13 Photography Project Ideas for Photographers of Any Level
Do you want to sharpen your skills, learn fresh techniques and/or create a displayable body of work? Take a look at these great photography project ideas.
Are you looking for photography project ideas? Then you’re in the right place.
If you’re like me, you’ll agree that photo projects are a great way to stay motivated and grow as a photographer.
Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, an amateur or a professional, projects help you to focus and develop your skills.
If you’ve never done a photo project, I start by explaining what it is and why you should consider doing one.
Then, I’ll give you some examples from famous and talented artists so you can get inspired.
Once you’re as pumped about projects as I am, I’ll give you some ideas to get you started – there’s something for every level!
What Are Photography Projects?
Photography projects are creative enterprises that you plan and execute through photographs.
In other words, a photography project is a series of images you create around an idea or a concept. All the pictures of the project have a coherent style and technique.
Photography projects aren’t related to duration, the number of images, or camera equipment. You can decide on the specifics of your own photography project as you see fit.
Why Do a Photography Project?
There are many advantages to doing photography projects. One of the main ones is that it helps you stay motivated and focused.
If you photograph without purpose or idea, it’s more likely that you’ll lose interest. When you don’t have a project, you might have time to pick up your camera and waste most of it just trying to decide what to do.
Instead, you can get right to work if you have some photography project ideas. Also, you’ll have goals to keep you photographing until you’ve completed them.
Another good reason to shoot photography projects is that it makes it easier to improve your photography skills.
As you know, practice makes perfect. If you shoot single images all the time, you won’t dedicate enough time and practice to each skill to actually grow. It also makes it more challenging to see the improvement because you won’t have anything to compare.
Photography projects aren’t just beneficial to improve your technical skills. They’re also helpful in developing a creative style and advancing your storytelling techniques.
6 Famous Photography Projects
When looking for creative photography project ideas, it’s helpful to see what professional photographers are doing. Here are a few famous projects that might be of help.
1. Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton
Brandon Stanton started this photo project back in 2010. His idea was to create a catalogue of NY city inhabitants by taking 10,000 street portraits. He also included quotes or a short story from each person he photographed.
His photography project became a blog that quickly reached millions of followers on social media. Later, it was published as a book.
The Humans of New York photography project grew, and it now contains sub-projects called Stories. He’s made a series about Pediatric Cancer, Syrian Americans, and others. These have been published too.
Stanton’s idea expanded to more than 40 countries. This project is now simply called Humans as it transcends nationality and borders. It talks about the shared experience of being a human.
2. My Breast Choice by Aniela McGuinness
Aniela McGuinness is an actress diagnosed with breast cancer three days before having a preventive double mastectomy. This was only a year and a half after she lost her mother to ovarian cancer.
She decided to start the project My Breast Choice to show how cancer and chemo impact the body and soul of women.
She teamed up with a photographer to create a series and capture her process. She also made a lifestyle blog and a YouTube channel.
Through these multiple media channels, she uses humour to raise awareness, help women dealing with these issues, and cope with what she went through.
3. Afraid to Go to School by Sodiq Adelakun Adekola.
This photography project won in the Stories category for the Africa region of the World Press Photo. In Nigeria, children are often kidnapped from schools. Usually, they are girls that are then forced into marriages.
In this series, the photographer witnessed and documented the victims’ families.
4. One Year Performance 1908-1981 (Time Clock Piece) by Tehching Hsieh.
Nowadays, we’re constantly taking selfies. Some people use them as a photography project idea and take selfies every day, every week, or every birthday.
Way before this hype, Tehching Hsieh did a photography experiment which was much more extreme. He took a self-portrait every day for an entire year.
This means that he would also wake up every hour each night to keep the project going. It’s worth mentioning that he’s known for his year-long performances.
5. Subway Love by Araki.
Araki is one of the most prolific photographers today. He’s done countless photography projects, which usually publishes as books.
Subway Love is one of his longest projects. Throughout ten years (almost), he photographed strangers that rode the subway with him on his way to and from his work in Tokyo.
6. Untitled Film Stills by Cindy Sherman.
Cindy Sherman is famous for her photography projects where she questions identity, stereotypes, gender and sexuality, etc.
