JS: Personal work is the container that allows me to show who I am and what I care about. Also, it is a space for me to experiment. When I am reaching out to clients, the majority of the work that I share is self-initiated either a 1 one-day test shoot or a longer-form narrative project. This industry is evidence-based and you have to demonstrate that you can deploy a specific approach on your own before you’re hired for it.
CC: I learned the importance of test shoots when I was assisting. Even though the photographer I was assisting was working a ton, she still found time to test on her one or two days off and that’s the work that clients would see, love, and hire her for.
I’ve experienced the same thing – immediately after sharing a test shoot, a client used one of the images from it as a reference for the work they wanted me to create for them.
Tests give me an opportunity to collaborate with different crew members and build a team. Every job is going to have different needs and the more people you work with the more you can confidently bring on the right people for the job. If you want to work with a crew, put together a mood board and reach out to people. Be specific about what they’ll receive in exchange for contributing their time and talent, ask about how they work and if they require a kit fee (HMU) or return fees (stylists), where the images intend to be used, and credits.
Nobody has the same perspective, ideas, and life experience as you. Personal work is what will set your work apart from everyone else’s. Also read “What are the elements of a successful personal project?”
EG: Personal work yields editorial/commercial work. That’s just a fact.
A lot of people talk about making personal work only as a means to an end (ie commercial work). That sounds like a chore, not something you’re personally invested in. For me, personal work was something I needed to make. I was going to make the work regardless of anyone paying attention. If you don’t pour yourself into your personal projects . . . why are you even doing this?