Need some ideas for creative and unique photography projects? Whether it’s a rainy day or you’re stuck in a rut and need a little inspiration, here is a list of 101 photography projects that you can start right now!
1. Create a Photography Bucket List
Set goals. Create challenges. Whether you are setting business/career goals or dreaming of exotic locations to photograph, make a list and challenge yourself. Try a new genre of photography. Push yourself to keep trying new things.
Photo by Erika Sneeringer
Write it down. Whatever it is. Think of everything you want to accomplish as a photographer. Try to reach a list of 50 different things you’d like to do. You could start with, “Meet Jim Harmer in person.” No matter how grand our small the goal is, it’s still a goal and a dream worth achieving.
This is a project that will take some thought. Maybe even a little stretching the first time you sit down to write this list. But start today so you can have a more clear direction of where you’re going and what you can do next with your photos. Never settle into another rut again.
Not sure where to start and looking for some inspiration? Check out these Photography Bucket Lists on Pinterest.
Sit down and just do a brain dump on the computer. Type out as fast as you can the different ideas that come to your mind. Don’t worry about the details of the goal and how it will be accomplished – that’s not the point. Right now you’re just brainstorming.
Once your list is final, add it to the notes section on your iPhone or keep it in a GoogleDoc. Now, every time a new idea pops in your head, you can add it to your list wherever you are.
Now that you have your list, pick the first one you’re going to cross off. Make plans and start thinking about the details.
2. Keep a Photography Journal
Stop comparing your photography to the photographs you see on 500px, Flickr, Instagram and other websites. Don’t compare your work to other photographers. Your work is yours which makes it special and unique to you and your own artistic vision. Document your growth by keeping a journal of your photography. You can print albums or or download an app. Pick a few favorite photographs each month for 6 months. At the end of the 6 months you can go back and look to see your own personal growth as a photographer.
3. Submit Your Photos in Online Contests
Photography contests don’t have to cost you any money, there are many free options out there. Look for the free contests like ViewBug and DPChallenge. Google local photography contests in your area. Be sure to check out your local newspaper or department of natural resources, which usually will have weekly, monthly and even yearly contests.
4. Start a Conceptual Shoot Mood Board
Start visualizing and planning your photo shoots. Create mood boards. Colors, magazine cut outs, photographs that inspire your vision, pictures of products or props you want to use. Sometimes your shoot won't turn out anything as you visualized and sometimes they will turn out even better than you could have imagined. Document the process. Write down what went wrong or what you could or should have done differently. Then, start visualizing and planning for another shoot.
5. Print Your Photos
Remember prints? They are still an AWESOME way to show your photos!
The digital age has really made it easy for us to skip printing our photos when we are ready to share them. You simply put them on your website, Facebook page, Instagram or email them — all at the click of a button. But the digital age has also made it easier to order prints online and have them sent directly to you.
When people come to your home, give them something to look at by hanging your prints on the walls. It’s a subtle way to show your talents. Nobody says, “Before you leave, I want you to look at the photos on my phone because I have some new ones.” Having prints is an awesome way to share your talent, love, and passion for the things in your life without intruding on the time or good will of your friends and acquaintances.
Read this article on the best places to print.
6. Create a Photo Album
As a professional photographer you may find yourself always putting together albums for your families or brides and grooms. When was the last time you put together a professional quality photo album of your own photos? Set aside some quality time to create an album of the photos you have taken in the last year and proudly display it at home.
7. Put Your Photos in the Most Visible Location in Your Home
Putting a slideshow of your photos on your TV is a great way for friends and visitors to see your photos on a big beautiful screen.
This might seem like a random suggestion, but it’s one that works. If you have a device that supports it, set it up to show your photos through a screensaver. For example, you can use iCloud and the AppleTV to show your photos. When you are entertaining people in your home, you can have music playing in the background through AppleTV, and it is simply amazing the way that screensaver captivates so many people. They are looking for new photos that have been put up and even photos of themselves if they have been around long enough to merit that.
It is another subtle way to share your photos with those who come into your home. You’re not forcing them to look at your photos – it’s just a screensaver. But they will notice and admire your work until you turn the TV off.
If this is the first time you have done this, create an album on your iDevice Photo Stream and start adding the photos you want to have show up on your AppleTV.
Go into your AppleTV settings and change the screensaver settings to show the photos found your Photo Stream Album. This will automatically update whenever you add new photos to it.
8. Local Book Project
Recently, Rob Moles on the Improve Photography Podcast episode number 170 suggested taking photographs around your town for a photo book print project. One of his tips was when you take pictures of people ask them a little something about them and write it down. When you print your book, include the quotes from each person. What an amazing idea to memorialize your life and people around you.
9. Read a New Book
Photo by Erika Sneeringer
Learning a new technique is always a fun way to improve your photography. Whether it is learning a new post processing technique or a new lighting method. Pick up a photography book and get inspired! Jim Harmer recently published an article on recommended books that you can find here. Anytime you feel yourself getting a little bored or stuck in a rut, buy a new book and try shooting a different style addressed in that book.
10. Learn a New Technique
Browse Youtube and learn a new Photoshop or Lightroom technique. Collect some of your old photographs from a year ago and re-edit them with the new techniques and compare your editing skills to see how much your style has changed.
If you prefer online learning, browse around and find a local class or workshop to sign up for. Check out the recently released Photography Plus which gives you tons of downloadable content, including, but not limited to, presets, tutorials and classes. Be sure to check it out. They are always coming out with new and helpful content. Most recently, Connor Hibbs released a high end retouching tutorial. Visit the IP+ page for more details. If you are not a member of IP+ sign up for a 14 day free trial!
