Tuesday, December 15, 2015

You Should Have Personal Photography Projects

Antelope Acres Accident - Antelope Acres, California
Part of my Perilous Journey project.
Whether you are a professional photographer, advanced hobbyist or amateur, you should have at least one personal photography project that you are working on. Photography projects give your images direction. You will find it challenging at times, but you'll find yourself a better photographer as you overcome obstacles.

Early in your photographic journey photography projects provide useful constraints. You want to photograph everything, but you don't have the ability to capture meaningful images. If you have a specific project that you are working on, eventually you'll run out of easy ways to photograph things, so you are forced to be more creative and innovative. You'll grow much more quickly if you have self-imposed constraints, and having a photography project is an excellent way to give yourself limitations.

Later in your photographic journey photography projects provide useful constraints, but in a different way. You can make meaningful images from any subject, but it is easy to become overwhelmed or disinterested in the choices--there are just too many of them. Projects help you to focus your time and energy on subjects that you're actually interested in, things you are passionate about.
Broken Souls - Newberry Springs, California
Part of my Abandonment project.
There are three different types of photography projects:

Short Term - You work on this project for a day, week, month, year, etc., but after a certain time you call the project complete and move on to other subjects.

Long Term - You work on this project for years and years, perhaps your whole life. It's a big part of who you are as a photographer.

Sporadic - You work on this project off-and-on over a long period. You get frustrated or bored with it, but something keeps drawing you back to try again.

Within those three types of projects there are two categories:

Casual - A subject that you keep coming back to, but not necessarily intentionally. This may be subconscious--you may be unaware that you are even doing this project. Going through your images you might realize that you've photographed something over and over again. Perhaps you happen to have captured tons of photographs of (say) red barns.

Purposeful - You are intentionally photographing a subject (and maybe even photographing it a certain way) for the purpose of a personal photography project. Perhaps you are photographing southwestern American landscapes using black-and-white large format film.
Window Shadows - Las Vegas, Nevada
Part of my Urban project.
The subject of your photography project can be anything. It can be quite specific or it can be very generalized. You can pick what you will photograph, when you will photograph and what you will photograph with. It can be as "strange" or "normal" as you'd like.

Whatever your project is, it should be something that you are interested in, fascinated with or passionate about. You are more likely to do it and do a better job with it if it's a subject that you like.

You should have at least one active photography project, preferably one that is purposeful and long term. You will benefit from it, no matter where you are along your photographic journey. It will make your work as a whole more cohesive.

After that, it's a good idea to have a few other projects going on. They can be long term, short term, sporadic--it doesn't really matter. Purposeful is better than casual, but, really, it doesn't matter (and casual can turn into purposeful).

Don't worry about other people and what they think of your project. You should be doing this for yourself--this is why it's called personal photography projects. Just do the best that you can. The quality of your photographs within your projects will improve over time. The more you do it, the better you will become.

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