46 Creative Photography Project Ideas and Techniques to Motivate You
If you’re stuck for ideas of what to shoot next and looking for some inspiration, this article will hopefully give you a few creative ideas and techniques you can try out, whether you’re a beginner or professional.
1: Write on different objects and photograph them
Photograph text on different objects, for example you could write in a book, on some fruit or plastic bottle. Also you could try setting your camera to a 30 second exposure or bulb mode, and photograph the object as you write the text.
2: Create your own pinhole camera
A pinhole camera is essentially a light proof box with a hole in it, and light from outside the box projects on the opposite wall inside the box. You can create your own pinhole camera from common household materials, a useful instruction guide for making one can be found here.
3: Convert your photos to black and white or monochrome
An obvious idea but often overlooked, try converting your photos to black and white. This usually gives photos a more contrasty look and works well with scenes with strong dark and light areas.
4: Remove all colour from your photo except for 1 or 2 colours
This can be done easily in Photoshop, simply turn the saturation down for the colours you want to remove from the photo, and leave 1 or 2 colours, or even increase their saturation slightly for a punchier look. Another way to do this is select the area you want to be in colour by using the magic wand tool, then invert your selection and convert this to black and white.
5: Photograph your food
Cook a dish of your favourite food and arrange it in a stylish way and then photograph it. You could do this for all of your meals for a week.
6: Create a photo illusion
Create a photo illusion such as a human in the foreground eating a mountain in the distance, so the mountain appears smaller, or a more common practise is placing your index finger in the foreground with a human in the distance so it appears you’re lifting them with your finger.
7: Photograph a water droplet
A common creative idea is capturing close-ups of water droplets suspended in mid-air or objects dropping into water creating a splash for example. To do this firstly you’ll need a tripod because you’ll be shooting only in a specific spot and also because you’ll be using manual focus mode. A fast shutter speed is obviously a must for freezing the splash in time, and using external flash guns and higher ISO settings will allow you to do this.
8: Photograph a scene in a mirror
Try placing a mirror in front of your camera and taking a photo of the reflection of the scene in the mirror.
9: Paint on a black and white photograph
You could try this with an old black and white photo (preferably not a valuable one), and paint colour on the photo so it looks more realistic, had the original been in colour. Another way to do this is in Photoshop with the paint tools.
10: Create a pattern of objects
Arranging identical objects into a pattern can make for an interesting shot, or you could duplicate the object in Photoshop with a bit of work.
11: Capture peoples lives
You may need to ask the permission of the person to do this but photographing people as they go about their daily lives can make for an interesting photo.
12: Capture your own life
Take a self portrait of yourself in different situations throughout the day, and emphasize the change in your surroundings and mood etc.
13: Take a photo of the night sky
Take a photo of the stars by using bulb mode on your camera and a remote shutter release to reduce camera shake from pressing the shutter. Or if you don’t have a remote shutter release you can use a timer with a 30 second exposure. You may need to experiment with different exposure times to get this right, and if you live in a city or light polluted area, an orange glow may show up on your photo with longer exposures, potentially ruining it.
14: Human figurine in different scenes
Try photographing a small human model figurine in different scenes, such as surrounded by fruit and vegetables, or even take it to work and photograph it in the different situations you find yourself.
15: Set objects on fire
You could try photographing things on fire such as a match or book, but take proper precautions when doing this.
16: Photograph abandoned ruins
Find a local abandoned building and photograph the remains.
17: Try using a film camera
If you own or have access to an old film camera then this idea is well worth a try. Photos from old film cameras have a unique, vintage look very different to what modern cameras produce. Another benefit for only shooting with a film camera is they are much harder to get a good photo out of and you can’t check if you’ve shot it right until you develop the film, so this is a good way to learn how to use a camera properly.
18: Car light trails
Try taking a long exposure of moving car headlights at night. A good place to do this is on a bridge above a road or next to a road. Don’t limit it to just car lights though, you could try this with a Ferris wheel or fireworks for example.
