Find a Project and Find Inspiration

 In Newsletter

Find a photography project and find inspiration should be all I need to write. But, somehow I need to convince you that when you are feeling a little burned out on photography or just lost your focus then you should start a personal project to find the inspiration and revitalize your love of photography. I’m going to attempt to do this by providing an example from my life.

Last year, I was hired to photograph pizzas. While it isn’t something I typically do (although I’ve done food and product photography jobs before), it motivated me to get all my equipment together (because I had to to get paid). Then I photographed the pizza over multiple days while learning how best to make it look good. Then worked on the images in the office and with about a week of work the pizzas looked excellent, the project was complete and now the pictures are found in the frozen food section of many stores and on billboards. This was a paying commercial project. The project forced me to shoot. And because time is money and the owner was there as well as an art director and graphic designer, I was in the hot seat. You tend to do well when there — if you don’t then things won’t work out.

That is pretty much how every commercial shoot that I’ve done has been. The client tells me what he or she needs and I gotta figure out how to make that happen.

For a personal project, the only difference is that you or I pick our own subjects. We set our own deadline and then we have to hit it only because of the personal satisfaction of hitting the deadline. Ideally, it’ll be something that is slightly different than what we normally shoot or if it is what we normally shoot there should be some type of twist on it. One of the more famous photography projects in Minnesota is Jim Brandenburg’s Chased by the Light (Amazon link). During the project he gave himself 90 days to shoot and he could only shoot one image a day.

It’s a project like that with a little quirk that can push you in your photography.

Right now, I’m in the midst of an open-ended project called the Found Bike Project. I’m photographing old bikes that I find in people’s yards, antique stores or used as decorations (or really still used!). I plan to photograph 40 bikes that I find like this. I’m only using two lenses for the project: Sigma’s 35 f/1.4 Art lens (Amazon link) or Nikon’s 105mm f/2.8 VR (Amazon link) macro lens. It has been a challenging project in several ways: 1. Finding the bikes (there are fewer out there than you’d imagine), 2. Photographing them and figuring out how to photograph them in some strange places. In the second, there was a bike suspended on a second story porch railing. I was originally only going to use my Sigma lens, but after see that I had to expand the project. That was a teaching moment for me. Sometimes, you have to improvise outside of the project parameters to make the project happen.

Over the year since I started the project, I’ve found 15 bikes that have worked for the project (and several that haven’t) and it has been fun and challenging.

I hope you take up a project to push your photography. If you want a spring project, I can assign you one: photograph 20 different wildflowers.

 


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Showing 4 comments
  • Holly
    Reply

    I love your old bike project and thank you for another inspiring newsletter.

  • Mary Jane
    Reply

    I enjoy your bike project, nice to see all of the bikes posted together. I am visiting the north shore in a couple of weeks so I plan to accept your assignment and photograph 20 different wildflowers. It will be a fun way to improve on my photography hobby. Thank you.

    • Bryan Hansel
      Reply

      You’ll have to let me know how your project goes.

  • Diana Kuklinski
    Reply

    Great inspiration to look at things in a different way. I’m an old SLR user and want to try to learn how to go beyond using my DSLR only in Auto mode! My project will be to use manual, A, or S modes to take photos of native plants in bloom – at my house and in natural settings. I want to photograph at least 10 using side light or back light. My goal will be to submit at least 10 good photos to iNaturalist.

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