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Photo stories and photo projects are extremely helpful in acquiring experience and credibility for yourself as a photographer. I've discussed 365/52 projects before and their importance in terms of being creative and maintaining the skills gained from the associated learning-curve. This time, however, I’d like to address a more impactful part of the photography world – photo stories and projects.
Photo stories and photo projects are two names for essentially the same thing, so which term you decide to use is up to your personal preference. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll refer to them as photo projects from here on out in this article.
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On a side note, I am writing this article because I've observed that many photographers tend to focus on capturing isolated moments as opposed to working on something that consists of more than one photo alone. The latter technique is a branch of photography that can have a more lasting effect upon your career. Why should you consider it?
Photo Projects – How Important Are They?
Most of the famous photographers whose work you admire have worked on a single major project for almost their entire career. I’m not saying that you absolutely must do the same, but do not overlook their success and renown. What can you learn upon considering their example?
The CEO of a large company which supports and funds start-ups recently said something rather simple yet inspiring: “Success comes through failure. But when you fail, make sure you do it in style!”
This same principle applies to everything you take on in life, including photo projects. All of your attempts will not be successful, but eventually, one will. Remember: most successful people have failed many times before achieving their goals. And when that moment of success comes, then you will have elevated your photography to the next level. Having succeeded, you’ll then know the formula which works best for you. You can repeat the process you discovered time and again, and (who knows?) maybe even become one of those photographers who will be admired by generations to come.
What Will A Project Say About You?
Whether you are an amateur, or an experienced enthusiast striving to reach a professional level, your portfolio WILL be reviewed at some point, and likely more than once. How your portfolio is perceived will determine whether you’ll have the opportunity to quickly move forward with your career, or take a setback and learn from that failure. If your portfolio contains great images and several projects, it will tell a different story than a portfolio with just great images and no projects.
What makes the difference? Three qualities: consistency, leadership, and organization. Even though that well-complied portfolio didn't require an extra hand, being done solely by yourself, it will appear differently to the public eye. It will look like you took charge of a team, organized everything perfectly, and then took decisive action as a capable leader in order to make that project happen. That impression conveys a work ethic prized by companies needing long-term contracts. They must be able to rely on you completely. When you have those high-quality projects included in your portfolio to prove that you have a high-quality work ethic, your chances of being hired increase.
Impress the Media!
For the same reasons stated above, photo projects are much more likely to attract the media’s attention than a single photo will. Of course, single photos do make the cover page of photography magazines, but that is simply due to the fact that the cover page can only consist of a single photo. That cover page usually ends up sporting either the best photo of multiple taken at an event, or the photo that fits best out of a series of a photos taken for that purpose. As projects require more work and effort, they tend to gain more respect and appreciation from the media. Having the media's favor will help your work to rapidly gain more attention, and this will reflect nicely on your portfolio and credibility.
Days full of hard work, nights short on sleep, and countless hours of editing and sifting through hundreds of pictures to spot the minutest differences will take a toll on you. Not only will you be exhausted, but you will likely feel very discouraged, at times. But at the end of the day, once you check off that last item on your seemingly unending list, you will know you've achieved something special. The feeling is priceless. It's a feeling which essentially moves every molecule in your body to scream “we did it!” This is the feeling that gives you one last burst of energy to carry you through to the next project. I can bet that after the first large-scale project, you won’t wait even a week before you start to plan the next one. It is an addictive and rewarding venture.
Wrapping It Up
In the event you find yourself needing more motivation to take the first step, you should do some research on photographers who rely on projects more than single shots. You will understand the dedication they have, and appreciate the testimonials they give. And I bet that none of them would discourage you from giving photo projects a fair try!