Sometimes, I find it difficult to motivate myself to go out and just shoot for the heck of it. Unless it is a project I've planned, or a client shoot, I often find myself making excuses for not going out to shoot.
I haven’t been able to decide if this is my inner lazy shining through, or if I am subconsciously convincing myself that “There is nothing good to shoot today, I’ll go tomorrow.” but it is a counter productive habit that I decided I needed to break.
After a hitting my head off the wall a few dozen times, it finally hit me! What if I were to give myself photo assignments, as If I were a photojournalist at the local newspaper. After a little more thinking, I decided to take it even further and task myself with writing a short story to accompany the photo assignment.
You may be wondering, why write the story as well? While this technique may not be for everyone, I found that if I made myself research the assignment and approach the subject with a better understanding of what exactly it was that I was working with, I came out with more interesting and relevant photos. Also, after doing a few of these assignments, you develop a sense of what type of photos work better when paired with written work. This is beneficial for a few reasons. First of all, if you ever shoot for a magazine or newspaper, it will help you have a better understanding of what works. A second benefit of writing about your photo assignments is that it immerses you further into the photos, examining each photo with greater scrutiny, and then weaving what you see into the story.
Now I know not everyone likes to write, so I have an alternative for you. Well sort of an alternative. It still involves writing, just not as much. If you are not compelled to write a whole story, then focus instead on writing compelling captions for each of your photos. Try to tell the complete story of your photo set through great captions. This will require you to really analyze your photos and think about each aspect of the photo. Not only will you have a better understanding of what is going on in your photos, you will also start to pick out strengths and weaknesses in your images.
So what should you assign yourself? Well, think about some things you really love and then construct a story or photo essay idea around that. For example, if I loved skiing and lived near a ski area, I might think about contacting someone at the resort in charge of events and ask them if I can come out and shoot some photos of the event. Doing this not only will help you with your photo skills, but it will also help with your communications skills and perhaps expand your network of potential clients.
This is just an example of the many ways you could take on this project. I think that if you try this, you will find a new side of your photographer self that you have never seen before, I sure did. Let me know how you make out, and be sure to share any ideas you have in comments. Enjoy!