9 killer photography projects for 2013

Photography project ideas for 2013: documentary

A new year is always a good time to start a new project, and now that we’ve survived the Mayan apocalypse it seems an even better time to shed some of that new millennium tension and set yourself a goal in 2013 that you actually want to achieve.

Photography projects can be a great way to not only improve your work-life balance, but also get you away from your family if you don’t want too much of a balance!

We’re only kidding (sort of); but setting yourself a solid photography project is a good way to get some ‘you’ time, as well as build your camera skills and reinvigorate your passion for taking pictures.

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So stop making excuses in 2013. It’s time to start taking pictures again…

1. Record the same location over a year
A favourite project of professional photographers, recording the changes in a location over the course of a year is a great way to learn how to plan your pictures and shoot a landscape with a little deeper meaning.

One still image cannot convey the passage of time, but a photo essay of one place will reveal all of the subtle changes we take for granted. Your project could be one photo a month or one a day – it’s completely up to you.

For inspiration, see the photo project of UK photographer Kevin Day, who’s been photographing a lone tree in a field for more than five years…

Photography project ideas for 2013: one location through the seasons

2. A year of infrared
There’s a misconception that infrared photography is costly and difficult, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you have an old DSLR lying around that you rarely, if ever, use – or if you can find a cheap body on eBay – it costs very little to get your digital camera converted to infrared.

Shooting infrared through the changing seasons offers an opportunity to experiment with a range of subjects, and it helps you think more closely about your compositions as you try to give prominence to those subjects that offer the best contrast.

3. Double exposures
Popular in the days of film photography, double exposures are seeing a bit of a revival. One popular technique at the moment is to merge profile and front-facing portraits to create a surreal effect. But you can do all manner of things.

You can merge rivers and roads, for instance. Or you can shoot a nice texture, like the inside of an onion, and use that as a background for a portrait. There are many ways you can go with this.

For inspiration with this photography project, see the double exposure work of fashion and editorial photographer Jon Deunas.

Photography project ideas for 2013: double exposures

4. One lens
You’ve probably heard other photographers talk about their ‘nifty 50′ – their 50mm prime lens – because it is so versatile for a wide range of photographic pursuits.

Why not push this idea even further and try shooting exclusively with your 16mm pancake lens, for instance – or even the telephoto end of your 70-200mm?

Like many of the photography projects on this list, our One Lens project will get you to see pictures in new ways. A wide angle lens might make you work harder to get closer to subjects, while longer focal lengths might help you look closer for the finer details within a scene.

5. Motion
Struggling to find new ways to photograph your favourite subjects? Try finding ways to capture movement within your scenes. You may be thinking, ‘But I don’t shoot seascapes or motor sport?’ It doesn’t matter. There is always movement to show.

It could be the frozen flutter of hummingbird wings at a feeder in your back garden, or it could be a swaying rape field late in spring. Adding this extra element to your compositions helps give images atmosphere and more life.

For inspiration and ideas for photography with real motion, see the amazing work of Chris Friel

Photography project ideas for 2013: motion

6. Black and White 
Nowadays our experience with black and white photography is shooting in colour and – most often – converting to black and white on the computer when the sky is flat or washed out, the colours aren’t punchy or the composition is just a bit off. Sadly, black and white has become a method of rescuing bad pictures, but rest assured: they’re still bad pictures.

Try spending some time each week going out and shooting in your camera’s monochrome mode exclusively. Does it change how you see pictures? Does it change your tastes in what you like to shoot? Let us know this time next year.

7. Shoot a small documentary project 
Most people assume documentary photography has to follow big, weighty, life-and-death issues of global importance. Hardly.

Pick a small subject, perhaps someone or something local to you (access, after all, is everything) and get to know it well.

A local theatre group, for instance. You could photograph them as they rehearse for their next performance, as they build the set, stage their first dress rehearsals, get ready off-stage on opening night and then culminate with shots of the performance.

Or what about the worker at a local care home? The baker on your high street? There are thousands of small, but interesting, stories out there waiting to be told. This is your chance to tell them.

For inspiration on starting a documentary photo project, see the work of UK photographer J A Mortram.

Photography project ideas for 2013: documentary

8. Portraits of your town
Many of us have a limited interaction with our town, no matter how long we’ve lived there. We may follow our quick routes to work, school and the shops we need to go to, and meanwhile we tune everything else out.

Make a habit this year of taking your camera with you every time you go out to the shops. Throw it in your car on your way to work. And take a different route! And once you’ve made a habit of that, make another habit to explore a new park or square or street or area of town you either haven’t visited before or don’t know all that well.

See what goes on in other high streets. Ask people if you can take their picture. By the end of the year you’ll not only have a rather eclectic portfolio but you’ll feel much more engaged with where you live.

9. What you eat
No, we’re not asking you to follow in the footsteps of Instagram and photograph your lunch or latte. Rather, experiment with food photography by taking a picture of your main meal each day or even once a week.

It could be the preparation, the actual cooking or the presentation at the end. Whatever you choose, this is a great way to start thinking both about how to compose images, as well as what you put in your body each day.

What photography projects are you starting in 2013? Let us know below, or share your project ideas with our Facebook and Twitter communities.

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