It is the great aspiration of many, if not most, amateur photographers to one day transition into the professional realm, complete with gigs, clients, commissions and whatever else wide-eyed would-be pros presume to be part of the experience.
There’s plenty of good that goes along with being a working pro, but working to fulfil the vision of others can be personally and creatively draining. One way to offset this drain is to always have a personal project to retreat to. Having a project to fall back on will benefit you in the following three ways.
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Reminds You Why You Love Photography
No doubt you carry a certain love for photography with you no matter what you’re working on, but it can be difficult to keep your passion in focus when you’re regularly wrapped up in meeting deadlines to deliver work for which you may not have total creative control.
It’s refreshing to be able to spend time crafting work that pivots completely around your own timelines and creative criteria. Given that such a project is tied to your passion and not to the needs of a client, it will serve as a powerful reminder of why you love photography and why you do it at all.
Creates A Lane For Experimentation
Art and experimentation go hand in hand. Along with experimentation, however, come unpredictability and potential failure. When you set out to create art you’re fully aware of this, yet you press on with enthusiasm and tempered optimism that your experiment will be a success.
If you fail, you will probably feel disappointed but you can take some time to assess what to discard and what to keep when you try again. If you succeed, you get to pat yourself on the back and move on to future projects with new creative insights. There’s a kind of anxiety involved with artistic experimentation.
Client work affords no room for getting experimental — it needs to be predictable based on what the client has asked for. Yet, if you never push your stylistic boundaries you’ll never have anything new to offer potential clients. So take the time to experiment and try new things — it will benefit you and those you shoot for.
Helps You Establish Your Own Brand
Branding is about image. When you are hired to do work for someone else you may have to produce images that adhere to a very specific brand aesthetic. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there’s always a chance that your personal “brand” or vision isn’t really in sync with the commercial/client work you’re doing.
Taking on a personal project will provide a means of communicating precisely the message you want in a style that is definitively your own.
This is intended to cast working for clients in a negative light. Client work has plenty of upsides and can certainly be fun and fulfilling. But it’s imperative to not lose sight of what brought you to photography in the beginning and what keeps you going creatively. You can’t rely on client work to do that for you, as it doesn’t emphasize autonomy.
In order to keep your passion aflame, your boundaries expanding and your vision afloat, do yourself a favor and always have a personal project in your back pocket.