You don’t always have to buy a new book or pay for some online course to learn new techniques. There is plenty content online that is completely FREE! Brian Pex has written some amazing content on Lightroom and Photoshop techniques published right on Improve Photography that you can check out here.
Chelsea and Tony Northrup have a tutorial here on how to take a double exposure photograph. The tutorial includes both how to do this technique in camera (with certain camera models) and how to create a double exposure in Photoshop.
13. Practice Product Photography
Photo by Erika Sneeringer
Find anything laying around your house. Set up a little at home mock studio. TIP: use white or black foam core boards for your background and what you put your subject on. Put a piece of glass on down on top of the foam core board where your subject will go to get a nice reflection. You can create a gorgeous bokeh background with wrinkled tinfoil lit with an off camera flash and colored with a gel. Now, light your subject with an off camera flash and modifier. You don't need a studio to get creative!
14. Find a New Podcast
Are you subscribed to all of the Improve Photography Podcasts? There are currently 4 podcasts: Improve Photography, Portrait Session, Tripod and Photo Taco. I’m always listening to new podcasts and trying to find ones that I like. If you have any other photography podcasts you listen to, please be sure to mention them in the comments below.
15. Take a Class
Look for classes or workshops that introduce you to different styles of photography. Sign up for a workshop/retreat that will teach you the skills and confidence to bring your photography to the next level.
Keep an eye out for free photography workshops with Improve Photography or sign up for the one of a kind Photography Retreat with Improve Photography taking place in March 2017.
As I’m sure you can tell from this article, trying something new is pretty much the idea. But only you can be the one to get out there and try it. It really doesn’t matter whether you pick something from this list or not. What matters is that you set out to try something new, whether it’s a new style of photography or a different way to do the same thing you have always done. Either way, it’s gotta be different and interesting enough so that you will actually do it.
16. Personal Photography Projects
Personal photography projects are extremely important because they keep your passion for photography alive. This is even more important for the photographers with steady paying clients. You might be too busy working for clients that you get lost in the business side of things and lose your passion. Personal projects are a great way to remember why you first picked up your camera. Personal projects keep you shooting for yourself, which in turn fuels your passion to keep taking pictures.
17. Pick Up Your Camera Every Day
Photo by Erika Sneeringer
Photography is not like riding a bike. It more like running. You don’t just start off running a marathon. You have to start small, like a couch-to-5k program and build up your endurance. If you take a long break from running, your progress will regress and you have to retrain your body once you start running again. The same is true for photography. The more you learn the more you need to put it to practice. You can’t expect your photography to improve if your camera is sitting in the corner collecting dust. Pick up your camera every day to stay sharp. Even if just for 5 minutes. Take pictures of anything and everything. Eventually you’ll get bored of the same old stuff and find yourself thinking of better ways to be creative. Too busy with a full time job? Just as with exercise, there is never enough time but you have to prioritize and make time if it is important to you. Additionally, if you are taking pictures everyday, you can easily document the growth of your photography.
18. Take Your Camera with You Everywhere
If you want to stay on top of taking pictures everyday, it will be much easier if you always have your camera on hand to capture anything. Brian McGuckin wrote a great article comparing messenger bags that you can read here. I personally like something a little more chic and love my raspberry Kelly Moore 2 Sues bag, found here. Do you have a favorite bag not listed? If so please share in the comments below!
19. Light Painting
Photo by Jim Harmer
If you have even the slightest artistic bone in your body, you will fall in love with light painting. Plan at least 2 hours one night to go out and do some night photography with a good flashlight. You will need to use manual mode for this, but you will have complete control over the light and how it shows up in the photo. Because you are experimenting, plan to retake several shots until the light appears exactly as you would like it to. Don’t settle for anything – you’re in control.
If you are looking for something new to do that will jump-start your interest in photography, this is a really good technique for you to try at least twice.
TIP: Don’t be afraid to step in front of the camera. As long as you keep moving and don’t shine the light at the camera or have light on you, then you’re golden. You won’t even appear in the photo.
20. Traffic Light Trails
One of the best ways to get the hang of the exposure triangle is to go out and shoot light trails at night. In order to shoot light trails, you will need to use a tripod and long exposures. There is an article with tips and suggestions ranging from camera settings, scouting a location and even gear suggestions that you can read here.
21. Collaborate with Other Photographers
There is always a great time to be had when you’re with friends who share the same interest. Plan a time and place to go out with a fellow photographer friend. There are a lot of good things that happen when you go shooting with a friend:
- They are there to give instant feedback on your photo.
- They can help with your composition just as much as you can help them with theirs.
- You inspire each other to get even more creative shots.
- If you are light painting, then you can help each other take the photo.
- The buddy system is never a bad thing.
- Rekindle and strengthen friendships.
- I think you get the idea…
Text your buddy right now and make plans to go for a shoot! You can break the ice by saying, “Hey! We should go photograph [The Golden Gate Bridge] this weekend.”
If you don’t have any photographer friends, make some new friends! Try Meetup.com or look for Facebook groups in your area. I have made several friends in my area from the Improve Photography Facebook groups.
22. Create Your Own Hashtag on Instagram
Do some searches depending on what project you are currently working on to see if the hashtag you want to use has already been used. When you find one that has no results when you search it, it hasn’t been used yet. Whether you are doing an ongoing photography project like a 365, 52, a 30 day project or just an ongoing personal themed project, you can create a hashtag for anything. If people want to join your project you can click on the hashtag and view what others have shared. Or in a year from now you can look back at the #31daysblackandwhite and remember that month you shot only in black and white.
