Photography Projects: 21 great ideas for creative photos
Undertaking photography projects is a great way to make sure you always have something to shoot and concentrate on, so you’re constantly moving your skill set forward, rather than editing old pictures and feeling uninspired.
Photography projects can make you a better photographer, too, as they force you to get out there with your camera, which, come rain or shine, can only be a good thing. Some photo projects are ongoing and can last for years, while some will last only a week, or even a day. Choose a few which appeal to you and see your creativity and inspiration levels soar.
However, don’t be afraid to quit a photo project if you’re not enjoying it though: they’re supposed to be fun, not a hardship to endure – you’re better off starting something more suitable than becoming disenchanted. Below we’ve complied 21 tried and tested photography projects, which should see you occupied for quite some time…
Photography Project No. 1: Local environmental portraits
There's most likely a wealth of photographic opportunity in your local area, which you've never explored. Undertaking an environmental portrait project will certainly change this – pick a specific theme, such as work, leisure, or living spaces and go from there. Word will soon spread and you'll be surprised at how many people are open to being photographed and how many new people you'll meet.
Photography Project No. 2: Windows and doors
Windows and doors are everywhere: we are bombarded with them on a daily basis. Choose these everyday openings as a photo project however and you'll soon see the interesting and unusual jumping out at you. Peeling paint, smashed windows, ornate knockers and wonderful windows boxes – this project is sure to yield a great set of photographs and is something that'll improve with time: the further you travel, the more interesting and diverse your project will become.
Image Credit: Flavita Valsani
Flavita Valsani has been documenting doors since she was 16 years old and is attracted by the possibilities hidden behind them and the idea that in some way doors carry a personality.
Photography Project No. 3: On-going documentary
Find something going on locally, that interests you, but that you aren't involved with yourself and document it, regularly. This could be anything from dinner dances to five-a-side football matches – the key is to pick something that will hold your interest and often this means something slightly alien to you. Introduce yourself and make a date to go regularly and show your images to those involved. This type of project makes great material for a local exhibition.
Photography Project No. 4: From the hip
Shooting from the hip is a great technique and, if you've never tried it, makes a great basis for a street photography project. With your camera at waist level, you shoot upwards, without looking through the viewfinder – so your subjects don't know they are being photographed and you are rewarded with genuinely candid photographs of people, with the added bonus of an interesting perspective. Make a date with your hip and the street at least once a week, or shoot everyday on your way to work...
Photography Project No. 5: City Swap
Get out of your comfort zone and document life somewhere drastically different. This could mean travelling to the other side of the world, but it needn't – the UK is so economically and socially diverse place, that you needn’t go far to be somewhere unfamiliar. You could catch a train to Chelsea or Hackney for the day and come away with a great set of photos from each, as you'll find you respond well to the challenge of capturing the unfamiliar. Sometimes, in our own towns, we become blind to the photo opportunities around us, as we consider our everyday to be 'normal'.
Photography Project No. 6: Through the seasons
Watch the world change throughout the year with your photographs. Find a location near to home, so you can go regularly and capture the changes. Of course that means the different seasons, but think also about different times of day, weather and so on. Keep the project going for as long as it holds your attention, but do it for a least a year for a diverse set of pictures for your portfolio.
Image Credit: Glyn Davies
Glyn Davies has been visiting a small stretch of coast, half a mile from Porth Nobla to Rhosneigr, on the West Coast of Anglesey for 15 years.
Photography Project No. 7: Night life
Our urban spaces come to life after dark and make great material for a photography project. Just like an avid clubber, you need to free up some time after dark, during your weekends, to photograph the mayhem on our streets. You'll get the best photos from inner city areas, after 1am. It's street photography but with a constant supply of interesting, often inebriated characters, for the taking. Hens, stags, prostitutes, arguments and kebabs – expect a visually arresting project.
Photography Project No. 8: Project 50
Most of us have a 50mm lens in our kit bags and Project 50 will see you make the most of it, and your creativity. Challenge yourself to shoot only with your 50mm, for fifty days, resulting in fifty photos. Shooting with a fixed focal length requires you to do more of the work, rather than relying on your zoom – a great exercise.
Image Credit: Rick Nunn
www.fiftyoffifty.co.uk / www.RickNunn.com
Photography Project No. 9: Urban Angles
Choose modern architecture as a project to shoot over a month or more. Look out for the clean, graphic lines and bright colours in our towns and cities. Use a long lens to get close and isolate unusual angles and create interesting abstracts. Try shooting from unusual perspectives too – don't be afraid to get on the floor for more dynamic pictures.
Photography Project No. 10: An unnatural element
Buy something modern and make a project in photographing it, in a series of natural landscapes, where it doesn't fit, for a surreal series of photographs. This is a nice concept for a project and if you embark on it on you'll soon find you're not short of situations and scenarios for your ‘alien’.
