15 Project Ideas to Spark Your Creativity

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Photography has never been as popular as it is today. People of all ages learn photography in various schools and online universities, and lots of talented photographers have a wonderful opportunity to reveal themselves not only as artists, but also as teachers.

Alex Eylar

By Alex Eylar

Like all creatives, photographers can sometimes experience creative block or a lack of interesting ideas, no matter what side of the school desk they are sitting on. One way for photography mentors and teachers to fight this problem is through the use of creative assignments.

In this article I’ve put together 15 creative project ideas to use in your photography class (if you are a teacher) or for yourself. When completed properly, a student assignment is a great teaching tool. If it’s well-designed and structured, it enables students to develop their technical skills and artistic vision, as well as improve their general thinking abilities and subject knowledge. So whether you’re a photography teacher looking for effective assignment ideas or a self-taught photography student focused on training your eye and critical vision, this roundup will surely come in handy.

1. 365 Project

No matter what you call it, the 365 Project or Photo a Day project, the result is the same – a photo for every day of the year. These kinds of long-term projects give you an opportunity not only to explore and learn photography, but also develop creative seeing and improve your post-production skills. 365 Projects have changed the lives of a lot of photographers, and who knows, maybe you’re next?

Further Reading: 11 Tips for a Successful 365 Project

Olli Henze

By Olli Henze

Dennis Skley

By Dennis Skley

2. 100 Strangers

The 100 Strangers project enables you to interact with 100 strangers and take a photo of each of them. It can be quite scary to start shooting people in the street, or local cafe, if you’re an introvert. But being a photographer is not as easy as it may seem at first. Photography is all about overcoming your fears. This project will help you do that.

Louisa Billeter

By Louisa Billeter

3. 52 Weeks

The 52 Weeks project is similar to 365, but this time you’re supposed to come up with a new photo each week, not each day. The difference between these two projects is that you can choose a theme for every week. For instance, you may shoot particular subjects, places, or even do some photowalks. A photowalk is an awesome way to find inspiration, discover new locations, and come up with really valuable, interesting ideas in the end.

Shutterbugamar

By shutterbugamar

4. Social Awareness Project

Capturing dramatic moments that will influence the minds of their viewers is a mission that many iconic photographers are dedicated to. Spend a weekend shooting the faces on your local streets, or collaborating with a non-profit can help you develop your skills as a documentarist and photojournalist. Such photo projects are definitely not easy to work on, both emotionally and technically, but the reward of being an activist is obvious – every time you click the shutter button you create a photo that could change the world.

5. Self-Portrait

Of course, you may have taken a self-portrait many times with your smartphone. Instagram has turned self-portraits into something usual and mundane.

However, self-portraits can be quite helpful in opening up, and exploring parts of photography in which you don’t normally find yourself involved. Mix it up and stay creative with your surroundings and emotions. For example, look at the work of Kyle Thompson, who has really succeeded in self-photography.

Check out these Self Portrait Photography Tips for some hints on where to start.

Özgün ERDEM

By Özgün ERDEM

6. New Lens Type

You may pick one lens and use it exclusively during this project. A 50mm is a good starting point, as it forces you to move around and stay selective. A fisheye lens could also make an interesting theme.

Moreover, you may experiment with freelensing which is an inexpensive way to get a similar photo effect as from an expensive tilt-shift lens. The idea behind a tilt-shift lens is tilting the lens at an angle to the sensor to change the orientation of the plane of focus (PoF). The technique of freelensing, not only gives you the ability to change the PoF, but it also gives you some pretty cool light leaks from not having the lens actually attached to the camera.

Nuwandalice

By Nuwandalice

David Hepworth

By David Hepworth

7. Monochrome

Try to shoot all your photos in monochrome, or convert them to black and white in post-processing. The beauty of black and white photography is that it focuses more on visual elements such as tone, texture and shapes. By starting this project for yourself, you’ll see the objects in a different light, and rather than just color, your eyes will be better trained to recognize various forms and shapes.

Photograph A Fistful of Kits by Peter Greig on 500px

8. Panoramas

Panoramas are one more way to develop your creative vision. Panoramas usually give the viewer a much wider viewing angle than normal. You can create some small panoramas by merging three photos in one, or go full 360 and make tiny globes like the ones in the picture below. It’s all up to you!

Further Reading: 8 Guidelines To Taking Panoramic Photos With Any Camera

Johanna Herbst

By Johanna Herbst

9. Food

In today’s world of foodie-Instagram, everyone could be a food photographer. Especially if you’re fond of cooking, then food photography is right for you. It’s a myth that you need a super-wow camera to capture food. Food photography is all about styling and beautiful background. No matter what kind of photographer you call yourself, it’s advantageous to have some food photography skills under your belt.