Photograph a 7 day Rainbow project. This is to take a different color as the focus point every day for 7 days. Sunday: Red, Monday: Orange, Tuesday: Yellow, Wednesday: Green, Thursday Blue, Friday: Indigo and Saturday: Violet. (Bonus if you do this project and create your own hashtag! If you do, let us know the hashtag in the comments below so we can check it out).
As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Spend a month photographing something that is beautiful to you. This is great because no two people will have the same outcome. Find beauty in your everyday.
Take the same idea as above, only make your subject something you feel is ugly. Think beyond appearance and dig a little deeper for this project to see what you come up with.
Make a photograph that captures true and genuine happiness.
Make a photograph that captures sorrow. Whether something personal to you or the overall mood of the image, try and capture a photograph that makes the viewer feel your sorrow behind the meaning of the photograph.
28. Shapes or Patterns
Photographing shapes or patterns is a great exercise for street photography.
Look for shapes or patterns around us found in everyday objects. It will help you become more aware of your surroundings. Your training your mind to always be thinking about composition.
29. Scavenger Hunt
Make a random list of things to find and go on an adventure for the day. Whether exploring a nearby city or hiking through the woods, you can include things on your list like a certain flower, an animal, shapes, photograph a stranger.
30. Learn Your Camera in the Dark
Go into a dark room and learn how to change the settings of your camera without looking. Once you know how to quickly change all of your camera settings without looking, you’ll see a huge improvement in your photography. You’ll have the confidence to move quickly through your settings. The more you practice the more it will become second nature.
31. One Aperture
Pick one aperture and shoot with only that aperture for 1 week. The second week, pick a different aperture and shoot with only that aperture all week. You can change your iso and shutter speed for the correct exposure. Often people buy a new lens with a wide aperture and then shoot every photo wide open. Pick a narrow aperture like f/8 and shoot that for one week. Then the next week go to 6.3, then the next week 5.6, etc. This project will teach you when it is best to shoot wide vs. narrow while keeping your exposure by balancing the exposure triangle.
32. One Lens
If you had to pick a favorite lens to shoot with for 1 year, what would you pick? Now challenge yourself to stick to using this lens for a duration of time. Shoot with one lens for a week, a month or a year.
33. Shoot a Film Camera
It’s okay to shoot old-school film. If for no other reason, you should try a film camera just for the experience. Many of today’s photographers started in the digital age and don’t know what it is like to achieve a properly exposed photo with a fully manual camera. Film cameras are very affordable these days because they aren’t very popular, but you might also have access to one that you could borrow for a few hours or days.
There isn’t much point in practicing with a film camera if you don’t have film or a way to develop it. You can use photo labs that still develop film for you and have them printed, or you can sign up to use a darkroom and develop your own photos. Developing your own photos is truly half the experience of using a film camera. It’s very much like Photoshop where you are in control of how the image turns out. College courses will often provide the resources you need for film photography.
TIP: Be patient. Working with and developing film is very time consuming and calculated. You’ll want to scream obscenities because it is not digital. But take the time to learn. Go for the experience of learning and understanding more about photography. If nothing else, the experience will teach you to appreciate the camera you have even more.
Some film cameras have a light meter built in for your convenience that will make the shoot go pretty well. If not, you will need a light meter to help properly expose your photo.
34. Shoot Polaroid
It’s so much fun having your photograph instantly printed! Even better it comes out with an awesome vintage look. It is an excellent way to practice good composition. Unlike when you shoot with film, Polaroids (or other various instant print camera brands) give you instant gratification.
35. Go Black and White
Stunning black and white photos have become something of a lost art. There are a lot of photos we take in color that would look absolutely amazing in black and white. Round up some of your recent photos and turn them black and white to see what you think. Do a black and white photo series where you really focus on going back to the silver lining of photography.
Black and white photography can be extremely helpful in creating a really strong focal point in the image. There is no color to distract you from what was being photographed.
TIP: Do not change your camera settings to shoot in black and white. Instead, convert it after the fact. If you don’t, I guarantee there will come a day when you forget to change that setting back and you find that several of your photos will forever be grayscale. Furthermore, there is editing software that will turn your photos black and white better than your camera could.
36. Shoot a Self-Portrait
You have heard this a few times around Improve Photography and on other sites, and now it’s time to give it a try. Take some self portraits and have fun with yourself by experimenting with different expressions and poses. Or try to achieve a certain lighting style with your flash gear so that you are not caught off guard the next time you’re on a shoot. The experience you gain through this self-practice will prove to be much more valuable than some silly alone time with yourself.
TIP: Mark the place you need to stand and use an object to focus your lens before you get in front of the camera. You will need to stand in the same place so you don’t loose the focus for your photo.
Have fun with this and really go after it. This will take you a bit longer to do because you’re a one man team. Find a place where you won’t feel self-conscious.
The race for the best cell phone camera is on… and it’s been going for the last several years! Whether you are an avid iPhone user or support the other guys, there is nothing to stop you from treating your cell phone as a professional camera.
There are a few things you will need to help get the most out of your cell phone:
Look into “Camera FV-5“- This will give you professional camera controls that you’re used to and allow you to get those shots you see on your DSLR.
For iPhone users, take a look at Slow Shutter for long exposures and PureShot for professional camera settings on the iPhone. If you are using the apps to take long exposures, you will need to steady your phone on a tripod or something. It’s not any different on a phone than it would be on your DSLR.
Since using your phone is so easy, all you need to do is find something to photograph. Instagram or Facebook your favorite shot from the shoot. Don’t forget to mention that it came from your phone!
Tracy Munson has written a couple articles filled with useful tips and suggested apps for phone photography. Be sure to read them here and here.