Photography Project No. 11: Creative self-portraits
If you’d like to improve your portrait photography skills but are lacking confidence in directing others, a self-portraiture project is a great idea. It’ll allow you to get really creative and hone your skills, without worrying about other people and how long you take on your images. Set yourself a regular slot for taking a self-portrait, be it everyday, or once a week. Get creative with both props and your editing and get ready to impress yourself.
Photography Project No. 12: Light graffiti
Feel like starting a project that is a little different? Light graffiti is great for getting the creative juices flowing and it’s also a good project for people who work long hours, as you do it under the cover of darkness. Torches with coloured gels, combined with long exposures and a good imagination are all you need. Take photos every week and watch your aptitude for light photography grow.
Image Credit: Michael Bosanko
Photography Project No. 13: A day in the life
If you’ve got a free day that you can devote to a photography project, or a very tolerant boss, consider doing a day in the life project. This means documenting an entire day – either a day in your life, or the life of someone else, in which case the possibilities are endless and you could turn it into a whole series. Consider also thinking outside the box slightly – a day in the life of a bus stop anyone?
Image Credit: Irina Werning
Buenos Aires born photographer, Irina Werning, has documented a day in the life of her muse: Chini, the dog.
Photography Project No. 14: Body art
We Britons have never been so into body art with tattoo and piercing parlours everywhere, and an estimated third of young people having some ink on their bodies. Body art is incredibly expressive and therefore lends itself perfectly to photography. If this project interests you, you’ll find word will soon spread about your work and you’ll have lots of people willing to pose, in return for a photo. Documenting tattoo parlours, or tattooists themselves are also great ideas with lots of mileage.
Photography Project No. 15: Strangers
If you’re feeling brave embark on a street photography project, which will see you approach and photograph interesting looking strangers – a challenge for both your photographic and people skills. You’ll need to be prepared for some rejection and to teach yourself to work quickly, as most people you encounter are likely to be busy. Challenge yourself to shoot a hundred strangers and you’ll see your work improve drastically.
Photography Project No. 16: Alphabet
Need a simple project to focus you, but one that has lots of scope? Choose to illustrate the alphabet and interpret anyway you wish – photograph something beginning with each letter or hunt out letters themselves in our surroundings, or make the shape of letters with props. You’ll be constantly scanning your surroundings for photo opportunities and this will result in a better eye for photographs.
Photography Project No. 16: Numbers
From house numbers to credit card bills, numbers infiltrate our daily lives, so a numbers photography project is a good one if you’re looking to up the number of frames you’re shooting each week. Rather than shooting any old numbers, try to make your way from 1-100. Don’t be afraid to get creative and make some of the number formations yourself – the only limit is your imagination.
Photography Project No. 17: Dogs
Our four legged friends are good enough subject matter for Elliott Erwitt, so they’re good enough for us. Dogs make a great theme for a photo project, as they are abundant in our everyday lives and incredibly varied in both looks and personality. Start this project and watch it grow quicker than you ever imagined.
Image Credit: Jay Stebbins
Photographer, Jay Stebbins, is doing an on-going project about living with you dog in Boston.
www.fidoloves.com / www.jaystebbins.com
Photography Project No. 18: Social issues
If there’s a social issue you feel strongly about, or want to explore, centring a photo project on it will engage you and you’re likely to find it personally fulfilling. The key to a successful project like this is being honest about your work, so people don’t feel you’re taking advantage of them. Start your project with an open mind and you might be surprised with what you find out.
Photography Project No. 19: Fairy Tales
Sometimes all you need is a little narrative to get your creative juices flowing. If you’re into portraiture but are stuck for inspiration, start a project recreate scenes from fairy tales or subjects from mythology. Costume and props are important for this type of work and editing creatively can really help your pictures come alive. Start researching stories you want to recreate, plan locations and props, recruit some willing models and get started.
Photography Project No. 20: Family
However big, small, or complicated, most of us have family – so why not make it the subject of a project? You could document the life of your immediate family, how you communicate with distant family, or even someone else’s family instead. Families make great subjects because of the diverse ages, the bonds within family units and the dynamics and interactions that exist. This is a project you could keep going indefinitely, that everyone will be interested in.
Photography Project No. 21: Self-publish
Dedicate some time to making a photobook containing some favourite images, or the cream of a recent project. Companies like Blurb make self-publishing easy – you can get away from tacky templates and make stylish, professional looking photobooks with a little time and effort. It’s a great feeling making a book, knowing that it’s all your work through from taking the pictures to taking control of the pacing, design and layout. They make great gifts too….
Image Credit: Sam Cornwell
Sam Cornwell has just published a book through Blurb, ‘My Other Camera is an iPhone’, which is now available to buy in the Blurb store, http://www.blurb.com/books/2217217
For more great photography project ideas, pick up the September 2011 issue of Photography Monthly currently on newsstands.
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