How to Start a Personal Photo Project

Learning how to make a beautiful image that stands on its own takes time. However, making a body of work that flows together well can present another challenge entirely. What are the first steps a person can take toward starting a personal project of their very own? Above all, keeping open eyes and an open mind. After all, as photographer Doug McKinlay proves in this video, sometimes beauty can be found in the strangest of places:

Detritus, which can encompass any sort of waste, debris, or rubbish, doesn’t immediately strike most of us as a potentially remarkable subject. However, McKinlay reveals that the key to creating a great image doesn’t necessarily lie in subject matter alone.

Sure, detritus can be taken literally. Especially in photography, one man’s trash is often another man’s treasure. Though the subject can occasionally be revolting, the things we leave behind may have interesting colors, textures, or shapes that contribute to a stunning image.

decaying fruit

However, when creating a body of work, you may also want to consider seeking out visual metaphors. For instance, when working with the theme of detritus, a fallen leaf may not seem to fit in at first glance. Yet, just as we leave piles of garbage in our wake, the trees around us shed away these remnants of spring and summer once they’re no longer needed. Take a critical look at the society, environment, and nature surrounding you; chances are, hidden away in there, you’ll find something that fits within the parameters of the concepts that interest you most.

detail view of leaf veins

McKinlay signs off with an excellent point. Every photographer strives to take great photos. But, if you’re looking to further progress as an artist and image maker, you have to learn how to make great images with intention and care.

“Personal projects are great devices that help with your workflow, your organizational skills, and ultimately, making better pictures.”

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