Are you tired of always leaving your personal projects unfinished? Or do you lose your motivation halfway through? Here are some tips to see you from start to finish, whatever your project is about!
Even with the best intentions in the world, it's easy to leave images unedited and projects abandoned halfway through. Personal life quickly gets in the way, as do professional priorities. But how can we help ourselves stay on the track and take our projects from just an idea through to the final touches?
You Need to Figure Out What You Are Trying to Achieve
It seems obvious, but if you do not have very clear intentions on what you are trying to achieve with your photography project, it is unlikely it will ever be finished. It is not difficult to get random bursts of inspiration and start numerous projects as and when we feel like it, but if you do not have clear aims and step-by-step objectives on how to achieve them, then how will you ever know what your project is actually about and how to execute it? It's tempting to just jump straight into the fun bit of shooting and editing, but if you don't sit down and write down at least a title and several steps you need to take to complete the project, you will likely lose that inspiration and try to seek it elsewhere with something fresh, leaving your project unfinished.
Treat your photography project like any other professional venture or research. Write down a title, or at least brainstorm several ones that may change throughout the project. And, more importantly, note down achievable steps you need to take to get to the finish line. There is no need to create an elaborate and grand project that is impossible to achieve with your current schedule and resources. Instead, be realistic with what you are planning, and you will be more likely to get it done. Breaking down a creative project works the same way as any other project: you need actionable steps that will help you progress through. Use a method that works for you, whether it is a spreadsheet on your laptop or a good old handwritten to-do list.
What Is the Final Outcome?
When planning your to-dos for the project, consider what the final product is. Are you planning on creating a dedicated website for your project? This means setting time and resources aside for website design. Are you thinking of printing a set of portfolio images that are presented in a box? Or, what about a beautiful lay-flat photography book that allows you not only to display images but also add any text, such as the description of the project, image titles, quotes, poetry, or anything else that may be suitable?
Once you know what the final destination is, that will help you when shooting, composing, editing, and exporting your images. For example, if you are planning on printing your images in a book, you will need to decide on the format of it. There are so many options available out there, from small pocket-size books to luxurious albums, but each one of them will suit different types of imagery, which should be considered before you finish shooting and editing all your images. The last thing you want is to realize half of your images don't fit in the type of book you have settled on!
You Need a Deadline
Without a deadline, your project can go on forever, meaning it will never get done. As creatives, we can easily get lost in the artistic process, which can be a blessing but also a curse. You do not need to limit yourself by giving yourself a rushed project. A realistic deadline, which takes into consideration your personal and professional responsibilities will help you organize yourself. Actionable steps combined with a reasonable deadline are the main things you need to get from just an idea to proudly showcasing your project.
Each individual will have a varying degree of personal accountability but it's always better to have a slightly missed deadline than a never completed one. When mentoring others in personal photography, I make a note of treating your photography projects the same way you treat other tasks in your life. If you are committed to attending a regular weekend course in languages, arts, cooking, or anything else, then that's exactly how you treat your photography project. You specifically block out time in your diary for it and you give it a deadline because that is, I believe, the only way to truly watch yourself progress, whether it is a three-month long project or one that takes several years to complete.
Open Yourself to Changes
Things don't always unfold the way we intend, and the same applies to photography projects. It's possible that something you planned and visualized doesn't necessarily translate into what you had in mind, which can be hard for some of us to swallow. When you have put all your heart and soul into something and it's not progressing how you want it to, it is easy to become frustrated and give up. But sometimes, we have to let things go and change the course of action. Don't let situations like these bring you down and instead embrace the changes, because it is still a step closer to completing your project!
There are many situations we have no control over: if you are basing your project around social photography, such as street photography, then the fate of your project is in the hands of your subjects. People are unpredictable, and many street photographers can go home empty-handed, having been looking for that one particular shot all day long. Do not beat yourself up if you have to slightly alter the course of your project mid-way through, because it is better to adapt than to keep pursuing the same things over and over again with no progress.
But, Don't Let Others Sway You
When there's an audience, there's always an opinion, wanted or unwanted. The beauty of personal photography projects is that you are the only person they need to please. There are no judges, critics, or masses to appeal to. It is likely that your friends, family members, or other photographers may be curious about what you are doing. If they offer friendly advice or criticism in regards to how you are pursuing your project, take it with a pinch of salt and only take on board advice that you find beneficial. If you are using your photography projects as a way to express yourself and create something that you are proud of, you do not need to alter your project every time someone gives unsolicited advice. Don't forget to truly enjoy the process of creating something personal that makes you excited and maintains that passion for photography, art, and learning something new.
Although nowadays, almost everything we do has a digital footprint, don't feel obliged to post and share your project online. It's up to you to make that decision, but make sure that you do it first and foremost for yourself. Treat it like painting, writing poetry, or doing crafts; it's a safe space where you can be unapologetically yourself and enjoy being creative while leaving something tangible for yourself to look back on in years to come.