Hey hey! Thanks for dropping by Scott Kelby’s Photoshop Insider today. I’m Dave Williams and this week I’m going to talk to you about the importance of personal projects.
First off, it’s important to note that personal projects are important! What projects do you have on the go or in the pipeline? During this post, some images will pop up. The disclaimer is this: – I’ve pulled these images from my archive and some are very old. As such, they should not be used to judge me. ;)
As a travel photographer, it’s fair to say that what that actually means is that I shoot a very broad range of subjects—landscapes, cityscapes, people, food, still life, long exposures. It really is a lot of different stuff. Every little personal project can, therefore, be a little extra experience, a little extra practice, a little extra notch in the belt, and a step towards perfection (not that I’ll ever get to that point) when it comes to my everyday shooting and my built-in “autopilot.” Here’s an example: –
Both of these personal projects helped me to understand light. On the one hand, it was about creating and controlling directional light, leaving nothing to fall on the background and creating the “invisible black background” (Glyn Dewis, 2010), and on the other, it was all about an even bathe of light, minimal highlights and shadows, across a flat-lay inspired by World War One. These helped when I translated them across a number of photographic “arenas,” including weddings and promotional Instagram posts to name just two.
What I’m trying to say here is that it’s the care and attention, the discovery of techniques and the understanding of different dynamics in the world of photography, which were picked up whilst working on projects, that have helped me to become more efficient and competent in my everyday photography.
It’s not just projects that relate to your particular field of photography that help, however. For example, I spent a lot of time working on a macro project. (And, I’m aware that there’s a very, very strong chance that Scott will disapprove of me posting this, but for what can be gleaned from this I’m taking that risk for you all. ;) Scott, close your browser now!)
I wanted to understand the mechanisms of lenses and depth of field. What better way to explore this than with macro photography? Understanding depth of field through the use of true macro 1:1 lenses, and through more extreme macro using reversing rings, helped me to also better understand light, the quantity and quality of light required, the effects of movement of lens glass—literally so much came from this project it’s unreal. That leads me to how it goes a step further from the camera and into retouching.
Once you’ve taken the shot in-camera, learning the ins and outs of Photoshop through these projects is also extremely beneficial. It can be an exploration of different tools and features and this, again, can translate to a faster workflow and a deeper understanding, which brings huge benefits to your everyday photography.
Most of us are stuck in habits with both our photography and our retouching, and bringing personal projects into your flow can bring you out of that “rut” and broaden your photographic horizons—sometimes to no end! Stepping out of your comfort zone, removing that safety net for the sake of development, and allowing yourself to be open to new ideas brings with it new skills and, potentially, new customers, too!
The other benefit is opening yourself up to a whole new community. Getting stuck and trying to figure out what you’re doing wrong can lead to engagement in online forums and groups from which you can learn and share. Win-win, right?
Think about it—we never stop learning, and if you can catalyse your learning and develop new skills through personal projects, you’ll keep yourself at the top of your game!
If you need inspiration for your personal project, just take a look at the massive range of photographers work up on the @kelbyonepics Instagram page, find something you don’t know how to do or that you’d like to improve on, and get on with it! I hope this rapidly paced post has been helpful!
Thanks Dave, some good points. I always enjoy your post but you really should have included dead trees and railroad tracks.