Over the last year, many of us have picked up cameras and smartphones and begun to explore our world through a different lens. It’s amazing how our perspectives on everyday objects and scenes can change when we just look a little closer. With this shift in perspective often comes a new found appreciation for things we might have otherwise taken for granted; such as a sunrise, the finer details of some of our favourite foods, or the sight of a happy dog fetching his stick in the park.
While our world might seem somewhat duller than it was pre-pandemic, getting involved in photography can help to shine a light on the beauty of our daily surroundings, and identify the positives. It can also allow us to explore our creativity, and produce images that might evoke a range of different emotions. For many people this can be incredibly cathartic, and can have many of the same benefits as keeping a written journal.
Getting involved with a range of different projects can also provide a great opportunity to try some new techniques, engage in something rewarding, and produce some work that you feel proud of.
With that said, here are 8 fun photography projects that you can try during lockdown and beyond.
1. 365-day project
Starting a 365-day project (sometimes called Project 365) can be a fun and creative way to add structure to your photography journey, especially if you’re looking to make it a regular, long-term hobby. The Project 365 idea has been adopted by people all over the world, and involves taking a photograph on your smartphone or camera everyday for a year, so that you’ll have a photo journal to look back on when the year has passed.
Some people choose to turn their photos into a video at the end of the 365 days and watch it like a mini-movie, while others might decide to print out their photos, and arrange them in an album. Looking back on a year of our life in photos can remind us of little things we might have forgotten – while encouraging us to practice gratitude, and to check-in with ourselves so we can see how far we’ve come. With modern life moving at an increasingly fast pace, sometimes it can be useful to stop and enjoy some deeper reflection, and remember some of the smaller moments that helped to shape your year, and lead you to where you are today.
Your photograph choices will be very personal, and will likely be entirely different from someone else’s, which only adds to the beauty of the project. Your photos can be as adventurous or as simple as you like, but should be things that help to tell the story of your life over the course of the year. Examples could include a snowy scene from your bedroom window, a photo of a dinner you’ve cooked that you’re really proud of, or perhaps a self-portrait.
If you feel ready to get started, then it’s worth heading over to the Project 365 website where you can upload a photo to your calendar each day. You can access enough basic features to run your project all year-round for free – but if you want to benefit from additional features like being able to replace photos and have multiple albums, then you can take out a premium membership for a fee.
You could also consider using social media sites like Instagram (free), or Flickr (free up to 1000 photos) to store your photos, while sharing them with friends and family at the same time. Or, if you’d prefer to record a short video each day instead of taking photos, then why not consider downloading the free app; 1 second everyday?
Finally, if you’re in need of some inspiration before you get started, then check out the video below – or have a read of this article on Top Tips for a 365 photo project from The Telegraph.
2. Self-portrait photo series
While taking self-portraits might not initially feel like the most comfortable thing in the world to do; it comes with some big rewards. Self-portraits can be used as a means of self-exploration and expression; and can help us learn to accept ourselves exactly as we are. Being in front of the camera, rather than behind it, can also help you to gain a great understanding of poses, angles and lighting; so you’ll be better equipped to direct your subjects in future.
How often you decide to take a self-portrait is completely up to you, but many people opt for one photo or video clip a week. You might decide to take a self-portrait in the same spot, posed in the same way, every week for a year or more, and to then collate the results and turn them into a time lapse video. Often changes to our hair, skin and general appearance happen gradually, and we might not even notice them; but time lapse videos can allow us to document and celebrate these subtle changes, while reflecting on our character development during this time too. To see an example of a time-lapsed self-portrait video, have a watch of this video of a man who took a photo of himself everyday for 20 years, or the video below of a man hiking through China for a year.
You might also choose to create a self-portrait series that portrays the many different roles you play in life. For instance, a portrait of you in your workwear, a photo which shows you as a parent, a photo of you bare-faced and natural, another of you dressed up as you would be if you were heading out to meet friends, and so on. Taking photos of the ‘many sides’ of ourselves can be a useful way to explore our identity, to realise our accomplishments, and to understand how many different layers we all have beyond the surface.
Before you start taking self-portraits you might benefit from buying yourself a tripod to hold your camera, so that you can step out from behind it. You can pick one up for a reasonable price on Amazon. It’s also a good idea to get familiar with the ‘self-timer’ and ‘burst mode’ features on your digital camera or smartphone. The self timer function will allow you a few seconds to get into position before the photo is taken, while the burst mode feature will enable you to take several different shots in succession, while trying out a variety of different angles and poses.
