Engaging with a personal project can be an extremely good way to aid your progress as a photographer. Not only does it force you to take photographs, it allows you to think creatively and gives you focus as a photographer. It allows you to tell a story that you want to tell, to try something you’ve not tried before and to reach new ground with your photography.
You may well want to share your work, and it’s up to you whether you share it as you go or publish it as a complete body of work once you’ve finished, but either way, let others engage with your work and it will give you the inspiration to move on and try another project.
1. A Photo a Day
This one is fairly self explanatory, and undoubtedly many of you reading will have tried something similar to this before, but the fact remains that if you’re looking for a project that will get you taking photos, then this is a great place to start.
It will force you to think creatively about taking photos and challenge you to find new and interesting subject matter each day. It’s also something that you can involve others with by posting the photo online each day for others to engage with and be inspired by!
2. Pick a Single Subject
If you want to keep it simple, but also be creatively challenged, then picking a single subject to work with can be a great project to start with. Your subject could be a particular person, a friend or partner, although make sure you ask them first!
It could be something as simple as ‘trees’ or ‘weather,’ which may not sound too adventurous, but will focus your mind on what you want to achieve as you aim to find new and interesting ways to capture your subject matter.
3. Revisit A Location
Another option for maintaining some continuity through your project is to use and revisit a specific location. The environments around us develop and change over time and it can be an extremely rewarding project to capture a specific space as it naturally evolves.
You might want to go on a regular basis, maybe once a week, or once a month or maybe just once per season, but however often you visit, try and replication previous shots to demonstrate the change.
4. Travel To A New Destination
Exploring a brand new location can be an extremely beneficial photographic project, as it forces you to keep your eyes open for interesting and engaging subject matter. This could be a different continent, country, county or maybe even just a local town.
As long as it’s new, it’s bound to get those creative juices flowing. You could go with a specific purpose, to capture the local people or stunning landscapes. Do some research before your visit so you know what to look out for.
5. Emulate A Favourite Photographer
This can be an extremely useful way to advance your photographic eye and hone some skills. Do some research into the images and techniques of your favourite photographers and then head out and see if you can put some of what you learned into practice. For example, if you wanted to emulate Henri Cartier-Bresson, you might take a 35mm fixed lens camera out onto the city streets and capture the world around you in black and white. If you wanted to emulate Martin Parr, you’d probably take a similar camera, but this time try to capture the humorous and funny side of human life.
6. Tell Someone’s Story
We’ve all got stories to tell, places that have particular meaning to us, objects that we treasure, people that we couldn’t live without, adventures we’ve been on and trials that we’ve endured. Try asking a friend or family member if they wouldn’t mind you documenting their life.
It could be their life up until the present day, it could just be one day in their life or it could be one day every week for the next few months. This will not only sharpen your photographic skills, but you’ll develop your ability for telling a story, a very valuable asset to have as a photographer.
7. Take Your Camera Everywhere
Now this may sound very basic and not really like a project at all, but capturing the world around you is probably one of the reasons you starting taking photographs in the first place and maybe it’s time you went back to simply engaging with your environment through your camera.
The photos you take may not be of interest to you at the moment, but I’m sure that in 10/20/30 years time, you’ll want to look back and not only enjoy observing what your surroundings used to be and how they’ve changed, but how you used to see the world.
8. Stranger Portraits
This can be a daunting prospect, to approach strangers in the street and ask if you can take their photograph, but trust me, the confidence that you’ll gain and the photos you take are well worth the embarrassment of being rejected a few times by people you’ll never meet again.
There are people of all sorts of shapes, sizes, and tones, with crazy hairstyles, boring hairstyles, over the top make up and no make up, out-there fashion sense and no fashion sense at all. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the people around us that shape our lives, and therefore need capturing.
9. A Macro Project
This sort of project is great if you want to learn a new skill or type of photography. For example, you could commit to taking a series of macro shots using a new lens or in an abstract style. This will enable you to develop the skills necessary for macro photography and allow you to have it in your arsenal of shots next time you’re working on a full shoot.
10. Long Exposures
If you’ve never tried experimenting with long exposures then this might be the ideal opportunity. There’s all sorts of subject matter to work with, think about anything that emits or reflects light and anything that moves.
A night scape might be a good place to start. Find a good viewpoint and capture the city with the lights in full view. You could also try working with water. The coast, a lake edge or a fast flowing river or waterfall will give you plenty of chances to practice smoothing out the flow with a long exposure.
Design Your Own Project
If there aren’t any projects here that get your mouth watering, then why not organise your own! Think about your environment, the people and places that you know and consider what evokes a response in you? What gets you excited, what makes you think, what scenarios make you feel like you should do something about it? Whatever it is that gets you responding, be it sport, community events or social injustice, get out and photograph it! You are your only limitation, so set your aspirations high and see what you can achieve.