Tyler’s Tips Episode 20: Personal Work


Welcome to Tyler’s Tips. Today I’m going to be talking about the importance of personal work.

Okay, so what is personal work? In my world, I define it two ways: personal work and self-produced work. First, personal work. The way I describe that, for me, that’s the stuff that I do that’s just purely for pleasure. It’s stuff like taking pictures of my kids, or taking photos of flowers in my backyard, or taking landscape photos when I’m out backpacking or fishing. Interacting with my world through photography, just enjoying the process and photographing something, I think is pretty. I have tens of thousands of these images sitting on hard drives that I’ve never even looked at, and I probably never will. Honestly. Maybe someday, but I doubt it. The purpose of that, it’s just fun, it gives me pleasure in the moment, and that’s it. That’s how I define personal work.

Now, self-produced work, I think is much more interesting. I want to talk mostly with you about that today. As a commercial photographer, when I’m hired to do a project, there’s a lot of stuff around it. There’s a lot of thinking. There’s pre-production. Often, these projects are pretty elaborate. What I do with self-produced work, is I take all of that stuff that I do in my regular business around a photo shoot, and I apply it to something that’s just for me. I become the client. I am the producer. I create something at the same level, not just the same level with the momentary creativity that I always bring to photography, like composition and storytelling and these things, but all of these ancillary components that I bring to bear when I’m normally working on a project in my business.

What it does is it forces me to be very thoughtful. I often am spending money and hiring people to help me with this, so it forces me to pay a lot more attention. It’s not playing around. it’s creating the best work I possibly can at the highest level I can. But, I’m doing it with something that is just for me, that I’m excited about. Or, I’m collaborating with another creative to do. This type of work, what it does is it gives me a certain freedom that I don’t have when I’m working with a client. That freedom is a wonderful opportunity to learn.

So, taking it one last very important step, I always try to push myself into a place when I’m doing these self-produced projects, where I’m doing something that I don’t totally know how to do. You know, stuff I’m eh, pretty sure I can pull that off, but I’ve never done it before. Or, I only did it once and it totally didn’t work, and maybe we can try it again. Let’s make this come together. Because that risk taking, I feel like is some of the most intense and fastest ways that we can learn, is when we force ourselves to be in a situation where we really don’t know what we’re doing.

That’s how I define a self-produced project. I try to do one or two of those a year. I take them very seriously. What I found is those projects have often really pushed me forward as a creative in a way that nothing else really has. I highly recommend that you give yourself that challenge once in a while. Come up with an idea. Take it really seriously. Make it public. Tell people you’re gonna do it. Bring other people in. Collaborate. You might completely fail, but I guarantee, you will learn a ton. Mostly likely, you won’t fail. Most likely, what you’ll do is you’ll create the best work you’ve ever created. It’ll take you in all kinds of new directions and open your mind in ways that you didn’t even know it could be opened.

There you are. Tyler’s Tip for this week is personal work. Enjoy the little, beautiful process of photography stuff. When those moments come up, always do that kind of personal work. But, I encourage you once in a while to also tackle a big self-produced project, because you never know where it might take you.

As always, I hope this was helpful, and I’m grateful for your time. If you have any ideas or thoughts you’d like me to discuss in a future Tyler’s Tip, just drop me a line and I’ll work it into a future episode. Until next time.