The post about Personal Projects

15 min // Easy Read

Let’s talk about what benefits taking on a personal project can do for you.

When we are shooting images or creating content for clients we are normally balancing ideas and concepts about what would make the best and what fits in line with the marketing managers needs. I think I produce my best work when I have control of everything, but that is very rarely the story in the commercial world. Every now and then I get the amazing clients that are happy for me to totally drive the narrative, storyboard or vision but as the companies get bigger, these things are not so simple.

Telling stories

Personal projects have a few important factors. They let us create content that showcases our skills and production while at the same time keeps us creatively energetic, thirdly we can use our skills as storytellers to say something that we want to say. This leads me to the work of Glyn Dewis, Tom Barnes and Emily Teague. They all have some awesome personal projects such as Toms help with Medecins Sans Frontieres or also known as Doctors without Borders.  I will put some links at the bottom of this blog about the work these amazing people do and how you can support or follow them.

Glyn Dewis has a great blog about Photography being a gift – please have a look, it’s very good. Link is at the bottom of the page.

Create a showcase

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph. Some clients just want to play it safe and have content that just passes on a simple message or story. They won’t always want something that pushes your creative limits or even gets near it. This can sometimes work for the bank balance for the short term but not help out the portfolio which helps the long term. Sometimes we need to take back creative control and make something that really helps showcase what you are capable of producing when tasked to deliver. This could be in terms of style, production, casting or anything. In short, personal projects put you back in the driving seat and let you create images you can showcase to your next set of clients.

  • Create a showcase for your work

  • Refine your skill & style

  • Sharpen your creative tools

Keeping Creative

Not every idea is suitable for a client and we have all made some mistakes on real shoots. The good thing about personal work is that there are no real consequences if we get it wrong or mess up. For example, the image below of Milly, I really wanted to find a lighting style and grading that gave a look that I have been wanting to capture for a while. It was something that I didn’t want to test out with a client over my shoulder so using my towel project was a good excuse to shoot something.

Towel Project

The towel project which is meant to be a simple showcase of beauty in an unfiltered clean and uncluttered way. Beauty is a thing that we, as photographers or artists creatives or just people like to aspire too. The idea of beauty is simple yet quite complex too. Photographically speaking, beauty is a genre. Beauty photography an assumption of a heavy editing process. These are not that, but rather a more stripped back, clean and simple presentation of a person. But I also don’t see these image as portraits. Maybe they are a blend of a few styles.

Mario Testino’s work was something that I was taught about and still is something that I use when I am teaching. His work, while mostly based in the fashion world transcends a few genres, something that I identify with too. I first saw iconic images like his portraits of Kate Moss and loved the simple, stripped back nature of the images. There was something raw but refined about them. Staged images of candid moments in a way. Relaxed, low key make-up but enough to show a let the character of the model show though.

Like Mario, I have tried to do the same. While all photography is about capturing moments, we (as the photographer) can decide how we want to interact with the story before we capture a moment. How we choose to light a subject or how we frame them will change how the viewer reads the story presented.

For a long time, this was intended to be a black and white project. All of the images were captured in colour but immediately processed into black and white. Until very recently I had never even seemed them in colour myself. It was when I did the shoot with Milly (makeup by Penny Grimley) and the first one that featured the red towel, that an image was processed in colour. Mostly as the red towel just looked dull in monochrome. I can not really remember why we used a red one that day, but we did and I am glad we did. Since then we have gone on to use red for Charlie and Mel – check this link to see the project.

I am not sure this series will ever really be finished, I love the idea of continually adding to it. Creative projects never really are finished, you just run out time.

Exploring Photography

I needed a clearer cleaner website and moving my landscape photography away from my portrait stuff seemed like a good idea. After some thinking it was clear that the landscape photography I do isn’t really true landscape, it is more documenting me travelling. This all ended up as a place for me to just have fun and a place to indulge my love for photography and motorbikes in one place. When I moved to Ireland, this spin-off project has started to be a real interest for me and is becoming quite a big project. Recently I have started making videos for YouTube for this project which is really good as it is helping me learn more about video production as a one-man production crew. Over the last 12 months, I have been working on being able to travel, ride, edit and live the bike. My first bike trip will be heading over to the Download music festival with the bike. I will keep you posted as to which cameras and set up I go with.

Exploring Photography brings a totally different mindset to me as a photographer and helps me look into areas that me as Dave Kai-Piper, as a brand would not be able to. At the moment, I am working on about 12 different photography projects inside the Exploring Photography main concept. It’s all very interesting and fun. To learn more check out:

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