19: Shoot the same scene every day for a year
A good scene for this is usually a natural one with trees or anything that changes throughout the seasons. Also you could try taking a self portrait of yourself in that scene for a year, or even longer. It will take a while to complete, but it is well worth the effort.
20: Close ups of every day objects
Take macro shots of every day objects you use, such as a pencil, food, or your clothing.
21: Camera shake
Moving your camera intentionally while you photograph a subject can make for some interesting abstract shots. You will need a slower shutter speed for this, which you can experiment with until you get the desired effect.
On a sunny day try using a shadow as the main subject of your photo. For a portrait you could use the persons shadow as the main focus of the scene while placing the person further to the edge of the photo.
Using a prism in front of your camera lens can give you some interesting abstract shots, and have unpredictable results.
Try putting your camera out of focus, this can be done with any subject but works well with lights and uncomplicated scenes. To put your SLR out of focus, set the focus mode to manual and then move the focus wheel until you get the desired photo.
If you haven’t heard of it before, geocaching is like a treasure hunt on a global scale. Boxes are hidden in locations all around the world, and you can get the GPS coordinates for any of these, you then find one of the boxes at the coordinates provided, which should have some kind of treasure hidden inside, then you replace the treasure with your own and re hide the box. Check out the geocaching website for more information.
Homeless people always make for a good photo, perhaps you could offer some money in return for a photograph of them.
27: Pick a theme
Choose a theme to photograph, such as trees, roads or shops etc. and shoot photos of all of the subjects you can find based on your theme.
28: Light Painting
Light painting involves taking a long exposure and moving a light source around in front of the camera while exposing and making shapes or anything you like. Another way to use light painting is to point your light source at different parts of an object to give it an unreal kind of look.
29: Clone a person
Clone yourself or someone else so there are multiple copies of you in the same scene. This is done by taking multiple exposures of the same scene with the person in different positions and then merging all the photos together, but be sure not to move your camera while doing this.
30: Use your phone
Nowadays, professional looking photos can be create with just a phone. There are many apps available that you should consider using that will give you more options you would normally see on a DSLR. One recommended app if you’re an android user is Open Camera which includes options such as auto stabilizing, zoom, and the ability to set ISO and exposure.
31: Aerial photography
This idea involves lifting your camera with a kite or drone, although you will probably need a GoPro camera to do this due to their smaller size and weight. Also if you’re contemplating in using a drone, you can buy some with cameras already built in.
Tilt shift involves taking a photo of a real scene and making everything appear smaller, like a miniature model. There are a few ways to get this effect, such as using a tilt-shift lens and editing the photo in Photoshop to blur parts of the photo. Some basics for taking a tilt-shift photo are, you will need a well lit scene, and the photo should be taken from above, since this is the view you would normally take a photo of a small model at. Parts of the scene should be blurred and parts in focus, and this makes it appear like you’re using a wide aperture on a close up subject.
33: Visit your local zoo
If you’re interested in wildlife photography or would like to get started at it, go to your local zoo or safari park and practice your photography skills. This is a much easier option than waiting around to see the animals in the wild.
Find something to photograph for each letter of the alphabet, or as an alternative find something that looks like each letter, for example a car wheel for the letter O.
35. Play with Focus Points
For some interesting results try setting your aperture to the widest setting and focus on something behind or in front of the main subject to make the main subject blurry. Another idea is to change the focus to manual and throw the whole image out of focus.
36. Get on the Ground
Changing your viewpoint can really make your images more eye catching and interesting. Taking every photo at eye level creates a photo that we see over and over in other photos, but getting down on the ground or higher to show angles people don’t regularly see from can give more interesting results.
