Making a Personal Project: How to Develop Your Own Photography Style

It’s only a matter of time before a professional photographer embarks on their own personal project. This is a process that allows a photographer to really stretch their wings and see how far they can take their creativity. It is pure self expression but also an opportunity to experiment and discover new approaches and techniques. While the goal is to learn and to produce a series of personal images, it can also introduce a photographer to their signature style and inner voice. Here, we delve into the art of developing a personal photography project as we guide you towards discovering your own photographic identity.

Why a Personal Project?

As a photographer and a creative, the pursuit of a personal project will always be a part of the lifecycle of a professional career. It is an opportunity to grow, explore and evolve but also gives a photographer the luxury and freedom to deep-dive into a subject and allow it to take them to unchartered territories as an artist. The goal will be to produce a series of images but the bonus is that this body of work, a photographer's most personal work, will be a calling card in their portfolio to showcase their talent and skills. A personal project will always be unique to the photographer and should display a formerly unseen perspective.

Selecting a theme

The first step on the road to a personal project is to decide on a theme or a concept and commit. Find something that interests or fascinates you, something you want to learn more about. The early stages of a project can be very exciting as the ideas come pouring in and the adrenaline is pumping, but a time will come when you will question your choice and will begin to look elsewhere for that initial buzz of inspiration. It’s important not to stray from your theme as you run the risk of entering analysis-paralysis. This is where you become distracted by new ideas and start thinking of changing your mind until finally, lots of ideas are tinkered with but nothing solid is achieved. All projects have down times but hang in there, the hard work is the very thing that makes it so rewarding.

Your theme can be centred on people, locations, emotions, or concepts and will probably steer you into new unexpected directions as you learn more about your chosen area.  The important thing is that it speaks to you and that you feel motivated enough to investigate it through your lens.

Planning and investigation

Once you’ve settled on your theme, next comes the planning and research. A project is always a learning curve and your research will teach more about your concept as you dig deeper into the idea. Your preliminary plan will include your intentions but as you research locations, people, ideas and situations, it will mainly serve as a guide as your plan expands. Take notes and explore every detail of your shoot.

Whether it’s a studio or on location, you will need to carry out reconnaissance, create a schedule and book any equipment or people you may need.

Experiment and improve techniques

This is the time to try something outrageous. You only have yourself to answer to so there are no wrong ways to take your photographs. This is a golden opportunity to uncover a technique or style you have never tried before. Take the time to experiment with camera settings, lighting and perspectives. A photographer's personal style is often hinged on how they set their camera as well as how they compose an image. You may discover a setting that creates an interesting effect or a lens that works in an unexpected way. A personal project will teach you about yourself as a photographer.

The importance of consistency

While experimentation is a crucial part of the creative process, projects and a photographer's signature style are built on cohesion. There should always be a relationship between the images in a project and employing a consistency in style, colour, mood or subject matter will inject this harmonious cohesion in the final product. Every image produced in a single project is connected to the other and this needs to be evident as a viewer browses the photographs.

Examine and improve

As you progress through your project, take time to regularly assess and analyse. It can be a little daunting to share your work-in-progress with other photographers but feedback can be incredibly helpful. Oftentimes the person executing the project will be so deep into the work that they don’t see things that others will notice. Ask pertinent questions and accept constructive criticism. An objective eye will quickly see what works and what does not.

Then take the feedback and implement it into your strategy.This process of contemplation and refinement is critical to both your growth as a photographer and the development of your distinct style.

Distribute your work

When you are finished, share your project and get the work out into the world. Choose a medium that best matches your project, whether it's a web platform, a local exhibition, or a photography book. Sharing your work can lead to potential commissions, sales and will let the public know that you have arrived.

Making a personal project is a voyage in self-discovery. It enables you to really immerse yourself in a topic and experiment, improve and most importantly, express yourself. In the end, you will have a deeper knowledge of your artistic leanings and are more likely to stumble upon your own personal artistic voice.

Consider enrolling in one of our photography courses to upgrade your abilities and jumpstart your personal project. Our courses are designed for photographers at all stages of their careers, providing direction and insights to help you navigate your creative journey. Dive deep into the realm of photography, develop your own style, and begin working on your personal project with us. Your quest to create stunning one-of-a-kind images begins here.

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Written by: Fiona Byrne

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