Personal projects- getting off the ground

In a few different conversations I have had recently, we have discussed the importance of doing personal work in all aspects of career advancement. This has been both conversations with photographers and a marketing professional who has agreed to help advise me with my career. The general theme in all of these conversations has been to do the kind of work that I would like to get known for and ultimately hired for consistently. A simple strategy when you think of it- funny how when we get busy with work and life, this can get clouded by complexity!

For me, my main goals as a professional photographer are to do more commercial work, with a specialization in adventure sports. Simple road blocks in this area of focus have been caused by a need to keep busy completing the assignments that I am getting through word of mouth already. Self assigning projects is not as easy as getting a brief from someone else. Its also easier to push back a self assignment as opposed to one that someone is paying and waiting for. Some new skill sets have been developed in starting projects from the ground up. The best way I am finding is actually treating it like I am hiring my company acting exactly like I am a client. A great learning experience in of itself! The reality of course is that I am a paying client- the funding for the production is coming directly from my savings.

The first assignment I am doing is a of cyclists riding on the road. While not strictly ‘adventure sports’ it is accessible in Wellington and there are people I know who are top athletes in that genre. Once I identified an opportunity, my next step was to brain storm all the possible photos I could make with what I had. I sketched out all the ideas that were in my head, then followed that up by going online and searching through news sites, stock photo agencies and Google Images. After that I searched my archive for all the cycling shots I had done to refresh myself with what I had learned in the field. Next I went to the library and looked at all the cycling magazines on the shelves to really immerse myself in great cycling photography. This also lead to more sketches and refinements of my ideas.

Looking toward Wellington city, with a stock shot I did at the Coast to Coast race earlier in the year dropped in

I rode a stretch of road that I knew would be good for my needs. That gave me a sense of what it was like from the riders perspective which I think is important too. Yesterday, I went back to the locations I tagged in my head as possibilities and really explored those options with camera and lenses. I shot the locations as though there it was the real shoot day- with more time to explore all the angles and review my results. The really great thing that I noticed was that as I was walking around, I started to notice scenes that fit the concepts and ideas that I sketched. LikeĀ  a jigsaw puzzle, I saw pieces that fit. It was really exciting to find curves in the road that totally matched what I had in mind for particular shots. There were also happy discoveries that spoke to me and inspired me to have new ideas for the day of the shoot.

A concept for a portrait shoot, using a stretch of road and a stock image of Lance Armstrong composited together to give the view a sense of what the portait will look like when shot

The trick was then to translate what was in my head to what others could appreciate and get excited about. To do this, I made compositeĀ  images of the actual locations with stock images (from my own archive and the comp downloads that are free to use on the stock libraries online). This really helped to communicate the look and feel + quality of imagery that I hoped to achieve. This part has always been the most difficult to convey- always clear in my head, but from experience, that imagery can be wildly different in each person when conveyed via language alone.

An example of where the location matched what I had in mind for a shot- the curve of the road just worked out beautifully as a spot to try this image. The rider is on the wrong side of the road, so we will have to be carefull on the day!

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