Photography Project Ideas for 2021

2020 was quite the year, starting relatively normal and then spiraling quickly out of control as few have seen before. Plans were shredded, and normal daily life was abruptly changed like a cold bucket of water to the face.

Fortunately, I wasn't impacted much work-wise, as I've worked from home for over two decades — however, my plans for 2020 were tossed entirely out the window. I had several long-distance photography road trips planned but had to cancel them. Usually, I always have a backup plan for my road trips, but that typically just consists of alternate locations. I hadn't planned on my alternate location being my home town.

I do not expect that 2021 will be any different just because we have entered a new numerical year. Call me pessimistic, but there are shenanigans afoot. With that in mind, I have started to put together a plan for the new year, one that doesn't involve as much reliance on staying at or visiting remote locations.

Photography projects are a great way to expand your photography skills, meet new people, and perhaps gain a new area of interest. Depending on the project you pick, you might even stumble upon a new revenue stream. The project aims to expand your skills, not necessarily have a completed product, although it could make for a great calendar or book.

A 365 Project: A Photo Every Day for the Entire Year

Taking a photograph every day of the year sounds easy at first. 2021 will have 365 days. That's a lot of opportunities to shoot, but also a lot of commitment. Perhaps a little too much for my liking, but for some, it may be just the push you need to keep you engaged in photography when you might otherwise use lockdowns and stay-at-home orders as a reason to watch videos on YouTube.

Some people like to have a specific subject for their year of photos, while others just shoot whatever is relevant for the day. Some people want to focus on improving the things they already shoot, while others use a 365 project to perfect a new genre. 

Sharing your project on social media is a great way to keep yourself motivated, as your viewers will be expecting that new photo every day. Don't give up if you miss a day; you can always take two the next day. However, if you're not able to get out, you might just use that day to take a photo of something interesting in your home. It requires minimal time but also requires you to be creative.

Keep in mind that the more specific your project is, the more difficult it could be. If you pick something like birds, it will be much more difficult because you have first to find one, then get close enough for a good photo.

Photograph Your Town

I'm a bit of a history fan. I like seeing photos from a time long ago, especially places I have visited. Someday, now will be that time. It may be long after you're gone, but someone will appreciate it. Buildings, parks, roadways, they all have an interest to someone.

Many Facebook memory/history groups are always asking for photos of places from the past. Someday your archive of historical images of your town may make you famous, even if it is postmortem.

One project that I think is really neat is re-taking an old photo while matching the location and viewing angle. I haven't done it before, but I plan on doing a little of that this year.

There's also the chance that your city may want to purchase prints for the local government buildings. I close friend of mine just closed a deal on providing 25 large canvas prints to our local city hall. That's a nice little chunk of income.

Genre of the Month or Week

The list of genres to photograph is almost endless. Black and White, Street, Landscapes, Portraits, Wildlife, Astrophotography, the list goes on and on. Picking specific genres for each week or month and concentrating on each for that period is a great way to expand your photography skills.

You never really know when a skill you acquire from shooting an unfamiliar genre will help you with your favorite genre(s). As the saying goes, "you don't know what you don't know."

For example, shooting portraits may introduce you to using a flash that you may later incorporate into your landscape photography. Architectural photography may broaden your experience with various focal lengths. You may even find a new favorite thing.

Conclusion

Hopefully, 2021 will be an easier year. Concentrate on planning for contingencies because there will undoubtedly be some rough spots. Having a photography project may help keep things a little more normal for you. Keep active and stay safe! Do you have a photography project in mind for this year? Let me know in the comments.

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7 Comments

Tom Reichner's picture

Mike Dixon said:

"my plans for 2020 were tossed entirely out the window. I had several long-distance photography road trips planned but had to cancel them."

I am a little surprised that you had to cancel your road trips. Do you live here in the United States? If so, then you should've been able to travel about as you had planned to do.

I am based in the states, in the Pacific Northwest - Washing state, specifically.

In 2020 I was still able to take a two week road trip to South Dakota in March, to photograph Prairie Chickens and Sharp-tailed Grouse. Plus Sage Grouse on the Montana / Wyoming border on the way back home.

Then I took a two-and-a-half week road trip to Montana and Colorado to photograph Whitetail Deer and Mule Deer during the autumn rut.

Then I spent 10 days in December down in California, to photograph waterfowl on their wintering grounds in the greater Sacramento Valley.

I never had any trouble traveling about the country as I usually do. The pandemic really had no affect on my photography travel plans at all, except that at some places I had to get take-out and eat meals in my hotel room, because restaurants weren't open for dine-in. But that's not such a big deal - as long as I could get to where the wildlife was, that was all that mattered ...... and I had no trouble getting to the wildlife venues that I wanted to shoot at.

Where was it that you had planned to go, that you had to cancel out on?

Mike Dixon's picture

My wife is high-risk, so we limited our travel. We had a trip to Kansas City planned for our grandkids martial arts tournament, and we also wanted to go to the east coast, NYC, Washington DC, Upper New York and various places between here and there.

Tom Reichner's picture

Well then that makes sense that you cancelled your road tripping. I get it.

Tom Reichner's picture

Mike Dixon asked:

"Do you have a photography project in mind for this year? Let me know in the comments."

I have three projects for 2021 that are a bit different from what I normally do.

PROJECT 1:

I have a long-term goal to photograph all 9 of the different Rattlesnake species that live in Arizona. This year I plan to travel to Arizona for about two weeks to start this project off. My expectation is that I will be able to get off to a good start by finding and photographing 4 of these 9 species. It will probably be the "low-hanging fruit", the easiest species to find, but that is okay. I have to start somewhere and finding the more common species will get me familiar with the habitat and with figuring out the best photographic methods for Rattlesnakes.

PROJECT 2:

A mid-late spring road trip back east to Pennsylvania and other states, which may include Ohio, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.

I have taken trips to these states over the past several years, but never in the middle to late spring. The palette of wild birds and mammals that will be available to photograph at this time will be quite different from those that I have photographed before, and I am looking forward to finding new-to-me species and figuring out how to best photograph them.

Some of the areas I may visit on this trip are:

Kensington Metropark in Michigan
Magee Marsh in Ohio
Nickerson Beach on Long Island, NY
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks wherever I can find them in Florida
Ocean City, NJ
Outer Banks, NC

PROJECT 3:

Red Foxes and European Hares right here in Washington state, way over on the far western side of the state on the San Juan Islands. Been meaning to do this for a few years, but other trips always edge it out. This year I have to just force myself to go do it!

Mike Dixon's picture

I haven't been to the Metropark yet, and I also plan to go to Magee Marsh. The Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is pretty cool, but it doesn't open until June.

Hunter Chan's picture

A photo a day??? I could do one a week :D

Douglas Soper's picture

I’m fairly new to photography (got my camera in July). I’m using the winter to practice some techniques especially focus stacking. The goal is to make a series of focus stacked images of Wyoming wildflowers during the spring/summer.