As we usher 2014 out of the back door and welcome in 2015 through the front, some of us might be turning our thoughts to selecting a photographic project to last us the next 12 months. We've put together eight suggestions for projects that you can focus on with as much vigour or as vague an interest as you have energy. All of them should, in some way, help you to develop and progress as a photographer, either by presenting you with a discipline to practise or because they deliberately focus your attentions on a specific aspect of photography. Whichever project you choose—one of these or any other—what it needs to be is equal parts challenging and fun. It must stretch you just enough so that learn something, but not so much that you're overwhelmed. And you must always want to be engaged with it.
There are at least three different approaches that you can take to this particular challenge:
- Select a letter and attempt to photograph as many items beginning with it over the course of a year
- Work your way through the alphabet, photographing items starting with each letter in a given style
- Or look for letters and photograph them to make an alphabet collection.
Alphabety-spaghetti might be a good place to start.
Take on the elements
There's antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium Europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium And gold and protactinium and indium and gallium And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium...
Or, you know, earth, water, wind, and fire - if you want to be boring like that.
Photograph an essay
When we were at school, we wrote essays. Now you have the opportunity to photograph an essay, and it can be about something that actually interests you, if the veracity of Richard, Duke of York's claim to the throne wasn't your thing. So find a topic you are passionate about—your football team, your community allotments, anything—and take a series of photos attempting to capture the essence and spirit of it. Tell its story.
Photograph a journal
Take photos about yourself. Try treating your camera like your diary for a week, a month, even the whole year. This doesn't have to mean self-portraits, in fact far from it, it could be anything that reveals a little bit about what you have done or thought or felt. Share or don't share - but as well as using it to chart your life, you can also use it to chart your photographic improvement if you analyse and critique your work as you go.
Master the Old Masters' lighting
While we wouldn't suggest going to such lengths as murdering someone in their bath to recreate David's The death of Marat, the lighting in the picture is exceptional. Studying it and attempting to design a similar set-up would challenge your lighting brain and help you to develop your skills with natural light, ambient light, and reflectors as well as artificial sources. By no means feel that you should start or end with David, either. Look at the work of any painter and see how well you can do to render the light they captured in their works.
Play with a pinhole
Getting back to the basics of pinhole photography—light and a box—won't just help you to hone your compositional skills and your ability to look for light, but, at least if you're anything like me, will serve as a reminder to why you love photography so much. The absence of photographic bells and whistles is everything that you need to grow as a photographer.
Teach yourself, or learn, something new
Do you want to learn how to develop your own photos? Sign up for a course! Do you want to have a go at HDR? Buy some books, read some articles, and have a go! Do you find infrared photography intriguing? Pick up an IR pass filter (or make one yourself) and experiment! Do you fancy trying nude photography but aren't sure where to start? Have a read of this article and take it from there!
Work on your weakness
If you critique your photos on a regular basis, you'll probably realise that there's something with which you struggle, a recurring weakness that either lets down your images or from which you shy away because you can't get it right. Now's the time to work on it. Whether it's portraits giving you palpitations or knowing your landscapes are lacklustre, make a concerted efforted to go out and photograph more of them, evaluate them, photograph them even more, and improve.