In many of my workshops, photography career articles, and classes, I’ll often share with my students the one amazing tool that will revolutionize their work, help attract new clients, and keep their spirits positive all at once. It’s personal work. Sure, maybe you’ve heard this before, but maybe you haven’t heard the true significance of why doing ongoing personal photoshoots are so important for you. For me, doing this has made my entire career.

The past year has thankfully been very good business-wise (I’m a commercial photographer and video producer), but as we all know, we don’t always get to shoot the projects we find most exciting or fulfilling. I’ve always relied on my personal projects to keep me excited and my work looking fresh. Every time I have shot something for myself/portfolio it has always yielded something positive. Whether directly leading to new jobs, or maybe personal fulfillment with charity-related projects, or maybe something that allows me to fulfill a childhood dream, personal work has never steered me wrong.

I’ve been talking about my shoots as a contributing writer to Fstoppers recently. In this guest post I wanted to share some of what I’ve been working on the past year here on Scott’s blog, and if you’re interested in finding out more about any one of these shoots, I’ve provided links to in-depth articles for each one so I don’t take up too much of your time here.

Below are a few examples from the past year or so of things I have worked on in my free time or projects that happened because of personal work that I hope you will enjoy!

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THE ROBOCOP PHOTOSHOOT

I’ve always loved Robocop since I saw it as a little kid. I had been dreaming of taking his portrait for years because he is so rad. Well, I found the next best thing, a Robocop impersonator. His costume was made from molds from the original film’s Robocop suit, so it was very convincing. He even had a replica of the Ford Taurus police car from the film as well as his pistol. The only challenge was making Phoenix (his home base) look like beat up Detroit.

You can read more about how this shoot came together right here.

THE A-TEAM & KNIGHT RIDER

I’ve been doing a movie car photo series for years under the name “The Unicorn Project.” Knight Rider and the A-Team van have been on the top of my list. I had fun with this and was really happy how these came out. I found it very fulfilling and we had a lot of fun.

You can see more of my movie car photo series right here.

BLACK BEAUTY FROM THE GREEN HORNET

A previous portrait subject reached out to me and said he had recently purchased one of the Black Beauties from The Green Hornet film. A loud muscle car with machine guns mounted to it?! Count me in! Thought it would be a great chance to try out my automotive rig to get some cool motion shots. Check out how I put it together via the video above.


(Finished Image)


(Previous image, before retouching)

This shoot ended up getting shared all over the web! Read more about it here.

DALE EARNHARDT JR.

This is another paid project that happened when the ad agency was referred to me because of my personal work. Talk about a dream come true! I always wanted to take his portrait, let alone the Nascar team’s official press photos for 2014. He’s a legend!

Learn about this job here.

MAD MAX

You know people that like to reenact Civil War battles? This one was kind of like that but with the movie Mad Max. On a trip to LA last year, I discovered this group of awesome folks that get dressed up and modify vehicles in preparation for a apocalypse-inspired party in the desert once a year called Wasteland Weekend. Some of the participants were nice enough to get together one day last year and help me make some cool photos! I could have photographed them for days to be honest.

Learn more about this shoot here.

SPEED RACER

This wasn’t a personal shoot, but I was hired to do this awesome project BECAUSE of my movie car photo series. I loved it. Even got to drive the Mach 5 on the streets of Florida when the shoot was over! :)

Read more about this job here.

DOG CHARITY WORK

After adopting a Pitbull named Emma a couple of years ago I learned that hundreds of thousands of these amazing dogs are being put to sleep every year in the United States alone. Studies show that these dogs are inherently non-aggressive, but due to their strong bodies and eagerness to accept training, bad humans have taken advantage and trained them to be destructive and fight. I started a positive PR campaign and website called NotABully.org where I take portraits of inspiring Pitbulls. Rescued dogs that are former fight dogs, abused, shot, kicked, starved, and left for dead, but with some love, a good home, and some training, have re-entered society as loving and life-changing pets. I want to show that despite every reason to hate humans, these dogs are accomplishing amazing things in a loving way. For example, did you know a large portion of Michael Vick’s fighting dogs were rehabilitated and placed in loving homes? Check out this great article!

Still skeptical? Well, National Geographic reached out to me about Not A Bully and had Cesar Millan (aka the Dog Whisperer) fly to the east coast and film some of my photoshoots and talk about my site as part of a new hour long special about Pitbulls and how they’ve gotten a bad rap. Please check out Love My Pit Bull this Friday April 18th at 9pm on the National Geographic Wild Channel!!

Despite being a human and car photographer, I never thought they’d put me on TV due to my dog portraits, but I am so thrilled that my photos can help make a difference!!

Follow the Not A Bully Facebook page to keep posted on updates and to get involved!

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Take my word for it. If you are unhappy with your current portfolio, or bored, or want to even use your work to make a difference, pursue a personal series or project that will make you happy. I can honestly say that the majority of the content that I love the most on my site come from personal shoots. Can you believe it?

Remember, if you want new exciting clients, you have to have examples of work in your portfolio that will reflect what you want to get hired to shoot. For example… Want to shoot cars? Shoot a some of the best photos you can on your free time. It’s hard to convince a car client to hire you if you have no good examples in your portfolio. Same goes for portraits, weddings, pets, etc.

If you have questions, ask in the comments below!!

And, again, don’t forget to check out Love My Pit Bull this Friday April 18th at 9pm on the National Geographic Wild Channel!

You can see more of Douglas’ work at SondersPhotography.com, more behind-the-scenes videos here, and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+.