Personal projects in photography are key. They help you to get out of your comfort zone and hone in on your creativity. This year one of my personal projects is to participate in the 365 Project. Well.. kind of! The 365 Project is where you take a picture every day, edit it and then share it on social media. I don’t plan on sharing a picture every day, or even editing them every day, but I do plan to intentionally pick up my camera every. single. day. for 365 consecutive days.
You might be thinking WHY? That’s simple. It’s because I want to see myself grow as a photographer. Essentially I’m giving myself the opportunity to learn something every single day. Honestly, when my son was born I started picking up my camera a lot more. On days where I would’ve normally not touched it, it became attached and a natural extension of my arm. And I noticed something.. I noticed that my pictures kept getting closer to the “perfect” that I’m going for, and my editing style changed to something I’m so much happier with. It’s insane! Just seeing the change from when my son was born to now.. my craft has shifted, and I owe that to picking up my camera much more frequently.
If you need more persuasion to partake in something like Project 365, here are a few reasons why I think you should, that I can think of off of the top of my head… you’ll become a bomb ass photographer, you won’t miss the little everyday things, you’ll see so much change in your children, you’ll learn to work through any creative ruts you may be in, you’ll learn to photograph new things, and your finished body of work will be priceless. With all of that being said, lets talk about five intentional ways to improve your skills with a personal photography project:
Push yourself out of your comfort zone. If you’re only comfortable shooting outside in the shade, practice shooting in direct and harsh sunlight, or inside with flash. Forcing yourself to work with light that you’re not a fan of will open so many new doors for you. You’ll learn to love your work in lighting situations you previously didn’t care for. For me, that was flash. With my son I consistently use flash in the house on super gloomy days or in the evening, and I’ve grown to love it. It took a long time for me to feel comfortable using it because I prefer no flash, and because I didn’t want to put up my lighting setup that I use for weddings in our house, but I’ve grown to love it, and I’ve grown as a photographer in that aspect, learning what I like and don’t like in regards to flash. Learning to look at light differently can really help improve how you approach photography and how you photograph your life.
It’s easy to fall into a rut with composition. I tend to do this. I focus so much on capturing the moment, that I forget to get creative with it. Sometimes snapping the moment is more important than being creative, but when you have a cooperative subject and time to get creative, do it! Different ways to do this? The rule of thirds, filling your frame with the subject, creating negative space, leadings lines, and so on. There are so many ways to make your pictures more visually interesting just with composition.
I tend to fall in a rut with this one, too. I generally gravitate to keeping my aperture at a nice 1.8, but have plenty of opportunities to switch it up and use it to help tell my story depending on a particular moment.
If you’ve ever seen a wedding photographer shoot a wedding before, you know that they do this abundantly throughout the day. I have about six lenses, and I’m constantly swapping them out on wedding days. At home, I tend to switch them out a bit less, but I’ve noticed that when I do swap them, I’m so happy with the results. Simply switching out a lens can help you to see some of the same mundane moments very differently.
Creating a series can really help you develop as a photographer. I’m currently working on a seasonal series. In the same spot in our front yard, I’m photographing the change of the seasons. We took snowy pictures there, pictures in the fall, and soon we will as spring approaches. Challenge yourself to photograph the same subject, in the same location, as many ways as you can to see if you can create something different. I’ve got another series where I shoot my son in the same chair in his room, and another where I shoot him in his crib. The crib one is easy because I can do this when he is awake or even when he is asleep. It creates so many different options, and I can also take my time because if he’s asleep, he doesn’t even know it’s happening and is super cooperative! 🙂
I hope this has inspired you to create personal projects for yourself. I know you can do it, and I know you’ll not only be so happy that you did and with the results, but you’ll also notice a change in your photography overall, and THAT is something to get excited about!