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Personal Photography Projects: 13 of the Best Ideas

9 min read

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capturing shadows as an idea for photography projects

Personal photography projects are one of the best ways to help you improve your photography. Being focused on a particular topic you will develop more than if you photograph random subjects. Learning as you regularly take photos for your project will accelerate your progress even more.

We all like to get better at the things we enjoy doing. How we approach our photography has a direct effect on whether we will improve much over time. Taking photos now and then with no real direction will not help you develop your technical or creative skills. 

When you work on personal photography projects you will become a better photographer. You’ll be able to compare your photos over the period of time you are working on your project and see your development.

Using your camera each day, and combining this will some study, will help you build your skill more than if you don’t incorporate any study. Learning a little each day and putting it into practice is the best way to grow as a photographer.

How to Come up with Personal Photography Project Ideas

Some photographers struggle to come up with project ideas for their personal photography. The best encouragement I can offer you is to make a photography project on something you enjoy a lot. The more you take photos of what you love,  the more exceptional your images will be.

Combine photographing what you love with on-going education. This will build your photography skills more than anything else. Learning a little and putting it into practice often will help you keep your ideas alive and more easily come up with new ones.

coming up with different project ideas.

Make a point of pushing your photography abilities beyond what you are comfortable with. The main risk in photographing something you really enjoy is that you become complacent and capture images that are all very similar. This is why learning step by step as you work on your photography project will help your progress and growth as a photographer.

Ideas for photo projects are important. What’s also necessary is that you are committed to the continuation of your project. If your motivation wanes and you become disinterested, your personal photography project idea will be no fun. This article will help you come up with some good ideas.

365 Photography

Sometimes known as project 365, this idea for a personal project has a long history. I remember reading about the concept of taking a photo a day when I got my first camera. That’s nearly 40 years ago. 365 Photography has remained popular throughout the world because it’s effective.

Taking photos each day for a year will make you a better photographer. Combine this with learning a little about photography each day. You will see a progressive quality increase in your pictures.

Doing a search online and you’ll find lists of ideas of what to photograph for the 365 photo challenge. These lists may not be so helpful, depending on what you like to photograph and where in the world you live. I think a personal photography project is more effective and fun when you come up with ideas of what to photograph yourself. These lists can be helpful used as guides for inspiration, but I don’t think they work so well if you stick to them rigidly.

Kevin Landwer-Johan - Project Instructor
Kevin Landwer-Johan

Being self-motivated leads to success when doing a 365 photo challenge. Having a well planned and mapped-out study guide helps keep you energized throughout the 365 projects. Having a photo challenge associated with the 365 lessons means you put into practice what you are learning, as you are learning it. 

If you take your focus off having to come up with ideas of what to photograph every day, then you’ll be less anxious. Focus on learning and the ideas of what to photograph will come to you naturally. You could also combine this with some of the following photography project ideas I have listed below.

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Take Photos of One Subject

Concentrating your photography on a single subject eliminates the need to come up with other ideas of what to take pictures of. Find a subject that intrigues you and challenge yourself to take interesting photos of it. 

You might like to photograph your kids or your pets. Maybe you love being in your garden or walking in your local park. The more you can easily incorporate your idea so it’s a regular part of your routine, the more likely you are to succeed. 

You don’t need to photograph lots of different things. Sometimes photographing one subject will improve your photography even more.

photography project on bikes on the street.
Bicycle parked by a colorful wall. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Day in the Life (Day in My Life)

This is another well-seasoned photo project idea. Taking photos from dawn until dusk. Following a routine and so that you compile a series of photos that tell a story.

You could make it about any topic that changes during the day. Your own life could be the most convenient. 

Start taking photos in the morning and throughout the day. Keep in mind who your audience might be. It could be friends who know you or people on social media who may not know you. Think about what you are photographing and how people will relate to the images you are presenting to them.

photo of Akha tea pickers.
Akha hill tribe women picking tea. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

See Everything in Black and White

We see everything in color. Choosing a topic of black and white for a personal project you’ll have to develop a habit of seeing in black and white. This is one of the best photography tips I can give you that will help produce stronger monochrome images.

It’s easy to convert digital images to black and white. Taking photos purposely to display them as monochrome images requires you to think differently. This is a great photo project challenge that can be used in conjunction with any other photography project idea.

The key maker project.
An old key cutter in his street stall. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Use Only One (Prime) Lens

Restrict yourself to photographing everything with one lens. Especially if it’s a new one. Limiting yourself like this, and using only a prime lens, will heighten your awareness. Looking at what to photograph using a single focal length will reshape the way you think about composition.

If you’ve recently bought a new lens, attach it to your camera and leave it there. For a zoom lens, leave it set to one focal length. Try to make as many interesting compositions without changing focal lengths.

photographing caves.
Cave interior. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Practice Composition One Rule At A Time

The compositional rules are taught for a reason. Using them often makes your images stronger and they help build your sense of how to arrange elements within your frame. 

Many photographers don’t practice their craft as a musician practices with their instrument. Study the rules of composition. Choose one and work it until you know it inside out and backward.

