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Do you ever feel like you’re at a point with your photographic work where you’ve run out of ideas? Sometimes it can be difficult to keep thinking of fresh ideas without going around in circles, but one of the best ways to make progress with your photography is to undertake a personal project. Here are a few simple tips and inspirational ideas to set you on your way with undertaking your project.
Determine if you have the time and will for a project
A personal project is the perfect way to develop your work. Professional photographers are usually working to a brief, maybe set by an editor or an agency. But they they have a clear focus as to what each photographic project should involve, so why should your work be any different?
Giving yourself a strong conceptual focus will increase your artistic drive and help you keep motivated, and you’ll be able to observe the development of your work as you undertake the project.
Your project could take a few days, weeks, months or even years. It’s totally up to you, but ensure that you set yourself a guideline at the start for the amount of time to spend on the project so you’ve got a clear idea of how long you have to achieve your targets.
Choose a good subject
It’s vital to choose a subject that you are interested in, as you’ll be far more willing to invest time and energy into the project if you are enjoying yourself! Consider what you have enjoyed photographing in the past and write down ideas based on those subjects. What aspects could you explore further? Are there new locations which you could explore based on that theme?
Think about whether there are any particular causes or events that you’d like to cover, or whether you want your images to have a particular purpose. It’s much easier to work if you have a strong conceptual idea of what you want the images to portray or represent, so picking an engaging theme is important for both you and the viewers.
For example, Ukrainian Boris Mikhailov shot a series titled “Red Serie” consisting of images of Ukrainian nationals living and working within Ukraine, but within each image was something red that signified the influence of Soviet Russia’s control over the country. Obviously this has a very strong political and cultural element and will connect with a lot of people affected by that situation.
A specific group of people makes for an extremely strong focal point for a project, even if you’ve constructed the theme by which they are all connected, for example, people who work in agriculture. They may not know each other, but for the purposes of the project that have a common trait that you can exploit to demonstrate the people involved and how they work.
If you’re nervous about getting started, then practice portraits with friends and family before approaching others. Most people love to take photos of their kids, so maybe you could develop a project in which you photograph your children in the same spot every month over a period of years, so you can capture their growing up. Another very popular personal project is to take self portraits, which doesn’t take any demands on other peoples time and space, and gives you the freedom to try out different scenarios and locations, although a remote shutter release is advised!
Areas of beauty
Another option is to find a particular geographical area to work within. Being in Manchester UK, I am surrounded by breathtaking scenery with the Peak District to the East and the Lake District to the North, either of which would be ideal for a landscape photo project. The beauty of this type of project is that the scenery evolves through the year, so you can capture the changing scenery as the seasons pass from crisp frosty winter months through the flourishing springtime, the glorious summer months and then into the autumnal reds, yellows and browns of the fall.
Don’t feel bound by conventional project ideas, take time to think about potential project ideas, possibly something that you don’t think has been done before or a point of personal interest that isn’t often covered photographically.
There really isn’t a limit upon project ideas, so as you engage with the world around you, consider ways in which you could represent certain elements of it as photographs and look for themes or points of cohesion that could tie it all together.
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