38. Photograph a Family Heirloom
Photo by Jim Harmer
We can all think of a few things from our childhood with priceless value. Think of that special family heirloom and all the memories that go with it. Think about the stories it would tell, if it could, and photograph that. The moment might be gone, but you can still make a photo that shares the often-retold story about this item. Your story might include a classic car that has traveled through the generations, a family bible that has brought peace, a rocking chair that supported a mother’s embrace, or a piano that endured countless hours of practice. No matter the story, it’s a part of who you are. Pick your favorite photo (or top 3) of the heirloom. Edit. Share with family members and include your memory of this item.
39. Floor Portraits
One awesome way to capture newborn photos that would make for a fun photo project on a rainy day is floor portraits. Yup! That’s right – stage a scene on the floor with your sleeping child and have a blast while they are too young to care. Newborn portraits can be very traditional and very much alike. By creating the scene, you instantly have something that is unique and interesting. Of course, you can have those traditional photos of your child… but let’s be honest: either we keep it interesting, or we die of boredom.
Be sure to check out Adele Enersen’s blog to see some fantastic examples of floor portraits. And don’t think you have to have a newborn to make floor portraits. It might be even more fun with the older kids.
Be creative with angles and different objects.
40. Make a REAL Portrait of a Loved One
We all have someone we love and care about. Take the time to make a professional photo of this person and give it to them. However, this photo needs to showcase something about who they are, where they work, or what they are passionate about. Ask people that know this person what they envision when they close their eyes and picture this person. This photo needs to tell a story and ultimately introduce your loved one to any stranger who is looking at the photo. You might already have an idea in mind (it could be your fondest memory of this person), but make plans now so that you can make this photo a reality. This will be a photo worth a thousand words, and something they will cherish for years to come.
41. Create a “Small World” Photo
This is a 360 degree shot stitched together to make a small world. Photo by Jim Harmer
These “small world” photos have a really awesome effect. The way it’s made is by standing in one spot and taking photos of everything you can see–the ground in front of you, the sky behind you, everywhere! Then you stitch all the photos together and it makes an awesome “small world” photo. For a more in-depth tutorial on how to do this, check out this tutorial.
42. Do Good with Your Photography
Not everyone has the opportunity to have a professional photo taken of themselves. They don’t know what it is like to see themselves in the best light or thought of as beautiful. Donate your time and talent to capture a precious moment for a family or to make someone feel more beautiful than they ever have before.
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
This is a program dedicated to connecting professional photographers with medical professionals and families who have suffered the death of their newborn child. Photographers are responsible for photographing a moment in time that captures the beautiful love between a mother and her child and the tender feelings of a father for his family.
Details for this program can be found by clicking here.
Created by professional photographer Jeremy Cowart, this charity event happens every December around the world. It’s an event dedicated to finding people in need and taking their portrait. It’s not about the money or our portfolios, but making a difference by giving a photo.
To learn more how you can be involved, or to start your own location of Help-Portrait in your city, click here.
43. Create a Photo Illusion
Creating a successful photo illusion will take some inspiration and effort. However, these can be a lot of fun to create when you have a supporting team who can see the vision as well. There are a lot of in-camera illusions you can create, but there is nothing stopping you from taking a series of photos and creating the illusion in Photoshop.
44. A-Z Photos
This is a great project for street photography. Doing this project will open your eyes to the world around you. You will look at things differently and contemplate whether or not you could make a photograph out of everything you see. Looking for objects that form the shape of a letter is no easy task, but can be done if your eyes are open. There are two parts to this; you can do both or just choose one to complete the project.
Letters: Go out and find objects that form the shape of each letter of the alphabet. That’s only 26 letters. Sounds easy enough, but you are not allowed to use actual lettering found on signs or buildings (that would be cheating).
Actions: The goal for this one is to photograph an action that starts with each letter of the alphabet. But here’s the catch: the photograph has to clearly show the action so there is no question about what word is being depicted.
Both: If you’re looking for a big project, photograph the action and the letter to go with it. Arrange the photos together any way you want to create a collage of the alphabet. This could be helpful for school teachers or creating a display for children. Let your imagination take you away on this one.
Find a location. The best places to consider are those with a lot of architecture and landscaping.
To get all the shots you need, you could be there a while. Make a list of what you have photographed so you don’t have to mentally keep track of 26 (or 52 if you’re doing both) images.
45. Shoot a Single Theme
Awesome Doors! Photo by Jim Harmer
Sometimes it helps to have a theme to keep our mind and interest engaged with our photos. It gives us purpose and a reason to look differently at things that we might have already photographed. Be specific in your theme so that it is obvious that the photo series was taken with particular intent.
A theme might include: color, the same type of flower, classic cars, your hometown, the life of a kid, homeless people, travel photography in a certain location… The list can go on and on. The idea is that your theme is specific but still gives you enough latitude to take interesting photographs.
TIP: Your photos need to obviously display the theme. For example: You’re doing a theme on the color yellow and you photograph a street sign against a lot of blue sky. Or a yellow dandelion found in the green grass at the park. What color did you intend to photograph? Make sure the focal point is clear to the viewer so your photo is a success.
46. Create a Cinemagraph (Animated GIFs)
All of us have seen Harry Potter and those mystical photos where people are moving in the frames. Have you ever wondered how you could do that yourself with your own photos? With the right idea, you could easily put this together and have a very creative animated GIF. Because these are animations, they can only be shared digitally.
TIP: For cinemagraphs to look creative and professional, only show subtle movement that’s easily detected. If you allow too much movement, it ruins the looped effect.
For a guide to making your own cinemagraphs, follow this tutorial.
Select the location and make plans for any models if needed. Takes only a few seconds of video for this, but try different angles and actions.
