The Power of Personal Projects – Calgary Custom Photography

I am over the hundred picture marker in my second 365 project, and have really, really been so excited this time around. Last time, having no idea what to expect, I found it much harder and was “running out of ideas” by this time. Of course I didn’t run out of ideas; they aren’t finite. What I did learn is that with any project, there is a ebb and a tide. As a creative, you have to learn to ride that wave and have faith you will make it through. Even if you “fail”, you have to believe enough in your vision and your path to pick yourself up and get back out there. If you are taking any risks or chances with your work, you are going to fail  – I guarantee it. But you are also going to experience some pretty amazing stuff by getting out there and doing the work. For me, the three most important lessons I’ve learned through all my personal projects are….

3) You’ll Get Bored

Really, really bored. Bored of the same angles. Same set ups. Same light. Same. Same. Same. And thats a really good thing, because then you will want to try different. You’ll push yourself. Different angles, lighting, techniques…anything to start to fight the sameness. I couldn’t see that in my first 365 project.  It was really, really hard work. This time, I know it means I have to push myself more. To get out there, and try new things, even if its hard or risky. Even if I might fail. It doesn’t matter what the project, chances are at some point you’ll feel stagnate and want to try something new.

My subjects for my 365  are of my family and my daily life. I made a decision that subject worked the best for me and set me up the best for success in completing my 365.  It’s “why” I chose to do another, for the memories for my children after they enjoyed the book I made for them after the last one. The challenge is:  how do you shoot the same subjects differently? For me some of the advantages of getting bored are…

You’ll get better at different techniques (freelensing is one of my favourites):

he waited all winter for this


wrinkled sheets (1 of 1)


Be challenged to take on different perspectives:



lake ice (1 of 1)

Maybe you even get in front of the camera:


Why would you want to do any of that? Well, regardless of your niche as a creative, you can bring back what you’ve learned and apply it to anything else. I believe those sorts of lessons are transferrable and for you to take with you on your journey. Pack wisely.

2) Know Your Gear

A really great by product of getting bored on a budget and being committed to personal projects for growth, is that you will get familiar with all of your gear, including stuff you don’t always work with.  Using the same gear in different situations means you will know the imitations, the workarounds and what choice to make in terms of lenses, settings, etc to get what you want. Less time focusing on gear, but on “why” you are taking the picture will help you to get clearer on what you are trying to say. Committing to a personal project allows you to know your gear so well that you are freed from it and its “limitations”, because you realize it’s not about the gear after all….

For me, I have learned to work with the same lens in low light:

still his favourite stuffy (1 of 1)

or with lots of light:

paralell sons_

I dusted it off and worked, and worked and worked with gear I don’t use all the time, but tried to use it differently.

From using my lights differently:


To committing to a personal project using my underwater housing to try to see my subjects differently:


To participating in a group focused on concept shoots and learning to use my editing tools differently to really be able to convey a personal message about bullying:


1) Flow

If there is one thing to take away, this would be it. Working on your craft as an artist means you have ebbs and flows to that creativity and when it flows, it’s magic. It’s hard to explain, but I have found it happens when you push yourself, when you take risks, when you’ve done the hard work of silencing your inner critic and gear is no longer a distracton. When I named one of my personal projects In The Flow, I was trying to capture that “oneness” feeling I get when I am in the water shooting. Its when your vision and your voice is there. I had no idea that this video existed until today, but it really resonated with me. I hope it does the same for you – “How Flow Drives Creative Genius – The Rise of Superman”

Those are my observations about working on personal projects and making the commitment to them and being determined to see them to completion, through all the ebbs and flows.

What projects are you working on and what are your biggest learnings?  I would love to hear from you 🙂

Jennifer signature 2

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