Lightroom project #2: Create a Long-Term Project

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Lightroom Project 2

This the second in a series of articles written with the aim of encouraging you to use Lightroom more.

You can view all the Lightroom projects here. More will be added over the coming weeks.

Lightroom project #2: Create a long-term project

Aim: To encourage you to develop your photography skills by creating long term projects, and show you how to organise your projects in Lightroom using Collections.

Modules used: The Library module

One of the problems I’ve experienced over the years of being a photographer is lack of inspiration. There have definitely been times when it seems that there is nothing around to take photos of.

The solution is to create a project. Projects are a great way of learning because they encourage you to explore your subject matter in depth. Instead of asking yourself ‘What am I going to take photos of today?’ you will ask yourself ‘What am I going to photograph for my project today?’ It’s a different way of thinking, one that takes you from aimlessly photographing a variety of subjects to one where you explore less subjects but in greater depth.

The subject matter for potential projects can be wide or narrow.

Let me explain what I mean with an example. I have taken a lot of portraits over the last two years. It’s a broad, long-term project arising from the desire to improve my portraiture skills.

From that broad subject range (portraiture) have come three narrower subjects: portraits of circus performers, portraits of people with dreadlocks and portraits of musicians. I’m sure other project ideas will also come from it.

I’ve used portraits from my circus performers project to illustrate this article.

Lightroom Project 2

Finding projects

Here are some suggestions for finding a project:

1. Look through your old photos to see what themes emerge. A project may suggest itself.

2. Set yourself a skill that you want to improve. In my case, it was portraiture. Other examples could be close-ups, landscape, food, long exposure photography or night photography. I’m sure you can think of others. It doesn’t matter if the project theme is broad, as you can narrow it down into smaller, more specific projects as you go along.

3. Document your local area, a place you visit often, or your family or pets. These are long term projects that can take place over years or decades.

4. Take a look at some curated photography websites, such as Lens Culture, Faded & Blurred, Camera Obscura and Feature Shoot. You will find some beautiful work and amazing ideas for projects. Here are some examples:

Saint-Petersburg, Childhood of many faces

A project exploring the lives of children of different nationalities in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Photographs Capture What Remain of ‘Old Shanghai’

A project juxtaposing two sides of a rapidly changing city.

Dino: My Father’s Story

A daughter’s photos of her father.

The Wild West in Miniature: David Levinthal

A project using a mixture of new and vintage toys to create tableaus capturing the life of the wild west.

Inspired yet? Just those four websites alone are full of ideas. There’s no shortage of good concepts for projects, it’s just a matter of finding the right ones for you.

Using Lightroom Collections

Lightroom comes in very useful for organising projects because it lets you arrange your photos into Collections. You can bring all the photos that belong to a project together into the same Collection or Collection Set, no matter where or when they were taken, or how they are organised on your hard drive.

Here’s how I do it. This method works for me, but feel free to adapt it to your needs.

1. Create a Collection set called Projects. All long-term projects will go in here.

2. Create another Collection Set for each project.

3. Inside each Collection Set create two Collections. Name one Full Selection and the other Selects. The idea is that you add all relevant photos to the Full Selection Collection. From those you chose the best (or the ones that make the final selection) into the Selects Collection.

Lightroom Project 2

You can create more Collections within the Collection Set if you need to, depending on your requirements for the project. For example, if you are undertaking a portrait project you might want to create a Collection for each model.

Note: This simple method of organising Collections for projects has been adapted from the method that I use to organise all my photos. You can read more about it in Lightroom Project #1: Organise Your Photos.

Using Smart Collections

For long-term projects you may find Smart Collections useful as well. For example, let’s say you have a long-term project photographing your children as they grow up. That can add up to a lot of photos over the years. Here’s an easy way of organising them:

1. When you import the photos into Lightroom, add a Keyword with the name of your child.

Lightroom Project 2

2. Create a Smart Collection that pulls all the photos tagged with your child’s name and taken in a certain year together. With this method, you can create a new Smart Collection for every year of your child’s life.

Lightroom Project 2

These criteria create a Smart Collection containing all photos keyworded with a child’s name taken in the year 2012 (click to see a full-size version).

What to do with your projects

Once you have set yourself a project, you may be wondering what you would do with the photos once it is complete. That is, assuming the project does get completed – some can go for years! Once again, here are some suggestions:

  • Create a photo book of the best photos from the project using Lightroom’s Book module and Blurb’s print on demand service. A nice way to thank participants in the project is to give them complimentary copies.
  • Create a slideshow using Lightroom’s Slideshow module. Alternatively, use software such as Soundslides to create something more advanced.
  • Upload your projects to Behance, a website specifically for posting projects on.
  • Submit your photos to websites like the ones mentioned above. Needless to say, the standard would have to be high.
  • Submit your photos to a photography magazine, or another magazine related to the theme of your project.
  • Make prints of the best photos from the project. You might even be able to turn it into an exhibition.

I’m sure you can think of more.

Here are some more photos from my circus performer’s project:

Lightroom Project 2Lightroom Project 2Lightroom Project 2Lightroom Project 2Lightroom Project 2Lightroom Project 2

Further resources

Learn more about Lightroom with these articles:

Organising Photo Files for Lightroom

How to Improve the Speed and Performance of Lightroom

How to Prepare Photos for the Web in Lightroom

Creative Ways to Use Keywords in Lightroom 5 (DPS article)

How to Find Your Best Images with Lightroom 5?s Compare View (DPS article)

Use Lightroom Collections to Improve Your Workflow (DPS article)

Make Lightroom Faster by Using DNG (DPS article)

Mastering Lightroom ebooks

Learn more about Lightroom with my Mastering Lightroom ebooks.

Mastering Lightroom: Book One – The Library Module

Mastering Lightroom: Book One – The Library ModuleMastering Lightroom: Book One – The Library Module  shows you how to use the Library Module to import, organise and search your images. This important task lays the foundation for the work you do in Lightroom. Mastering the Library module and learning to use Collections to organise and sort your photos ultimately saves you time, which you can spend either in the Develop module or with your camera.

Mastering Lightroom: Book Four – The Photos

Mastering Lightroom: Book Four – The Photos coverMastering Lightroom: Book Four – The Photos takes you through ten beautiful examples of photography and shows you how I processed them step-by-step in Lightroom. It explores some of my favourite Develop Presets and plug-ins as well as the techniques I use in Lightroom itself. Learn how to use Lightroom by following along with the practical examples. Plenty of inspiration and advanced technique.


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