Over the years I’ve shot a lot of different projects and events on film, sometimes it can be really hard to know what to shoot, don’t worry though, I’ve got you covered!
Starting a project can be really daunting and sticking to shooting one specific thing for a period of time can be hard. When you’re just starting photography, I would always advise you to start with something easy and close to you. Learning by documenting your own life, family life and local environment is a great way to learn how to put a project together and take pictures that tell a kind of story.
If you want some great ideas to get you inspired and excited to shoot something new then carry on reading!
1) Document Your Family Life
There are many great projects out there that document family life, it’s a brilliant place to start especially when you’re a beginner because you’ll be comfortable and it’ll give you a chance to learn how to take pictures of people without so much pressure.
You could take portraits of your family or document your home life, there are a lot of ways to approach it and of course, everybody’s home lives are different and have certain quirks.
For inspiration, check out JUUSO WESTERLUND.
2) Double Exposures
Shooting double exposures can be a fun way to create an interesting project in film photography. You can do this by either shooting a full roll of film and then loading it a second time to shoot it again. Alternatively, some film cameras do have a setting for you to double expose an image manually.
Once you get to grips with double exposing images, you could put together a well thought out project more easily.
For Inspiration, take a look at Duane Michal and John Deakins Impossible Accidents,
3) Local Traditions
Taking a look at traditions that are local to you could be a fantastic way to get inspiration about what you want to shoot. Sometimes shooting an event like this can be exciting and dynamic, allowing you to try new things and provide some unusual shots.
Personally, I’ve shot a number of British traditions and that’s allowed me to get some incredible shots that I love. No matter where you live, there’s probably something strange going on that is just begging to have a project made about it!
4) Self Portraits
Taking good self-portraits is an art, getting your settings, focus, positioning and lighting all correct is very hard so you’ll learn a lot while taking self-portraits.
Some people only take self-portraits and that’s their entire photographic identity, so there’s a lot to explore with self-portraits.
Exploring self-portraits and turning the lens on yourself will definitely help you develop as a photographer and might even help you decide your direction in photography.
For inspiration, take a look at Cindy Sherman and Claude Cahun.
5) Use Your Local Newspaper
A brilliant way to find documentary photography ideas is to use your local newspaper. You’ll be able to find local stories that you may be able to document further. This could be anything but you’ll certainly be inspired.
Due to the fact that these people have already been interviewed by a newspaper, there’ll probably be much more open to you making a project on them.
Many documentary photographers use this exact way to find stories that could be covered in more detail and get inspiration from them.
6) Shoot Your Hobby
Many projects come from convenience or the fact that it’s something that you already do anyway. Often this means that you can bring a unique insight to this particular thing by the way you decide to shoot it.
Whether you like climbing, skiing, whittling spoons or knitting, there’s a completely unique and interesting way to photograph any of your hobbies and it’s nice and convenient too.
7) Try Pushing Or Pulling Your Film
A nice way to get different results when shooting film is to push or pull your film. To push film means to shoot it at a higher ISO than it actually is (so if it says 200, you shoot it at 400) and to pull film is to shoot it at a lower ISO than it is. This can produce different results when you get it developed but be sure to let your lab know which ISO you’ve shot your film at.
Pushing and pulling film can give your film a different look and allow you to shoot at higher speeds, it’s definitely worth having a play around to see how it pans out.
8) Shooting Street Photography In Your Local City
Street photography is something that captures the imagination of many photographers, capturing that perfect moment and strange goings-on can be exciting for a lot of people.
Personally, street photography was the way I learned film photography. Going out a few days a week and shooting the city in all kinds of weather, finding what worked and what didn’t, composing by instinct and gut feeling, it was a lot of fun.
Street photography can be a beautifully hands-on way of learning photography. You’ll quickly learn how to use your camera, how to compose your shots and how to work with the light. Also, you’ll perhaps find certain things that you like to focus on while you’re shooting street photography.
If you want to get into street photography but you don’t know where to start, I put together 14 tips that I’ve learned over 6 years of street photography!
One of my favourite contemporary street photographers is Brain Karlsson AKA @voyeur1, his work is surreal and otherworldly while being completely legit street shots.
10) Portraits Of Your Friends
Another brilliant way to get yourself inspired and learning photography principles is by taking portraits of your friends. This is a great way to become comfortable with taking portraits and using your camera, you’ll learn the principles of portrait photography and what kind of lens works best for you.
Many people do entire projects based around portraits of their friends and lifestyle. This can later lead to a portfolio of fantastic portrait pictures which could help you to get portrait and editorial work. If you want to take good portraits and you’re not sure what kind of camera to go for, I made the ultimate article to help you decide!
For inspiration on portrait photography, see @rosiematheson on Instagram.
10) Rural Communities And Landscapes
If you live out in the sticks, shooting and documenting rural communities and landscapes can be a fascinating thing to approach, especially since it might be some of the only convenient shooting that you can do.
Over the years, some amazing projects have been done on rural communities and landscapes. Although sometimes you may think that your hometown or current location is boring or not worth photographing, there is usually something unique about any place. Sometimes a photographer’s job is to identify and show what is unique about an otherwise boring place.
11) Pick A Photographer And Try To Replicate Their Style
A great way to learn and grow as a photographer is to pick a photographer and try to replicate their style of shooting. Of course, later down the line, you’ll want to find your own defined style, but before that, looking at creative photographer’s work and working out how they produced it can be a great way to learn and grow.
There have been many photographers that have created brilliant and recognisable styles. People to take a look at include Saul Leiter, William Eggleston, Paolo Roversi and Annie Leibovitz.
12) Recreating Paintings
Taking inspiration from paintings or other forms of art can be a really inspiring way of shooting. Many photographers use other forms of art as reference points to help them to get exactly what they want.
Having certain works of art in mind can help you to compose an image more easily and allows you to have to think a bit less about your work.
13) Work Towards Making A Zine Or Book
Most photographers aim toward making a zine or book, this can really help you to hone in on what it is that you actually want to produce. A zine or book could be a random assortment of your shots spanning a certain amount of time, or they can be a defined project.
Zines and books are one of the main ways that photographers (particularly street photographers), earn some form of a living. It can be a rewarding and exciting thing to produce, especially if you have the audience to sell a moderate amount.
For more information on earning a living in street photography, check out this link!
14) Make Some Prints
Getting some prints made is a really rewarding aspect of photography. Seeing your shots as they should be is something else completely.
Once you’ve produced some prints, you can make them available to sell. The amount you’ll sell depends on the quality of the shots and the size of your audience, if you have a moderate following then you might be able to sell a few prints!
Most photographers use prints as a way to bring in some extra income and make their photography more viable. It’s very rewarding to be able to sell your own work and see it as an enlarged print!
To learn more about printing scans and how large they can be printed, take a look at this article I made!