Everyone, myself included, has a favorite subject to photograph. I’m a nature and landscape photographer who dabbles occasionally in wildlife. However, one of the best ways I’ve found to improve my photography considerably has been to participate in a photo project or two where I’m often photographing anything but nature and landscapes.
Types of personal projects to try
I’m sure you’ve seen them, personal photo projects that range like the 52-week variety, where you or the organizers of the project create a theme or subject, and then the participants create and share their photos that fit the theme. In the 365-day project, the photographer makes one photo every day for a year.
What’s the point?
When I was first starting out in photography I used to see people sharing photos online as part of their own photo-a-day or photo-a-week projects and I never really understood what it was all about.
When I decided to try it for myself, I realized what the value of a photo project really is. The value for me, especially photo projects where someone else comes up with the theme or subject, is that you’re forced to photograph things you normally wouldn’t. For me, since I wanted to try to create photos that I felt were as good as the landscape images I normally make, in meant I had to put some thought and effort into making a decent photo.
Participating in a photo project also gives you the opportunity to think outside the box and have fun when it comes to the photos you submit, as well as get creative ideas from the other participants that you may want to incorporate into your own photography.
Normally I avoid photographing people, but as the first two photos show, I decided to get outside my normal photographic comfort zone and have some fun with it.
When presented with the theme of cookies for the top photo, I had to think, “How can I make a photograph about cookies, without it just being a photo of a plate of cookies?” So I enlisted three of my hiking friends into enjoying a cookie after we had just finished a nice winter hike.
For the second photo, the theme was paper airplanes. Again, wanting to have a little fun and be creative, I asked for my daughter’s help. After making a bunch of airplanes and experimenting with a few ideas, I told her, “Just aim for daddy’s head!” She loved that.
Starting your own photo project
You’ll see a lot of great photos and receive a good bit of inspiration from the other participants if you join in on a photo project or challenge that’s hosted by someone else. Two examples of this type are the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge and the Lens Pro To Go 52 Week Photo Project.
Create your own
Another option, if you have the discipline, is to come up with your own daily or weekly themes and make photographs to go with them. I personally don’t have the willpower to come up with themes that would challenge me enough for this kind of project, so I’m going to stick with ones where the themes are provided for me.
The best way to get the most out of a photo project is to go into it with an open mind and a sense of adventure. Be willing to photograph anything in the best way you can. Who knows, you may find that what you thought was your favorite photo subject is replaced by something you’d never even considered photographing before.
Whatever the outcome, I guarantee you’ll be a better photographer for it.