KAGE Assignment Generator

Guidance: Intentions -nobility of -humility of -credibility of.
Assignment: Today you must shoot any subject with a square ratio, using your longest focal length and your favorite camera. 
Time limit: speed shooting—3 minutes.

If you’re wondering what the above paragraph is about, let me add that Siri told me to. Ok, let’s backtrack a little. A couple of months ago my good friend Derek Clark—on our KAGE Slack channel— shared a system he had devised to generate photo assignments. It was based on an Evernote template filled with various elements: camera bodies, lenses, aperture, time limits etc. The idea was to roll the dice for each category and use the random results to force a framework around which to shoot.

At the time he shared this with us I was already on an iOS Shortcuts rampage, setting up various workflows to automate everything from my work environment to morning meditations. So the first thing that popped into my head when I saw Derek’s message was: I can totally automate this. So I did. I built a very quick first draft in Shortcuts, inputting several variables—technical but also expanding into thematic aspects as well. We had a few back and forth conversations, I tweaked and added more variables, more choices and finally here we are: I call it the KAGE Assignment Generator. It’s a totally free Shortcuts workflow that can be downloaded here.

When run it does three things :

  • 1. It provides “guidance” using Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies.

  • 2. It asks how much time you have for the assignment—up to 30mn, up to 3 hours or up to 6 hours. Basically, a quickie, half-day or full-day.

  • 3. Based on this selected time slot, it generates a framework using technical limitations AND subject orientation.

Siri speaks the results while displaying the text on-screen. The shortcut then offers to save the assignment in either Things (1), the built-in Notes app or to simply copy it to the clipboard, allowing the generated text to be pasted in any application.

I’ve tried to make the technical variables as universal and open as possible, but concessions will obviously need to be made depending on the gear you own: if someone only has an X100F for instance, then the focal length or camera body suggestions won’t be as useful. But I think there’s still some interesting stuff to play with in most circumstances.

For me the assignment above resulted in using my X-Pro2 (set to square ratio) with the XF 55-200mm zoom fixed at 200mm. I set a 3 minute timer on my watch and shot the following images (2):

Three minutes is very fast but I didn’t cheat, scout’s honour. Ok, I was never a scout but I still didn’t cheat. If you know your way around Shortcuts feel free to tweak this to fit your needs—I did all of it for fun so please take this in the spirit in which it was created. (3)

And now for my next assignment:
Guidance: Put in earplugs.
Assignment: Today you must shoot small things, using your longest focal length and your newest camera.
Time limit: 30 minutes.

Happy Easter, if it applies :)


1. You’ll need to allow Shortcuts to access Things if you haven't done so already.

2. These were edited on my iPad with the new Pixelmator Photo app. More on this later.

3. Caveat: it runs fine from within the Shortcuts app but sometimes crashes when used as a widget. I’ve had other workflows with similar issues and it probably has to do with complexity/memory requirements. Hopefully this will be fixed at some point in the future.