Why Do I Need a Personal Project?


Turning Personal Projects Into a Career


Lesson Info

Why Do I Need a Personal Project?

Thank you guys for all being here think for charming in from wherever you are around the world in japan paris, beijing, china where you're from glad you're here sam for who's always with us usually how you doing hasn't going everyone so I want talk about personal projects today and how you use them to start your career or boost your career so I want to first go back to how I first learned about showing my person work I've always shot it but for a long time I kept it to myself so he is how it started for me I had this work I was doing and it was just for me it was I had in my mind this this idea that you shoot work that will get you work and then his work as your string for me it was personal and I kept it to myself so one day my agent comes over to my place and sees this image and she says to me whose work is that? I'm like small issues like you've never seen this work I'm like yes this my personal like oh, I love this image so much and I just my personal work is like I want take into ...

the office and show a buyer in the office so she takes this image in and everybody goes crazy over it it was just for me and I had it just in my place just there and she's so much like matthew, we've got to take this incident out. You need to see they did see your work. I'm like, but it's, not it's not you know what I'm doing for work. It's my personal work. Well, she does a primal peace. We sent out all these different agents. Next thing I know, I'm being hired to shoot my personal work, which was like a bomb going off. I'm like, whoa, I didn't know I could do that, but that personal image led to getting this first campaign and that lead to other work and more work and more work so that I found out that you shouldn't just be shooting work that you think will get you work. It doesn't work that way you shoot what you love because in shooting what you love and that what you think is going get you work, people see the essence of you that's, how you stand out now that everybody can buy any camera and cameras are getting better and better and better I mean, these sunni cameras are amazing they could do everything in anything but how do you stand out? How do you stand out as a photographer, you get your thumb print on your work that thumbprint is how you feel about life, about the world around you it's your personal work that makes you stand out from everybody else yes, I want the best equipment I can have which is why shoot sony these great lenses is great body I want the best I'm always changing what I shoot to go to the next best thing I used to shoot ah nikon along time ago then canada while that's which too soon because I wanted the best I could get my hands on but how do you show the world how you feel, what you have to say if your images that's what we'll talk about today and I can use that to boost or create your career, what you're really doing is showing the world your thumbprint through your images, your fingerprint, your special source today's about you showing the world you're special sauce there really kind of three categories of work and I see it this way there's your assignment work the work you do for clients, then there's you're testing work the work you're doing even when you're not working, you always be shooting well, they're being hired or not you should always be shooting I'm always shooting what I'm being hired to shoot oh, I'm testing or into my personal projects so you have your assignment work what kinds of hiring you did you have your your testing work and then you have your personal projects I think it's all a big important part to make you a better photographer give you well rounded or you'll get burnt out and we'll go over that also when you're working so much because that's your dream to work all the time and then that comes true how do you get back to doing what you love remembering why you love photography staying fresh and inspired for me it's personal projects and go that through that a lot today let's go through assignment work class about hiring you to put your spin on their product being a cosmetic company hair care company, a magazine story when celebrities a jury campaign all this is some work that I've done recently, so I'm being hired by advertising agency or magazine or designer to shoot these different types of assignments and they want my take on it as well, but also they want to sure that their product stands out and that I show how I feel about that product through their brand. We all have our brand of work, so I need to interpret their brand through my work so they can shine and stand out by the way, all that work has been done by mary touch her and I always get a lot of e mails or text tweets about who I use as a re toucher, so I fit today I'll show that to everybody this is my uh we touch her she's really amazing she was incredible work and she did all those indians you've just seen fathers didn't cry it's be it a magazine or cosmetic company she's on the east coast he's really amazing and all those people have been tweeting and asking me who I use for retouching if I do my own I don't I don't do ah photo shop I love to shoot I will be off the computer shooting that's what I love doing not being on the computer retouching doing photo shop I hired somebody to do everything that I can't do because I can't retouch at all it's about your your testing work I'm always shooting I always find my inspiration and showing those ideas and accuse my work fresh accuse me showing clients how I feel what I think um it's not really shooting the work for a client it's me still shooting how I feel and showing that through my person through my my testing work like this one in and yang having fun was that our client asking me to shoot this this is just me shooting my ideas pushing yourself to find your voice to put it out there to the world showing your spin on makeup and I like to give myself he's the's self assignments I have a whole list of opposites hot and cold yin and yang big and small I go to that list to find ideas candy girl came from that also you ning yang what you saw earlier came from that list I had a list of my favorite movies going back over decades now because I'm getting up there over decades and showing how I feel and just that I love books that I love moves that I love and then I turned those things into stories you name candy girl madame butterfly my own take on a