47. Highlights of Your Life
Re-create significant moments from your life and shoot them in a series: that time Jimmy Johnson next door gave you a black eye, hiking to a lighthouse with your father, going off to college, getting baptized, etc. Even cooler if you have your kids step in as the actors.
Find a location where you enjoy shooting landscapes, and then visit the location various times throughout the year. Photograph the same location every season in different weather conditions, different light, different compositions and using new creative ideas each time you go.
Thomas Hawk is a photographer who does a $2 homeless photo project. Whenever a poor person asks him for money, he pays them $2 to pose for a photo. Then the person will have earned the money by working for a few minutes while the photographer shoots, and he gets great photos of interesting people. I really hate business cliches, so I’m not sure if I should call this a win-win, or synergy. Either way, it’s a fantastic project.
50. Fairy Tales/Character Shoot
Take classic stories such as Little Red Riding Hood or other folk tales and take photos to illustrate the story. Aaron Grubb wrote a behind the scenes article on a similar idea that you can read here.
Do a project to shoot the geocaching locations around your city. I guarantee you’ll find fantastic new locations. If you’re new to this idea, check out this post where Jim explains how it works.
52. Emotional Self-Portraits
Take one self-portrait each day that shows your emotions and happenings of that day. Put together mood boards to help set the mood for your shoot to better capture what you envision. Try and create a self-portrait for every emotion and put together a gallery of emotional portraits. Create a personal gallery of your emotional series, either via print, portfolio or social media and be sure to share it.
53. Your City’s Architecture
Photo by Erika Sneeringer
Go shoot the beautiful buildings around your city at all different times of the day. I bet you’ll find some interesting buildings that you’d never noticed before. Look up the history and owner of that building and share your images with the current owners.
54. Home Town Charm
Photo by Erika Sneeringer
Think about what you love about the town you live in. Something specific that when you see or think of something, it reminds you of that town. Put together a series of photographs capturing one of your city’s charming qualities. For example, Charleston, South Carolina’s azaleas or Spanish moss and oak trees. Or Baltimore, Maryland’s ivy covered buildings.
55. Your Meals
Take a picture of one meal a day for a month. Not only is this a convenient way to count calories, you can really learn lighting by learning food photography.
Photo by Erika Sneeringer
56. Food Fight
No, I don’t mean throwing food. I mean to let your imagination run a little wild. Imagine little stories with the food in your refrigerator and shoot photos to illustrate the tales.
57. Downtown Fashions
Do street photography of the most interestingly dressed people in the downtown area of your city. No matter where you live, you’ll find more interesting people than you might expect. Spend several nights downtown and you’re guaranteed to get some fantastic shots.
58. A Day in the Life
Find someone you find interesting and shoot their whole day. Alternatively, you could do a day in the life of a group of people. For example, you could do A Day in the Life of University of Maryland students. If you were doing this project, you could take pictures all over campus at different hours of one day and show all the interesting things that happen there. You could also pick one location and take pictures all day of the different interesting things that happen in that spot throughout the day.
59. Lifestyle Documentary
Photo by Erika Sneeringer
Find a family that will allow you to follow them around for a few days documenting their life. Capture everyday moments of their routines. If you pick a family as your subject, spend a week with them. You can make each day focus on a different person of that family. Capture the moments they are together and what their day is like when they are apart. When your project is complete, you can put together a slideshow to create a lifestyle documentary.
Pretend to be a photojournalist for a week. Where will you find the news? If you live in the United States, you can download a free app for your smartphone that gives you access to the police radio channels. That will help to find interesting things! Just make sure you do it legally. Submit your photos to your local newspaper and/or tag your newspaper in the photos on social media.
61. Social Issues
Find a social issue that is important to you and take photos to highlight the struggle. For example, you could do a photo project about teen obesity, the elderly, immigrant farm workers, black lives matter protests, etc.
62. Working Hard
Think of a few interesting professions around your home and take an environmental portrait of many people while at work. You might recall Jim's photo shoot of a cab driver as an example.
63. The Middle of the Day
I see too many photographers using “I can’t shoot because it’s the middle of the day” as an excuse. You can make terrific photos during the day if you learn to do it right. Go shoot during your noon lunch hour for a month and you’ll learn how to do it. I go out and explore on my lunch break all the time and I have captured a some beautiful shots.
64. Project 365
Photo by Erika Sneeringer
A project 365 is a project where your goal is to take one photograph every day, all year long. A 365 (or 366 for a leap year) is quite a challenge! Some people may say that a project 365 is to post a photo on social media everyday. This can be way too daunting and lead you to failure. If you want to be successful in your personal 365 project, then keep it personal. Take a picture every single day but don’t pressure yourself to post it all on social media. There will be times when you will get behind on editing and that is ok, as long as you keep hitting that shutter button every single day.
A project 365 will make you push yourself to see everyday things in a more creative way. You will go on more adventures, find yourself always looking for a good composition and hunting for good light. It is a way to push and challenge your creativity. The most beneficial thing to achieve from a project 365 is to watch your own growth as a photographer. Believe it or not, a project 365 is not a myth! I personally completed my own project 365 in 2015. My only regret is not keeping it going in 2016. You can read all about my personal journey with a 365 here.
65. Specific 365
If you want to push yourself even further, try a specific genre to stick to for a 365. For examples shoot only macro for 365 days.
66. Project 52
If you think a 365 is too much of a commitment, challenge yourself to a project 52. This challenge is to take one photography every week for the entire year, which is 52 weeks.
67. Traveling Theme
Pick a theme of something to photograph as you travel around the world. For example, Jeanette Birkholm in the Thoughts on Photography Facebook Group said that she takes photographs of spectacular graffiti everywhere that she travels.
