Making time for personal work as a photographer

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Inspired by “Born yesterday: mothers with their brand new babies”

By Susanna Rustin. Source; The Guardian


I felt inspired to write this blogpost after reading a stirring article that stole my attention in the Guardian over the weekend. I wanted to share this article with you as not only will the photography inspire you, it will really get you thinking about the power and importance of personal work as a photographer.


The article, written by Susanna Rustin, discusses a personal project by commercial photographer Jenny Lewis. The catalyst for this project was a reflection of Lewis’s personal experience of becoming a mother. Lewis had a positive experience when bringing her son into the world but felt surrounded by conversations of pain and fear by other women.


Lewis felt inspired to show the world that women can be “ok the day after”. This powerful message combined with a desire to find an outlet for her own ideas about what is beautiful, resulted in a powerful collection of beautiful images of mothers from different ages and backgrounds. Lewis took incredible, simple portraits of 150 mothers over five years, all captured by Lewis within 24 hours of birth and back at home.


The personal project “One Day Young” is shot in natural light, often by a window, with glimpses of furniture or washing up liquid in the background.

Rustin describes the images as muted, sober, and deeply tender.


Rustin’s words, together with these uncomplicated, beautiful portraits touched me; yet also excited me into thinking about my own personal project. Realising that it was possible for me to have the privilege of photographing something I was passionate about too.


The modern lifestyle photographer is as busy as ever. Photoshoots, shoots on location, editing, networking, marketing, sales, finances, blogging, admin and emails are just a handful of jobs a professional photographer has to consider. To keep your work fresh and inspired I believe that personal work is one of the ways you can effectively reflect and consider your craft, yourself, and your journey so far.


I believe that personal work for photographers is a gift and every photographer should take on a personal project, big or small, not for a client, not because someone told you to, but for YOU.


Take a moment to reflect, what inspires you, what subjects move you? What is beautiful to you? Work this out and you’ll be astonished at the results …


Advice on taking on a personal project


The best personal projects start with a specific viewpoint or idea

Choose a subject that is close your values

Feel connected to the subject in some way

Have a clear message – what do you want to portray through your work?

Strip back to basics, use minimal kit

Ask yourself what is beautiful to you?

Don’t let it be a time stealer, do little often if you have to

Keep it simple


Written by Jenny Heyworth

Inspired by “Born yesterday: mothers and their newborn babies” Written by Susanna Rustin and photographs by Jenny Lewis.

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