimately where my passion lies.

If in doubt, walk!

Have I inspired you to embark on your own mini challenge? Maybe you’re motivated by the idea of committing to something every day. Or perhaps you like the idea of losing weight by accident whilst pursuing a creative endeavour. It really did change my life and got me out of a mental rut as well as a physical one. I did wear down the soles on my boots and I did have to do a few more loads of washing. But I can’t speak highly enough about walking as an exercise form – it’s my new love! Pairing it with photography was such an exciting creative adventure. And I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to lose a bit of weight and wants to feel better within themselves.

Would you like to see all the photographs from my walking challenge?

If you’ve made it this far, then perhaps you’d like to give me a wee follow on social media! My 30-day photography challenge is all there for you to see! I create a mix of video, photography and artwork designed to be uplifting and to inspire you. I always use traditional cameras to create my content. If I can inspire at least one of you into a new creative venture then that’s a beautiful thing. Simply search for DHShields on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and look for my logo. You’ll also get notified when I post a new blog too!

Thank you so much for reading this wee post and please stay inspired wherever you are out there in the world. Creativity improves our everyday life and I hope I’ve given you something to take away into yours.

Happy walking!


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