68. Sports Photography
Photo by Erika Sneeringer
Go to a local high school and photograph a sporting event. Get in contact with the school and offer your pictures to them to be printed in their yearbook. Post on social media and ask people to tag your photos. Giving away your photos will not only gain exposure but will get your name out there while showing everyone your quality of work. Be sure to connect with the coaches and teammates. They will keep you in mind when the time comes for team pictures. Additionally, maybe by photographing a sport that you haven’t photographed before you will find a new niche that you really enjoy.
69. Sports Themed Shoot
Instead of photographing a sports game, plan out a sports themed shoot. Find a volunteer, whether your own child, niece, nephew, cousin or even a neighborhood kid.
Pick a sport that the volunteer enjoys and plan a shoot that matches that theme. Find a location, bring props and then practice off camera flash for a dramatic lighting portrait.
70. Empowering Women
Lori Bockelken mentioned in the Thoughts on Photography Facebook Group that she has an ongoing project called “Empowering Women Thru the Lens”. It is a lifestyle shoot for women who think they would never experience a photo shoot like a top model. Additionally, she is also working on a project that includes women in their sixties and photograph their beauty at that age.
71. People Wearing….
Paul Eyedream Travis shared in the Thoughts on Photography Facebook Group that he has a personal project photographing people wearing hats. His reason behind the project is to practice lighting styles. This reminds me of a photography project I did years ago that I called “October Scarves”. I photographed a portrait of my daughter wearing a different scarf every day for the month of October. It helped me practice various off camera flash techniques.
Hats, scarves… comment below to let us know of some other other ideas that you can come up with to expand on this concept.
72. Pet portraits
Taking portraits of pets. Make your theme as specific or broad as you want. Cats of West Baltimore or Pets of Maryland. Ask around your neighborhood if anyone will volunteer their pets for a personal photography project. Take notes from an expert, Tracy Munson, a photographer and veterinarian who shares some amazing tips here.
Photo by Erika Sneeringer
73. Shoot for an Animal Shelter
After learning some tips from Tracy, volunteer at a local animal shelter to take pictures of new animals as they come in. Better photographs of their animals will help them find homes.
74. Fashion Shoot
Photo by Erika Sneeringer
Have a daughter, niece or cousin? Get together a group of girls and throw a modeling party. Bring tons of props, order pizza, blast the latest pop music and just have some fun! The girls will love playing dress up, having their pictures taken and pretending to be models for a couple of hours. After the shoot, send them all links to their own private online gallery for them to download and share to social media.
75. Daily Prompts
Check out Google or Pinterest for daily prompts. There are a lot of websites that put together a month's worth of daily prompts. The lists vary and give you a theme or idea for you to photograph that day. Most of them have groups on social media that you can share your photographs and view other people’s photographs. It will help you think outside the box when you see what some other people come up with.
76. 52 Sunsets
Photograph one sunset a week for an entire year. One idea is to pick one location to visit every week, mixing up your composition.
Photo by Erika Sneeringer
Another idea is to pick 52 different locations for a variety of sunsets. If you travel a lot, it would be great to have 52 sunsets from all different locations.
77. Faceless Portraits
Do a series of faceless portraits. This is a great way to get more creative with portraits. Take photographs of the details of someone’s hands, their lips, shoes, a silhouette. Something that captures that person but without it being just a portrait of their face.
78. Play in the Rain
Photo by Erika Sneeringer
Don't let the rain keep you from going out and shooting!
Grab an umbrella and throw on your rain boots. Take some photographs of people walking around in the rain. If you have children, let them run around and play in the rain. You can use a fast shutter speed to stop the rain as it falls or a slow shutter speed to capture the movement of the rain. You can use an off camera flash to back light the rain for a really cool effect. Either way, shooting in the rain you'll come up with some really cool shots.
79. Reflection Portraits
Take pictures of reflections in and around your town. You can use wet street surfaces or puddles of rain. You can do reflections of city lights, buildings, trees, flowers, portraits… you get the idea.
80. Abstract Reflections
Try to get some abstract reflections.
Photo by Erika Sneeringer
Get artsy with your bokeh.
Photo by Erika Sneeringer
81. Abstract Art
Speaking of abstract. Have you tried abstract photography? Aaron Taylor, an Ohio photographer, recently shared some creative abstract work that he did with a local workshop, UA Creative You can view some of his abstract photography here.
82. Storm Chaser
Don’t let the thunderstorm keep you from photographing. Be brave and get out there chasing the storms for some awesome and dramatic landscape photography. There are several articles with tips on chasing storms for photography that you can read here and here.
83. Botanical Gardens
Sometimes it rains for weeks or winter has dragged on for months with no end in sight and you just need to photograph some beautiful flowers! It doesn’t need to be spring or nice weather for floral photography. Visit a local botanical garden or nursery. They usually have displays year round that change every month.
You don’t need an underwater camera or housing to get underwater shots. Go to a local aquarium and shoot the exhibits. Bring a polarizing filter to cut out the glare on the glass so you can’t tell that you are actually at an aquarium.
85. Hunt for a Rainbow
Wait until you see the sun peaking through the clouds and go hunting for rainbows. Check out this article for tips on how to predict when and where a rainbow will appear.
86. Organize your Photos
Are the photos on your computer organized? This is one task that often gets overlooked for a long time. Then you keep putting it off because it becomes so daunting. Keep your photos more organized. Check out this article for tips on organizing your photos in Lightroom. Jim Harmer put together an amazing tutorial called Lightroom Medic that you can view if you are a member of Improve Photography Plus. If you are not a member, be sure to check it out and start your free trial today!
