“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” – we’ve all heard this infamous quote from the Hollywood horror classic The Shining. But when we examine the words and what they mean, we start to realise exactly how much daily relevance it has in the creative industry.
Working each week amongst other models, photographers, designers, stylists and makeup artists, I have discovered a realisation that is potently evident – creative persons rely on the need to keep their imaginations stimulated and without it their work suffers profusely.
With the will to to refresh our creative brains with new ideas and the desire to rouse new interest in continued styles, it is no wonder that even the most successful people enjoy collaborating on personal projects to keep their portfolios current. Working with clients (although mostly rewarding and enjoyable), can become easily repetitive, boring and too safe. Reliability and confidence in the repeated process for regular paid work is essential, but when we look outside the box, we can truly challenge ourselves and become impassioned about the process again.
The importance of personal projects is priceless, but please don’t mistake this term as meaning worthless. Taking a step away from the routine of ‘work’ and taking a leap into the unknown, provides copious amounts of freedom to express oneself as an artist and not just a person at work. As Jack says, all work and no play makes a man very dull indeed.
So if your work is getting stifled and your ideas are starting to lose soul, now is the time to think about what makes you tick as a creative. What drives your passion as an artist? What made you a photographer in the first place? Invest in your business by giving yourself permission to reenergise your imagination and boost your inner batteries. Here is a small reminder of some ideas we have previously discussed, designed to stimulate your inspiration and tickle your creative taste buds;
1. Watch a new film and an old favourite. Embrace the colours and how they depict the emotions portrayed. Witness the struggles of the characters and how their costume, expressions and locations express a story. Watch the movie slowly and pause it to take notes as it happens.
2. Listen to your favourite music and write down how it makes you feel. Listen carefully to key lyrics and highlight them on your page. Even go so far as direct your own music video in your head, showing yourself how you’d have produced it if budget was no object.
3. Visit the theatre. Much like watching a film, allow a story to be absorbed in your mind whilst taking in each character, costume, lighting and sound, providing a stimulus of imaginative creativity.
4. Think of key phrases as titles and work them into a scene. Expressions like ‘busy bee’ could depict anything; from a bee itself hard at work in a honeycomb, to a stressed parent pulling their hair out whilst doing daily chores, with children swinging from the ceiling. The possibilities are endless when it comes to finding a title to dictate the concept – a strategy I am particularly partial to myself.
5. Use magazine tearsheets and online sources of inspiration such as Pinterest. It’s important not to replicate other artists work without mention to the original source, but if you’re struggling for ideas it is commonly acceptable to use these images as a motivational stimulus. For example, Tim Walker’s mermaid series featured in LOVE magazine and W magazine, incited an array of mermaid themed photoshoots that followed.
Now you have started to think about a project that is personal to you, it is important to remember the reasons why it is so important to make time for yourself, as well as things to note for your ‘play’ day;
1. Trying new things whilst time isn’t money, provides much more self liberation on set. There is room for change and adaptation without a strict client brief, with of course a more relaxed approach to how you work. Your customer isn’t waiting this time, so you can afford to try new set ups alone or with your team. Failing is an option you can afford, with minor hiccups acting more like a learning curve than a problem.
2. Posting blogs about the process from planning – shooting – editing, will excite and attract potential new clients. Use social media to talk about what encouraged the initial idea, how you came to decide on a theme and how you pulled together the project, as well as the final images. Don’t forget to talk about the trials and tribulations of experimentation, whilst reminding your audience that you are constantly learning and pushing yourself to improve with these days for self development. Reasons like this will keep you one step ahead of your competition and make you much more desirable to book.
3. Collaborating with your regular team allows them to stretch their legs and to really express what they can do. Who knows, perhaps you didn’t know about a certain hidden talent that could later make you more sellable to clients as a partnership.
4. Working with a new team brings new ideas and new talents to your collaboration. With nothing to lose, it can be great fun to work with people you haven’t previously worked with before, bringing about a whole new style to your approach.
5. Hiring professional models can be of huge benefit to your portfolio building days. Your everyday client is less likely to know how to pose themselves, meaning you work much harder directing them and talking to them to build a rapport. Hiring a professional model who will move freely, confidently and with ease, removes all of the added pressure that a ‘work free’ day should entail. Paying your chosen team is a great idea if you want to enjoy the shoot without the constraint to provide usable images for everyone’s portfolio. Remember, if you pay someone for their time, then they are not entitled to images also. However, if you work on a ‘TF’ (time for images) basis, you must be able to provide your team with a sensible selection of pictures, within a reasonable time frame.
Collaborations and working on personal projects not only allow creative people to take a holiday from the drone and normality of client work, but it also encourages experimentation where the opportunity to fail is available. For myself as a model, it is only through collaborative work that I have found my feet as a fashion and fine art model, soon discovering that it is within these two genres that I enjoy most. When starting off in the industry, I highly recommend all photographers, make up artist and models to dabble in all of the genres within their own levels, to test themselves as well as the team. Through trial and error, it will soon become apparent which styles you shine most in and which work excites your creativity the most.
Where the consistency of client work provides an income, it’s the collaboration of a ‘freebie’ that will be worth much more to your learning. Forever stimulate the blunted mind, a portfolio is never complete.