Everyone wants to bring in money with client work, but not setting aside time for personal projects can be detrimental your growth as an artist, and to the bottom line. Here are three reasons you should always schedule personal projects.
Develop Your Voice
When working for a client, it’s the photographer's job to capture and create the client's vision. When focusing on a personal project, however, the photographer is free to use and develop their full voice, dealing with subjects and themes in a way that fits their unique perspective rather than a brand design. All creative decisions rely solely on the artist, with no creative director to tweak things to fit a brand message, so personal projects allow each photographer to develop their personal artistic voice.
Allows for Experimentation and Failure
Producing imagery for a client requires predictable results. If someone decides to invest money in image creation, they’re expecting to get exactly what they paid for. Because of the nature of creating work for someone else, there is very little room for experimentation, and no room for failure. If you fail, you're not likely to get hired again. But experimentation and failure are absolutely necessary for growth. As I talked about in my article “Get Out of Your Comfort Zone and Become a Better Artist,” unless you push the boundaries, you’ll never know what you’re capable of, and your work will never grow. If you never put your new ideas to the test, whether it’s a new lighting technique or a difficult concept, you’ll never know whether or not they’ll work for you. Personal projects are the perfect way to try new things and extend beyond what you’re currently capable of so both skill and vision can grow.
Displays Your Passion
While a photographer should bring their passion and skill for image making to every project, there is something special about working on a project you care about. Whether it’s nature conservation or a meditation on anxiety, personal projects centered on subjects you’re passionate about and ideas you’re keen to explore have a unique way of connecting with an audience. Carl Rogers said, “What is most personal, is most universal.” Throw your heart and soul into something, and it’s going to resonate with people who have had similar experiences or desires. It’s possible to work on client projects with excitement and vigor, but it’s in no way guaranteed that you’ll get hired to create photographs about a subject that fires your imagination. Work that is tied to your own heart will always have a force and poignancy beyond work created merely by skill.
In a perfect world, we would only get hired to create work that aligns with our passions and be given briefs that allow for full creative control. Until that perfect world appears, personal projects are the ideal way to take a subject you care about, produce work that pushes boundaries and grows you as an artist, and connects to an audience through shared passion.
Lead image by Rawpixel via Pexels.