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Improve Your Photography - Top 5 Photography Projects

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A great way to improve your technique is with a photography project, setting yourself goals or projects, not only helps to focus us as photographers but also aids us when inspiration is failing (we all go through these blocks). But it is not just the focus that helps us improve, with projects set you are far more likely to be out taking photos and with the more images you capture you will find your photographs improve.

This is a list of our top 5 projects but there are many more that people can and do set, find one or more that suits you and see what you achieve.

1: The 365 Project.

The 365 project is probably one of the commonest projects that photographers set themselves put simply it is a project to take a photo a day for a whole year. While this seems easy at first glance, to really achieve this you will need dedication and the ability to find 5 mins every day to capture the shot (for those with less time a 52 photo project might be a good way to start, one photo a week for a whole year).

The main goal of a 365 project is to get you out taking photos, as this is how you will improve, I believe it was Henri Cartier-Bresson who said your first 10000 photographs are your worst, he wasn?t wrong. But it must also be said that this type of project also means you learn to always have your gear ready in case the moment strikes.

I plan on doing this project myself in 2013 (Fatphotographer's 365 project), but there are many groups and people whose projects of this type can be found on http://www.flickr.com

2: 50 Strangers.

A challenging concept and one many will not be comfortable with but pushing your boundaries can really make a difference to your work. The idea for this project is to take photographs of 50 strangers, but not in a street type way or from a distance, no, with this project you will need to ask permission to capture their portraits.

The challenge here is not only to take you out of your comfort zone and get you interacting with others it is also a way to teach you how to find the best way to photograph people, to capture their essence without knowing anything about them prior to the photo shoot.

Personally I would struggle with this one (I?m not the most confident of people) but I would love to hear of any successes, please let me know via the feedback link (I may even post a link to your work).

3: Ongoing documentary.

The most open and varied of our listed projects, the idea behind this is to pick a (local) subject matter and try to document it as well as you can. Again the idea is to get you thinking about your photography, planning what you want to achieve and then thinking about how you will go about it.

You could be documenting anything, from the local housing, to local people, an area you visit regularly or the local nature, the choice will be decided by your favoured genre, I have set myself a goal of photographing all the local dragonfly species (see Dragonflies of Milton Keynes), there aren?t huge numbers but they can be a challenge to photograph and thinking about how I want the photos to look (flight, extreme macro etc.) makes the project more of a learning experience.

4: One spot 12 photos.

The idea behind this project is to see one site in different ways, taking one photo a month of the same scene will teach you a lot about the changing light of different seasons, it also makes for an interesting view on how the location will change (from a purely aesthetic approach). Similarly you could take photos of the same location throughout the day (once an hour), again this will teach you about how light changes through the day (and why the golden hours of light are nicer to photograph in).

5: Alphabet.

It?s a simple as A to Z really, you take one photo that represents each letter of the alphabet, how the image represents the letter is where your skill or interpretation comes to the fore. Things can be as obvious or as abstract as you like.

The learning process that this project offers is once again about planning, thinking through your photograph and what you want to use to represent each letter gets you considering subject, composition, genre etc.

As you can see these projects are all long term and are aimed at getting you out there taking photographs, this is where your improvements will come, taking more photos will improve your skills more than reading any book (in my opinion); The projects also server to teach you to plan and think about your photography at a deeper level. All too often we just go out and snap what we see, learning to plan your photographs will lead to much better images.

Hopefully some of you will try these projects, if you do, please get in contact and let me know how you find them, and if you have them on the net send me the links and I?ll add them below.

Ashley Beolens