For more tips on how to master self-portrait photography, it’s worth having a read of this article from Canon – or to get inspired, check out these 100 self-portrait photography ideas. If you’re feeling a bit shy about being in front of the camera, then you could also watch this video to see how to successfully take self-portraits without having your face in the shot. Or, if you’re interested in the history of self-portraits and the different approaches used, have a watch of this video here.
3. A-Z photo project
Wanting to get stuck into some photography is one thing, but working out what to start taking photos of first can be another – especially in the current climate when we’re spending more time at home. If this sounds familiar, then you might want to consider starting an A-Z photo project, where you capture images of objects or scenes beginning with each letter of the alphabet.
This can be a fun and challenging way to explore and discover new perspectives on your surroundings – and some letters really will leave you scouring the house, or the streets on your next walk, looking for your next snap!
The majority of people prefer to work on a letter a day, so that they can give their full attention to that letter and get as creative as possible. It’s also a great way to take on an almost month-long project – and can give you something to focus on and look forward to each day. When you’ve collected your 26 images, there’s no reason why you can’t start again, and find 26 completely new images, or spend some time editing the ones you’ve collected.
Comparing one A-Z project to the last can also be an interesting way to see how your photography skills are progressing; not just technically, but also creatively. Often the more we look, the more we see, and once we have a few ideas, we tend to have many more. Have a watch of the video below to see an example of an A-Z challenge from 2016, or check out this one which is based entirely on objects in the home.
4. 30-day photo challenge
A 30 day photo challenge can give you a chance to experiment with new ideas, and explore your creativity. Each day you will have a new photography task to complete; some (or many) of which will push you outside of your comfort zone, and encourage you to try something new.
You might decide you want to create your own challenge, by setting out a plan for which tasks you’ll complete each day for 30 days – or you could try a readymade 30 day challenge instead. Many people find a readymade plan to be more fun, as it contains more of the element of surprise – and also means you won’t be tempted to stick only with things you’re familiar with or good at.
For example, you could try this free 30 day photo challenge from Expert Photography. On day one of this challenge you’ll be asked to take a self-portrait, on day two you’ll grasp the rule of thirds, on day three, you’ll be taking an image in black and white, and so on.
Or with this free 30-day challenge from Click It Up A Notch, you’ll be learning how to create a frame within a frame on day one, how to take long exposure photos on day two, how to capture still life on day three – and so on. Each challenge also comes with helpful explanatory articles, to help guide you on your journey.
These challenges are a bit like intensive courses, where you’ll be able to push yourself to try a range of different techniques and ideas in a short space of time. This will help to lay the foundations for you to revisit certain techniques and ideas later, and delve deeper.
5. ‘A day in the life’ photo project
The reason that many of us enjoy social media, and autobiographical books and documentaries is because we’re curious about the lives of others – and because we, as a human race, often seek to feel more connected to others too. So, it’s perhaps no surprise that photo projects that provide insight into ‘A day in the life’ of a person or animal, are incredibly popular.
‘A day in the life’ project involves capturing a range of different images (or video clips) that depict a typical day in your life – or in the life of someone else. While we’re in lockdown, you could start by doing a project that focuses on you, on someone you live with – or even your pet! Once restrictions are lifted and we’re allowed to mix with others again, you might decide you want to create “A day in the life” series for a range of different people, or even different locations; depicting how places change from morning to night.
If you’re starting with your own life, then you might think that images of your morning coffee and your daily walk are mundane; but to someone else, these snapshots provide a window of insight into a life that could be so vastly different from their own. What seems ordinary to us, might seem completely extraordinary to someone else; which is why our diverse world is so fascinating. Documenting your days can also be a great legacy to leave for your grandchildren; and might inspire them to do something similar one day.
Before you get started with your own ‘A day in the life’ project, it can sometimes help to draw inspiration from others. Have a look at this example here of a day in the life of mum with young children, or this one here, which shows a day in the life of the photographer’s 96-year-old grandma.
6. Step outside of your comfort zone, and learn a new technique
Like many things in life, when we find something we like and feel comfortable with, we tend to stick with it, and may not feel compelled to try something new. However, if you really want to hone your talent when it comes to photography, then it’s important to step outside of your comfort zone every now and again; and try a new lens, a new way of editing, or even a new setting on your smartphone camera. The reason that people don’t tend to do this is because they’re afraid of taking a bad photo; but the beauty of digital cameras or smartphones is that photos can be deleted; and there’s plenty of room for trial and error.