book or movie or plane on your life if you go to see a movie and it touches you do you spin on it turned to a story that's how you find your inspiration and then there's also personal projects how do you feel about the world what do you want to say to the world how do you want to give back through photography beyond yourself beyond your own work beyond just making money that's your personal projects now going back again and talking about that assignment work from clients uh oh even the testing that work so you get hired by magazine or advertising company. That job comes out it's on the cover of forbes magazine for three days is an ad maybes out four year or six months they could be like two years where this depends on the client but is that for a short amount of time in the big scam of span of time it's only out for short amount of time your personal projects they can live forever ever they can live forever nineteen, ninety nine you guys fight over a movie that a lot because I remember in ninety nine nine but I do very well in nineteen ninety nine what happened in the world besides the prince song you know we're all dancing party like was nineteen ninety nine but in nineteen ninety nine there was the dot com bust in the nineties I was shooting left and right everything was going great not that would never end it was a great time to be a photographer and then the dot com bust happened it was the first time in my career where I saw it go teo it's like everything stopped so like wow what do I do? Well, I had an idea and that idea turned into my first personal project back then I had no idea about how it works someone taking that process of my first personal project and you can see how can I help you in your career? So back in ninety nine nine I did my first personal project cpi a dreams and it was an idea for a book what did the idea come from? Well, at the age of twelve I read a book it was about a photographer who was living his life living his dream and my father gave me a cameras a kid and he taught me how to process pictures and that began my love of photography but it was just a hobby. I only saw it as a hobby until I read this book is a book by gordon parks, and that book led me to knowing that I could be a photographer as a living. It turned my life around, it was having the lightbulb turned one for the first time, that book so I want to do a book that also help other people find their direction, so I felt it wasn't strong enough. Media's talk about my story and be a kid being turned on to photography by reading that book. So I had the idea of shooting fifty celebrities around the country and then also interviewing them and asking each of them, what was your beginning? Who inspired you as a kid? What was your first time knowing that you could be a dancer director? Actor? What was that for you? We need to start what your ups and downs. So I decided to this book, but I had never done a book before. So what about going about finding celebrities and interviewing them? I had never been a book. I'd never interviewed anybody before my life, but I had the idea I'm going to do this, so what about approaching two and celebrities asking them if I could photograph them and interview them? And get their stories I felt that I had to do it had friends telling me, oh, you'd have done the interview before you, you know, you should get somebody else to do the interviews and you shoot, but I felt that it wouldn't be what I felt was important. I wouldn't. They talk about their movies, what was going on now now wants me much deeper than just that. So I sell felt that I had to do the interviews myself, and at the end of the day it was a great decision because, well, there's, something has opened up by giving me the interview, and it was personal because as a photographer it's a very personal experience your pulling back the veil and showing their souls so that process of shooting somebody photographing somebody and then doing the interview is a great combination. But again, remember, I had never done it before is all brand new interviewing people who I admired even the idea of interviewing the person had never met before. My mentor from a distance, gordon parks, that guy who have read about as a kid I want to photograph meet him and interviewing for my book. That was my goal to interview and meet gordon parks, and this is the first day I met him and interviewed him it's when my favorite shots to this day is my first this day was the first day I got the meet the man who introduced me to doing photography as a kid and let me know through that book that can make a living doing it it was very powerful for me so here I am actually going back to shoot him again I think have him four times before he passed away gordon parks at his home and here I am going back to give him the book after it came out this is a very special day for me being go back you know to like meet your your mentors might move you've really admired all your life you know photographed them interview them and then come back and give him the finished product that meant the world to me back then but going back to nineteen, ninety nine my career which was on a high at the time fell off when the dot com bust happened everything stopped so I had all this time on my hands and that's when I did my first personal project I didn't stop shooting and worry about getting work. I use my time wisely in one around and started photographing celebrities and interviewing them because it meant something to me to tell the stories and get their stores and put it out there to the world I didn't know what would happen after the process of doing the interview that boost that you get by doing your personal projects because I thought I had to do this commercial work and that commercial work would lead to more work well, doing your personal work leaves toe way more work they could ever dream of and here's the unexpected boost that happened after my first book came out cp dreams also known as getting press coverage as a commercial photographer I wasn't getting asked to do interviews on tv or radio a that but now I have this product out and now I'm getting asked to do tv appearances and press and radio interviews, newspaper articles and now all my clients are calling for him or because now I'm like, I'm on a tv show I wanna radio they're hearing about me through the media which is different than me going out there and saying please hire me please hire me please hire me all this sort of like oh, we want