photography project

How to Prepare for a Photography Project

If you are looking to take on a new photography project, there is no better way to grow you photography skills and to push yourself creatively. Whether you are a professional photographer looking for a personal side project, or are a weekend warrior who wants to take on a new side project—a great photography project can be a lot of fun.

Personal projects are a great way to feel challenged, keep yourself inspired and to update your portfolio. However, sometimes getting started with a new photography project is easier said than done.

All About Personal Photography Projects

Personal photography projects can literally be whatever you want them to be. But simply put, a personal photography project is all about shooting the same subject again and again to create some real series or meaning behind the project.

This doesn’t have to be a really complicated, decade-long endeavor. Your project can involved shooting the same subject in different areas around town—such as unique doors in your city, taking pictures of your kid’s soccer games and creating a series of photos or creating a project of different friend’s faces together in a collection.

You can even take photos of the same building or natural wonder every week for a period of several months—there are no limits.

This is what separates an actual photography project from just going and planning a photo shoot.

There are some people who think that this may be boring or who may be reluctant about the idea of shooting the same subject over and over—there is actually a lot of value in this idea. It gives you the opportunity to grow as a photographer, it gives you the chance to go back and “get it right” with the same subject, and it gives you the drive and purpose to get out there and start shooting.

Plus, for busy photographers like me, it can bring some structure. This gives you a sense of purpose as you have to commit to getting out there and shoot your subject to complete this project.

Joshua Tree Sunset Photography

A simple sunset over Joshua Tree National Park

Tips for Coming Up With a Photography Project Idea

Searching for idea on how to come up with the perfect photography project concept? Here are a few tips to help you get started and to help make sure that you are pointed in the right direction. Thinking through these concepts, questions, tips and ideas can really help you get pointed in the right direction.

Creating a Clear Goal

Think of this as the thesis of your entire project. Your photography project goal shouldn’t be to just take pictures of the pretty tree in your yard for a while—it needs to have a clear goal and a clear outcome. This will help you stay focused and help you utilize your creativity.

For example, instead of just taking a photo of your tree, maybe you are taking the photo of the tree at different times of day, or during different seasons—or perhaps you are taking your photo once a month to create a calendar of how the tree looks during different times of year.

No matter what it is, think about what you are looking to capture and how you want to display your final project so that you can make shooting your subject more interesting.

Choose the Right Subject

One of the keys to making any photography project a success is to make sure you choose the right subject. There is no bad photography subject, but there are a few things that you want to make sure that you keep in mind when selecting what to shoot.

  • Think of a subject that you can shoot over and over again with ease. For some people this means something that is close to their house, for others it means taking a trip to a select location where they know they will have access to the subject.
  • Look for a subject that can change. This is what will bring some interest to your series of photos. This can be something as simple as a subject that moves, something that is outside and changed by the weather or a plant that is growing and changing.
  • Find a subject that is either always there or an event that happens on a regular basis. This can be something as stagnant as the White House, or something as regular as afternoon chess in your local park. The more you can plan your shots ahead with a bigger project like this, the better.

Enjoy the moments

Finding Your Passion

As any photographer knows, the camera doesn’t lie. And it is very hard to shoot something that is beautiful and noteworthy, unless you are actually passionate about it. Shooting that tree outside your house is find, but if you don’t really care for the tree and aren’t really passionate about landscape photography—you just think it will be easy to shoot the tree, your final project isn’t going to turn out.

Think about the people, activities, projects or travel destinations that you love and are passionate about. Your subjects don’t have to be the most unique or creative, but if you are passionate about what you are shooting, your final project is going to stand out.

Choose a Project That Will Help You Learn

No photographer is ever done learning—photographers should always be learning, growing and changing as they perfect their craft. Even the most seasoned and experienced photographers can fine tune their skills.

With this in mind, consider choosing a subject that also allows you to learn—this is the staple of any great project. This could mean learning more about lighting, playing with lenses or shooting in manual mode. If there is another deeper meaning behind the project, it is going to be even more beneficial to you as a photographer.

northern lights iceland

Don’t Make it Too Hard

You don’t want to spend all of your time indoors plotting your next photography project. Instead, try to keep it simple—this project concept doesn’t have to be the most revolutionary, ground shattering idea anyone has ever heard of, it can be a simple idea and still result in beautiful, stunning photos.

Here are some ideas on how to make it a little easier on yourself:

  • Pick a subject then shoot it under the full moon every month. The subject can be buildings in your local town, park benches, a special tree—anything you want. Full moon photos are beautiful and together a series like this of similar items under moonlight will create a stunning series of prints.
  • Find a photographer or an artist that you love and try to mimic their style. This doesn’t mean recreating every shot they’ve taken, but pushing yourself to create a series of photos that’s in their style.
  • Go to your local park. Parks are some of the best and easiest places to come up with photography project ideas. There are a lot of ways you can do this—but one of my favorites is to pick a certain spot like a bench, fountain or landmark and come back and shoot it at several different times throughout the day—same background, same park, but different subjects taking advantage of the outdoors.
  • Take portraits of your friends and family. There is no better subject than the people you love. Whether you are taking photos at your kid’s sporting events, or simple, close-up portraits of your relatives and putting them into a book—sometimes the people we see everyday make the best photo subjects.

Remember, when it comes to coming up with a photography project idea, no idea is a bad idea—you just need to start brainstorming until you come up with the right one.

How to Make Sure Your Photography Project Will Be a Success

One of the many things that makes photography projects so unique is that they require a lot more time, commitment and planning and if you are going to be putting this type of time, commitment and planning in to something, you want to make sure that it ultimately turns out.

You need to start by making a commitment, which means writing out why you are doing the project and what you are looking for with your final results. This means a lot of planning, and I suggest, making set appointments for yourself on when you are going to be working on this project.

winter photography settings

Contrast is a necessary element when shooting in whiteout conditions during the winter

Creating a timeline and set schedule for yourself is the best way to make sure that the project actually gets done.

There are many people who thrive when they have a partner, coach, class or even an online group where they can share their progress, talk about their project and discuss how it is going with others. These are all ways to stay accountable and stay focused and on track, which is one of the most difficult parts about bringing a photography project like this to fruition.

No matter what you are looking to capture with your photography project, the options are virtually endless—all you need to do is find something that inspires you, something you are passionate about and something that you will enjoy putting time and money into.

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