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In an era when we all have access to the same tools, techniques, and locations, standing out from the crowd is more difficult than ever. It means that you must rely on something unique, something personal and authentic to help you rise above the noise. 

That “uniqueness” is your ability to express yourself in a creative manner regardless of what tools and resources you choose to use. Pushing yourself to solve bigger and harder problems is what requires creativity, and that promotes meaningful growth and intrinsic motivation.

This is why I promote the immense creative value of working on projects as opposed to simply making random images. Working on a personal project can be immensely beneficial, and can even promote exponential growth that you can’t get any other way, regardless of your skill level or ambitions as a photographer.

Here are a some primary benefits:

  • Increases motivation and focus.
  • A project focuses your energy in a single direction and towards a single goal so you stop photographing things because they “catch your eye.”
  • Limits your creative options, which is where insights and break-throughs come from. Creativity is mostly about seeing the same thing in new ways, not finding new subjects.
  • Exponential growth – nothing improves your skills like working on the same problem areas day after day, whether that’s technical, aesthetic, or mental.
  • Make connections that you may not have noticed before: between images, subject matter, gear, or mental approach.
  • A greater sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.
  • A great way to build a cohesive body of work, rather than a huge number of unrelated images. This is where real story-telling begins.

What types of projects can you work on?

Think of your project as having a theme or focus. It can be a location, a subject, a color, a mood, or even a particular lens. What matters most is that it’s specific.

You can use your project to create a Blurb book in Lightroom, a printed folio, artist notecards, a yearly calendar, a multi-media slideshow, or simply as a way to reinvigorate your creative juices and dramatically improve your skillset.

I’ve been working on projects for over a decade, and it’s one of my favorite ways to remain creatively engaged. For example, one of my current projects is a collection of panoramic images of trees. I hope to use these images to produce a line of panoramic products, including greeting cards, a calendar, and eventually an exhibition. 

Working on this project has helped me improve my photographic skills in many ways including:

  • “Seeing” panoramic compositions more easily
  • Having a greater sense of direction when I head into the landscape
  • Motivation to head out when the weather isn’t promising
  • Greater understanding of which of my lenses to use in various situations

Here are a few images in the project:

So, are you working on any projects, or like the idea of working on a project but aren’t sure how to start? Let me know!


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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Very helpful information.. All your short or long articles and the podcasts are very helpful for me. Thank you..

  2. Thanks Robert! ‘Good suggestions for ways to stay focused. I think this project-based approach may be the most effective way to actually realize progress in my creative vision. Thanks!

  3. Hi, thank you for this article, I beleive it will help me a lot.
    I want to make photography my living and I’m a nerd on the gear part but I want to learn more about the creative and boss part of it.
    Thank you teacher for the lesson!! 🙂

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