Take Photography to the Next Level – Photo Projects

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photography projects can separate the professional photographer from the enthusiast.  Sure, you can be an enthusiast and do plenty of photo projects but you’d be hard pressed to meet a professional photographer who has never done a photo project or ten.  Photo projects are what gets you noticed by other photographers and people who enjoy art.  A truly unique photo project can get picked up by social media rather quickly these days, and your work would be known around the world in very little time.  Even if you don’t want to get noticed you should still challenge yourself to do several projects so that you are constantly improving your skills.

Whats a Photo Project?

Photo projects can take years to complete, they require self-evaluation as well as sacrifice.  I’m not talking about the project where you photograph your family pet’s hijinks, though cute, it’s not difficult and has been done to death.  I’m talking about something that would set you apart from other photographers, something unique or better than what has been done before it.  Your photo project should be something you love or you’ll give it up before you complete it or half-ass it not put your heart into it.  Think about the things you like to photograph most, maybe look back through your photographs and see what you’ve photographed the most (please, no more cats).  For example, I really like to photograph old hardware so I could spend a few years compiling hundreds of photographs of old hardware and put it into a series for one of my projects…  One of my many ongoing projects.

Photography projects don’t have to dominate your time, the project should be something you devote an allotted amount of time to every day, week, or month.  The hardware example above is just a small sampling of hundreds of hardware photographs I have taken over the years and I’ve not devoted a single outing to just photographing hardware, it’s something that I look for when I’m out but I don’t solely focus on it.  Beware of letting a photo project rule your photography life, you will have a very uninteresting portfolio if you only ever photograph one style or subject.

Photography Project Ideas

If you read photography blogs or magazines you’ll have a hard time avoiding someones recently completed photography project.  Hell, just Google photography projects and you’ll get hundreds of results of great ideas.  Below is a small list of ideas to help you get started.

Photography Projects

Night Photography Projects
Light trails (from cars, buses, trains, boats, etc.)
Light painting
Star trails
City reflections
Moon play (Think about the photos you’ve seen where it looks as though someone is painting the moon)

Long Exposure
*See Night Photography
Typically 15 or more second shutter speed of:
Waterfalls, Creeks, Rivers
Waves Crashing
Ocean
Clouds on windy days (using the direction of the clouds as a leading line)

Weather and Seasons
A number of photographs of thunderstorms
A number of photographs of tornadoes (cool idea as long as you don’t get sucked into one… Dorthy)
Series of photographs of snowflakes (using macro to get the intricate details)
Series of photographs of a tree through all the seasons (year-long project)
Photograph series showing a flower blooming and then wilting (long project)
A number of photographs depicting a season (e.g. 20 Beautiful Winter Wonderland Photographs)
B+W fall foliage photographs (different since most people try to capture all the bright colors)
Cloud formation collection

Living Subjects
Images in a series capturing emotion (you can be more specific and do something like 30 images depicting sadness… though that seems depressing to me)
A series showing animals sleeping, playing, eating, etc.
A series of photographs of the same subject throughout the day depicting the change that the direction of the sun and it’s light has.

Subjects
These are the more common projects you’ll read about, think: 20 beautiful pictures of so and so’s cat or 30 beautiful sunset photographs.  Though not difficult to complete they do tend to catch readers attention.  Everyone loves pretty pictures, amiright?  
Photographs of natural objects forming letters from the alphabet
A number of photographs in a series depicting a color
Typically a series of a subjects or themed photos all related to one another.
Stopping time – Using a fast shutter speed to freeze motion of water, people, etc.
A number of photographs of subjects that would otherwise be considered ugly
Everyday objects photographed from different angles in different lighting (e.g. a fork photographed 50 times in all different angles and lighting

Photo Technique
Only shooting with a prime lens for a set period of time
Only shooting in black and white for a set period of time
Using a particular camera as your primary camera for a certain period of time (you can read about photographers who will use “cheap” cameras for months at a time as their sole piece).

This is far from an exhaustive list, just a small list of ideas to get your creative juices flowing.  I’m sure you can come up with a ton of awesome projects to fill in the list above.  If you have a project you’ve wanted to try, or are currently working on, please share with us in the comments below this article or share them through a Photo Journal post by using the link below the “Articles” tab called Submit an Article.  There is only room for three photographs when you submit your own so if you’d like to include a series then email me at PhotolisticLife@gmail.com with details and the images and I will include them in the article for you.  Enjoy!

More from John Barbiaux

McConnells Mill State Park

If you are from or are visiting the Pittsburgh area you’ll likely...
Read More