The Importance of Photo Projects
Written by: Tiffany Joyce
I cannot stress enough the role of photo projects in the honing of photography skills. Not only do photography projects give a boost to creativity, they also provide an opportunity to learn new techniques and improve upon the understanding of photographic concepts. A photo project might be just what we need to get over photographer’s block. When performed in tandem with other participants, photo projects also give us the opening we may need to network and share our knowledge and experiences with other photo enthusiasts.
I’ve come across a few ideas for photo projects that I’m interested in giving a try.
Earlier this year, Scott Kelby posted the Old School Photo Challenge. Participants were tasked to take the equivalent of one “roll” of film (24 or 36 shots), keeping their LCD monitor turned off so that they couldn’t preview the quality of the photo. They were also encouraged to stick with the same ISO for the entire 24 or 36 shots, just as they would have to do for film photos. Participants then had to wait for 24 hours after taking the pictures, before uploading them and viewing them. They were encouraged to avoid touching anything up in Photoshop, but keeping everything SOOC. Participants had the option to print the photos (as if getting film developed), and, if they were so inclined, to donate the cost of developing a roll of film to a charity that Kelby supports.
I thought this was a very neat concept, and a great project to help me focus on my “SOOC” skills. Though I missed the actual challenge, I still plan on taking a weekend and following through the steps of the project.
Another idea for a photo project that I recently had, is a sort of Photo Shadowing project. Choose a person – a friend or a family member – to “shadow” for an entire day. The idea is to collect a documentary-type “day in the life” series of photographs that captures the life and personality of that individual at one point in time. Encourage them to go about their day as they normally would, while you follow them around with your camera, paparazzi-style. Follow your grandmother as she gardens, fixes meals, or hangs laundry on the line. Follow your child as he plays, naps, and studies. Follow your friend as she shops, chats on the phone, or arranges flowers. The thought is to have a series of shots in the end that truly reveals the positive qualities of that person.
The Photo Collage project involves taking a series of photographs that relate to one another that, in the end, will be arranged in an artful collage. Big Huge Labs has a great mosaic maker that could be used for this project, if hand-stitching in Photoshop isn’t your thing. Coffee Shop Photography also has a lovely set of storyboard templates and actions available for free.
Of course, there are always the ever-popular 365 Days photo-a-day project, the 52 Weeks self-portrait-a-week project, and the FOAM Project (a square collage per day of Food, Outside, Abstract, and Myself). These projects are excellent to just get us taking pictures, and prioritizing our time with our cameras.
Another great way to hone your photography skills is to choose a photograph from a book or magazine, and try to recreate it yourself. Spot a landscape that is local to where you live, in a coffee table book. Take a day to explore that place and try to re-create the image. Observe the dramatic lighting of a model in a fashion magazine, and volunteer a family member or friend to model for you. View the artful arrangements of still-life shots in an architectural digest, and mimic those shots with the items that you have at hand. Or, choose a favorite photographer and try to emulate their style.
Do you have a great idea for a photo project? Tell us about it in the comments!
Photo credits (in order of appearance):
- Scott Kelby’s Old School Photo Challenge contribution by Mishelle Lane
- “My beautiful Grandmother” by Maureen Didde on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “Varese Ligure cutout collage” by Marco Fedele on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “…to be played by fools” by Abe and Liina Novy on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “Copycat” by fdecomite on Flickr Creative Commons.
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