87. Organize Learning Materials
If you find yourself constantly reading photography tips through books, tutorials, blogs, downloading ebooks, etc., sometimes it is hard to remember where you read a certain tip. Organize all of your learning materials. Create a binder, print tutorials and blog posts and put everything in one convenient location. Brian Pex wrote a detailed article with several suggestions to get your learning materials organized that you can read here.
88. Try New Lenses
Most photographers have a list of gear they want to buy. Before you drop hundreds or thousands of dollars on a new lens, you might want to test it out to make sure it is right for you. First, if you aren’t really sure what new lens you want check out the Lens Finder to see suggested lenses. Now, visit Brent Rents Lenses and rent the lens before you commit to a purchase. Use offer code “improve” at checkout for 15% off your first rental.
Do some research and see if you can find a local camera store in your area that rents gear. Renting locally will be cheaper than any online rental store because you wont have to pay for any shipping. Plus, you get the added benefit of meeting someone in your area to talk photography and gear with. Renting is the perfect way to test drive a lens. You may find out that the lens you’ve been swooning over for months you really don’t want after trying it. Or you may find out that you must have that lens right now because it is so amazing your photography will never be the same again without it!
89. Portfolio Review
Put together your best photographs for a portfolio review. You can submit your photos for an in depth review that will provide honest and professional advice that will help bring your photography to another level. If you are looking for a free option, you can also tag your photos on Instagram with #ipcritique for a chance to have the hosts of Improve Photography critique your photographs.
Now that you’ve put together your best photographs, update your website. Do you like the platform you are using? Is it easy to update? I find that Squarespace is an amazing host for my website. It is easy to use and takes me minutes to update my website. Plus, if you use offer code “improve” at checkout, you get 10% off the first month.
If you’re updating your website, have you considered starting a blog? Are you stuck in a blogging rut, finding yourself only posting photos from your most recent session? Think about ways to expand your photography blog which will improve your SEO. Check out this amazing article full of tips on ways to bring more traffic to your blog. Improve your SEO and step up your blogging game with this free blogging crash course for the improve photography audience by SEO expert, Benjamin Tuner.
92. Stock Photography
Put together your best product and still life photography and spend some time submitting them to stock photography websites.
93. Set Up a Home Studio
You don’t need a lot of expensive gear to set up a home studio. Follow our tutorial to setup a home studio on the cheap!
A home studio just might be the answer to completing the first 3 suggestions on this list. It could also be a great space to have during the colder months of the year and want to bring your clients indoors. Creating a home studio doesn’t have to be complicated or overly expensive, the biggest challenge will be having the space to make it happen. Check out these articles to help you get started:
14 Tips for Building a Sub-$1,000 Home Studio
How to Get that “Photo Studio Look” without the Photo Studio
Jim’s Inexpensive Flash Photography Buyer’s Guide
TIP: Don’t feel obligated to buy everything all at once to create a home studio. Put it together piece by piece so that you can understand how things work for you in your space. Here’s an article on 10 creative portrait backdrops on a budget that you may want to check out as you get started.
Evaluate the space you can use and the gear you already have. Make a list of anything else you might need to make this become a reality for you.
Now that you have your list, go shopping! Use our Recommended Gear page to see what we use in our own studio.
94. Gather Photography Props
Photo by Erika Sneeringer
The key to successful photographs of any genre – PROPS! Props can make a night and day difference in a photo. Whether babies, couples, families, food or even product photography, props can help tell a story to better express the interest of the subject in the photo. Props don’t have to be vintage or wonky to merit having. They could be simple things like footballs, chairs, hats, scarves, flowers, different types of clothes, etc.
TIP: The best place to start looking for props is your grandma’s closet. After that, head on over to a local donation center (such as Goodwill or Salvation Army) and see what you can find. Don’t spend a fortune on props!
This might take a while. See what you can round up in your closets and garages. Then go shopping for different things that you think might work well in a photo. Don’t look for a specific shopping list of items; instead, be open to what you do find and think of ways it could be used.
If you’re looking for more clients, spend a few hours developing better marketing strategies. Check out these helpful articles to get you started:
Insanely Creative Marketing Ideas for Professional Photographers
10 Business Tips For Becoming Paid Weekend Warrior Photographer
96. Client Testimonials
If you are upping your marketing strategy, consider contacting former clients and ask them to provide testimonials for your website. Ask them if they will consider writing a personal testimonial about your services. Instead of sending them a questionnaire to fill out, ask them to fill it out as if they were talking to their best friend. The way that they write will be more genuine and what your clients really want to hear. For example, instead of them saying “we had a great shoot and she provided professional pictures” they might say instead, “my kids were running around like crazy but she still got amazing pictures.” Or better yet, “I felt so fat but she posed me in a way that is so flattering that I look as beautiful as I feel!”
Meet your clients for coffee if they have time. Ask them ways that you can improve your services. Ask your clients what they were most worried about before your photo session. Did their fears come true? If not what happened instead? Then ask what you did or didn't do to make them comfortable during your shoot. Listen to their suggestions as you want to keep your clients happy so that they come back for more.
97. Mini Session
Plan a “Mini Session” event for the next season and/or holiday. Spring and Fall are the best seasons because the weather is cooler for outdoor shoots. Spring is perfect because everyone is anxious to get outdoors after a cold winter. Fall is great because everyone wants to get the colorful foliage backdrops just in time for holiday cards.
Think about the upcoming holidays and which would be great for mini sessions. Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Back to School Shoot. Write a blog post about your mini session and post the links to social media.