to hire this guy now and then I select my career take off again during the dot com bust when everybody else a slow I'm taking off again based off my personal projects that's how it happens I'm going to this mohr throughout entire day but this is this the opening for me to see how important doing personal projects is for your career and for you because now you tell the world how you feel and it's sincere is from your heart it's what you care about so then I'm working a lot if the book comes out, I'm working left and right the point I'm getting burned out, I'm working so much and doing work for the clients, they had no time for myself. So in two thousand six I know I need a break because I'm not living photography the way I was before so I go away to india for months to clear my head, get away from the business, get away from phones and agents and everything else and just be away. I'm in india and I come back from india and start another personal project and that one was lost and found and this idea at the time came to me through microsoft. They asked me to do a project based on is part of a series of books they six photographer is to do these different projects, as when the six photographers so they spot to this project where, when all of the country and photographed families of missing children, so to go from the world of fashion, beauty and celebrity into this world was very good for me to break away from the very polish world of celebrity polish, world of fashion and shoot real people around america do you know if riel issues families dealing with the loss of a child? So when around america and went to d c not learned all about missing children it is as far away as you can get from fashion and beauty I'll put my spin on forward from these families this is elizabeth smart in her home in utah, the first child found ever using the amber alert in texas all this was great for me because I could get away from thinking about fashion beauty advertising and really put my my my vision out there and shoot him that meant something to people and hear their story peace I mean great people, you know, police all over the world old country john walsh so what do you care about what means something to you? What makes you feel alive? That's me? She you should be shooting things that make you feel alive that you care about that you connect with that special that special if you're not working today and you wonder why the phone's not ringing when not being hired forget about that and shoot things that means something to you, what you care about put your heart and soul into that and the work will come later on shoot what you love or what you care about. We've all heard this mean times, but is a picture really worth a thousand words what's more powerful the words or the images what's powerful some do another person professor project right now and that project is future presidents future presidents so in this project I'm using words again and images to tell story, but more importantly, to inspire, inspire another generation, hopefully for decades to come. The idea for this project is to photograph children around the country in every single state and get their vision of what they do if they were president of the united states. But the idea is to inspire their generation and future generations to dream of that goal of being president or mohr that's the idea, the plant, the seed, the same way gordon parks planned that see with me when I was twelve so all the kids, my book twelve and younger, I think it's a very special time we shouldn't go out and reach somebody and highlight them and give them a moment to hopefully reflect on being special, different and put that dream out there. This is planting the seed my book now it's all about planting the seed future presidents. I love this project because I'm eating families again all over america and getting a chance to highlight their child and make them feel special. And sometimes for the first time, I'm telling that child, you have the ability to be the next future president or anything else you want to be and that's powerful it's one thing to hear from your parents, something they're brand new stranger comes up and tells you you can do anything then they believe it, and it sticks, and in some cases they will change their life and others around forever. Gordon parks never knew that his book would change my life. I'm here right now because of that book that's why I want this book to do to inspire generations everywhere forever, some thinking about the future two thousand sixty eight you know, it's funny, because, uh, I think back to two thousand six and in two thousand six, nobody thought we'd ever have barack obama as being the president of america in two thousand eight it's like, oh, we're not ready yet it won't happen, but two years later, he's president. So imagine fifty years from now, what's possible anything in everything if we plant the seed today, that's one tried to do through photography plant seeds because you never know what can happen. And I'm saying, america, south dakota, I'm going places where you've never dreamed of going before. I know I'm going to every state in america and it's, so beautiful to get out and see the country, especially as a photographer, especially as a photographer going out for having families I've never met before, find their children and photographing them and tell you a message planting a seed is in virginia, and I loved this moment as I was had the idea that I want to shoot a child on a baseball field I couldn't find one, but I'm driving down in virginia and I see this father, his son's packed in baseball go down to talk to the father tell me idea, I thought with his sons for the project and that's, really, I'm finding all the famous around the country same way I find families and photographed, um and come into the life sometimes like fifteen minutes at the most, and then I'm going on to the next state and I get their words talking about how they feel about the future in their own handwriting because other children will relate to that sing a child who looks like them, who writes the same way they write that special that's special twin presidents and kids remember this and they remember it forever I'm in their life for fifteen minutes at the most, but hopefully in that fifteen minutes I can change their life and I don't think differently and believe that anything is possible anywhere. Colorado families are out camping in d c and you know it's so great to come