Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I'm a big believer in personal projects for photographers. The main reason for this is it keeps the creative juices flowing. Many of my personal projects have also turned into actual assignments. For example, I just found out a Magazine called Christianity Today wants to buy my photos for a story they are doing on refugees in the U.S. This has been a project I've been shooting on for about three years now.

Here's what I do starting a project. First I must have a personal interest in the subject. Regardless of how popular the subject might be, if my heart is not in it, then neither will my commitment to do what it takes to complete the project. That way, you will be shooting for yourself and not others. Whatever you like, go for it.

Like all communication, the more you can address the who, what, when, why and where questions, the better. So, as you prepare for starting to shoot, think about how to visually communicate the message of the story.

If your project is about some natural beauty like mountains, then you may want to first decide which mountains you want to shoot and from what angle. I like to shoot subjects many others have done before me in ways few before me have done. Most mountains are shot in clear sky conditions. So, first I'll wait for a day with clouds that will give me some dramatic sky structure. Then I decide the time of day. If most shoot at dawn, then I'll shoot at dusk. If most shoot at dusk, then I'll shoot at dawn, etc. In short shoot them in a unique and different way than others have.

If your project is about people or a person, then your approach will be different than when just collecting a series of beautiful shots. You will want to actually tell a story with photos. You'll want to shoot your subject loose and wide to show their surrounding environment. You'll also want to shoot closer to isolate your subject but still leave a sense of their environment. Finally you'll want to shoot your subject up close to provide details that reveal intimate info for the viewer.

All this takes time, but if you stick with it, you will in the end collect some great shots and continue to grow as a photographer. My workshop "The Art of Telling Stories" is a great workshop to take for learning and sharpening these skills. As an award winning former photo editor for Texas Highways Magazine, I'm just the person you want teaching you these skills. Here's a link in case your interested...

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