Raise your hand if you, or one of you children, ever did a science fair project in middle or high school. At the school my children attend, the science fair is a big deal, and it is the main focus of much of their 8th-grade science curriculum. The kids spend four months deeply entrenched in the research, planning, preparation and experimentation phases of their science fair projects, and it all culminates with a full presentation of their work to a panel of judges. It is a long but rewarding experience and, as is so often the case, the students who spent the most time in the planning and preparation phases are the ones whose projects were the most successful.
You might be asking yourself, what in the world does this story about science fair have to do with personal photography projects? The answer is- plenty. Successful personal photography projects grow from a similar approach.
A bit of research, pre-planning and preparation is precisely what it takes to develop and execute a personal project that is ultimately fulfilling and that you are motivated to finish. Knowing what you want to shoot, why you want to shoot it, how you are going to shoot it, for how long you are going to shoot it and how you will present what you have shot when you are done are all key pieces that need to be determined before you begin your project.
That isn’t to say things don’t change along the way and the project isn’t malleable, but it is important to have a structure for the project before you start. Without one, you are much more likely, not to complete the project or be unhappy with the outcome. So how do you get there?
If you have never executed a personal photography project, then I would encourage you to start with a bit of research. Spend some time immersed in studying and dissecting the personal photography projects of other photographers you admire.
I think you will be amazed by the breadth and depth of the personal photography projects you will find. There are projects dedicated to almost every subject and genre of photography. A little bit of time spent on some favorite websites, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest will be well worth it and incredibly inspiring.
No.02Planning and Preparation
If you already know the subject of your project, then it is time for a bit of planning and preparation. By taking some time to solidify the parameters of your project, before you start shooting, you will help to ensure its success.
This is when you want to give some thought to the who, what, where, when, how and whys of your project. A project that doesn’t have a clearly articulated vision is a project that is harder to implement it a way that produces compelling work. This is where projects often fall apart.
The last key piece to successfully completing a project that you love is knowing how you will present, or share your project. This is important because how you plan to share the project will determine how many images you want which in turn will influence how you shoot the project.
If for example, you plan to share your project in a photo book, your project will include many more images than if you want to share your work as a gallery collection on a wall in your home or studio. I call this planning for “the finish.” If you know what the finish looks like, you will have a much better sense of how to get there.
Most personal projects have their ups and downs, parts that are fun to shoot and pieces that feel more like work. If from the start, you have clearly defined a project that you know will be personally fulfilling to you then those ups and downs become part of the journey rather than a stopping point.
I hope this inspires you to begin a new project this year. Or perhaps to go back to a project you never finished and see it with fresh eyes. Either way, I encourage you to commit to shooting a personal project in 2017!