37. Long Exposures
Using slower shutter speeds is quite common but there’s lots of ways of doing this. To get a slower shutter speed without overexposing there’s a few options, such as using high f numbers (narrow apertures) or using neutral density filters. Some ways of using these slower shutter speeds is for shooting rivers for example, which gives the water a nice smooth surreal effect. Also on a windy day you could perhaps find a field with crops or flowers moving in the wind.
Panoramas are great for getting in a lot more of the scene in your photos, and this technique is most commonly used for landscape shots. If you’re using a camera phone or a modern compact system camera for example, these often come with an inbuilt panorama mode where you simply move the camera left or right across the scene and the camera will do the rest. But if you’re using a camera without this option then there’s another way to do this. Firstly you need to avoid as much vertical movement and camera shake as possible, and next you simply take a photo then move to the left or right of this point and take another so this photo overlaps the previous by a tiny amount. Once you’ve taken a few photos the next step is editing them using photo editing software. Simply put you stitch all the photos together and the software should do a good job at this.
Panning is common in sports photography to capture moving subjects and is a good way to emphasize movement and speed of the subject by adding blur to the background while keeping the subject mostly sharp. It’s pretty simple to do and involves simply moving the camera with your subject, keeping it in the same position in the lens and then taking the shot. You might need to play around with the shutter speeds a bit to get the right amount of blur and sharpness of the subject.
40. Surreal Effects
Creating surreal effects can give some striking results that will definitely keep the viewers attention. So here’s a couple of examples you could try out:
-Try out some levitating effects by getting your subject to jump in the air and use a fast shutter speed to capture them in mid air. It’s important to keep the subject as sharp as possible to make it appear like they aren’t moving and not obvious they are jumping.
-Infrared photography is not that common and can create some very unreal looking photos which you can’t be seen with the human eye. This type of photo will show trees as whites and the sky as black for example. Some cameras come with this option built in so you’ll need to check if your camera has this or not.
This idea is easy and quick to set up and it’s simply out of focus bubbles of light. For this all you need is some kind of shiny subject such as some tin foil with a light shining on it or fairy lights, and you then put your camera into manual focus and move the focus ring until everything is out of focus. Another idea you could try is placing an object in front of the area you want blurred and then focusing on the object.
Attaching your DSLR to a telescope is one way to shoot the night sky, but an easier option is simply placing your camera on a tripod and pointing it up at the sky. One problem with this is if you’re in an area with lots of light pollution, like street lights etc. then you’ll risk ending up with photos with an orange color cast, which can ruin them. But for this you’ll need to use long exposures and to avoid any camera shake from touching the camera you’ll need to use a tripod and a remote shutter release or alternatively you could use the timer setting.
Capturing peoples emotions and feelings can make for some very powerful photos which will captivate your viewers. Simply choose an emotion for example anger, sadness, happiness, loneliness etc. then get your family or even hire a model to pose for you to depict these emotions. Or if you’re really dedicated you could go searching on the streets for people to capture these emotions in real life.
44. Travel the World
You don’t have to take a year off to travel the world, but a holiday or just a day trip to a new location can give you more insight and new ways of photographing things.
45. Learn Photo Editing
Some people tend to think that editing photos results in a fake photo, and while this is true in some instances it really depends on how far you go with this. Photos aren’t real life and the results you get depend entirely on what the camera captures and how it processes them, which sometimes isn’t very realistic or true to how the scene actually looks, so editing really isn’t any different from your camera processing the image. For this, the best and most popular software is probably Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, and Lightroom is probably the easiest to use but still a very powerful app.
One good reason to edit your photos is because the camera doesn’t always do a good job at creating a realistic looking photo, for example the sharpness, contrast or exposure might be slightly off, and tweaking your photo slightly can have a huge effect and create a more realistic looking photo.
46. Buy some filters
Filters all have different uses. One of the most popular is the Polarizer, which increases saturation and can be used to make a blue sky look a darker, stronger blue. An ND Grad is another good filter that’s commonly used in Landscape photography and it is used to darken one part of the photo, for example you could darken the clouds for a moody, atmospheric shot.