The first time you took a photograph and said, “I love this, I want to do this for the rest of my life” was probably when you were quite young. It may have been when you saw the way the light hit an object or a face, or took a photo of the mountains. It was personal to you, it inspired you and left you wanting to do more.
Personal work is the fuel that allows you to keep moving forward, experiment, make mistakes and push yourself.
Busy photographers can get caught in the circle of jobs; pre-production, shooting, post production, repeat. You can’t let this stop you from thinking about new work, personal work that will continue to help you grow. When you were a child, play expanded your creativity and mind, and you should continue that even as adults.
Great personal projects are born out of a passion for something.
Take the time think about what will really push you to create new work that means something to you. What do you love to do when you aren’t shooting? Do you dance? Find a project with dancers that interests you. Do you have a charity that is important to you? Team up with them to create a project that you can get behind and have creative freedom. Set a goal for a certain amount of personal work per month and stick to it. It can be hard with commercial work, life and family, but it’s necessary to keep your momentum moving forward.
So many of my clients say they love to see the photographer’s personal work as well as commercial work.
It allows them to get a glimpse into what is important to you, what your personality might be like, and what you may have in common. That common interest can translate into them wanting to work with you. You want to be around people with similar passions, why wouldn’t they?
This work can be the catalyst for many opportunities in your photography.
Because you allow yourself to simply create, take risks and make mistakes, you learn. You may find a new style or interest that you didn’t know you had or never explored. It might be the opportunity you need to make a change and create a new client base. You might collaborate with art directors, illustrators, stylists, or film-makers that you have been wanting to work with.
Create something that is long term that you can go back to between jobs that keeps you shooting and fulfilling that personal need in your photography. It’s also a great opportunity for marketing, with new work to show via promotion and social media. Updated work keeps you present in people’s minds.
Don’t sit around waiting for someone to hire you to shoot that perfect job, create it yourself! And with the myriad of ways to promote it - get it out there!