Creating a successful photography project requires more than just gathering a few photographs together. A photography project is a photographic journey that allows us to tell a story about a particular landscape, a location or anything else we choose to capture over a period of time.
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced photographer, a photography project is an essential part of growing your skills as a photographer and learning how to capture in such a way that your photograph helps the viewer to travel back in time and see the journey you took in that process.
A good photography project will inspire people to look deeper into the area you have captured, and there are several steps you can take to ensure your creative photography project is a success.
Choose a theme
One of the first things you need to do when starting a photography project is to choose a theme. A theme will give your project focus and direction. It could be a specific subject, like landscape photography or street photography. Alternatively, you could choose a more abstract theme, like color or texture.
Don’t start your project until you’ve locked in this theme, and then choose a title that encapsulates your photography project, so that you have the continued focus when you’re out shooting.
If your theme is a major photography project, it will be worth considering whether you need to secure the appropriate social media accounts to support the promotion of your project as you journey through it. This will allow anyone who is interested in this theme to follow you through the process.
Once you’ve chosen a theme, it’s time to start brainstorming ideas for your project. Think about what you want to achieve with your photography project and what message you want to convey. Consider the emotions you want to evoke in your viewers and the story you want to tell.
I suggest that you draw mind map of all the themes and ideas that surround your title so that you can work out how it will take shape. In the mind map, include anything you’ll need to do such as contact companies who may wish to partner with you if the subject flows along the same themes of their business.
Research popular photography projects
Researching popular photography projects can give you inspiration and ideas for your own project. Look at what other photographers have done and how they’ve approached similar themes. This can help you come up with unique and creative ideas for your own project.
One of my biggest photography projects was the Remote Britain project, which started with an idea I had to capture the wildest landscapes of Britain in order to show people how beautiful they were. I felt that lots of people neglected to travel that far from their own areas and never saw the stunning, raw beauty of the wild, remote locations around Britain. I wanted to encourage more tourism in these locations by getting my photographs in the national press.
Over the next five years I travelled as often as I could to many remote landscapes, which gave me the opportunity to experience the most incredible scenery and wildlife. I had been struggling with mental health issues at the same time and this mindful process of hiking and capturing the landscapes was incredible helpful for me.
My photographs ended up being in many national newspapers and magazines over those years, and this was very fulfilling to see the outworking of the process actually succeeding.
Download presets for your photography project here
Choose your equipment
The equipment you choose will depend on your personal preferences and the type of photography you want to do. Digital photography is the most popular option today, but some photographers still prefer film. Mirrorless cameras are becoming increasingly popular, as they offer many of the benefits of DSLRs but in a smaller and lighter package. Consider your budget and your needs when choosing your equipment.
I decided to capture the Remote Britain project with a series of older Fujifilm cameras, film cameras, Canon DSLRs and the latest mirrorless cameras.
I also required other equipment to help me in the freezing conditions I was working in, and so I approached an outdoor clothing brand who agreed to sponsor the project with the warm weather and the waterproof gear I needed.
Read about how to choose a new camera here
Once you have your theme, ideas, and equipment, it’s time to start shooting. Be sure to experiment with different composition angles, lighting, and your settings to get the right mood. Be experimental and courageous as it’s an opportunity to really test yourself and find your own style.
If your project is far from your home, make sure you take enough photos as you don’t want to regret the shot you never took.
Print to preserve
Printing your photos is important for preserving your photography project and giving it a physical presence. You could create a photo book, frame your favorite shots, or even host an exhibition.
Printing your photos can also give you a better sense of how they look in the real world, rather than just on a screen. I always feel that a photograph is never really completed until it’s printed. This isn’t always practical but printing is so good for your understanding of how an image really looks. It’s also an opportunity to test out different papers and textures to decide what looks best for your images.
The Remote Britain project ended up giving me enough photographs for two books, Beauty in the Wild and Edge of the World. It was so fulfilling to see the journey I had taken, both physically and photographically, all in one place for everyone to see and share my experience.
See the books here
Photography projects for beginners
If you’re a beginner, it’s a good idea to start with a simple project. This will give you the opportunity to get something small started, and then if you choose to switch it around it’s not a big deal.
It will also help you to get learn the basics of photography as you progress through the photography project.
Some ideas to get you started include:
- A day in the life: Take photos of your everyday routine, from waking up to going to bed. Select 5 of the best photographs each day and upload the best one to social media.
- Self-portraits: Experiment with different poses and expressions to capture different sides of yourself. (This will be a very short project but will help you see the direct results of your photos)
- Nature photography: Go for a walk in the park or countryside and take photos of the natural beauty around you. This doesn’t have to be a ‘landscape photography’ project as you may wish to capture some of the wildlife or the people in nature.
- A four seasons photography project. This project involves capturing the same location throughout the year, with the end result being that you show the four seasons of that location and how different it can look throughout the year.
- A Hands project. This will involve taking photos of different people’s hands. This could be an incredible project as you would see how people from different working conditions look, showing the ware and tare from labourers and softer hands from those in an office.
Photography projects for college students
If you’re a college student, there are plenty of photography projects you could do. Some ideas include:
- Campus life: Take photos of your campus and the students and faculty who make it up.
- Portraits: Take portraits of your classmates or professors to capture the diversity of your campus community.
- Social issues: Use photography to highlight social issues that are important to you, like homelessness, inequality, or climate change.
Starting a successful photography project takes time and effort, but the end result can be incredibly rewarding and could open up new avenues for your photography and business. With these tips and ideas, you’ll be well on your way to creating a project that showcases your creativity and passion for photography.