In Untitled Film Stills, she did over 70 black and white pictures that seemed to be still taken from 1950s films. She is the model on each one – however, they aren’t self-portraits. In every photograph, she embodies a different persona.
How to Come Up With the Photography Project That’s Best for You
Your passions are the first and most important thing to consider when choosing photography project ideas. This is the best way to enjoy and stick with the project – doing it about something that excites you.
Another consideration you should take is your equipment. It’s good to be ambitious, but you also need to be realistic.
If your photography project idea involves resources you don’t have, it will quickly become an excuse to postpone the project.
Of course, you can always buy or rent the required equipment, but just do it if you can afford it.
The same concept applies to your availability. So, choose a subject that’s easily available to you. Also, determine the duration of the project and the number of photos according to your other commitments.
If you can only dedicate a few hours to photography, choose a project that doesn’t require a full day.
If you’re into wildlife photography, choose a subject you can find in your area instead of waiting for your next vacation to go on a photo safari.
The idea is that you set yourself attainable goals. It’s perfect if you can drop everything and dedicate full time to your photography project. However, this isn’t easy, and most people have to start slower.
In whichever scenario you’re in, it’s still possible to do a photography project. Let’s see some ideas to get you started.
4 Photography Project Ideas for Beginners
Not all photography project ideas must be complex and result in a masterpiece. There are tons of projects you can do as a beginner.
These photography project ideas for beginners will help you to get acquainted with your camera, develop technical skills, and incorporate photography into your everyday life.
Idea 1: Everyday Objects
The great thing about this project is that you don’t have to buy anything – you can use whatever you have around you.
Start by choosing an object. You can use a different one every time you do the project, which can be every weekend or once a month – it’s up to you.
Anyhow, choose this object and come up with different creative photography ideas for it. You can photograph it with different lenses, lighting, and camera settings. This will help you to learn and practice technical skills.
Otherwise, you can explore the object in a creative way. Come up with different stories around the object.
To capture unique images, you can place your object in different scenarios. You may also think about everything the object represents.
Let’s use an apple as an example. You can associate it with the poisoned apple of Snow White, the one from Adam and Eve, or the apple of discord from Greek mythology.
You can check out the work of Chema Madoz if you’re into fine art photography. For more commercial work, check out the stunning images of Dina Belenko. These authors will surely get you inspired.
Idea 2: 365 days project
As you can imagine, the 365 days project involves taking at least one photo daily. This is one of the most common creative photography project ideas.
You can find many lists online with 365 photo challenges. This way, you don’t have to waste time thinking about what to do. It also encourages you to step out of your comfort zone, as you don’t get to pick what to do.
Another way to do it is to create your own 365 days project. This way, you can focus on a specific subject or technique you’re interested in learning and perfecting. Doing this allows you to see how you grow as a photographer with time and practice.
A good subject for 365 days could be something that changes with time, such as a tree.
Another project idea is to focus on a specific type of photography, such as crystal ball photography or steel wool photography.
Otherwise, you can use a specific technique, such as capturing light trails or motion blur.
Idea 3: Self-portraits
A self-portrait photo challenge is excellent to practice photographing people. Not only can you practice the photographic side of it, but also the modelling side.
Most photographers struggle with posing people or conveying to their models what they need. So, being your model will help you to develop those skills too.
There are endless creative photography techniques you can try around this project. You can start with simple things like an outdoor portrait.
As you improve, you can move on to more complicated things, such as double exposure.
Idea 4: Night photography
Night photography is more complex than shooting during the daytime. That’s why it’s the ideal photo project if you want to push yourself.
It will help you to master the basics of camera exposure. This is because you’ll have to learn how to use a slow shutter speed without getting motion blur.
This is not just about a moving subject but about you causing camera shake. This is also related to the focal length you use. It might be necessary to use a tripod.
You’ll also learn about the relationship between ISO and noise. Sometimes, the autofocus won’t be accurate due to the dim light. So, it will also push you to work with manual focus.
Another helpful thing you can learn when shooting at night is the color temperature. You’ll notice how each type of light has a different color and how to deal with ambient light that may include more than one.
All these technical aspects can be applied to the subject of your choice. So, you can do portraits, landscapes, and other shots that interest you while remaining within the project theme – night photography.
