We’ve all been stuck in that rut before – when you wake up one day and it feels like there’s nothing left to take photos of. My job requires me to take a lot of photos that have to follow a lot of rules and guidelines. So personally, I find that my photography ruts begin during times when I work too hard and I forget why I love taking photos in the first place. So I try to look for projects that help me remember my passion for photography, and inspire me emotionally, at the same time.
Photography projects will help get you back onto a creative track. They don’t have to be overly complex but should help you focus on things that you love and most importantly, motivate you. If a project is constraining you in terms of timelines and pressure, it isn’t going to help you get out of your rut. You can use a SLR camera or your smartphone, or a combination of both.
You should share your progress to help inspire other people who may be stuck in a rut as well, whether you do so through social media or a blog. It can also be fun to turn all of the photos into a photo book or video slideshow, once you've completed the project.
1) The A to Z project
The A to Z project is a simple exercise that should help you think out of the box on those morning commutes to work or long walks home. It will help you to open your eyes and become more aware of your surroundings by challenging your brain to find an item to photograph that corresponds with a letter of the day. I know it may sound a bit elementary and overly simple but it’s a good way to get yourself into “project mode” by following a timeline you can accomplish (26 days for 26 letters).
2) The Passion Project
The rules of this project are simple: take a photo of something you love everyday for as many days as you want. Make sure it’s something you haven’t really taken a lot of photos of before but have always been interested in. It could be anything from sunsets to the typography on store signs. This project is all about forcing your “eye” to pick out things instantly in a crowd. I think about it like being a spy on a mission to find my chosen subject among all the distractions of daily life. The beauty of it is that when you’re done with one passion, you can always move on to a new one!
3) The 100 Day Project
This project wants you to answer the question “what could you do with 100 days of making?”. Choose a creative endeavour that you can perform for 100 days. It can be anything from doing a quick sketch, writing a haiku, doing a silly dance or singing in the shower, but the key is that you have to be able to document it and upload it to your Instagram account. What I love about this project is that it hits two birds with one stone; it forces you to practice photography and a creative activity that you always wanted to do!
4) Insta Therapy
There are times when our inability to take great photographs are an outward expression of our inward turmoil. Graphic designer Timothy Goodman’s “Insta-therapy” is a project where he takes photos of lettered quotes he creates that details different experiences, thoughts and stories. More than the visual aspect, the idea is to let your photographs share what you are feeling that day, to be able to connect with people. It can be very cathartic if you are struggling emotionally.
5) 100 Happy Days
The premise of this project is simple: take a photo of what makes you happy everyday. It’s all about taking note of the little things: the coffee that you get everyday, the way the sun shines through your living room window or even your cat. The project aims to help people become more aware of what makes people happy everyday while serving as a collective set of photographs that people can look back on to help them feel better even when the challenge is over! Best of all you can start this challenge anytime.
6) Photo A Week Challenge/Project 365/A Day in the Life
All these projects involve taking photos for a set period of time, either daily, weekly or for every hour for an entire day. The idea is to always be practising and not go for long periods of time without picking up your camera.
The trick to avoiding burn-out with challenges like these, is to write a list of things you want to capture before you get started, so you don’t run out of ideas. For example, choosing some activities or experiences you want to cross off your life “bucket list” and capture in photos, or even particular focusing on specific photographic skills, such as mastering lots of different types of light.
Image taken by Blake Lumley
Some people think they've failed if they miss a few days or weeks, and give up, but as long as you have your list to go back to, you’ll always have something to keep you interested. You might also find there are times when you want to post more than one photo. As long as you are learning and enjoying yourself, you’re achieving what you set out to do – pushing yourself creatively.