into a family's life and take their picture and see their child come alive because for the made for the first time his photographer was a stranger coming out with these big lights, making them, you know, highlight them in their life put them on display forever this families on vacation and in their vacation I came into their life and they remember that forever through photography imagine what you can do with your photography by shooting which you care about photography is very special don't forget that photography is an amazing medium it's a steel moment captured forever very did in the video it's a still moment an instant frozen forever don't forget how powerful it isthe what are your projects? What do you have in your mind? What can you do today tomorrow to change the world through your photography we have the ability to shoot a thousand images in a day if we want to our cameras today in cards but every image a special every single image is special don't forget that imagine the first korean american president imagine the possibilities it's all possible if we can't look into the future two years we didn't get looking to the future twenty years or forty years of sixty years he'll be a lot of change that happens in our world in the next five years ten years and for these children they had their whole life ahead of him dreaming big dreaming big through photography it's about passing it on I recently did a project inspired by sony that was so amazing and is a good photographers and we had the concept of having one photographer and one part the country take a picture then send that picture to another photographer could look at the picture, find inspiration and issued a picture than past that you're going to the park photographer it's a great project and it made me think about being creative I love we're on the spot and you have to think about an image and produce and in many ways my project future presidents is the same thanks out I'm driving different places, not knowing who want to find where our shoot and I find somebody in the moment and make an image it's a great exercise as photographer is great for you guys as well too force yourself to shoot in situations that you can't control all the time. So has given this assignment this project pass it on and as one of three photographers got a chance to shoot this project and I share that with you guys now wait a project with sony bringing the make top believe experienced the life the way it worked this the first photographer received a brief and he created an image the image that I made with my reaction to his photograph and then I'll pass that on to the next photographer and he'll come up with this picture it's story telling three different points of view when I first got this society from sony, I thought I was super cool because I really wanted to capture the geography of winter in maine is a photographer. I'm not only ok with chance and chaos, I actively embrace it. A nine has a full front sensor, which largely to shoot super shallow depth of field and also an incredibly low light. I think the picture that came out in the end has mystery and intrigue in it and can get handed off to the next photographer in a way that allows them to run and a lot of different directions. He chose this thing that's, sole control, so well designed. And so I want to break that. I wanna make it really playful and almost chaotic. I wanted to capture some of the underwater environment in this area on, so I got creative and I got a fish. Thanks. We have to rely on some of the technical of the lease of this camera, so the fact that it can shoot a six frames per second, even over the way for moving, we were able to get some movement, and yet the very sharp picture all at the same time, her image was all about the beauty of nature, so I would take all the elements from her shot, then twisted into this fashion our beauty shot I've always loved creating thirteen way all mode this image together, visually, when you were behind the linens and you have the small in front of you. The instant you showed that picture, you feel it. What I love about this sunny eighty nine is that it gives me confidence in knowing that had the shot it's lovely shot. I like the fact that he kind of brings nature into the studio. I want to take a different direction. I'm going to look for a location that we can work with what I was like, a little element of whimsy or humor and shots. I mean, what is more fun when you're at the beach than having a couple mur means women? I love that in a very small compact body rx one offers a full frame sensor on a great size looks chilled out there loving it's, a lighthearted image that hopefully will make people's thiss sony made dot believe project has really, unless the power of my imagination, hopefully other people will use this as a starting point to continue their own stories. I won't think sony, for they give me a chance to be a part of that project. It was a lot of fun it had to, uh I really did dig deep to look at this image because I had a couple of hours, they show me the image, and from that I had really an hour to look at it and decide what I want to shoot. And then go about trying to produce it. And I love that exercise. Imagine you and your friends in any state doing the same thing, taking a picture, passing on somebody else, and then find their inspiration and pass it on. I mean, that alone could be a great project to work on photographers around the country. Imagine a new organization doing that and having fifty photographers on a photographer's, passing it on, I think the great idea and thank you, sony, for the opportunity, tohave me be a part of the first pass it on.

Class Description

"You build your business shooting for other people. You build your career shooting for yourself." From creating and choosing projects to organizing details and financing, this course will teach you how to effectively manage personal projects to grow your photography business. This inspirational workshop is designed to help you practice your craft and elevate your photography business. During this comprehensive course, Matthew will offer step-by-step instruction on how to launch and execute personal photography projects. Matthew’s workshop is part of a 3-day event sponsored by Sony called “Shoot What You Love", a 3-day inspirational event sponsored on April 22-24 with fashion photographer Matthew Jordan Smith, family photographer Me Ra Koh, and conservation photographer Cristina Mittermeier.