When dealing with a client’s project I will bend over backwards, even do summersaults and cartwheels if they ask. I will give 100% before, during and after the photo shoot to take their ideas or concepts and do what I can to knock it out of the park for a client. Sometimes the photographs end up in the portfolio, other times the photographs do not make the cut.
There are projects that you create for clients and there are others that you create for yourself. I believe it is necessary that you give yourself the chance to aim your skills at your own personal projects and develop your own work from time to time.
Every photographer needs to shoot personal work, it is a must, it is something that you need to budget into your weekly or monthly schedule. Shooting personal work will keep you from becoming burnt out with the day-to-day mundane events like sitting in front of a computer screen, or any other routine chore necessary to run your photography business. Some projects will have you itching to get started just knowing that you are going to pad your book with killer new images, others just aren't there. If you don’t have those projects coming in or if they are few and far between, it is up to you to get out and make them happen on your own time.
I think it is imperative to shoot personal work no matter what the subject matter is. If you enjoy photographing kittens playing in the grass, go for it. If you like creating images of tree shadows on brick buildings, get out and make it happen. Whatever it is that inspires your creative drive, jump up and get to it at once and don’t let the idea fade out. It doesn’t matter what you shoot as long as you are creating work that feels right to you. Once you have wrapped up a self-assigned project, you will feel much better about your personal work and will want to share it with the world.
For my personal work, I typically have two sides. The first being a gritty, throw it on the wall and see if it sticks approach and the other happens to be more finesse driven. Both sides are outlets for my work, just from two different views.
One day during the fall I was cutting my lawn, a pretty typical relaxing weekend event, when I came up with the idea to run over various objects with my mower and capture the before and after photos. I must have gone through hundreds of ideas of what objects I should start with and how the blade would change the look of them. I decided that I would move forward and shoot this as a personal project and see what would happen. I did not have anything to lose, if I did not like it or it just didn’t work out nobody would ever see the photographs. There was no risk in rejection because it was a personal project and wasn’t headed for publication. I really didn’t think much about it once I gave myself the green light to shoot it. I simply acted on the idea and shot the project in my backyard on day. The project cost less than $20 to produce.
I admit it’s a bit odd and destructive but it was my project, no client, no guidelines or restrictions, just me and the idea. At first I kept pushing it off and moving it back and back on my calendar until one evening I finally decided that the next day I was going to make it happen. A couple of weeks later my project “Lawnmower” went live on my website. From here I already have a few more ideas on what to shoot for round 2, should make for some interesting images and a good base to build off of.
Another personal project I self produced was geared towards showing off a little more finesse than simply running over toys with a lawnmower. I have always enjoyed photographing dancers and performing artist so I started asking a few local leads about tracking down talent to bring in studio to work with. I had a handful of dancers lined up and the project was shaping up nicely. A friend came through with a huge addition and found a trio of dancers from the Kansas City Ballet who were willing to shoot with me on set. One of my goals for this project was to create something super clean, simple and pretty in studio. It was not as much of a smash and grab as the Lawnmower project so I had to put a lot more energy into the preproduction on the dance shoot. Things like lining arrival times and organizing everything else from top to bottom certainly added to my workload but I couldn’t be happier with the photos and the outcome that I made for myself. I did all of this to make photos that I wanted to shoot, stuff I wanted to show that I could create.
The “Dance” project has become an ongoing project that I am currently in the process of updating and helps fuel my creativity. It has been a great outlet for my work and boosted my energy into every other extension of my photography business. Not only did I shoot stills, I also captured some motion pieces and put together the Dance Project – Quick Study Of Motion, a video project I jumped into.
You probably have a lot of ideas that are constantly bouncing around and many of them have faded away after being pushed to the backburner. I am sure you have told yourself “I will do that later.” or “I will get to that next week.” When that happens, your ideas end up sitting around going stale until the next big idea rolls along and takes its place. I think it is very important to get out and create work for yourself, I believe it is mandatory to help keep you creatively sharp and better yourself as a photographer and business owner.