One of the best things about photography is that it can be about so much more than simply pointing and clicking. There’s always new things to learn; and new ways to see beyond the ordinary.
A helpful way to decide what new techniques you want to focus your time on, can be to start with something completely unfamiliar to you. For instance, do you have a camera lens that you simply never use? Or are there aperture or super macro settings on your smartphone camera that you’ve never thought to try? Or perhaps you’ve always wondered how light painting works, or how to take a really good photo with a flash?
You could also choose to photograph different subjects. Perhaps if you usually photograph inanimate objects, you could choose to take some wildlife action shots, or some landscape shots.
If you can’t think of any specific photography skills or techniques that you’d like to focus on, then you could consider working your way through a course or a book – and spending at least a couple of weeks, if not longer, trying to master each new technique that’s introduced to you, before moving on to the next one. Books like Experimental Photography: A Handbook of Techniques and Photography Masterclass: Creative Techniques of 100 Great Photographers could be helpful places to start; or you could try a course; such as Udemy’s Animating Photographs with Cinema 4D or Photo Restoration: Bring Old Photos Back to Life.
There are also a number of techniques that you can try to enhance your photography by using everyday objects. Have a watch of this video which will show you how to challenge yourself using a single object, or the one below, which will show you 10 photography tricks you can try at home.
7. Use your smartphone only
While there’s no denying that digital (or DSLR) cameras are amazing tools to have if you take regular photos, these days, smartphone cameras can also be incredibly powerful. They’re also much easier to carry around, and can be useful tools to turn to if you don’t have your digital camera with you one day.
If you’re keen to start a photography project, then you could try using only your smartphone, to see what you can do with composition and light. This will require you to really explore the settings on your smartphone’s camera and see what works well and what doesn’t. Many of us avoid using settings on your phone like night mode, flash and panorama; simply because we find it hard to take decent photos with these settings. But with practice, we can unlock a whole new aspect of photography from our phones.
If you really want to challenge yourself, then you could also try experimenting with different high-quality photo editing apps, which can be downloaded to your smartphone; such as Snapseed, Adobe Lightroom (Android / iOS) and VSCO. All of these can be downloaded to iOS and Android for free, and will allow you to make quick and easy adjustments to your photos from your smartphone. Adobe Lightroom and VSCO offer the opportunity to upgrade to a premium membership if you want to gain access to additional features.
For tips on how to improve your mobile photography skills, have a watch of the video below – or you might find it helpful to read our article; How to take better photos with your phone.
8. Gratitude photo project
Taking on a photography project can not only be a fun way to develop some new skills, it can also be an effective way to practice gratitude – something which many of us have been doing more since the pandemic started.
An effective and uplifting way to remind yourself of what you’re most grateful for in life could be to embark on a gratitude photo project; where you take daily or weekly photos of the things you love or appreciate most. These things could include anything from your scrambled egg on toast in the morning, to your family, through to your favourite cosy jumper or the roof over your head.
As well as reminding us what we’re most grateful for; think how fulfilling it will be to look back on your project after a few weeks or a year, and see all the things you love most looking right back at you. A project like this also encourages us to look for the good in everyday; which can be a particularly helpful coping mechanism when times get tough.
To make sure that you stay motivated to complete the challenge, you could consider signing up to the 100HappyDays challenge, where you upload a photo of something that made you happy each day for 100 days. The majority of people share their images to their preferred social media platform with the public hashtag #100HappyDays – however, if you want your images to remain private, then you can also email them in. You can visit the 100HappyDays website to find out more about what the project involves and how to apply. Once you’ve completed the challenge, you’ll receive a 100HappyDays certificate, which will feature the complete collection of all your happy images.
Photography can open up our world in many different ways. Not only can it engage us in the act of learning some new skills, and progressing our self-development; but it can help us to look a little closer at the world around us, and see some of the beauty we might otherwise overlook. It can also help us to preserve memories; both new and old; and to leave a legacy for future generations.
If you’re looking for a way to see your surroundings in a new light, and to give your hobby some structure, then taking on a creative photography project can be a good way to do this. You might find it helpful to listen to a personal account from one man who has used photography projects to give his photos purpose. He says that the more he looks, the more he sees; and that often, one photography project will lead on to another. You can find a video of him talking about his experience, and offering tips to others here.
Are you thinking about taking on any of the photography projects above? Or do you have any additional photography project ideas that you’d like to share? Join the conversation on the photography section of the community forum, or leave a comment below.