Photography projects are great to overcome insecurity, laziness or a low in creativity. They are also a good way to channel your focus and improving your skills and learning new techniques.
There are a lot generic photography project ideas out there. The most common one is the 365 project with the goal of taking (and publishing somewhere) a photo every day for a whole year. Creativity works best when it's practiced and nourished, and the concept of the 365 project is perfect for that. It forces you to shoot in a stable flow and challenge your creativity, but also to accept that you'll have less inspired days and to move on nevertheless.
However, it also requires a lot of stamina. If you don't want to cheat ever - for example by publishing a photo taken on a different day - you also need to have an everyday life that allows you to bring your camera and set aside time for photography every day. That can actually kill motivation early on instead of nourishing it.
So instead of going with the first and most famous project there is to find on Pinterest, why not set up your own goals and rules?
My Own Personal Photography Project
I've followed some personal projects of photographers some years back. I remember one photographer wanting to improve their flash photography and therefor trying out new flash stuff every day - the progress and creativity was amazing to observe. Unfortunately, I can't recall the photographer's name anymore.
In 2010, I also followed "Picture of the Day"-project by Markus Schwarze. Even though it followed the typical one photo every day for one year-concept (with focus only on street portraits, though), this project really stuck with me, as Markus often would describe how he spent his lunch breaks waiting for people in the shopping street. I was impressed how he could get such a great results from only a few minutes with his subjects and some editing - (almost) every day.
It was first some years after 2010 that I would take up photography again with a little more purpose. I found the most difficult photography genre to improve in was portrait photography as you need at least one other person (unless you focus on self portraits) that you have to arrange a shoot and then work with.
As I'm very fascinated by gingers, I found myself wondering about how I would photograph them when I met them on the street. So I made them the subject of my very own personal project: I wanted to photograph gingers on the street, as many as possible.
At that point, I had never before photographed strangers in spontanious situations. Hell, I only had photographed a few friends in controlled situations, so I was eeextreeemeeely nervous when I finally pulled myself together and went out there to shoot some people. You can read more about my experience and what I tend to do when asking people on the street in an older blogpost here.
I actually didn't keep the project going as long as I first imagined when I made the grand plan my head. At some point, it faded out because it had served its purpose. At some point, my pride about actually asking people decreased and my own criticism about my photos increased - a sign that I had become more comfortable with taking photos of people.
Instead of getting a bad conscience about not doing more for my photography project, I decided that it had served its purpose.
Your Personal Photography Project
If you're generally intrigued with the idea of a photography project, but just haven't found one that you got passionate and enthusiastic about, just make up your own!
Setting a Goal
Start by setting yourself a goal. What is it you want to achieve and/or improve?
In my case, I wanted to somehow start portrait photography without having the overall bother of organizing a shoot, contacting models, etc. It was supposed to be a quick and dirty entrance to getting comfortable with people photography.
Jonathan had a photography project with the goal of getting settled in Copenhagen. Both in terms of getting to know the city, but also in terms of getting to know people in the city and letting people get to know him.
Incredibly lucky to have met so many cool people and my photo portfolio has a ton of new shots in it. People have been interesting, kind, diverse and overall a real pleasure!
The goal can be to get better at shooting a specific style or with specific gear, to expand your portfolio, to challenge yourself, to support people, or to get published.
Making The Rules
Set yourself a few (reasonable!) rules, it's up to you how strict you want them to be. They should direct your focus on your goal and not suck up all motivation.
The rules can be to about gear ("only shoot with prime lenses"), about time ("by the time I'm 30 I want to have shot XY"), about locations ("have a photoshoot on each continent"), or something completely different.
The rule for my photography project was mainly, that
- my subjects had to be gingers
- I had to ask them when I met them on the street
In the beginning I was struggling with a bit of bad onscience when I walked by gingers and did not ask them (because of various reasons: they looked busy, they didn't look interesting to me, I was too slow to pull myself together) until I realized that I made my own rules. No one told me to talk to absolutely every ginger. I could decide which ones I would find interesting to photograph.
Show Your Work to The Community
Photography Projects are super interesting to follow! Often they are personal and establish a feeling of identification with the photographer. If you follow the project from beginning till end, you can follow and feel their development (and possibily their fails) and start to think differently about your own work.
So if you're a photographer with a project, share it! Write about it, where it went well, and where it didn't. Get the praise that will fuel your motivation and make you want to keep on going and nail that goal of yours!
Stop When You Hit Your Goal - or Before
The purpose of the goal is to motivate you to hit that goal. If your motivation hits a little low, that's absolutely fine - this will happen with almost certainty. Accept it, keep your goal in mind and try to pick up that camera again as soon as you feel for it. Remember how good it felt to start that project!
Anything worth doing is worth doing badly
~ G.K. Chesterton
If you set yourself a fixed goal (like for example taking a photo a day for 365 days, or to take pictures in certain locations), it is pretty clear when you hit your goal and when not.
However, if your goal was to improve yourself it can be more difficult. When you develop your skills, your own expections will develop as well so you might feel that you didn't improve a lot. If you really are losing interest and motivation to keep this project running, look at your photos throughout, acknowledge the change and be proud. You did it!
There is no reason to feel bad about not hitting your goal. If you got 30 days out of a 365-days project, you still got 30 photos you didn't have before! This whole project was about movitation and having fun - it wasn't a school task that you get grades for. If it isn't fun anymore, and certainly not motivating, than it's not working anyways.
Have you had your own photography project? Let us know and share a link!