The Importance of Personal Projects for Professional Photographers

In my last article, I talked about working on one or more personal projects as a great way to help photographers get motivated and get busy in a saturated market space. In this article I want to expand on the topic of personal photography projects: Why do you need one? How do you choose personal projects? What are some of the more popular personal projects around?

Film Photos of Christmas Ornaments in Chicago Downtown Memorable Jaunts Lifestyle Film Photographer

Why do you need personal photography projects?

#1 – Personal projects help you get out of a photography rut

Film Wedding Portraits Memorable Jaunts Chicago Illinois Wedding Photographer

Experimenting with film ( 35mm and medium format) as one of my personal projects

#2 – Diversify your portfolio and get noticed

Small Business Lifestyle Headshots Outdoors Memorable Jaunts Lifestyle Photographer Naperville Illinois

What started off as a favor for a friend has turned into a new offering in my business – lifestyle headshots

#3 – Help you engage with the photographic community

#4 – Experiment outside your comfort zone

Moon Photography on a clear night sky Memorable Jaunts Lifestyle Photographer Naperville Illinois

My first (and last attempt) as photographing the moon on a clear night! – it was much harder than I expected!

Great Grey Heron in Flight Bird Photography Memorable Jaunts Lifestyle Photographer Naperville Illinois

I love dabbling in bird photography – a nice change in subject from my normal wedding and family portrait clients

Macro Photography of Purple Flowers Memorable Jaunts Lifestyle Photographer Naperville Illinois

Macro photography is another easy subject to find in nature or with everyday household items

How to choose personal projects

There are several ways to choose personal projects. Here are some personal techniques I use several times during the year.

#1 List your goals and derive projects and assignments that help you achieve that goal

One of my goals for 2015 is to photograph more elopement and backyard weddings, as well as do some editorial work. To help achieve that, I have reached out to a few magazine editors, as well I plan on networking with other wedding photographers to possibly second shoot with them on smaller weddings as a way to get to my goal.

#2 Write down a list of things that motivate you and pick assignments related to those items

I love the outdoors with a passion. I love travel and everything associated with it. I carry my camera everywhere I go and try to document stories not just of my travels but also of the people I meet – something I plan to do a lot more of in 2015.

#3 Look at your portfolio and see what is lacking

Portfolio reviews are a great exercise to perform several times in the year. Match the images to your goals so you know where you are lacking – where do you stand now, and where do you want to go?

#4 Review industry trends and pick topics that interest you – either related to gear, techniques or even subjects

There are easy special assignments to give yourself like photographing with only one lens for a week, photographing one subject with a wide range of lens, or black and white architectural images. Another technique that is fascinating is low light photography – really pushing the limits of your camera to change the look and mood of an image.

Popular personal project ideas to consider

  1. 365 series (a photo a day)
  2. 52 week series (a photo a week)
  3. Alphabet series (a photo for each alphabet)
  4. Gear related (a single lens for a week, prime lens only, macro, or film photography)
  5. Technique related (black and white images, low light images, leading lines or shadow play images)

I hope this article has motivated you to delve into personal photography projects and assignments. They can be extremely rewarding and satisfying no matter what the outcome. After all, anything that motivates you to pick up your camera and photograph just for the love of the art, not necessarily for money, can only be a good thing, right?

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