3 Essential Ingredients for a Good Long-term Photography Project

By Zach McCabe in Art Tutorials > Photography Tips

Have you ever focused on a long-term photography project? By that I mean, set yourself a photographic goal and worked on it (if not exclusively, at least intentionally) for a few weeks, months, or even years?

If you haven’t, don’t let the idea be overwhelming or intimidating. To improve yourself as a photographer, you need to push yourself—something that is unfortunately much easier to daydream about, than actually do!

By my estimate, there are a few common ingredients to a successful long-term project, and I’ll explain what they are below. It’s always important to think through your project carefully before you begin, because sticking with an idea, working on it, and trying to master it photographically WILL become exhausting.

The effort is worth it though. You’ll gain insight into yourself and your photography. . . and probably feel a boost of new creativity energy, too!

Here are my 3 essential ingredients for a great long-term project:

1. Your photography project should be energizing

Actively think about your project’s potential subject, or the technique you want to learn, or whatever it that you want to improve photographically during the duration of your project.

Why do you find yourself drawn towards taking the pictures you take? Why do you shy away from making pictures of the subjects or scenes you wish you could photograph? Why were you inspired to first pick up a camera?

If you’re not passionate about your project idea, then you won’t make time for it—so don’t choose it! Make sure your project intrigues you so that even when you’ve already got a full schedule, or you don’t feel creative, or you’re bored and frustrated, you’ll still stick with it.

You’ll know you’ve got a great idea when it’s both a challenge (and therefore tiring) but also reinvigorating.

2. Your long-term project should be focused

Consider both your strengths and weaknesses as a photographer.

What do you wish you knew how to do better? What do you want to say more eloquently in your pictures? What idea demands your attention?

If you don’t set a clear goal you’ll loose motivation far too soon. If you know what you want to achieve, you’ll be able to look for and see improvements in your photographs. You’ll also be able to spot what you need to keep improving. You may even be able to create smaller, more achievable goals in between where you are now, and where you want to be.

Be as clear as you possibly can, right from the beginning, about what you want to learn, improve upon, or experience, and success (or growth) will be much easier to attain.

3. Your photography project should be accessible

Remember that the purpose of a long-term project is to give yourself a framework to improve your photography.

Where do you see a photographic obstacle worth overcoming? Where does your mind’s eye always notice visual opportunities? Where do you go to be inspired?

If you can’t get to wherever you need to go to take pictures for your project, you won’t be able to sustain your effort. On the other hand, if you are able to approach your project regularly, you’ll be able to devote your resources to improving your pictures.

Locations that are far away require extra time and money. Coordinating complex schedules and logistics require energy that you could be spending on your pictures.

So with that in mind, always choose a project that’s proportionate to your situation. (For example, if it’s challenging, and in your backyard—what’s wrong with that! You’ll just have countless opportunities to push forward.)

Challenging yourself, persevering through difficulties, and then eventually completing this kind of creative project is immensely rewarding!

Overcoming creative, technical and mental hurdles will improve your photographic eye and your pictures, so don’t wait until you have more time, or better gear or are more talented! Take on a long-term project now. There’s never been a better time to start.


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