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5 things I’ve Learned Halfway Through A Year Long Portrait Project

by Casey Cosley
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I like people. Strangers in particular. After watching a friend of mine complete his own year long personal project, I hunkered down and asked myself, “Casey, what are you doing to push myself?” The immediate lack of any internal dialogue that followed was a clear indicator that I needed to stop being so complacent, get up and start something. That “something” could be anything that would push my limits and if I was lucky, I’d grow as a photographer along the way.

Everyday for a year I’ve committed to making a portrait with a new person. No backup photos, no repeats, no skipping days. It’s daunting and challenging, but that’s exactly why I love it.

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1. I need rules. It’s not that I’m lazy, but if I give myself the opportunity for ambiguity in projects I won’t have the internal motivation to keep the ball rolling. Without that clear structure, I tend to divert my attention away from things that are important (i.e. the project) and will end up with a cup of coffee watching youtube videos of people making cats having a tea party on a spaceship (I don’t know if that exists, but I would for sure watch that).


Are you ready to learn how to take powerful portraits using your mirrorless camera? Join professional portrait photographer Miguel Quiles as he walks you through using your mirrorless device to capture stunning portrait images. Watch for free on November 3-4!

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2. It gets hard, but it also gets easier. The first ten days flew by in a breeze. I felt like I almost had too many people willing to say yes to a portrait… and then someone said no. Followed by another no, and yet another no. All of a sudden this seemingly straightforward task had become more mountain than molehill. With distinct clarity I remember thinking, “Why can’t I just have all these photos taken already?!” At that moment I also realized climbing mountains takes time and if you don’t take your time and put in the effort to learn the beginner skills, you’ll miss out on all the sights along the way.

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3. I know what I want. After taking a new portrait for 6 straight months, I’m able look at the same situation I struggled with at the start and can immediately see what I need to do to get the results I want. The light coming in from a window is now an old friend instead of a crazy old landlord who doesn’t want to fix your plumbing.

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4. Be hard on yourself, but not too hard. With this portrait project, yes I can just take a photo and yes I can just meet a new person, but it’s also about learning to create something special. I love when I hear or read comments from people saying things like, “Wow you really captured exactly what that person is like!” Critique your work and make sure that what you’re willing to accomplish is the best that you can, but don’t let anything get in your way and stop what you’re working towards.

5.  Don’t give up. When there’s a day that I don’t want to get up and find that day’s subject, there are consistent messages running through my head like “I could just not do today”, “It’s not that bad if I skip a day” and “Talking to strangers is awkward, I don’t want to.” If you can plow through all of that negative craziness and follow through in spite of it, in the end it will make you stronger and better for it.

I’m halfway done. I’ve made it through birthdays, weddings, moving houses, and my wife is 7 months pregnant. If I stop tomorrow I’ll have accomplished so much already, but quitting isn’t a lesson I’ve learned yet.

Casey


Are you ready to learn how to take powerful portraits using your mirrorless camera? Join professional portrait photographer Miguel Quiles as he walks you through using your mirrorless device to capture stunning portrait images. Watch for free on November 3-4!

Miguel_Quiles_Course_Marketing_AssetsEditorial_Blog Ad 1450x420


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Casey Cosley

As a Seattle-based photographer, I incorporate the culture and style of the city into the sense and attitude of my work. I deliver a stunning and vibrant body of work for my clients, and am available for commercial & editorial travel and/or location photo assignments worldwide. Check out my work on Instagram.