1. Photo Ideas + Concepts
Keeping a collection of ideas and concepts not only keeps your mind somewhat organized it is also such a great source of new ideas. Sometimes I read an old concept I never actually worked on and suddenly I have a whole pile of new ideas and get excited about starting it. When an idea floats around in your head, even if you don’t feel like working on it now, you might in the future. That’s why I like to keep ideas and concepts in my photography journal.
2. Settings + Cheat Sheets
Photography can be quite technical sometimes, so I really like to sketch or note little reminders for settings and rules like image compression with zoom lenses or where the object and I should be in relation to the light source. Sometimes the simple step of writing it down in your own words solidifies your understanding too.
3. Direction of Light at Times of Day
The direction of light obviously changes at different times of day, month and year and sometimes it’s worth noting what places and objects look best around what time. If you spot the perfect side wall of a building to act as a backdrop for example but before 3pm it gets hit with harsh sunlight, it might be worth it to note, so you can plan the shoot accordingly and can consult your notes for a different project, rather than figuring out the directions of light from zero.
Write down your favorite locations for certain projects or if you don’t have any yet, just start a list of locations you pass during everyday commutes that you find interesting looking and worth checking out with your camera. You wouldn’t believe how many places you forget about if you don’t note them!
5. Objects to Photograph
Keeping a list of objects to photograph makes life easier when you are demotivated and unsure what to photograph for a project. Scanning the list of items or people can help you to new ideas and helps you get unstuck.
6. Tip Collection
These can be tips to yourself, like things you learned through experience and would like to remember or advice from other photographers. Creating an endless pool of tips is so useful, especially because in your personal journal you only keep the tips that apply to you, rather than a book filled with advice but only half of it matters to you.
7. Prints of Your Photos + Notes
Get actual prints done of your photos! It makes such a difference to sit down with your photos in hand and think about what works well and what needs improvement. It’s also a great way to figure out what print finishes and coatings you like. Please make sure to order from a local photography lab or to use one of the services online (I like Nationsphotolab). Do not fall for the prices at Walmart or Walgreens. Yes, they are cheap but so is their quality. It won’t do your photos justice to get a print where the colors are off. You won’t regret paying the few cents more.
8. Inspiring Photographers
Other photographers and their body of work is – apart from gaining your own experiences – what can move you forward. You see the work of another photographer and might think “THAT’S the style I’d like to work towards” or “THAT’S the theme I’m interested in.” Of course finding inspiration in other photographers doesn’t mean that you can or should copy them. It means looking at their work and having a visual starting point of what interests you or where you’d like to evolve in your own personal way. So keep a list of people whose work you admire and write down why you find them inspiring. Sometimes you might not even actually care for the object in the photo but the angles they pick, etc.
9. Other Sources of Inspiration
You can find inspiration in almost anything but sometimes we get stuck and can’t seem to find inspiration at all. So whenever you do find something inspiring, note it in your journal. To me it’s mostly music and well written books. So I write dow the songs I love and note why I find them inspiring. I write down quotes from books, sometimes completely without context. But there is much more to be inspired by – food, patterns, locations, smells, to give you a few more ideas – and you should definitely add your favorites as sources of inspiration to your journal.
10. Photo Reviews
I had to write photo reviews in school, was part of a photo group where we would discuss each other’s pictures and have listened to photography critiques online – photography reviews in any shape or form are an incredibly valuable. Reviewing photos you notice things you wouldn’t have by just glancing at the image once. You learn how others approach photography, really understand what the photo is about and can take away a thing or two for your own pictures. Whenever you come across a photo that catches your eye in any way (bad ones too), sit down and write a quick review like you do for your own pictures. What works? What doesn’t? Why do you like it? Why do you dislike it? What makes it special? Those are very general questions but they are a starting point for you.
11. Dreams, Concerns+ Thoughts
Writing down what concerns you have about your photography, dreaming about a new camera or lens or thoughts on photography topics that interest you is a wonderful way to process and structure your thoughts and helps you keep your mind in order.
12. Experiences + MomentsThanks to Photography
Throughout my project 365 I’ve had so many fun experiences, little and big achievements (I photographed a wedding!) and your journal is a wonderful place to store all those wonderful memories and celebrate your accomplishments.
13. Course Notes
Whenever you take an online course or take part in a workshop, either directly jot down what you learn in your notebook or if it’s too precious to you, write notes on a paper during the class and copy the most important advice and lessons learned in your journal.
One of the biggest motivators to me is when I receive positive feedback or get suggestions from others to implement in my photography. Make some space for the kind things people have to say about your work because if you are like me, you are beating yourself up too much and it feels good to read nice things about your photos.
15. Film Settings
If you still use a film camera every now and then, create a space in your journal for the settings you used, since that’s not as conveniently recorded on film as it is digitally. That way you can actually learn what settings work best for you. I create little series of the same scene with different settings to get to know my camera better.
Who doesn’t love strong, important quotes that have the power to motivate or inspire you? Note your favorites in the journal.
17. Photography Exercises
There are so many great books with exercises to train your eye or find your style or really anything else you can think of that you might need to improve or help with. Use the journal to keep the results of your exercises together, so in the future you can see where you came from.
18. Music Playlist
On the top of my head I could name ten songs that I absolutely love and find super inspiring and motivating. Write down a playlist with your favorite songs, collect the music on a disc or your hard drive and listen to it when you feel stuck.
I wrote an entire article about creating a core set of goals for your photography project 365. Use the worksheet from that post as guidance and note the goals you would like to set yourself in your journal.
RELATED ARTICLE: SETTING GOALS FOR YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT 365