4 Photography Project Ideas for Students
These creative photography projects aren’t just for people learning about photography. They can be helpful for all sorts of students. Photography can be a powerful tool to teach physics, optics, and other subjects.
Idea 5: Illustrate a book
This exercise is excellent for photographers at any skill level who want to exercise their storytelling abilities.
Choose a book you like – it doesn’t matter how long it is or to what literary genre it belongs. You can use short stories, thrillers, romantic novels, etc.
Now, think about photography ideas that could illustrate each chapter or the entire book. Also, take a photograph that could be used as the book cover.
This is also useful as a high school photography project. Translating what they just read into an image or a set of images will help them isolate the story’s key moments. It will also make them engage on a different level with the book.
Idea 6: Forced perspective
Forced perspective is a technique that creates an optical illusion. By doing this type of photography, you can make things appear bigger or smaller. Also, thanks to this manipulation, you can also alter the perception of distance.
There are many creative photography projects you can do using this technique. One of the most common examples is to photograph ‘holding’ a famous landmark in their hand.
This technique isn’t just used in photography. It’s also used in painting, sculpture, and architecture. It’s also common to see it in films – although you might not know it.
Have you seen Lord of the Rings? Peter Jackson often used forced perspective to make characters like dwarfs and hobbits look smaller than others.
Idea 7: Pinhole photography project
Making a pinhole camera and using it to capture images is a great project for students. Whether they are children, high school students, or beginner photographers – it’s a project that fits everyone.
Anyone interested in photography can use a pinhole camera to learn how pictures are done. This is because digital cameras still share the same principles of the camera obscura. Also, regular students can use it to learn how light travels or to see a solar eclipse.
You can make pinhole cameras out of cardboard boxes or a DSLR, depending on your resources. If you’re using a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, simply buy an extra body cap and drill a hole.
Then, cut a piece of aluminium foil and make a hole in it with a pin. Now, tape the aluminium foil on top of the drill hole you made on the cap.
Lastly, remove the camera lens and put this pinhole cap. This way, you can make pinhole digital images.
The traditional way of doing pinhole photographs is using a box or a tin as the camera body. The process is the same as I explained before. You can watch the above video to see all the details on constructing it.
Idea 8: Photo walk
Photo walks are small projects that can be done by any student regardless of skill level. It’s mainly about remaining focused and motivated. They’re also helpful as they teach you to see like a photographer because you’re on a ‘photo mission’.
The topic of the photo walk can be anything you want. You can use a theme such as geometric shapes or street signs – it doesn’t matter.
Another approach is to set limitations instead of a subject. For example, you can only use one lens – or one focal length in case you own a zoom lens.
You can use the same topic or limitation each time and see how it develops on a bigger scale. Otherwise, you can do different targeted themes each time. It all depends on how much you want to commit to this project.
5 Photography Project Ideas for More Advanced Photographers
Even advanced photographers can benefit from doing photography projects. This may be because they want to learn a new technique or how to use a new piece of equipment.
It may be because they want to grow their business by approaching a different type of photography. Perhaps it’s because they want to stay motivated and challenged.
Whatever the reason, these photography project ideas should be helpful.
Idea 9: Double exposure photography
If you’re looking for a creative photography project that requires more advanced techniques, try doing double-exposure images.
This is a technique you can do in film and digital photography. You can also choose to do it as a post-processing effect.
The idea is that two images are compound in one image. Of course, you can also combine more images – then it’s called multiple exposures.
You can centre your project on the technique. If this is the case, you can do the same subject using film, digital, and editing techniques to achieve it. You can then compare the results as well as the pros and cons of each method.
If you prefer a more creative approach, you can use this technique to convey feelings to the viewer. You can also make visual metaphors if you like symbolism.
One approach isn’t better than the other; the important thing is that you come up with photography ideas that work for you.
Idea 10: Multiple light sources
Most photographers start by using natural light. Once they master it, they move on to flash and studio lighting. To understand how these work, you can think of projects that force you to use more than one light source.
Remember the first rule about finding project photography ideas – you must be passionate about the topic.
So, if you enjoy working with people, do a project for portrait light setups. If not, you can always make one about product or food photography.
