When it comes to improving your photography, it's hard to beat the tried-and-true method of learning by doing. Photography projects will give you focus, direction, and an end goal to work towards. Combine those three factors and you have an ideal setting in which you can improve you skills. Try out one or all of these projects and see how they can help you grow as a photographer.
Portraiture of Strangers – Grab your camera and hit the streets. Be on the lookout for especially interesting people and those who really portray their personality through their actions and style. When you spot a fascinating character, kindly approach them, explain what you are doing and ask if you may take a portrait of them. Spend a brief moment chatting with and getting to know them without wasting too much of their time. You'll find most people will begin to relax and open up when they are talking about themselves. This exercise will build your interpersonal skills which are essential to portraiture. Building a comradeship with your subject will more easily allow them to relax and act natural when in front of your camera–good portraiture isn't just about taking a photograph! In addition, your photography will also reap the benefits. Looking for and selecting your subjects will strengthen your eye, as you find yourself beginning to pay closer attention to the finer details of the surrounding life.
Portrait of a Stranger by Hamed Parham, on Flickr
Daily Photo Diary – This is one of the most obvious photography projects, but it's not without reason. Pick a single subject and photograph it everyday for a set number of days. Some people spread it out over the course of the month, others drag it out over the course of an entire year. However long you chose–start with a minimum of 30 days, you can always increase the number if you get really into it–take a photograph of the same subject and make it your goal to photograph it daily using a different technique, setting, or lighting. Just make sure that each photograph is unique and different from the others. Your subject can be anything from your pet, child, a personal belonging, or even yourself. The goal here is to force your mind to think outside of the box and experiment with different techniques and styles you may otherwise would have never made use of. It's a great way to jump start your creativity and enrich your personal style by incorporating new ideas into it.
Twitter 365 Project – Day 61 by rich115, on Flickr
Ditch the Digital – Digital cameras are great in the sense that we can immediately see the images we take, but that same blessing also makes it a little too easy to rely on the fact that if we don't get it right the first time, we can just trash it and have another go at it or just import it into Photoshop and fix our mistakes there. For this project, we're going to ditch our digital cameras and dust off our old film cameras. If you don't have a film camera, borrow one or visit a thrift store where they can be purchased very inexpensively. While you're at it, go ahead and splurge on a pricey roll of slide film, it will help you not want to waste frames. Choose a common theme for the roll of film–flowers, sunrise, transportation, whatever your heart desires–and shoot the entire roll giving yourself only one shot at getting each frame right in-camera. No repeating the same image, no bracketing, no second chances. By doing so, you will find yourself slowing down and really taking the time to make sure you have the proper exposure, composition, etc, instead of taking photographs that “are good enough to fix in post.”
Of course, this list is just scratching at the surface of an infinite number of photography projects that will help you grow as an artist. If you're working on a project of your own, or have already completed one, be sure to share you experience with us in the comments below.
Tiffany Mueller is a professional music and fine art photographer. She has been published in various publications including magazines, art journals, as well as photography books. Tiffany is fortunate enough to have been in a perpetual state of travel since her youth and is currently working on a 50-states project. You can keep up with Tiffany via Twitter, Google+, or, on her personal blog, Life Is Unabridged.
Some really great tips and ideas here. I learned myself on a film camera and can vouch that it really helps you think through proper exposure settings and composition.
Indeed very good (and proven) ways. I myself shoots one pic at nighttime everyday in the city of Stockholm, Sweden, for 6 months. Always different subjects and only with the iPhone 🙂
we all need to remember that film is still better quality than digital will ever be!!
Nope. I’ve been scanning my old 35 mm slides and negs, and the quality of pics out of my digital SLRs far exceeds that of the film in a most obvious way. It’s not even close.
I truly miss the smell of pungent developer in the morning 🙂 , I only ever shot B&W and really miss it, that being said, it’s good see real time whether or not i got the shot required and the cost savings is huge.
I too learned on a film camera a long time ago. My first camera was a Brownie Holiday I received for my birthday in 1958 and I loved it. But if you want to learn discipline try shooting large format slide film. Thirty years ago I calculated it cost about five dollars per slide to purchase and process the film. It was not a project to rush through. But the results were spectacular. I still have my 4×5 camera but I don’t know if I could still get the film or where it could be processed. Something to think about.