Photography is what you choose to make it. As I learned in my day job, everything you do should have a purpose behind it. If you make it your job or business there is an expectation that you photograph very specific things, and while this is important when you are making an income to make sure you “got the shot”, that isn’t the sole purpose of photography. In your personal work and during your free time you should be very picky about what you choose to make images of.
I am a firm believer in purpose-driven personal projects and work that means something to you. They do many things to help push your creative envelope and get you out there. As a prerequisite, they should mean something when you start though. Focusing in on something that has that meaning or personal connection is huge though because otherwise, it will lack direction.
Being self-motivated and having meaning behind your photos will help do two things. Firstly, each image created can be tied back to something that made you want to shoot it other than being a beautiful image. I thoroughly enjoy photographing trees, for example, because I think they have a huge amount of personality, story, and in today’s world of climate change it is important to pay attention to what they are saying.
The other part about tying back images to a purpose is that you’ll be better at communicating the story the image is trying to tell. Anyone can take an image in a forest, but by forcing myself to spend more time in them and having that connection I feel better equipped to create an image that contains that message I intend to say.
Creating connections with others is also going to be important, and through being picky with what you shoot and creating personal images there is also the aspect of sharing. Photography is not all about sharing, but not doing so has a risk of limiting your reach and growth. Sometimes, it’s not what you know/can do, but who you know after all! Creating these connections and networking with others in the genre/field you find interesting is an important part of the process. I look forward to speaking with and collaborating with others in the field that enjoy the type of photography I do.
Since I have a full-time job outside of photography, I am able to dedicate my time behind a camera entirely to personal projects. I am privileged in that I am able to be picky with what I photograph. It is my time to be fully creative and purposeful in how I spend my time. The last two years of growing and developing my own photography through being picky has also improved my skills. I don’t waste time doing anything in photography that doesn’t mean something to me!
It has been great for rounding out my portfolio in a targeted approach. I no longer have a bunch of different genres that I shoot, and this makes me much better at the one or two I want to be doing. If I get in a rut, I am lucky to live in an area where I can go shoot a seascape, forest, waterfall, or mountain within two hours in any direction! Using this dedicated photography time in a purposeful way has been helpful in making me and my photography better.