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Elevate Your Photography with this one TIP.
Today I'll explore a fantastic way to break through creative blocks and develop your photography with a deeper purpose.
In the world of photography, creativity knows no bounds. Our lens captures more than just images, it’s a reflection of what we see and an outlet to express ourselves creatively. Personal projects are the fast track to this realm, offering a real escape from creative stagnation and the beginning of your journey into the depths of purpose-driven photography. Imagine starting a photo project where each idea propels you further into your own creative universe, where every frame tells a story. Resonating with your innermost passions and convictions. It's time to unlock the power of creating your own personal photography projects and transform your picture making into a purposeful adventure.
Personal projects are a fantastic way to break through creative blocks and explore photography with a deeper purpose. Here are some tips to help you get started and make the most of your time so you can create personal projects with your camera:
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1. Choose a Meaningful Theme: Before you go out with your camera, choose a theme for the day that resonates with you on a personal level. It could be a social issue, a personal experience, a passion, or even a simple curiosity. A theme that holds personal significance will fuel your motivation and keep you engaged throughout the project.
2. Research and Planning: 80% of what I do is research. I learn new things every single day. If you have an idea for a theme, before diving into shooting, take the time to research your chosen theme. Understand its history, context, and different aspects. This research will help you approach the project with a well-informed perspective and guide your creative decisions.
3. Set Clear Goals: Define specific goals for your project. Are you aiming to tell a story, evoke emotions, or shed light on a particular subject? Having clear objectives will give your project focus and direction.
4. Create a Shot List: Develop a loose list of shots or scenes you want to capture as part of your project. This list can serve as a roadmap, ensuring that you cover various aspects of your theme and create a well-rounded body of work. You don’t need to follow it to the letter but having a moodboard or a shot list helps keep you on track and your eyes open.
5. Embrace the Process: Remember that personal projects are not about rushing to the finish line; they're about embracing the creative process. Every single time you prepare yourself to shoot and go out to add to your personal project, you’re becoming a better photographer. Allow yourself the freedom to experiment, make mistakes, and refine your ideas as you go along. Showing up is the hardest part.
6. Stay Open to Change: Personal projects can evolve organically as you immerse yourself in the subject matter. How a personal project starts may not be how the project ends. The evolution of you as a creator and the work you’re creating is a huge part of the process. It’s why we shoot for ourselves. Be open to adjusting your approach or even changing the direction of the project based on new insights and discoveries. My personal work gets seen by potential clients and has always turned into using those techniques for my commercial work once it’s been refined to that level of quality and craftsmanship.
7. Create a Timeline: While personal projects don't necessarily need strict deadlines, setting a loose timeline can help you maintain momentum and prevent the project from dragging on indefinitely. Set achievable goals like “have 100 new portfolio level personal work images by this date, or I want to do an exhibit by this date, have a book out by this date” and do your best to follow your goals.
8. Experiment with Different Techniques: Use this opportunity to experiment with various photography techniques. There are no real rules with personal work, use it to push the boundaries of what you would shoot regularly. Try different lighting setups, compositions, post-processing styles, and even alternative formats (e.g., black and white, long exposure, etc.). Repeat techniques that work and elevate your quality and drop the ones that look pedestrian or common.
9. Consistency in Style: While experimentation is important, maintaining a consistent style or visual language throughout the project will help create a cohesive body of work that tells a compelling story. I talk so much on style on a regular basis, I don’t need to dive too deep here, but style and substance makes your work stand out. I see so many shooters with no consistency between their images. Some light, some dark, some too posty, some too busy… all mixed in with some of the best work I’ve seen. Learn how to tell the difference in your own work between something that is profound and something that is forgettable.
10. Reflect and Iterate: Regularly review the shots you've taken and reflect on how they contribute to the overall narrative of your project. Consider seeking feedback from peers or mentors and use their insights to refine your approach. Don’t have any emotional attachment to your photographs. Emotional attachment to your artwork clouds your judgment and makes it harder to see the difference between great and average. When you don’t have emotional attachment to your photographs, you can just make them and put them out there, while constantly trying to improve. I also look externally for critique. I have Art Director friends that rip my work apart. When I don’t hear criticism, it means my mentors are happy. This is so valuable to have as a creator. I’m 30 years in and still have my work looked at by creatives I respect. I provide photo critiques once a week on my YouTube channel. We all need a critic to help us level up. If you think you’re above it, it may be why your work is kinda stale.
11. Document Your Process: Alongside the images you capture, document your thoughts, challenges, and breakthroughs throughout the project. I’ve been documenting my photography career the entire time. It’s important to document your life. Not just through taking photographs but also through writing and sharing your process. This behind-the-scenes documentation can be valuable for sharing your journey with others later, as well as helping you create a narrative that you can use to market yourself.
12. Presentation and Sharing: Once your project is complete or at a significant milestone, think about how you want to present it. This could be in the form of a gallery exhibition, an online portfolio, a photo book, or even a social media series. I love Rob Haggart from “a Photo Editor” I’ve been looking at his site and listening to all his insight for at least the last 15 years. His extremely beneficial free site showcases the best portfolios, and promos from photographers all over the world as well as his own insight on the perfect photo portfolio. Read up.
13. Learn and Grow: No matter the outcome of any of your personal photo projects, remember that the journey itself is a valuable learning experience. This is why we do this. Yes I make money as a commercial / editorial photographer and it is my main job but, my personal work and personal projects have helped me evolve as a person and as a creator. Embrace the lessons you've gained through your personal work and apply them to future projects to continue evolving as a photographer.
Remember, a personal project is a no pressure space for you to express your unique voice, explore your interests, and challenge yourself creatively. It's a chance to create work that truly matters to you and to engage with photography on a deeper level. It’s an opportunity for you to create work that crosses over into paying opportunities and it’s a way to grow as both a photographer and a person.
If today’s post has brought you some inspiration and motivated you go out and shoot something, consider telling a friend about what I’m doing here with my newsletter. More people will know about me if you tell them. I do my best to reach as many eyes as possible but really I could reach even more if you gave this a share if it brought you value.
I do this every single week. I never miss a Saturday. It keeps me sharp and I hope keeps you inspired and wanting to go out and make photographs. If you’re not about to go out and make photographs right now because you’re so amped, why not check one of the 3 podcasts I recorded last week? Links below.
See ya next Saturday.
Love and light from Queen St W.
PS. You can learn more about Chelsea and see more of her photography on her website. I’ve been coaching her for over 10 years. There is no one that captures love and light like Chelsea. Thanks so much Chelsea for these amazing captures.
This weeks Pods
This was an amazing In Real Life stream. Street Portraits on the streets of Toronto.
& The 15 things every photo website needs and my favourite photo sites to inspire yours.
of course, The best live photo reviews on the internet. Watch my latest.