I was recently inspired by Tom Sperduto on our last Free Photo Webinar to begin some personal photography projects of my own. Personal projects are a good way to motivate yourself to shoot more, stretch your creativity, or even support the causes that are important to you.
I’ve heard from many people that they are considering beginning ongoing personal projects, but how do you find the right ones? What do you do with the photos once you’ve found the perfect project? Here are seven questions to jump start your creative thinking.
1. What are your hobbies?
This should be obvious, but you want your project to be something you will be motivated to continue over the long term. What better motivation than something for which you already have an interest? Take your hobbies and look for ways to document them, explain them, or showcase them.
2. What are your communities?
Churches, clubs, or informal groups can also provide options for personal projects. Because you are a member of these communities, you have access to get in close and share what attracts you to them. Alternatively, you can help them tell their story.
3. What magazines do you read?
The magazines you read reflect your interests, but you can also find another creative benefit. Each magazine has its own editorial style. Give yourself the assignment to shoot in their style and then personalize the photos to make your own version of the publication.
4. What skills do you want to master?
Let’s say you want to get better at portrait photography, a project that allows you to focus on that skill would be ideal. Tom Sperduto’s 100 Miles Later and Military Heroes were good examples of projects that create portrait opportunities. 100 Strangers is a project that lets you pair portraits with street photography. That can be a fun combination.
5. What are your values?
This is a little more abstract, but your value system can be an interesting place to find ideas. I grew up valuing education, so when I stumbled on Critical Exposure, supporting them seemed like a natural way to combine one of my core values with my passion. What do you care about? There’s probably a way to tell that story or support a cause with your talents.
6. What makes you angry?
Someone once told me that the things that make you angry can usually point you to your purpose. For instance, if you get mad every time you think about (insert your issue here), working to right the wrong might be your true calling. What makes you crazy out there? Use your photos to document those injustices, or maybe you can highlight your solution. That might be more satisfying than you think.
7. Who inspires you?
This could actually be a portrait angle or a values angle. A theme that follows the people who inspire you can be rewarding. Tom created a Heroes project that is similar to this idea.
What will you do with the images?
Finding a personal project is satisfying all by itself, but what you decide to do with the images could provide an extra level of motivation.
Blog them - This is probably one of the easiest ways of sharing a project. Blogs allow you to become your own publisher and share your photos and thoughts in an ongoing timeline. Share them with your community and inspire a conversation.
Donate them - For every cause or topic, there is likely a nonprofit in desperate need of photos. Volunteering to support a needy organization is a great way to use your talents. You get a creative outlet. They get resources to tell their story and propel their mission. You can’t beat that.
Photo book them - These days it’s so easy to create your own photo book or other product. Sites like Blurb.com make it easy to create a coffee table-quality book that showcases your work and ideas. You can sell them or keep them as your own personal brag piece.
Publish them - If there is a news component to the project you select, you might find your community newspapers eager to publish your photos. All editors love impactful images, and someone who sends them great storytelling photos will soon become a best friend. You get exposure. Newspapers get content. Readers learn.
Sell them - Just because it’s a personal project, doesn’t mean you can’t make money from it. Sites like PhotoShelter allow you to offer your photos for editorial or commercial use. You might even consider stock or micro stock photography sites.
Share them - Join my Photo Projects 2013 community on Google + and share your projects along the way. Join here.
I almost forgot another question that could trigger project ideas. Where are the locations you enjoy most? One of my clients shared that a project where he bikes and photographs each state-named street in Washington, D.C. Locals know that Washington has a street named for each of the 50 states. My client is going to bike each state street and take photographs. Your location approach can be one that explores the history of an area. I plan on photographing a project on Washington's historic U Street, which will explore its rich history through its resurgence. What locations appeal to you? Think of ways you might expand that into a longer project.