Building a body of work
When I first began my interest in photography, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to shoot, so I created images of flowers, the ocean, people and any number of things I found interesting. It wasn’t until I took some formal photo training that I was given assignments to shoot a specific subject for a time. One assignment I remember was shooting a mundane subject over the course of many months. This would later go on to become a central focus of the later part of the class. I chose a bench in a park near my home. Now, the most difficult part of this assignment for me was keeping things interesting. I photographed my bench from every conceivable angle I could come up with, and as the class was in the fall it made for interesting results as I incorporated the fall colors of the leaves into my composition. This exercise forced me to vary my composition and stretch the boundaries of the assignment. I added in people, pets and emphasized the changing weather. This one assignment was invaluable for me, because I ended up with a good sized body of work on a single subject. I had hundreds of images to choose from when I created a portfolio for the project. I made this task easier by choosing my favorite images as time went by rather than making a huge pile at the end. I was able to choose my favorite shots and swap out the weaker images for stronger ones as the project progressed. Not only did I learn to explore a subject from every conceivable angle, but I also learned the valuable lesson of culling my work. This skill can be especially difficult to master if you are selecting from a set of very similar images. Later, this skill made choosing strong images from a model shoot much easier.
There are many different projects you can do to become a better photographer, but this one covers a few bases all in one swoop. Find a subject near your home or work that you can visit every day and photograph it over the course of a couple months or more. As time goes by, choose your favorite images and keep updating the list. When you reach the end of your assignment, select ten of the best images. You might end up with ten good shots of a tree or bench, but what you will learn along the way will help your future projects more than you expect.
I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post your images on a photo sharing site and send me the link. I would love to hear why you chose the images you did. You can follow me on social media on Instagram and Twitter @nedskee – get out there and take some photos!