Expert Advice: Self-Assigned Projects

- - Expert Advice

Mellisa Pascale, Wonderful Machine

Here at Wonderful Machine, we prefer the term “self-assigned” rather than “personal” to describe the projects that photographers create themselves. After all, these types of ventures are more than side projects that satisfy extraneous creative visions; they also serve to demonstrate a photographer’s proficiency with a genre he or she would like to shoot more of. To put it simply, shooting what you love can, with the right presentation, lead to assignments that you love.

Pursuing self-assigned work allows you to create imagery that’s geared towards a specific target industry or client. Take, for example, Felix Reed’s Mont Blanc project, which served a dual purpose fulfilling both a life-long dream and a portfolio piece. Having always wanted to scale Europe’s highest peak, the Bologna, Italy-based photographer folded some adventure imagery into his expedition. Felix integrates the photos into the Lifestyle galleries on his website and opens his homepage with a slideshow of images, the first of which is from Mont Blanc.

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Read more about this project here.

Showcasing your self-assigned projects right alongside your client-based work, rather than separating it out as “personal,” gives the photos an opportunity to shine. Just because you had to rely on your own resources to create the images doesn’t mean they’re less telling of your abilities as a photographer.

If anything, calling on your own resources to produce a shoot should make you more appealing to potential clients. In addition to rounding out your portfolio, self-assigned projects also exhibit a photographer’s ability to project manage. When Falmouth, England-based Olivia Bossert wanted to garner more fashion assignments, she started with a fashion self-assignment. Casting a model, sourcing a stylist, and enlisting a small videography team for an added element, Olivia took her team to a picturesque English bluff to capture these stylish images.

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Read more about this project here.

Ultimately, your skills as both a photographer and a collaborator demonstrated in a self-assigned project can lead to something more. Noah Willman, a photographer operating out of Washington, DC, reached out to the Alexandria Boxing Club, aiming to build up a sports and fitness repertoire. After photographing the boxers and trainers in action and behind the scenes, capturing the community vibe, Noah pitched his photo series to various editorial clients. In addition to licensing his images to several publications, including Washingtonian, Noah also continues to cover the club’s events and other goings-on.

Read more about this project here.

Documentary photographer Nicole Franco conceptualized a fine art project, titled Charros, capturing Mexico’s traditional horse-riding competition, Charreada. Her emotive black and white images earned Nicole her first solo exhibit, to be on display in Bellas Artes in the summer of 2018.

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Read more about this project here.

Nicole’s success demonstrates another integral aspect of self-assignments. Diving into your personal interests via photography demonstrates initiative and self-sufficiency, not to mention your love for the medium.

“Like all creatives, there are times when we feel the need to challenge ourselves. I had a very clear vision about a new project I wanted to shoot.…I’ve been riding since I was a child and my relationship with horses has been and continues to be tremendous in my life, so photographing them was natural to me.” – Nicole Franco

It can be quite challenging to tackle something so close to your heart, but with patience and calculated execution, your self-assigned passion project can reap rewards. Over the course of 25 years, Los Angeles based photographer Manuello Paganelli captured his travels to Cuba, exploring his heritage as well as the country’s anatomy. This ongoing project resulted in a book, Cuba: A Personal Journey 1989-2016.

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Read more about this project here.

Never underestimate the power of self-assigned projects. Integrating work into your portfolio that’s conceptualized and executed by you is one terrific way to expand your photography business into new ventures.

Looking to get started? Reach out to our consultants – we’d love to help!

Wonderful Machine

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