Idea 11: Abstract photography
Doing an abstract photography project is a great way to push your boundaries or overcome a creative block.
Unless you’re already an abstract photographer, this photo project will force you to view and think about things differently.
It will also challenge you by presenting new limitations. Instead, it will remove some of the usual boundaries you have when you photograph things.
Shooting abstract images will also help you with your composition. You won’t be able to rely on the usual rules that guide where you put your main subject. Instead, you’ll be able to explore colors, textures, light and shadows.
As far as the subject goes, anything can be used to make abstract photography. Although, it may be challenging to find a way to make it look exciting and communicate something with it. This is because there isn’t such an obvious focal point as it would be in figurative art.
You can do this project with your equipment, which is excellent. However, you can also explore different techniques that may need specific gear.
For example, you can do macro photography. Ideally, you should use a macro lens, but there are less expensive options, like getting extension tubes. It’s also possible to reverse the camera lens.
A macro project works in abstract photography because you can isolate a detail from the surrounding scene.
Other ideas for abstract projects include a long exposure whit intentional camera movement or exploring a subject from multiple angles.
Idea 12: Tilt-Shift photography
Photography projects for advanced photographers can be about specific gear. In this example, I’m using the tilt-shift lens. However, you can apply the same principle to any equipment you want to master. It can be a drone, a large format camera, etc.
Tilt-shift photography is when you change the orientation of the lens in relation to the camera sensor. Architecture photographers use this to correct perspective distortion. You can also use it to extend the depth of field, which is helpful in product photography, for example.
However, tilt-shift lenses aren’t just used to perfect the image – there’s also a creative use for them. You can make any city look like a scale model of itself.
Idea 13: Underwater photography
This photo project is about getting out of your comfort zone. So, if you regularly do underwater photography or can’t do it for some reason – find a different way to push your boundaries. You can do aerial photography, for example.
We’re used to thinking about underwater photographers as professional scuba divers with special equipment. However, you can do a project with more attainable ambitions.
You can do underwater photography by snorkelling or doing it in a swimming pool. You also don’t have to focus on wildlife. There are beautiful underwater projects with ballerinas or even wedding photography.
The main point of this photo project is that it’s physically challenging, it requires new skills, and it can be as documental or as creative as you want.
So, it has a bit of everything. It’s the perfect project for the advanced photographer looking to try new things.
You’ve Completed Your Photography Project. Now What?
Participating in photo contests is a great way to get your project out there. It will be seen by professionals in the photography industry, and you can confront your work with that of your peers.
Most photographic contests have categories dedicated to series or stories. The name may change, but the scope is the same – to acknowledge photographic projects.
You may also choose a single image from your project to participate in the single-image categories of a contest. This is because often the prize includes an exhibition. So, even if the judges only get to see one of them, you may get to show the entire project in the end.
You can find a list of photo contests here that we’ve selected that may interest you. You’ll also find a summary from a series of interviews Shotkit did with award-winning photographers to learn their tips on how to win.
Get your work exhibited
Getting your work out into the world is one of the biggest satisfactions after you’ve completed a photography project.
There are many ways to get your work exhibited. The most traditional is to approach galleries and see if they are interested in showing it.
Of course, getting picked up by a gallery is not an easy task. Fortunately, this isn’t the only way. You can look for open calls to participate in collaborative exhibitions.
Also, you can organize an exhibition yourself. You can approach cultural centers, photography schools, and even bars or coffee shops. They’re often happy to show work from emerging talents.
Make a photo book
Another way to distribute your photography project is by doing a photo book. There are two roads to follow: you can either approach publishing houses or self-publish.
Publishing houses have all the expertise and can reach a wider audience through their marketing channels. Unfortunately, getting published is difficult as there is a lot of competition.
So, you can choose to publish a book on your own. It can be made as an e-book, or you can use a print-on-demand platform if you don’t have a big budget to start with. Otherwise, you can print the first batch from the start.
Build an online gallery
In this day and age, it’s easy and affordable to build a personal website. You can use this platform to showcase your work by doing galleries with your photography projects.
You’ll find Shotkit’s roundup of the best portfolio websites for photographers here.
Start another project
Last but not least, once you’ve completed your photography project – start working on the next one!