Further Reading: How to Take Mouth watering photos of food

Christopher Chan

By Christopher Chan

10. Sunset and Sunrise

As dawn breaks and the sun comes up, you get to see the creeping rays of sunlight bathe everything in their shining glow. Such scenes are the perfect environment for memorable photos that you can’t pass up. Sunrises and sunsets happen every day. It may sound quite obvious and ordinary, but these times of the day are a golden opportunity to capture breathtaking images.

Read more about how to photograph sunsets and sunrises.

Mike Behnken

By Mike Behnken

Linda O'Dell

By Linda O’Dell

11. Single Theme

Pick an object and try to get a collection of snapshots representing it. For example, try to shoot only circular objects everywhere you go. Or pick a color, for instance blue, and try to go all day long photographing only blue things. The aim of this assignment is to learn to see the ordinary object in a different way.

12. Phone Camera

The main advantage of your phone camera is that it’s with you everywhere you go. Moreover, these days smartphones’ camera quality is much better than years ago and you may come up with images that look almost as good as if they were taken with an expensive DSLR. Using your phone allows you to put exposure on the back burner, and lets you focus more on composition instead. You may also use various photo-editing apps to add various photo effects.

Takeshi Garcia

By Takeshi Garcia

13. Urban Exploration

Urban exploration photography is the art of finding abandoned places, houses, locations; explore them and shoot in a unique way. It’s potentially dangerous, exciting, and a lot of fun. In order not to get scared, you should take your friends with you. Even if they’re not interested in photography, exploring abandoned places is really breathtaking.

Editor’s note: always follow the laws when doing urban exploration. Do not enter where prohibited and always stay safe. Abondoned buildings can be dangerous or illegal to enter. Be careful.

Read more about urban exploration photography.

Michal  Jan?ek

By Michal Jan?ek

14. Perspectives

Shoot a whole set of images from one perspective, such as from a child’s the point of view. Or try to capture all photos from up high. We are used to seeing the majority of shots at eye level, why not to try something different? It’s a great way to learn how to deviate from the normal.

Ken Owen

By Ken Owen

15. Film Photography

Film photography is something every photographer should practice for a few reasons.

First of all, unlike digital photography, you don’t get to see the image you took for a while. It may seem annoying, but you’ll get used to it.

Second of all, you will begin to think more carefully before pressing the shutter button. While shooting digital photography, you may take 10 photos of the same thing to choose the best shot in the end. But with film photography you will not have that chance.

Read this helpful post with suggestions on getting started with shooting with film.

Gioia De Antoniis

By Gioia De Antoniis

Bonus Assignment

Once you accomplish your creative assignment, create a dedicated photography portfolio (Defrozo and Koken provide website building tools for free) or write a guest post for some photography blog to describe your journey and share your experience with fellow enthusiasts. Developing your marketing and blogging skills increases the likelihood of building a prospering and successful photography business.

Resources for Inspiration

The web has so many opportunities to get fresh ideas for your next photography project. I’d like to share some resources you may get inspiration from.

TED talks

Ted is aimed to amplify the ideas of students and teachers from all over the globe. Their mission is to spread great ideas and inspire students of any specialization. You may browse 1800+ TED talks on photography available on their site to spark your curiosity.

OKDOTHIS App

This smartphone app was made by a celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart. OKDOTHIS is a photography community that inspires people to do more. It’s based on DOs which are creative tasks made by other members of the community. You may upload a photo in someone’s DO or create your own one. The app has also a built-in photo editor.

Behance

Behance is a leading online platform to showcase and discover creative work. All the creatives starting from web designers to photographers share their best artwork here. You may browse the Behance gallery in Photography to find new projects from other photographers.

Weekly Assignments in the dPS Forum

Check out the weekly assignments in the dPS forum for more inspiration. DPS nominates a topic for each week. It could be a lot of fun and a great way to improve your photography skills in various areas.

Make it Happen

What homework do you prefer to give to your students? What assignments appeal to you most? What project interests you and gets you thinking creatively? Share your experience and suggestions in the comments.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Nancy Young is a passionate writer and blogger. She writes tons of inspirational articles on photography and web design, despite the fact that she is an economist by education. Nancy believes in magic of written words to inspire and motivate. She is a part of the PhotoDoto Team. Check out our free ebook on landscape photography!

  • I like most of these as ideas, but why do photographers keep holding onto the “try shooting film” advice. I’ve never once heard anyone tell a painter they should find and grind their own minerals and press linseed oil to mix paint, or a writer that they have to try it on a typewriter to really know how to do it. Technology advances, techniques change. I think far better advice for someone struggling now is to learn every feature of their camera inside and out, read the manual, find a course in it, etc. Maybe try shooting with one new feature of it each week. If the limiting factor of film that you want to replicate is waiting to see your shot, then just don’t look at the back screen and leave the storage card in there for a couple of weeks.