98. Discount Neighbors
Get involved with your neighborhood. Whether through an online Facebook group, a book club or being a part of the homeowners’ association board. Meet people and spread the word that you are a photographer. Pass out flyers or post on social media that you will give discounts to anyone that books a session that lives in your neighborhood. Give print credit to any client that refers a client, to be redeemed after the referral session is complete. People love seeing words like “Sale”, “Discount” and “Coupon”.
Contact local coffee shops and galleries to inquire how how you can get your work hung at their location. Then, prepare your work for a gallery showing. First, you will want to cull through your images to select your favorite photos. Narrow down those images even further to your very best. You may want to decide on a theme. Then print your photos through a professional lab. (See the tested and top recommended labs here.) Now, you will want to decide on uniform matting and framing. You can look on Amazon, look for coupons at a local print shop or check out some frames at places like Ikea. The frames and mattes should all be the same for a cohesive professional look.
TIP: To make this process go faster in the future, create collections of your best work in Lightroom and add your favorites as they are taken. Then when it comes time to cull through your best work, it will be much faster having all of your favorites in one collection.
100. Business Cards
Maybe you don’t have any business cards or maybe you have some old outdated ones that you just can’t stand the sight of anymore. Try a new template and update your cards. I don’t recommend using business cards that include your photographs on them. This is for a couple of reasons. One, you will get sick of looking at the picture(s) on your business cards. Second, your photography should always be improving. This means that in a few months you will be producing photographs that will be much better than the pictures you put on your business cards. It can get costly to update your business cards with new pictures every time you feel like your photography has improved. It is better to have your business cards point your clients to your website, where they can see your most recent portfolio. Keep your business cards clean and simple yet professional looking.
101. Set Up Your Photography Business Legally
Now that you have upped your marketing game, your blogging more to improve SEO and even have some new and improved business cards, it may be time to think about making your business legit by registering your company.
From selecting your business name to deciding on an LLC vs. sole proprietorship, you can read everything you need to know about how to set up your photography business legally right here.
Have any other photography project suggestions? Please comment below and help inspire someone that may be on the hunt for a new project.
About the Author
Erika Sneeringer is an independent columnist for Improve Photography, a litigation paralegal and hobbyist photographer living in Baltimore, Maryland USA. Outside of photography, her favorite activities are hiking and exploring the outdoors with her family. You can view Erika’s portfolio here or follow her on Instagram at esneer1.
In my 20 years in photography, I’ve seen a lot of different assignments teachers have given their students. Most I have heard, or been given myself from time to time, have centered around learning to use the camera. Things like “Use Only One Exposure Mode”, “Use Only One Lens”, or “Use One Aperture Setting”. The most interesting to me, from a photographic standpoint, involved learning to see. The reason I say this is that simple camera use can be easily learned. It’s basic math when you boil it down. But learning to see creatively, learning to compose a shot, takes much more than learning buttons, dials, and controls. These self assignments force you to look around you, to really see what you’re shooting and try to make interesting images.
1. Pick A Color
Pick up your camera and choose a color for the day. Go out and make images with that color as a dominant element in the image. Find as many different ways as possible to do this.
This image I went in search of things red. 1/320, f/7.1, ISO 1000. EOS 5D Mark II, EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro.
2. Pick A Shape
Choose a shape and create images which use that shape in an interesting way. It could be features in architecture, artwork, or juxtaposition of multiple structures. Squares are relatively easy. Start there, and then search out triangles, circles, or combinations of shape. Again, look for the most interesting composition you can to highlight that shape in your image.
I ventured into Central Park in New York City without a real game plan in mind. I found a sundial and started shooting that, and then went in search of more circles. Found this ironwork and used it to frame a pair of lovers in a rowboat. 1/160. f/2.8, ISO 100. EOS 5D Mark III, EF 24-70 f/2.8L II at 24mm.
3. Shoot Something Different
If you’re like me, you probably have one type of subject you gravitate to more than any other. But it’s easy to get too comfortable, and miss opportunities to make great images, when you’re only looking for one thing. Once in a while it’s a good idea to change things up and shoot something different. If you’re a sports shooter, try shooting a still life. If you’re a landscape artist, try shooting macro. These types of exercises forces you out of your comfort zone and helps you learn to see in a new way.
Normally I’m a landscape guy first. But I decided I wanted to try a still life of one of the tools of my trade. I used some black plexi as the table, and black matte board for the background. I used a single speedlite in a softbox above and behind the subject. EOS 5D Mark II with EF 24-70 f/2.8L II. 1/200, f/8, ISO 100.
4. Shoot Reflections
Reflections are a powerful element in photography, but I’m almost embarrassed to admit how long it took me to actually start SEEING them. I had a “lightbulb moment” one day when shooting with a friend of mine, and since then, I am constantly looking for reflections as an element in my work, whether it be portraits, landscapes, or still lifes.
This is probably the most photographed puddle in New England, but it’s great for producing a reflection of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. Reflections add interest to images so always be on the lookout. EOS-1D Mark IV, EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II. ISO 100, 1/20, f/16.
5. The 15 Foot Circle
Stand in the center of a room, or wherever you happen to be. Make photographs only of subjects that happen to be within 15 feet (or 10, or 5) of where you’re standing. Give yourself a time limit. Exhaust all possibilities. Get as many images as you can using only that area before moving on. This kind of exercise forces you to really look at things and work to compose interesting images.
I was standing in a dining room at the holidays last year and decided to try the 15 foot circle. This was a line of candles on a fireplace mantle. EOS-1D X with EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II. ISO 400, 1/250, f/2.8.
For beginners, these assignments are great for learning to see. For more experienced photographers, these are great ways to stay fresh, to restart the creative eye when you’re feeling blocked, or to just do something different. What other self assignments have you tried to refresh your photographic vision?