Want to turbocharge your photography this year? Try one of these personal projects to get you clicking.
Nothing better than a personal project to help you to grow your photography
If one of your New Year's resolutions has been to finally get better acquainted with your camera and improve your photos, you really should try your hand at a personal photo project. What you get from it, may really surprise you. It surprised me.
What personal project should you choose?
For the committed: Project 365 - AKA Photo a Day:
I have done plenty of various personal photo projects through the years, but January 2020 was the year I said to myself - this year, I WILL commit myself to capturing at least one photo a day (a project commonly known as project365). I was expecting to capture a typical year in the life of my family but as we now know, 2020 was to be a year like no other.
But I stuck it out and it was to become the most memorable photography year in my life, culminating in one of my images from this very project being added to the permanent collection at the National Portrait Gallery and being displayed on billboards throughout the country. Like I said - I wasn't expecting any of this.
Photo by Ania Wilk-Lawton
What else did I get out of this?
Taking daily photos challenged my storytelling, creativity, technical skills and resilience. It gave me a low-pressure space to experiment and have fun with my camera - there was always going to be the next day with a fresh photo opportunity if today's photo didn't quite turn out how I wanted it to. There was no pressure on my kids to 'perform' for the camera - it just blended into the background, so I got to capture their authentic selves - grumpy moods, silly faces and all.
Was it easy?
Absolutely not. I don't care who you are, some days the creative juices just aren't flowing. Some days you are just too busy. Some days you just take a half-hearted phone pic of your dinner because that's all you can muster. Some days you miss entirely, Which is still ok if you get back on that horse and pick up the camera the next day.
Was it worth it?
1000% yes. and while I'm not necessarily advocating you go from cold straight into a 365 project, I do want to recommend taking up and committing to a personal project. It will help you grow in ways you never expected and you'll get to document your family lives along the way! win-win! But what personal project should you try? We have 5 ideas for you ( and 3 of them come with a little help)
OTHER PROJECTS TO TRY:
Try Project 52
A more manageable version of project 365, project 52 is about - you guessed it - taking at least one photo per week for a year. But not just any phone snap - committing to taking a considered, well-composed photo each week. We have been helping our students and grad achieve their project52 goals in our community through suggestions of weekly themes/topics, community support and help with accountability through encouraging them to post weekly in our closed group.
Here are my top 5 tips for success in accomplishing project 52:
keep your camera charged and easily accessible have a theme for each week ( if you need inspiration, we will be posting our weekly themes on our instagram!)
give yourself space to experiment - having a week to play with a theme means you can try different approaches to the same theme
at the end of the week, select your feature photo, edit it ( if you edit your images) and either put it in a dedicated album or another online space where all the other project 52 photos will go.
sometimes, no matter how much you try, a theme just won't work out. It's OK, Take a photo of something else to 'bank' the week. You can come back to re-do the theme another week if inspiration strikes.
Photo by Teresa Foyster
This is a hill I will die on. Us parents - but us mothers especially - we're not in front of the camera enough and it will hurt the memories your kids have of us. How many memories do you have from your childhood that you can only visualise through a photo that you remember of that situation? And if you're not in those photos for your kids, you are invisible. I had a wake-up call a few years ago with my eldest daughter. We took a day trip, I captured 500 photos but made it into none.
A couple of years later my daughter was flicking through the photos I took of that day and asked me where I was on the day of that trip. All the photos were of her and her with her dad only. She just didn't picture me on that trip so her memory of me being there faded. Don't be like Ania. Get into that frame! Give your kids a gift of your presence in their photos!
A little help with self portraits:
For the second time running, we're helping our community do just that with monthly self-portrait prompts - I will be posting them on our Instagram ( and check out a few more tips here in this separate blog).
Photo by Ronni Evans
Day in a life project
It's a different kind of project because unlike the previous 2 I listed it's shorter but more intense. The idea is that you spend a day with your camera by your side, capturing everything that happens in the day - from the very mundane to more momentous ( if you happen to have any). Generally, people tend to take 2 approaches to this:
You pay attention to what's going on and capture a photo when you see something happening, you go capture it. The pros of this approach are that you are less likely to miss anything and you're more conscious of what's going on. The cons is that you're constantly 'on' and it can be exhausting and can make you feel like an observer only rather than a participant.
Time driven :
You select the frequency in which you take photos and a timer/alarm of some form and then when it rings, you go and take a photo of whatever is happening at the moment. The pros of this approach are that it's a less 'edited' version of your day as you go and take a photo of whatever's happening - or not as it may be! - without judgement on its worth. The cons are that you can potentially miss important or more notable stuff and end up with a bunch of uninteresting photos.
Whichever approach you pick, it helps to prepare a bit and we have a little handout that can help you do just that. <<<
Photo by Lisa Godfrey
Colour chase project
This is a fun and low-pressure project which doesn't even need to involve your kids ( if they're not keen on being involved). Simply put, you assign a broad colour to a month and then train your eyes as you go through your days to notice things in that colour and capture them. It's a project that makes you focus on the little things and helps you slow down to consider how to capture them. Unlike previous projects which are much more story-driven, this one is more about composition and aesthetics. It does also produce the best-looking collages!
Photo by Kit Arnold
You need to think ahead with this one. If you're someone who likes to print your photos at the end of the year in a form of a photo book or a calendar, you could embark on a project which focuses on just that. If you're creating a classic calendar, you will need 12 images, representing each month and the change in season it presents. You could simply take photos trying to incorporate the seasonal characteristic or events associated with each month ( frozen bubble in January, all hearts for February's Valentine's day, all spring bloom for May - you get the picture). But another approach is to select one subject - maybe a view from your window? or a tree? and capture it in exactly the same way each month.
Photo by Emily Eatough
Whatever project you choose - and of course, there is nothing to stop you seek out other options - the one key thing is that you really need to commit to it. Start small if you're not sure if a full-year commitment is what you want to do. Commit to doing that colour chase for a month. Then see the fruits of your efforts and decide if you want to give it another month, but if you do - again, really commit. And when inevitably you fall off the wagon - you will, through no fault of your own, just get back onto it the next humanely possible opportunity. Don't worry about 'making up' for things missed - if the opportunity presents itself - great, but endless catch-ups are what often trips people up. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and just take that new day and that new photo opportunity for a brand new thing that it is.
Ready to learn your camera and how to photograph your children beautifully?
you need this:
Photography for Parents
6 week online Photography course which gives you all the necessary camera know-how skills as well as the foundation in composition, light and photographic storytelling - all with a focus on photographing children. This means - no more fumbling with your camera at the crucial moments and being able to capture your children naturally, in their own environment, for exactly who they are. It's a no-brainer for any parent who wants to be able to capture memorable, treasured photos of their children!