Starting a photography project

I have been thinking about starting a photography project for a while now, and tried to decide what it should be based on.

Should the project be based on the content of the photographs or the way that I present (compose and post-process) the photographs?
Should it be about people, architecture or nature? Should the project be based on a time of the year, special occasions or human emotions?

I have been making pictures for about six years now, but not continuously. I have had periods where I have not photographed for 3-6-9 months. All my photographs are made because I noticed something that appealed to me or which I thought looked interesting.

I have therefore made pictures of a lot of different subjects; nature, landscape, people, cars, bikes, architecture, macro, flowers, clouds, products.

During my 6 years I have used a wide variety of lenses as well; ultra-wide angles, wide-angles, telephoto and primes. I have used compacts, dSLR’s and I am currently using a rangefinder style camera with only primes.

In all these years I have never touched flash photography, simply because I prefer available light, and I’m not into studio or portrait work (maybe because I have never tried it).

I feel that by photographing everything I am not really pushing myself in the direction that I want. Defining my own style, and make a series of photographs – not of the same subject – but within the same style or presentation of the subjects. From my professional work experience I know that by doing everything you really don’t master anything. The broad experience is really valuable to have, but it is also a limitation since you can’t focus on doing one thing exceptionally good.

The broad experience is very valuable to have however – especially when you decide to focus on something, and want to become specialized in one area – be it photography, technology, or anything.

Making a decision on what the project should be based on, however, is not easy.

Have you ever started a photography project which involved making a decision to focus on a specific style of making pictures? And how did it turn out?

I would appreciate any advice you might have.

  • SInce I startet photographing I’ve been thinking of a collection of photos called “details”. I also like patterns..

    If the main purpose if your project is to learn more – have you tought about what you think is difficult to express? Or maybe what you don’t like to do? Or the easier way – what you are curious about exploring? 🙂

    • Well, the most difficult part for me is street photography which involves taking pictures of strangers in the street by using a 35mm or 50mm equivalent lens. That’s not easy, unless you are in an area where people are to busy/there are too many people to notice you. In smaller cities people see you coming with a camera from miles away it seems 🙂

      • Agree, it’s difficult! Both fetching sceneries and buildings without people in the way, but worse photograping strangers. Something to be better to 🙂

  • I think you find yourself in a place where many of us are. We have certain competence in our photography but we want to put together something a little more meaningful than the run-of-the-mill imagery we choose to take.
    Perhaps the first step is to review the work you’ve done to date – are there any recurrent themes or ideas? Do you have any photographic ‘heros’ whose work particularly inspires you? Are you drawn to the technicalities of photography? Do you have a passion for a particular interest/hobby outside photography? (Sports/nature/history/science/art/etc/etc).
    It’s not an easy decision you are trying to make, but I see no reason why you shouldn’t embark on a course/project and simply skew it as you go along, or stop and start another entirely different project. Perhaps instead of a project you could have a number of concurrent projects.

    • Well, the one thing I haven’t done is take pictures of people. Mostly all my friends and family hate being photographed. I’m not into studio portraiture (and I don’t have a studio / space for it either), but I do like street photography, or, atleast – the idea of it. It’s something new for me, but getting close and personal with people with a 35mm or 50mm equivalent lens is not easy! Especially in smaller cities where people easily notice you coming at them with a camera.

      I really enjoy taking pictures of architecture and nature in general, and that’s what most of my work is based on. I still enjoy it – I am not bored with it, but then again not too excited either. I have tried macro work but I discovered very quickly that macro isn’t for me.

      I don’t have any specific photographic heroes. I have many, but not one in specific. I guess the work that I like the most myself is unique and creative work. Something that can only be captured once. Anyone can make a landscape shot of the same mountain, anyone can photograph the Eiffel tower – but, shots which usually involve people and emotions in their daily life is unique, and you can only capture those moments once and then the moment is gone…

      • I suspect our underlying photography is similar, I like to do landscape, architecture and nature – and I’ve resisted the temptation to buy a macro lens, because I don’t want to end up a macro bore (there’s so much to go at it’s a specialism of its own.).
        Maybe a project looking at people who work in the landscape – anything from farmers to builders, from woodsman to craftspeople.

  • Borge, I am in a 10 month photo project workshop with about 20 other adults. After about 3 months, none of us has actually started our project. We are all still working through ideas about a project. I have a feeling this will turn out like a chemistry final exam, where I try to do it all in the last week.

    By the way, I read your comment about flash. I think we use a lot of the same camera gear and lenses, and there is a lot of myth with a certain brand and not using flash. Bunk! I just acquired an off camera flash called Profoto B1. It is powerful and portable, and the initial results using outdoors are stunning ( to me). Check it out

    • Paul, do you have any examples of your off camera flash experiments? It would be interesting to see. Projects do tend to be like that. All quiet and calm until the last week, then it turns into complete madness 🙂 But the funny part is – it always seems to work out fine!

      • Borge: RE off camera flash (Profoto B1) I don’t know if these will post properly. If not, I’ll send you a link

        off camera flash example.jpg
        off camera flash example-2.jpg
        off camera flash example-3.jpg
        off camera flash example-4.jpg
        off camera flash example-5.jpg

      • Borge: Here is a link to a gallery of some recent off camera flash images. The strobe is a Profoto B1 with a 1’x3′ softball. The camera is mostly Leica M240/Noctilux and Summilux 50mm, except for the B&W with the fake border- that one is scanned film from a Hasselblad 500c/m.

        http://paulaking.zenfolio.com/p524218953

        • Thanks Paul. Those are some nice results. I am actually considering getting the Leica SF 40 flash as a way to start experimenting with artificial light.

          • I have a Leica CF 20 and SF 24D flash. I never use them; they are too harsh, and pretty limited. Everyone says just but a similar Metz, which is apparently all the Leica flash is inside. I think that Metz and Leica both have TTL for the M240.

            It is an expensive experiment to buy the Leica flash. If you do, try it off camera with a softball and remote trigger. I use the Impact Power Sync transmitter/receiver pair and have excellent results (no TTL, so you need to meter, which is better anyway).

            http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/685034-REG/Impact_POWERSYNC16D_PowerSync16_DC_Radio_Slave.html

            • Thanks for your advice Paul. I had a SF 24D previously myself. But I ended up never using it. So I sold it. Thanks for the advice and links Paul 🙂