Look to make your chosen rule the format of your composition for a week, or a month, or longer. Aim to become proficient in knowing when and how to apply it. Then move on and practice another composition rule in the same manner.

woman taking photos with a smart phone.
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Photograph Your Other Hobby

Photograph things you enjoy. Your images will have more feeling because of the connection you make. Choose one of your other hobbies and create a photo project around it. Maybe you like gardening. Photograph your garden. You might enjoy cycling. Photograph bicycles. Whatever you enjoy doing, think about how you can make an interesting series of images for your project.

photograph of a vintage bike.
Close up of an old bike. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Make a Personal Photography Project of Your Community

Where you live and interact every day. Take photos of the people you meet along the way. Have a story to tell them about what you are doing and don’t be shy to ask. People make a community. Aim to build a collective portrait of the people who inhabit your locale.

Take pictures of the trees, architecture, and transportation. Think about what makes your community unique and make a collection of photos to illustrate this.

Monks working on a project idea.
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Volunteer as a Photographer

Put yourself forward and offer to take photos for a non-profit organization. It might be your place of worship, your kid’s school, an animal shelter, a social group, etc. Choose something that will interest you.

This can be quite a challenging personal project because you will have to take photos that meet others’ requirements. This to me is the main difference between an amateur and a professional. Professionals have to take photos to please someone else. They must provide photographs that their clients or editors want.

Being a volunteer will provide you with a wonderful opportunity to grow as a photographer and to bless others with the photos you take.

girl reading a book.
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Illustrate Songs You Love

Think about music and how you can illustrate the lyrics of feel of your favorite songs. Engaging with this type of photography project will push you to think abstractly. How can you show an image of what you hear in the music?

Stretch your mind and be as creative as you like. There is no right or wrong way. Be flexible in your intent and the expression of what you enjoy most in the songs you love to listen to.

You could choose to restrict your style to a particular genre that you like to shoot. Maybe you like street photography or macro photography. Use any style you like to be the basis of how you illustrate and have fun doing it!

photograph of a red rooster.
© Kevin Landwer-Johan

Emulate a Master

My two on-going personal photography projects are both inspired by famous photographers.

I make photomontages. I first started producing them after seeing a documentary about British artist David Hockney. He was making what he called a photo joiner. This got me hooked. Working with multiple photographs and putting them together to create cubist like artwork is great fun. 

I also produce these as videos. Mainly working with photographs. Sometimes including video clips. I combine them on a timeline and add movement.

Irving Penn inspired my other main photography project ideas. Penn was a master of natural light and had a portable outdoor studio. After reading about it I adapted the idea and made my own outdoor studio. I take it with me when I visit mountain villages here in Thailand and make portraits of the ethnic minorities.

Find a photographer whose work you love and emulate it. This will push you to become a better photographer as you seek to see the hidden style in their photographs and begin to create your own.

portrait of a woman for an outdoor portrait project.
Outdoor portrait of a Karen woman smoking a pipe. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Create a Photography Project Book

It could be a fiction or a non-fiction book. Think about the story you want to tell and then go about illustrating it with the pictures you take. Plan your book and map out the photos you think you’ll need. 

Set yourself a deadline so your project does not become endless. Think about how many pages you want and how you will publish it. This could be something you plan to give as a gift or use to present as a portfolio of your photography to others.

Become a Self Portrait Artist

Many people struggle to come up with ideas for personal projects. Choosing to take self portraits is a great way to overcome this problem. With self-portrait projects, you always have your subject on hand. Your portraits can be made at home or anywhere you feel comfortable.

I’m not talking about selfies you’d take with your mobile photo, but well-composed, lit, and styled portraits of yourself in various situations. Think about how you can include props to make more interesting portraits.

man taking a personal portrait photograph.
A man takes a photograph of himself during a hot air balloon festival. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

This might seem challenging at first for some people. Think about it and how it will help your understanding as a photographer. Particularly if you are someone who likes to photograph other people. Taking self-portraits will give you a better understanding of what it’s like to be in front of the camera. Give it a shot! You may love it.

Choosing Personal Photography Projects

Whatever type of personal photography project ideas you think of, your commitment to is key. Photographers are often not focused on personal projects or practicing in some way or another. They rely on picking up photography tips here and there and have a random approach to improving their craft.

Tackling the 365 Days of Photography or 52 Week Challenge will make you a better photographer. Being committed to a plan and having a focused purpose you will start to see your photography develop in ways you may never have been able to imagine.

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Kevin bought his first camera in the early 1980s and started working in the photography department of a daily newspaper a few years later. His whole career is focused on photography and he’s covered a multitude of subjects. He loves to photograph people the most. During the past decade, Kevin has begun to teach and write more, sharing his passion for photography with anyone who’s willing to learn.
Kevin bought his first camera in the early 1980s and started working in the photography department of a daily newspaper a few years later. His whole career is focused on photography and he’s covered a multitude of subjects. He loves to photograph people the most. During the past decade, Kevin has begun to teach and write more, sharing his passion for photography with anyone who’s willing to learn.

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