  • tdyp

    film photography can be interesting about the way you think before you take your photo. it’s no to say oh yeah go back to the source otherwise they should propose you to try the stenope

  • Kate

    UM,… actually learning to grind my own pigments and make my own paint and ink was the most engaging and valuable lesson I learned in college. So was learning to mix my own darkroom chemicals and printing my own photos, It is a dimension of involvement much like growing one’s own food and cooking it or only eating what someone else prepares. Film is fun. It is a different box to think outside of. The title is “…projects to spark your creativity” not “Projects to help you master the technology of the moment.”

  • Ed Verosky

    Shooting with film is not just about the technical or chemical processes involved, nor just about the waiting to see a result. There is also a shift in thinking involved, which can result in opening up new creative doors. The dynamic between photographer and subject can change, too. This is a project also highlighted in an ebook I wrote entitled, “15 Photo Projects
    That Will Boost Your Creativity (by Ed Verosky).”

  • You’re right, the article was just trying to spark creativity and there is value in trying an old technique. However, the reasons listed in the article are 1. you don’t get to see the image right away, 2. you have less exposures. You can do both with a digital camera and I think you should, in the end it would be valuable to impose restrictions on how you shoot normally and learn from that.

  • It does make you think differently, but so does just learning more about shooting and gaining more experience. You can still force yourself to take less exposures and make do with what you could shoot. I think it would be hard to boost creativity by needing to buy a film camera, the film, a lens that works, and figuring out where to process it.

  • Ed, I agree, but the article only pointed out waiting and less exposures as the reason to try film. Can you elaborate more on the shift in thinking how you see it?

  • Ed Verosky

    Sure. Of course, any reaction to a process is dependent on the individual(s) involved. Especially in portraiture, where the reaction is on both sides of the camera, I’ve had situations where, using a DSLR, a shoot is going along as usual, but when I pull out a film camera, the vibe just changes. I’ve had subjects really get excited and models will often react differently, too. There tends to be a more deliberate approach on both sides of the camera as the pace slows and lenses are focused by hand, and film is manually advanced for each shot. Try it with a pro model medium format film camera or a nice 35mm and you might see the same changes in reaction, which can often reveal themselves in the captures. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmJvdxntRwk&list=PLL9NSUM3vyBiZkDVM3UG08lnM8ZsQMv-0

  • That makes a lot of sense, I don’t shoot any portraits so I’ve never had that experience. I mostly do landscape, but I think I shoot like a film guy since I spend a ton of time on setup and getting exposure right, manually focus my lens, etc. Maybe that is why I don’t see much point in trying out real film again. (For the record, I was raised in a Kodak house, the whole family worked for them and my grandfather was head of film quality control in the 60s-70s, so I’m well versed in its attributes).

  • Ed Verosky

    Also see the following video on the Mamiya C3 (TLR).

  • Ed Verosky

    Definitely. Where landscapes and most still lifes, etc. are concerned, I’d probably just stick with the best digital I could afford at the time. In that case, if you want the look of film, you could always recreate with software.

  • Great writeup Nancy! Thanks for mentioning Defrozo. We’re definitely smashed away by the amount of creativity we see while working with photographers and that feels awesome 🙂

  • Rob

    I shot with film for years, long before digital got good. I kept a notebook with me (paper and pencil/pen) and took notes of the settings and the conditions. Back in the film days, you had to budget half for film and processing. and only places that developed by hand could do any real post processing. All you effects pretty much had to be done ‘in camera’. and if you were pushing the colours or exposure for a specific effect, you had to have it done as slides, otherwise all that effort and filters gets corrected by a techie with the semi automated machine. Yes, learning on film I learned a lot and have earned the ease of modern digital. it’s kinda like learning to drive on a standard before you get to drive an automatic. or another example is from my military days. Fire single shot and you learn to shoot, not go full auto and do the old ‘Pray and spray’

  • Clifford Alexander

    Love your work Nancy, spot on , you inspire and motivate when you share ideas of this quality. Great article for a teacher to share with a group. As for film photography I started in 1969 so the joy of being in a “darkroom” can only be appreciated by those who have a loving partner to work the trays……

  • In fact, you have caught me, Clifford! This article was originally written for photography teachers and for photographers to give them a few ideas for inspiration.

  • Peter-Andrew Day

    Wow, I really want to have a go at number 6, the new lens project, the example is awesome, I’d like to do something like that. 🙂

  • Morgan Buhmann

    I absolutely love all these brilliant ideas! I think I am going outside to try a few right now! I always had problems with plants and landscaping shots, but this really helped out a lot! Check it out:

    http://56ef56tcnjcu2w43tp3hlizpae.hop.clickbank.net/

  • Such good suggestions! I started the Project 365 a few weeks ago (couldn’t wait until January) and it’s been going MUCH better this time than in past attempts. This has me definitely thinking about adding a few other projects, too. The “photographer’s block” is real, I tell you! Love little tips to keep the juices flowing. =)

  • LZ

    i like all these ideas, but somehow, I’am wondering that the images sample is your own photograph. maybe, just maybe it will be more interesting. but at least some the ideas is good reference.

  • p dalton

    It’s about thinking before you shoot.

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